Intermittent Fasting: What You Need to Know

Intermittent fasting (IF) has quickly become one of the world's most popular health and fitness trends. Some use it to lose extra pounds while others do it for a lifestyle change.

4 Benefits of Intermittent Fasting (IF):

1. It can help with your weight concerns

Intermittent fasting can aid with your weight and belly fat loss. The main reason being that you are consuming fewer calories. Unless you are eating much more during the eating window, you are definitely taking in fewer calories. 

According to a 2014 review study, those who commit to intermittent fasting can successfully reduce their body weight by 3-8% over a period of 3-24 weeks. It can even help you target the fat in your belly area cutting it down by 4-7% of their waist circumference.

2. It can be good for your brain health

You read that right! Intermittent fasting has been shown to boost the creation of neurons (aka brain cells) and overall, improve your brain health and performance. According to Dr Mark Mattson of John Hopkins University, fasting can help increase neurogenesis in the brain that is responsible for the growth and development of new brain cells and nerve tissues.

3. It can help reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes

Intermittent fasting has been known to reverse diabetes. In a small study involving three men who had type 2 diabetes for 10-25 years, they were able to stop taking insulin in under a month of fasting. Within a year, they were able to cut down diabetes medications. 

You should start slowly for your first fast. It may be wise to allow yourself more calories in a day and as you adapt, you can lengthen your fasting period.

4. Increased longevity

Over the past few years, studies have shown that fasting diet can reverse symptoms of serious health diseases such as cancer. According to a 2016 study, it is found that those who undergo fasting and chemotherapy slowed down breast cancer and skin cancer. Short-term fastings starve the cancer cells and help chemo drug therapies target better at the tumours.

How do I get started? 

There are a few different intermittent fasting methods you could choose suited for you and here the 5 most popular ones:

Disclaimer: While intermittent fasting has shown proven benefits, it can pose a potential danger, especially for certain patients with pre-existing health issues or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Before you embark on this journey, you should consult with your doctor, or a registered dietician, for any relevant lifestyle changes.

1. 16:8 Method

(Level: Beginner)

Forego breakfast and only eat during an 8-hour feeding window. You can choose to set your feeding window from 12pm to 8pm. During the fasting period, you need to limit yourself to black tea or coffee or water.

In a study by the Nutrition and Health, it is found that those 23 obese men and women who followed the 16:8 diet lost about 3 per cent of their body weight on average in the span of 12 weeks.

2. 5:2 Diet

(Level: Intermediate)
Dedicate one or two days a week for a 24-hour fast. For example, you can choose to not skip dinner until dinner the next day. For those two days, calories are limited to 500-600 for women and men, respectively. On the remaining days, you can eat normally.

3. 20:4 Fast (aka The Warrior Diet)

(Level: Advanced)

The 20:4 fast is a time-restricted diet with a 20-hour fast and a 4-hour eating window. You can generally eat to your heart’s content but it’s impossible to consume too many calories in that short time frame. 

This choice is suitable for those who are advanced with intermittent fasting or some busy day workers who do not have time to eat.

4. 24-Hour Fast

(Level: Advanced)

For this one, you fast for 24 hours between each meal. You can choose to eat dinner and not eat again until the next day’s dinner. The key idea here is to eat a meal a day allowing your body to fast for a more extended period.

5. Alternate-Day Fasting

(Level: Advanced)

Alternate-day fasting is one of the more extreme methods of fasting. You fast for one whole day and eat normally the next day. It is recommended that you only consume water on your fasting days or eat small meals up to 25% of your regular caloric intake which is about 500-600 calories.