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Ins and Outs of Intermittent Fasting

It is a common misconception that the human body needs continuous periodic sustenance to survive. You feel that your body is not meant to operate on empty just like a car cannot operate on an empty tank. People believe that fasting is done purely for religious sentiments or political inclinations.

Social media does not help matters by promoting the concept of Hangry –Official word for when people feel angry and hungry. Food, especially the fast variety kind, instantly uplifts the mood. So the concept of willingly abstaining from it goes against basic human nature.

But the recent enthusiasm and hype around fasting has caught the attention of many. It’s the next big thing in the market of health-conscious. Diehard fans swear by its benefits on the mind, body, and soul.

Fasting Vs. Intermittent Fasting

First things first fasting is not starving. It is an ancient practice spanning millenniums. Fasting involves deliberately abstaining from food for a certain time period. It can be either complete or partial. Before becoming the health and wellness or even the fashion trend of today, fasting was a religious trend and a prominent practice with Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists.

Intermittent fasting, on the other hand, is time-restricted fasting. It is based on limiting your calorie intake for a specific number of hours and follows the 8:16 approach. You eat in the 8-hour window during the day and fast for the 16 hours during sleep carrying it forward to brunch.

Is Intermittent Fasting Dieting?

It’s easy to get confused when talking about intermittent fasting and dieting. As per John Hopkins Medical Centre, intermittent fasting regulates metabolism, thereby decreasing appetite called “metabolic switching.” But it also pushes the body into starvation mode just like fasting and dieting, which results in weight loss.

You need to realize that the basic difference lies in the process. Dieting involves starvation, but intermittent fasting is an eating pattern. The idea is to prolong eating by 4 to 7 hours after waking up. Basically, in dieting, you would not be eating at all and starving, but in intermittent fasting, you will just skip breakfast to have brunch without complete abstinence. So where dieting is extreme intermittent fasting is moderate and hence much healthier.

Where dieting focuses on what you eat, intermittent fasting focuses on when you eat.

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

By following a systematically organized cycle of eating and fasting, we train our mind and body for disciplined nourishment. Some automatic rewards of fasting are:

  • The most attractive advantage is weight loss
  • Insulin level regulation lowering Type 2 diabetes risk
  • Allows the GI tract to take a break and repair itself
  • Reduced Oxidative Stress and inflammation
  • Improved heart health
  • Helps to overcome jet lag and adjusting to new time zones

Where are the Associated Benefits Sourced From?

Although immense research has been carried out on intermittent fasting, most of it is short term. The medical benefits, especially disease-related like the effect of intermittent fasting on people suffering through a stroke, are animal research-based. Other benefits of intermittent fasting on chronic disorders like obesity, diabetes, and neurodegenerative disease are also primarily animal-sourced.

This is not to say that there is no human research to support these benefits. As per research, human studies also co-relate to the benefits of insulin resistance, high blood pressure inflammation, and weight loss. Also, a Baltimore study concluded that people suffering from multiple sclerosis had reduced symptoms in just two months.

Intermittent Fasting and Improved Sleep

After elaborating upon the physical health benefits, let's discuss the benefits to the mind and soul. Research shows that disciplining the body’s eating pattern automatically disciplines the body and mind’s sleep schedule. You should keep at least a 2 to 3-hour window between your last meal and the snooze time. The logic behind this rule of thumb is that your body will focus on active digestion rather than settling down for rest and repair.

The routine eating pattern helps you by training your body to accept nourishment at set times and abstain at other times. This takes care of all those hunger pangs and cravings automatically, resulting in a regular sleep schedule. The eating pattern also helps you by building a stronger circadian rhythm resulting in a deeper better sleep. It also reduces the leg movements in sleep and nighttime awakenings.

Sleeping While Fasting

After extolling the benefits of intermittent fasting on your sleep, let's catch the mouse other way round. Intermittent fasting is ultimately abstaining for a certain period. In many cases, this can cause you to feel restless and anxious with hunger pangs demanding attention, especially if you are the foodie type. So instead of aiding sleep, it may very well hamper your sleep.

For this, you need to focus on the type of diet you indulge in. Stay away from sugar, refined flours, tea, coffee, and alcohol. Concentrate more on whole wheat, nuts, and fruits. Also, practice controlled breathing through yoga and light exercises. This way, you can train your body through the initial hiccup of adjusting to intermittent fasting.

Is Intermittent Fasting a Healthy Lifestyle?

In a word, “Yes.” This is collaborated by The New England Medicine Journal. Intermittent fasting does not cut any food group from your diet. It simply regulates your eating pattern. It does not tell you not to eat carbohydrates or cut out fats altogether. It only asks you to regulate your diet while keeping your food groups balanced. There is no extremity involved.

Social Limitations of Intermittent Fasting

The biggest challenge when you decide to follow intermittent fasting is juggling your fasting schedule with your social schedule. It’s difficult to go for dinner with friends or catch an evening show when you cannot eat beyond say 7 or 8. That said, even binge eating or comfort eating with friends and family will have to stop. This is the point where you are most likely to give up.

The Final Call

Intermittent Fasting has enormous benefits, but it is not a medically approved treatment plan for any health condition, especially with regards to weight loss. More research needs to be undertaken with respect to the nutritional deficiencies and associated side effects. It is especially not recommended if you are pregnant or have any eating disorders.


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