Inside the world of intermittent fasting
We want to share with you the benefits and risks of intermittent fasting.
While many of us love food too much to fast for long periods of time, or simply don’t feel happy or well if we are without sustenance for long, fans of the lifestyle swear by its benefits for the mind, body and soul.
Let’s take a look at the latest buzzword taking the diet and lifestyle scene by storm.
What is it intermittent fasting?
“Intermittent fasting” refers to periods of fasting of varying lengths, broken up by blocks of time where you are free to create consume food. But “intermittent fasting” is really just an umbrella term that covers a wide range of fasting schedules designed to suit a variety of different body and personality types. More on that soon.
Intermittent fasting isn’t a new trend despite how it appears - not by a long shot. Thousand and thousands of years ago, hunter gatherers often found themselves fasting due to circumstance. They didn’t have the modern appliances we have today to keep food fresh. They didn’t have food shops on every street corner. If there wasn't any food available - they didn’t eat. Many studies have found that this is how we as humans eventually evolved to be able to live without food for extended periods of time, and many experts claim to this day that this lifestyle is far healthier and more natural for us than eating three or four meals per day.
How does intermittent fasting work? Can I eat or drink ANYTHING?
There are a number of intermittent fasting schedules to choose from, based on your own physical health and abilities. But remember. The time blocks where you are allowed to eat are based on the assumption you will fuel your body during this time with healthy, clean and fresh produce. Intermittent fasting won’t work if you use your “eating time” to binge on all those things you crave during your fasting period.
Most fasting methods allow for the consumption of water, coffee and other zero calorie drinks during the fasting period. So that’s a straight black coffee - no fancy foam!
Here are some of the most popular IF methods:
The 16/8 method: This method involves allocating yourself one 8 hour window a day to consume your food. After this, you fast for 16 hours straight and will then begin your 8 hour food window again.
24 hour method: This schedule involves fasting for an entire 24 hour period 1-2 times a week (not consecutively). On other days, consume food as normal but in moderation, of course.
The 5:2 method: A popular twist on the traditional fast, this involves consuming only between 500-600 calories a day for two consecutive days per week, and then having your regular daily calorie intake for the other five days.
What are the benefits of intermittent fasting?
We bet you’re keen to know what the payoff is for going without food for blocks of time. Well - there are actually many benefits that may make those hunger pains feel more worthwhile!
For starters, weight loss. This is a common reason many converts undertake the lifestyle change in the first place. And the math is simple. If you are putting out more energy than you are taking in - you will lose weight. Some IF fans had lost dramatic amounts of weight quickly, and the University of Vienna has found that this is because fasting promotes the production of the fat-burning hormone norepinephrine.
On top of finally fitting into those skinny jeans that have hung in your wardrobe for years, there are other perks to going hungry for a while.
• Studies have found the intermittent fasting dramatically lowers insulin levels - combatting the onset of Type 2 diabetes and other lifestyle and weight-related diseases. Lower insulin levels also mean that your body finds it far easier to burn off body fat stores.
• During a fast, your cells begin to repair themselves and eradicate old proteins that have been built up inside your body.
• Fasting leads Human Growth Hormone (HGH) levels to rise, which are a central element of losing fat and gaining muscle.
• Research has found in those undertaking a fasting lifestyle gene changes which are linked to longer lives and stronger defence against disease.
• Some studies have found links between periods of fasting and lowered inflammation levels across a wide range of diseases, plus a lower risk of developing cancer.
• Researchers at the University of Illinois in the United States found that can be good for your heart. It lowers cholesterol, blood sugar and insulin levels.
• While many people feel lethargic when they don’t eat, many people attest to feeling more “switched on” and energetic during a fast. Studies have found that fasting can go a long way towards promoting the growth of new brain nerve cells, and actively fights against diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
• Researchers at the Gerontology Research Center’s National Institute on Aging in the United States found that rats who fasted for periods of time lived up to 83% longer than those who didn’t.
• Many fasters find it far easier to control their appetite during periods of breaking their fast.
And if all of those benefits aren’t enough, one of the less obvious perks of fasting is that you’ll spend less money on stocking your fridge and pantry. For times when you eat, you can better plan ahead with budget-friendly, healthy meal options.
What are the negatives of fasting? Is intermittent fasting right for me?
The controversial concept of intermittent fasting make many people uncomfortable, mostly because it flies in the face of the long-standing belief that we should follow a balanced diet made up of three square meals a day, with light and healthy snacks in between if we get peckish. That’s what most of us have been used to our entire lives, and to embrace abstaining for food is a major lifestyle switch.
However, while intermittent fasting is generally safe for people in good health, remember that fasting means you are taking in little to no calories or nutrients for extended periods of time, and this isn’t suitable for many people. This includes children, pregnant or breastfeeding women, people with a chronic disease (diabetes etc) and the elderly.
But even if you are in the best health of your life, be aware that with complete restriction of food can come physical changes or mood fluctuations that you aren’t used to. These may include: feeling “hangry” (hungry and anger), fatigue, lethargy, a foggy mind, low blood sugar, constipation, difficulty sleeping, mood swings or even hair loss. Women may notice changes to their menstrual cycle. All of the above changes are to be expected. Your body thrives on being nourished, and when it isn’t receiving the required sustenance it needs, it will reflect in your inner and outer health.
As we always encourage when exploring different food trends on the La Española blog, always consult with your doctor or healthcare professional before undertaking a diet or lifestyle change - especially one as dramatic as intermittent fasting.
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Broken the fast or can’t go without your favourites for too long? Stock up on La Española’s range of exceptional Spanish Olive Oil. With 180 years of brand excellence behind us, we love bringing the Spanish grove to the Australian table. Available at Coles Supermarkets nationwide.