Hugh Jackman. Halle Berry. Chris Pratt. What do these stars have in common aside from being A-list movie stars? They all practice intermittent fasting, the diet craze that’s flipping the fitness world on its sweaty head. People are using it to lose weight, improve their health, simplify their lifestyles, and, most importantly, retain control of their body.
Many studies have shown that it can have powerful effects on your body and brain. Heck, they claim it may even help you live longer. But is it right for you? To find out, here’s a crash course on intermittent fasting.
What is IF?
Intermittent Fasting is more of an eating pattern than a diet in the conventional sense. IF is all about cycles between periods of fasting and eating. It’s not like most diets where it's specified which foods you should eat but rather when you should eat them.
Other than as a fitness regimen, fasting is also often done for religious or spiritual reasons in religions like Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Judaism.
Methods to the fitness
There are several ways of doing intermittent fasting—all of which concerns splitting the day, or the week, into eating and fasting periods. During those periods, you either eat very little or nothing at all.
- 16/8 method: This involves skipping breakfast and restricting your daily eating period to 8 hours, such as 12-8 p.m. Then you fast for 16 hours in between.
- Eat-Stop-Eat: The most difficult of the three, this makes you fast for 24 hours once or twice a week. For example, you can’t eat from dinner today until the next day.
- 5:2 method: With this procedure, you get to eat normally for five days while for two nonconsecutive days, you only consume 500-600 calories.
By reducing your calorie intake and not eating so much during the designated eating period, all of these methods should cause weight loss. But many people find the 16/8 method to be the simplest, and the easiest to stick to.
There’s no doubt that intermittent fasting involves some really life-changing benefits. According to studies, these are the main health benefits of IF:
- Weight loss: Obviously, intermittent fasting can help you lose weight and belly fat without the need to count calories.
- Heart health: Intermittent fasting also reduces your risk of heart disease because it may lessen bad cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood sugar, and insulin resistance.
- Insulin resistance: IF reduces insulin resistance, lowering blood sugar by 3-6% and fasting insulin levels by 20-31%, which helps protect you against type 2 diabetes.
- Inflammation: Many studies show reductions in markers of inflammation, a key starter of many chronic diseases.
- Brain health: Intermittent fasting increases the brain hormone BDNF and may help the growth of new nerve cells, which can then shield you from Alzheimer’s.
- Cancer: They’ve studied intermittent fasting with animals, and they found that IF may prevent cancer.
- Immortality: Well, not really, but in a study about rats and intermittent fasting, they found that rats who fasted lived 36-83% longer.
- Simpler life: Intermittent fasting can make things easier because you don’t need to plan, cook, or clean up after. That’s why people call it a “life-hack” diet as it improves your health while simplifying your life at the same time.
Should you try it?
Intermittent fasting is not something that everyone needs to do. It’s simply one of the many lifestyle strategies that can improve your health. Eating real food, exercising, and making sure you get enough sleep are still the most important factors to focus on for your health.
If you don’t think that fasting is the specific routine for you, then, by all means, don't do it and continue whatever it is that’s working for you.
At the end of the day, there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution when it comes to health and nutrition. The best diet for you is the one you can stick to.