All You Need To Know About Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting has been catching everyone’s eye and for the best of reasons. Fasting is a very old tradition and has various benefits. People have been fasting as a religious norm, or to lose weight or as a new trend.
Fasting is something, which we all have been following from time to time without even realising it. Fasting is the time between your last meal at night and the first morsel of food that you put into your mouth the next morning. This is when you ‘break your fast’ by eating breakfast. Intermittent fasting goes a little further than the usual duration. Simply put, intermittent fasting is a type of diet wherein you alternate between periods of fasting and eating.
WHAT IS INTERMITTENT FASTING?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating pattern, which involves long periods of fasting and shorter periods of eating. While the type or amount of food that you eat during your eating window is not specified, the time when you are supposed to be eating them is defined in intermittent fasting. Fasting on and off has always been more natural and common rather than eating 3-4 meals daily.
TYPES OF INTERMITTENT FASTING
There are several types of intermittent fasting, which are based on the time frames chosen for the eating and fasting windows. The three main types are:
1. 16:8 method – You fast for 16 hours and then eat normally during the next 8 hours.
2. Eat-stop method – You fast for about 24 hours two times in a week. E.g. You eat dinner tonight and fast until dinner tomorrow night. This is repeated twice a week.
3. 5:2 method – You consume only 500-600 calories for two non-consecutive days in a week. The rest of the week, you eat your normal diet.
The most sustainable and easy to be followed is the 16:8 plan. Most people follow this diet and aim at maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
WHAT IS DRY FASTING?
Dry fasting is a type of absolute fasting, which restricts both solids and liquids. If you are dry fasting, you are not allowed to eat or drink anything which includes fluids like water, juices, soups, tea/coffee as well. Most fasts encourage water intake, but dry fasting involves going nil by mouth throughout. This type of fasting can be incorporated in any of your intermittent fasting methods like the 16:8 or the 5:2 plans.
WHAT CAN YOU DRINK DURING INTERMITTENT FASTING?
It is always advised to stay hydrated since almost 60% of your body is made up of water. To keep yourself hydrated, you can choose from a variety of fluids like water, coffee, tea, zero-calorie or low sugar beverages, fruit juices, soups, broths, etc.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF FASTING?
The basic idea behind fasting is to lead a healthy lifestyle and lose weight. While intermittent fasting helps lose weight, it also helps lower insulin levels. Since you are not eating anything during your fasting window, there is no rise in the insulin levels. The insulin levels remain at their low basal rate and there aren’t any spikes. Low insulin levels ensure that your body uses up the fat stores, helps in weight loss and avoids the long-term effects of hyperinsulinemia.
SHOULD YOU FAST WHEN SICK?
There is no clear evidence, which states that there are any benefits or harmful effects of fasting when you are sick. However, if you feel like eating when you are unwell, it is best that you eat and not keep yourself hungry. Listen to your body when you are sick and do as it says. If you are hungry during your fasting window, eat for that moment. If you do not want to eat during your eating window, avoid forcing yourself.
Include plenty of liquids, vitamin C rich foods and other healthy alternatives in your diet when you are eating.
WHAT ARE THE SIDE EFFECTS OF INTERMITTENT FASTING?
While intermittent fasting is usually considered safe, there could be a few side effects associated with it.
Since your intake has been reduced, your body is bound to produce lesser waste. Feeling constipated during your fasting period is a normal phenomenon. It is not something that you need to worry about unless you experience other complications like abdominal pain, discomfort, bloating, or piles (haemorrhoids).
Hunger headaches are common in some individuals. However, these headache episodes disappear after a while. Take an extra pinch of salt and hydrate yourself during your eating window to get rid of the headache.
Most people cannot stay hungry. The very thought of actually going without eating for long hours makes people worry about it. If you are the kind who can’t stay hungry, include some extra carbs in your diet for your eating window. This will help you feel full for a longer time.
Due to the long hours of fasting, some people may experience heartburn, acidity, dizziness, muscle cramps etc.
As you can see, most of these side effects are manageable and are temporary. Therefore, do not give up on your fast, in case of any of these symptoms. Consult your physician immediately. Remember to hydrate yourself and include an extra bit of salt in your meals.