If delaying your meal by an hour or so is sure to make you hangry (hunger anger) then intermittent fasting is not your cup of tea. But, even if delaying your meal or skipping food altogether doesn’t bother you, is intermittent fasting (IF) a heathy approach to weight loss or even good health?
Humans need no reminders that we are living in a world that relies upon quick-fix solutions and shortcuts to everything as we lack the time, energy or motivation (as a matter of fact, this is untrue) to rather work efficiently and produce the desired results. Food and health play a pivotal role in providing our body with the required energy and when an imbalance is created in our food system the entire day-to-day processes are shattered. Amidst this chaos, individuals feverishly wish to get in shape, lose weight or tone down to look good rather than feel healthy sometimes. Such individuals focus on results rather than the process which might land a person deep in trouble and ruin nature’s gift to us-a healthy mind and body. Intermittent fasting has become the latest craze amongst people who love to lose weight rather quickly.
Intermittent Fasting-Take a Break for Eating?
Breakfast, lunch and dinner-three square meals a day with light snacks in between has been the ritual followed by most people across the world. Skipping any of the meals has the potential to cause dizziness, stomach rumble or more in some of us. How does intermittent fasting as a method of weight loss rule in favor of the people of this world?
Intermittent fasting could be defined as an alternation between no food/minimal calorie consumption and periods of unrestricted eating. This can be defined more as a timed approach to eating rather than a fad diet with its history deep-rooted in traditional fasting that was practiced for spiritual purposes earlier. Fasting might include avoiding consumption of foods/beverages for more than 12 hours continuously or involve reduced consumption of certain foods/drinks. Getting into a diet routine can prevent weight loss after certain months/years of diet practice whereas intermittent fasting eliminates this problem by cycling between periods of eating food and starvation. Despite this, we don’t have definite proofs that intermittent fasting is a better approach comparatively.
Cycling between Eating & Fasting
There are several types of intermittent fasting practiced:
Alternate Days: This involves alternating between days of normal eating with days of consuming only one meal that provides about 25% of the calorie needs of the day. For example, if you eat normally on Monday, you take only one meal on Tuesday that satisfies 25% calorie requirements.
5:2 Approach: This is a famous practice where individuals eat normally five days a week and fast for the remaining two days. It could either be complete starvation on these two days or they might consume 25% of the calorie requirements for the day which amounts to almost 500 calories.
Time-based Fasting: This involves fasting on all days of the week based on particular timings. For instance, the person might eat a meal between 10 am and 5 pm while fasting during the rest of the day. This time frame might change every week or so.
While there have been studies and research conducted on intermittent fasting as an effective method to weight loss, we don’t have strong and conclusive evidences supporting it. In fact, the effect of intermittent fasting and other forms of diet have proved to be the same in the long run with respect to weight loss, weight maintenance or differences in blood pressure, glucose or heart rate.
The Final Word
A practical and scientific approach to weight loss would be to burn more calories than you consume by eating small portions frequently. The foundation of Intermittent fasting is totally opposite and hence, this brings about the question of whether IF can be treated as a sustainable and a healthy means to either lose or maintain health. On the contrary, it is not a sin to fast occasionally as this was the norm practiced during olden times when people missed out on meals for hours or days together as fetching food was a difficult task back then. But this approach can never become a reality for individuals who practice eating small portions frequently or even for those with certain medical conditions such as diabetes who ought to eat their meals on time. Other groups of people who MUST abstain from practicing intermittent fasting include pregnant and breastfeeding women, adolescents in their growing stage, people who take medications for conditions and those with eating disorders.
Individuals who eat only two meals a day or leave a long gap in between meals might be able to comply with the rules of intermittent fasting. We cannot deny benefits such as lowered insulin levels which prompts the body to use stored fat resulting in weight loss, reduced blood pressure and total cholesterol levels. IF does not affect the ability to exercise too once the body adjusts to the new eating schedule. If losing muscles is a concern ensure to eat enough proteins when you are in the eating period and practice resistance training. Many of us have fasted even without our own knowledge during many occasions. For example, we would have had an early lunch and skipped our dinner after work due to work schedules. At the same time, intermittent fasting does not have the same effect on all kinds of people. Although we have impeccable data supporting the advantages of IF in rats, we don’t have the same in humans. But research studies do suggest that it’s the timing of IF that is crucial which can make it a practical, sustainable and realistic approach to weight loss and even an effective tool against diabetes prevention. Until then, we cannot recommend intermittent fasting as an effective tool against weight loss.
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