What is Intermittent Fasting, And What Are the Pros and Cons?

Takeaway: Intermittent fasting focuses on WHEN you eat rather than WHAT you eat. This ancient method has been proven to be effective for a variety of people, regardless of their eating habits. There are many ways to do intermittent fasting, but the most popular method is the 16/8 Method. As the name suggests, this diet plan involves fasting for 14-16 hours a day with an 8-10 hour eating window.

Among all weight loss tips and hacks, fasting is perhaps the most ancient method known to man. Its long-proven track record dates back to the prehistoric ages where fasting was a requirement before going to war. It was also observed religious tradition to appease the gods in hopes of a better harvest or safety from natural calamities.

In later years, fasting has become an integral part of many religions. In Islam, for example, Muslims go on a fast during the holy month of Ramadan. Jewish people fast at Yom Kippur, the Jewish new year, to ask for forgiveness so their name can be enshrined in the book of life for the year to come. Likewise, Roman Catholics practice a 40-day fast during Lenten season just as the Christ fasted for 40 days in the desert.

Although our ancestors did not fast to lose weight in, historical evidence shows how much they valued fasting for its physical and spiritual benefits. There was a time when fasting was not as popular as it was in the early days. Perhaps the advancements in food production and junk food had everything to do with it; but in recent times, fasting is making a comeback, and there is a very good chance that it is here to stay.

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is very on-trend nowadays in the health and fitness world. In a nutshell, it is an enhanced fasting method that aims to help individuals lose weight through cycles of fasting and non-fasting.

The rules are simple: fast during a certain period of time and eat during the remaining few hours. Food choices are a lot wider than most diets as well. Sticking to healthy food options and eating within one’s suggested daily calorie intake should suffice to make this method work.

The great thing about intermittent fasting is that it is personalizable. As opposed to other diet methods where food restrictions and strict calorie counting are involved, intermittent fasting allows people to pick a plan that works for them.

There are many ways to do intermittent fasting, but the most popular method is the 16/8 Method. As the name suggests, this diet plan involves fasting for 14-16 hours a day with an 8-10 hour eating window. For a lot of people, following this method means skipping breakfast.

The other fasting method preferred by many is the 5:2 Diet which involves eating regularly for five days while restricting calories to 500-600 per day on the remaining two days of the week. This plan is ideal for those who struggle with keeping a fasting schedule during the weekdays. A lot of people who follow this plan usually fast on the weekends.

Intermittent Fasting: Before and After Pictures

Intermittent fasting is an effective way to lose weight.
Photo from Healthista

At first glance, it’s hard to believe that fasting would be a healthy way to lose weight. After all, we are conditioned to think that being healthy means eating three meals a day. Many of us are conditioned to calculate nutrition by counting the frequency of eating rather than the quality of food consumed. We are also guilty of thinking that feeling hungry is never a good thing.

Fasting does not equate to starvation, but rather, it is a way to train the body to use fat instead of glucose as energy. Because this diet entails burning fat, not only does it help you lose weight, it also helps in reducing many other health hazards.

According to those who have tried it, intermittent fasting has helped them in numerous ways. They have more energy, less brain fog, and best of all, a healthier relationship with food. They are less likely to snack or binge on junk food. Below are some of the before and after results of those who have tried intermittent fasting.

Keto Intermittent Fasting: The Difference

A conversation about intermittent fasting is never complete without mentioning the ketogenic diet. In fact, many consider the keto diet and intermittent fasting combo as the most powerful dietary strategy for weight loss.

The keto diet is a strict high-fat, low-carb diet with a goal to induce ketosis, a metabolic state in which the body burns fat for fuel instead of glucose.

When there’s not enough glucose, the body burns fat to provide energy and to produce ketones as to mostly fuel the brain. Ketones are basically water-soluble molecules that take the place of glucose when carb levels are low.

The ketogenic diet has a long list of health benefits apart from weight loss. Researches say that it can also aid in mental clarity, cancer prevention, diabetes control, and cholesterol reduction to name a few. So now you might be wondering, why do intermittent fasting with the keto diet?

The answer lies in how both methods affect the body’s metabolism; they both induce ketosis. And in a sense, they are a perfect pair that is meant for each other.

Thanks to the hunger-suppressing qualities of the keto diet, it’s easier to survive long hours of fasting. A standard high-carb diet, on the other hand, can cause a drop in blood glucose levels after long periods of no food. This usually leads to an increase in hunger hormones, making an individual extremely hungry, weak and irritable.

Meanwhile, intermittent fasting increases ketone levels in the body by keeping insulin levels low. And with lesser time for eating, intermittent fasting can also keep calories at a minimum while on a keto diet.

Intermittent Fasting for Bodybuilding

Intermittent fasting works even if you are a bodybuilder.

It’s a common misconception to think that intermittent fasting reduces muscle mass. Many bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts believe that fasting hinders muscle growth, but this is actually far from the truth, and here’s why:

Contrary to popular belief, the body does not choose protein as its first go-to source of energy. By default, the body uses glucose from the sugar and carbs we consume as its primary energy source. Once it finds a shortage of glucose, it will move on to glycogen which is the body’s glucose storage. And, when that gets depleted as well, the body will then start to burn fatty acids to be transformed into ketones.

That said, a person would need to fast for at least 48 hours before the muscles get affected. Moreover, protein levels are not affected when the body loses its glycogen stores. Intermittent fasting focuses on boosting ketone levels to boost energy levels. That said, the muscles are not included in the equation.

Another intermittent fasting misconception states that participating in fasting will put the body in starvation mode which isn’t healthy for both bodybuilders and the general public. It’s important to note that intermittent fasting differs significantly from prolonged fasting.

Prolonged fasting refers to following a calorie-restricted diet for an extended period of time, and it should only be used for specific health and therapeutic causes.

Almost always, this type of fasting requires the assistance of a medical professional. Without proper instruction, prolonged fasting may lead to several hormonal problems, slow metabolism and yes, muscle loss. But again, intermittent fasting is not the same as prolonged fasting.

Intermittent fasting does not put your body into starvation mode. It is a smart way to manipulate one’s eating habits to achieve weight loss. It is generally safe to practice; and as many reports have shown, it can also provide many health benefits for those who take action.

Intermittent Fasting and Exercise

Light exercise is okay during intermittent fasting.

They say that a healthy diet and regular exercise are keys to guaranteed weight loss. But, is it safe to do a workout while doing intermittent fasting?

For many people, less food or caloric intake also means less energy to participate in physical activities, much less a full body workout. As we’ve learned earlier, intermittent fasting can actually boost one’s energy levels. But, is it enough to support rigorous exercise routines?

The short answer is yes, it is possible to get a workout done while doing intermittent fasting. However, like most diet plans, intermittent fasting also has its cons.

The good thing about exercising in a fasted state is that you would be burning more fat in the process. The body is forced to use fat as fuel since glycogen levels have been depleted during the fasting period. If you are trying to lose a lot of body fat, this may be the quickest solution to do so but keep in mind its long-term issues.

Medical experts say that exercising in a fasted state isn’t ideal in the long term. Because the body depletes itself of calories and energy, it could take a toll on your metabolism making it slower than it should be. Additionally, your body might turn to protein as an energy source causing a decrease in muscle mass or the inability to grow more muscle.

Lastly, you might not perform the exercise well while in a fasted state. Pushing yourself beyond your limits while in a fasted state causes a lot of stress on the body. Not to mention, there is a higher risk of getting into an accident due to the limited source of energy. The body is doing its best to heal itself, and it may be best to leave it alone to do its work during fasting.

How to Exercise Safely While Fasting

If you’re still adamant about exercising while fasting, there are a couple of pointers that could help you do it in a safer manner.

Eat a Meal Close to Your Workout

The first thing you might want to consider is to eat a meal close to your workout. Timing is key when it comes to exercising in a fasted state. By eating a meal before your workout, your body will have an emergency glucose source to help you last the workout.

Stay Hydrated

Additionally, it is also highly recommended to stay hydrated during the whole fasting period. And, if water becomes too dull, you can keep your electrolyte levels up by drinking coconut water. It is a great low-calorie option that can help keep you hydrated without the extra sugar found in most energy drinks.

Opt for Low-Intensity Workouts

Lastly, it is crucial to listen to your body’s needs. As much as possible, choose a low-intensity workout as opposed to more rigorous forms of exercise. You may also want to shorten the duration of your workout when you are in a fasted state. Doing so will save your body from using protein as an energy source which causes muscle mass reduction, and it will also allow your body to reserve its energy for other everyday tasks.

Intermittent Fasting and Diabetes

Some researches show promising results in reversing type 2 diabetes through intermittent fasting. According to the study, its participants with type 2 diabetes have successfully stopped insulin treatments after occasional fasting within a month.

Fasting undoubtedly has many health benefits, but one should be careful in dealing with complicated conditions such as diabetes. Although the study was successful, medical experts still recommend undergoing a consultation for those with diabetes and interested in intermittent fasting. Further research is still needed to support the claims of the study, but in the meantime, those with diabetes are advised to do intermittent fasting with the support of their doctor.

Intermittent Fasting and Testosterone

They say that the fastest way to increase testosterone levels is to lose excess body fat. And because intermittent fasting is all about using excess body fat as fuel, it may also be a great way to increase testosterone levels as well.

Additionally, testosterone is said to be correlated to insulin sensitivity. Through intermittent fasting, a hormone called adiponectin increases which contribute to the improvement of insulin sensitivity.

Is Intermittent Fasting Bad for You?

Fasting has been practiced throughout the ages. It is a generally safe method to practice with a lot of health benefits involved. Apart from better metabolic adaptation, the body is able to heal itself from toxins while also enhancing overall health conditions. And, with proper instruction and assistance from a healthcare provider, those with conditions such as diabetes may also reap the health benefits of intermittent fasting as well.


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