Still wondering if the Intermittent Fasting nutritional variant is healthy and safe?
Wanting to know if it is a regimen suitable for you?
Well, it is an ancient human practice that we are rediscovering in this era of metabolic diseases and poisoning food. Despite of being a topic that is leading to hundreds of books(pros and cons), there are basic things that might help you to form an idea about it, so you can consider it or not.
First thing we must understand is that, intermittent fasting is not only one, but a group of schemes that pursue to help people in their struggling to lose weight( the main benefit of it) or to get engaged with a healthy nutritional style; so you can choose from any of these patterns of eating, that change your timing of food intake, not the content of your meals, leading your body to process each thing that you eat in a more optimal way. That’s why it’s being used in combination with the trendy balanced diets like ketogenic or Mediterranean.
These regimens are a good way to keep muscle mass while you are getting thin ; also to clean the body of toxins, improve your metabolism, protect and enhance your defence system and helps to reorganize or change the dietary style into a healthier one. Some studies concluded that, based on all these, it might extend your life in the process.
On the contrary of what people think, if we have no health conditions that might lead to a life threatening situation if fasting, our body can adapt to this easily. We already do it while we are sleeping, it will be just to extend the number of hours when we wake up. You can certainly do fasting and exercising, on the condition of taking all the required nutrients during the break fast hours; another thing is to be under a deep proffessional athlete training, which requires a controlled nutrition plan.
Explaining how it works, not with scientific words but speaking “human language” , we must say that immediately after we eat the levels of Insulin increase, it makes the sugar become a substance named glycogen to be stored in the liver. But this is a small storage, so when it is full the liver starts transforming the glycogen into fat, keeps a bit and sent the rest to be deposited in your belly, arms, legs, whenever, without limit of production and with relatively unlimited storage; as fat increase, your body increases with it so you can keep more and more. Of course other things happen in the process, but this is basically what you should know.
On the contrary, when we are fasting, that Insulin levels will fall, sending the order to your body to burn sugar and then fat, to obtain energy for any activity. The key and the difference between starvation and this process is the control. Starving is because of lack of food; in this one, you choose not to eat during certain period of time, and you break fast any time you want. So if you are balancing eating and fasting, there is no net weight gain.
Till now you can get that: we have the fed state(while we ingest food and use this energy at the moment) and the fasted state(while we are not taking food and using the energy from sugar or fat that we have storage). Intermittent fasting is no more than to prolong the second one to allow our body to burn that saved energy sources.
- Improved mental clarity and concentration
- Weight and body fat loss
- Lowered blood insulin and sugar levels
- Reversal of type 2 diabetes symptoms
- Increased energy
- Improved fat burning
- Increased growth hormone
- Lowered blood cholesterol
- Prevention of Alzheimer’s disease(potential)
- Longer life (potential)
- Activation of cellular cleansing(potential) by stimulating autophagy(a discovery that was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in medicine)
- Reduction of inflammation.
The most popular schemes are the shorter ones(<24 hours)
This involves daily fasting for 16 hours. Sometimes this is also referred to as an 8-hour eating ‘window’. You eat all your meals within an 8-hour time period and fast for the remaining 16 hours. Generally, this is done daily or almost daily. For example, you may eat all your meals within the time period of 12:00 pm and 8:00 pm. Normally this means skipping the early breakfast and you generally eat two or three meals within this 8-hour period. It is the most used and accepted form of Intermittent fasting.
This involves a 4-hour eating window and a 20-hour fast. For example, you might eat between 2:00 pm and 6:00 pm every day and fast for the other 20 hours. Generally, this would involve eating either one meal or two smaller meals within this period.
Longer fasts (>24 hours)
This involves fasting from dinner to dinner (or lunch to lunch). If you eat dinner on day 1, you would skip the next day’s breakfast and lunch and eat dinner again on day 2. This means that you are still eating daily, but only once during that day. This would generally be done two to three times per week.
The recognized specialist Dr. Michael Mosley popularized this variation in his book ‘The Fast Diet’. This involves 5 regular eating days and 2 fasting days, during which it is permitted to eat 500 calories on each day, that can be consumed any time during the day.
This involves fasting for the entire day. For example, if you eat dinner on day 1, you would fast for all of day 2 and not eat again until breakfast on day 3. This is generally 36 hours of fasting. This provides more powerful fast weight loss benefit, based on the fat burning that increase after 24 hrs approximately, and avoid tentation of overeating on day 2.
Extended fasting. Here is where the cons come.
The specialist on Fasting say that we can fast almost indefinitely and for fasts greater than 48 hours, they recommend a general multivitamin to avoid micronutrients deficiency. The world record for fasting is 382 days, so going 7-14 days would be certainly possible.
However many experts on this matters discourage people from fasting for more than 14 days due to high risk of re-feeding syndrome (a condition that manifests the signs of lower phosphates, calcium and other nutrients that have been drained from your bones, muscles and blood) and re-feeding edema because if Intermittent Fasting is excessive, it might restricts energy and protein, there’s a real risk of nutrient deficiencies, electrolyte abnormalities, and issues with fertility and reproduction in women. Due to that, they recommend the short-term fasting schedules and leaving the prolonged ones for when a supervised fast weight loss is needed. I agree, as any situation that stress your body during a prolongued time, may have non desirable consequences.
Knowing who should NOT fast is a crucial topic:
- Underweight (BMI < 18.5) or any malnourished by defect.
- Pregnant and breastfeeding– you need extra nutrients for your child.
- A child under 18 – you need extra nutrients to grow.
- Liver and kidneys insufficiency.
- Weakening diseases like cancer, HIV/AIDS.
- History of eating disorders or easy fainting due to lowering of blood sugar.
- Acute health conditions(to be currently sick) and non controlled chronic diseases.
In other situations you can do it only with precaution and under medical supervision, like when having controlled Diabetes Mellitus, Gout or high uric acid and while taking prescription medication.
Advices from the majority of the specialists, for any person up to practice Intermittent fasting: to do the breakfast gently, with balanced food according to the nutritionists recent guidelines. Keep yourself well hydrated, water, tea, those are allowed. Do not fall for the over sleeping habit, be normally active, don’t change your daily life schedule. It is controversial, but many experts agree that patients shouldn’t use this methods for a prolonged time to avoid complications like mismatching your organism and altering your metabolism producing a contrary effect.
Not all the latest clothes design will suit everybody, the same happens with treatments and trendy nourishment advices. Every nutritional style or habit, or any dietary regime must be personalized and supervised by a specialist.
Painting of “Ernst Nowak”
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