What is Intermittent Fasting and Why Should I do it?
Hi, I’m Ruby, a 25 year old feminist with a bsc(hons) in Psychology. I’m a hairy, fat, bisexual who believes in body positivity because, “If you can’t love yourself how in the hell you gonna love somebody else.” Can I get an Amen.
What is Intermittent Fasting (IF)
“Remember, fasting time includes when you’re asleep!“
Intermittent fasting (IF) is currently a wildly popular lifestyle improvement technique that people all over the world are using in 2020 and it’s one that has been around for many years. It is, in summary: An eating pattern that cycles between set periods of fasting and eating. The best part about it is that when you are eating you can eat what you want! The aim is to be healthier but who says you can’t enjoy a full Dominos Pizza to yourself once in a while.
It seems like a simple way to cut calories and lose a little weight, but contrary to popular belief, this isn’t just another “diet” and it’s not solely undertaken to lose weight, it can also help your body repair itself, can help you with routing and even provide mental clarity studies have shown.
I personally struggle with emotional eating and struggle to eat intuitively, intermittent fasting has helped me get my weight off slowly but also keep it off, it’s also helped me cut down on my sugar addiction. It’s important if you are to start changing your lifestyle to learn all you can before jumping in and don’t do anything that makes you uncomfortable or feel unwell so I have provided my take on a beginners guide to intermittent fasting in this article!
The Benefits of IF
In 2005 it was found that intermittent fasting improved cardiovascular activity in animals and reduced the chance of age-associated diseases. In 2019 a study focusing on the 16 hours fasting and 8 hours eating found that the lifestyle lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease, inflammation and type 2 diabetes (Malinowski et al., 2020). This is said to be partially due to the weight loss that fasting can assist with but also because of the changes in the amount of sugar a person regularly intakes when eating in intervals. As IF encourages a person to drink a lot more water to reduce symptoms of hunger and keep them hydrated this has been reported to be beneficial as well. As this is a beginners guide, I have linked a Healthline article that has compiled a list of 10 evidence-based health benefits that have links to academic studies cited.
The different types of fasting
If you are new to IF, there are three most popular types of intermittent fasting,
- The 16:8 method in which you don’t eat for 16 hours and eat in an 8-hour window. This one is probably the most popular and sustainable as you often only miss either, breakfast if you are doing an early fast or dinner if you do a late fast. Remember: Fasting time includes when you’re asleep!
- The 5:2 method which is when you eat regularly for 5 days a week but on two days you will only consume 500–600 calories per day. 5 days eating 2 days fasting. I personally could not do this, so my hat tips off to you.
- A popular method to start off with is the circadian rhythm method, which involves fasting for 13 hours (including sleep time) and eating afterwards. This goes with your bodies natural sleep cycle. I started with the 13 hours of fasting and worked my way up to 16 hours as it’s so much easier. There are ways to ease into fasting and there is no right or wrong way to do this, just do what’s best for you!
Water Fast or Dirty Fast?
The traditional water fast is when you only drink water during your fast which is great for keeping yourself hydrated and alleviating hunger when getting used to the lifestyle. But it can make you really tired if you’re a caffeine lover like myself. A lot of people will choose to “dirty fast” which isn’t as gross as it sounds. It just means they choose to drink black coffee which according to Dr Rhonda Patrick can provide benefits such as autophagy of cells which helps your body fight diseases!
Some fitness gurus say that any calories under 50 do not break your fast and why argue with them if you feel like a little splash of soy milk?! . Drinking coffee, herbal tea or sugar-free drinks can be considered “dirty fasting” but lots of people choose to do this because you will still get healthier and consume less sugar, it just gives you something to taste.
But it seems like a lot of work?
Intermittent fasting has faced some criticism as all lifestyle changes and diet changes do. People don’t always agree on the “right way” to fast so it’s best to find out what’s comfortable for you! Two free apps that have been a big help to me in my decision on what fast I like best are Zero and Bodyfast which you can access from Google Play or the Apple store.
The apps have a variety of different fasting plans that you can access to get used to IF. They also have timers to notify you on your smartphone or tablet when your fast is ready to start and when it ends, this can help you make sure that you still eat when needed and stop you from clockwatching like I did. The apps both have paid coach versions which can assist you and give you support but you can also access support from lots of forums.
An Important Note:
With starting any lifestyle changes, it is also important that you speak to your doctor before undergoing drastic changes, it isn’t for everyone and that’s okay. Intermittent fasting has the benefits of increased mental clarity and concentration but this is due to a spike in the cortisol levels which is the hormone responsible for stress. While this method has helped people including myself, you should always pay attention to your body and not to restrict yourself in ways that will make you feel physically or mentally unwell.
- Cardioprotection by intermittent fasting in rats.
- . Intermittent Fasting in Cardiovascular Disorders—An Overview
Useful links to be aware of if you’re struggling:
BEAT: UK based eating disorder support – https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/ 0808 801 0677
Eating Disorder Hope: International resources for eating disorder support: https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/treatment-for-eating-disorders/international