Intermittent Fasting: The Ultimate Beginner's Guide

Written by Resurchify | Updated on: July 30, 2022

Intermittent Fasting: The Ultimate Beginner's Guide

Check out this complete guide on Intermittent fasting.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting refers to eating plans that alternate between fasting and the eating period. The goal is to systematically starve the body for a long time to burn the extra fats that the human body produces. While research is still going on regarding this type of fasting, and the method might not be fruitful or provide beneficial results for everybody. There are proofs or pieces of evidence that intermittent fasting can help in losing weight, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, preventing and controlling diabetes, as well as improving brain health. Intermittent fasting is encouraged to modify body composition and body fat percentage by shedding excess weight and extra body lipids, as well as to enhance disease-related health indicators such as heart health, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. The origin of this method of dietary fasting may be traced back to the old school or traditional eating method. This was mentioned in the early works by great philosophers like Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and many other philosophers from India, as well as other regions, as a ubiquitous rite intended for physical and metaphysical gain. As we already know, fasting generally means complete abstinence from food and drinks for a certain period, typically from 12 hours to even one month. Fasting, in most cases, also mandates full or partial abstinence from a selected quantity of certain food items as well as beverages, including alcohol.

How Does It Work?

While having a meal, carbohydrates are broken down into small particles known as glucose. The glucose then absorbs through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream, then gets transferred to different organs, where it serves or functions as the major energy source. The excess amount of glucose is stored for later use in the liver and adipose tissue in the form of glycogen and fats. In between meals, when the body is in the fasted state, the liver converts the stored glycogen back to glucose to keep supplying energy to the body. Generally, an inactive person can take up to 10 or 12 hours to use up the entire glycogen contents in the body. Compared to the active ones or person who does exercise regularly, they may do this in a small amount of time. Once the amount of glycogen in the liver is decreased or ended, the body then taps into energy stores in the adipose tissues. This is when the fats stored in the body are broken down into free fatty acids, which inversely are again converted into additional metabolic fuel in the liver. Hence, if the fasted state lasts for a longer period, the body burns the fat to produce energy, thereby losing the extra amount of lipids already present in the body. Losing this extra fat is again associated with several health benefits. The hormone required for driving glucose into the cells is called insulin. The level of insulin is regulated to match the amount of sugar or glucose contained in the blood vessels i.e., high after having food and low in between meals. Since insulin is secreted after having each meal, eating or consuming food throughout the day keeps the level of insulin at a higher rate most of the time. This continuous high level of insulin may de-sensitize the human body, thereby causing insulin insensitivity: the onset of the sign of pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes. This risk can only be reduced or kept at a minimum level if the individual fasts. But fasting is necessarily not for everyone, and people might not get beneficial results even after continuous fasting. However, if not done correctly or if someone fasts for more time than the required amount of time, it might be harmful and cause different health problems, which again may lead to affect the brain.

Some Tips For Safe And Effective Fasting

  • Eating a balanced meal provides good nutrition. After the day-long starvation, it is of utmost necessity that the individual must eat a proper and balanced meal which will, in a way, help him to be fit and get enough nutrition.
  • It is also very important to stay hydrated. During the fasting period, it is advised to drink plain water.
  • People should also have a piece of good knowledge in knowing their physical limits. While fasting, it is not necessary to perform regular exercises. Instead, one should give a sufficient amount of rest to their bodies as well as their brains.
  • The fast must be broken slowly. The fast won't work if a person consumes the whole amount of food and drinks at one go. Rather they should slowly break their fast from consuming lighter ones to then moving to the heavy ones. Patience is the key.
  • Overeating after fast, especially junk and unhealthy food must be avoided.

Some Of The Most Common Ways To Do Intermittent Fasting

  1. The 5:2 Diet: According to this dietary regime, one can normally eat for five days a week and fast on the other two. As one might expect, this is one of the plans that work real fast since it has a lot of relevance for those who do not like the notion of being on a diet all the time and also not being able to have a proper and decent meal most of the time. Compared to other ways like the 16:8 dietary regime, this regime sounds less strenuous kind of intermittent fasting.
  2. Dry Fasting: Dry fasting is yet another method of intermittent fasting wherein individuals are not permitted to sip water throughout the 10 to 12-hour fasting period. It is considered one of the better ways of cleaning since one's digestive system gets completely closed down. It necessarily allows one to focus on internal as well as spiritual healing. The advantages of this fasting comprise, among other things, suppressed inflammation, strengthening memory and antibody production, repairing damaged cells on their own as well as repairing the bowel. Since this method is one extreme form of fasting, individuals must remain alert, and they should also be sure to listen to their body and how it reacts.
  3. Time-Restricted Eating: This kind of intermittent fasting limits meals to a 7-hour interval or even fewer. This is especially useful if somebody has a family who eats dinner at a normal hour. The majority of the fasting period is therefore passed in bed, dozing. The less time one has to nourish one's body, the more consistent and thoughtful one's meal selection should be. However, it is preferable to evaluate one's pattern or amount of hunger, which, when observed may assist a person in focusing on their eating patterns because starving oneself for the entire day may not be feasible for everyone.
  4. Reduced Calorie Fasting: This strategy is almost similar to the 5:2 method. But the major difference is that here one lowers their caloric intake to 30% of the typical needs for 4-5 days before resuming their normal eating schedule. This cycle is not supposed to be repeated week after week. Rather, it's repeated once a month or a few times a year. The major benefit of this dietary regime is that one just has to fast for 4-5 days and then return to eating a healthy diet, as opposed to fasting every week. However, the major disadvantage is that one may not receive the benefits of fasting from this strategy because it is very little or no proven scientific data to show that this form of fasting is more efficient in terms of weight reduction which can assist in maintaining a healthy calorie deficit to lose weight.

The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

  • Intermittent fasting helps in weight loss and maintaining proper health. Since the human body is capable of producing extra glucose, therefore intermittent fasting might be beneficial in cutting the unnecessary body fats by transforming them into energy. 
  • Intermittent fasting also helps in improving cardiovascular health. Many heart risks such as LDL cholesterol, heart attacks, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, inflammatory markers etc. are maintained due to intermittent fasting.
  • It also helps in lowering oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. Intermittent fasting by lowering the body stress and oxidative inflammation can, in a way, help fight age and the development of various nervous problems in the body.
  • Intermittent fasting also lowers sugar dependency. The more people avoid sweets and fast intermittently, the less sugar they'll need in their diet. Many people claim to consume apple cider vinegar throughout their fasting period, which helps in reducing their insulin levels and getting accustomed to the absence of sugar. The outcomes are just remarkable in terms of lowering sugar intake and appetites.
  • It also stimulates a variety of cellular healing mechanisms. When we fast, our cells undergo a cellular "waste elimination" process known as autophagy. Cells achieve this by trying to break down damaged and defective molecules of protein that develop within the walls of the cells over time. Intermittent fasting activates this autophagy, a biochemical process that cleanses the unwanted trash from the cells.
  • Intermittent fasting also helps in the functioning of the brain. It may help develop new neurons' growth, thereby helping protect the brain from damage from strokes. Various psychological diseases like Alzheimer's, dementia, Parkinson's, etc. can be treated by intermittent fasting. 
  • It also aids in the development of a personalized routine for oneself. A schedule is essential for people because it helps to keep everything in control. However, on a second and a less factual level, intermittent fasting may sometimes be viewed as a pattern that helps individuals who follow it to bring stability and consistency to their lives while also lessening anxiety and stress. 
  • Intermittent fasting is also beneficial for cancer patients, which have shown to prevent cancer-causing elements from increasing in the animal as well as the human body. The negative effects of chemotherapy may be decreased through intermittent fasting.

Drawbacks of Intermittent Fasting

  • Due to the way intermittent fasting is structured, many individuals tend to overeat on feasting days, the days when individuals are permitted to eat. Since meal quantity and frequency are not regulated on these feasting days, some people may overconsume to compensate for their prior fasting days. This might also ignite hunger, and overeating naturally happens in such a situation.
  • Intermittent fasting may also lead one to become moody, frustrated, depressed, anxious, and tired more than usual. This is because fasting puts high stress on the body to the extent that one cannot get enough amount of food. This starving phase necessarily ignites frustration and a whole change of mood amongst individuals. This just goes on to increase the strain of stress and can lead to frequent exhaustion, freaking out, poor energy, low body temperature, and a decline in hormone function.
  • Though intermittent fasting may help improve sleep patterns by keeping one from waking up in the middle of the night, it may sometimes disrupt one's sleep cycle and lead to restless or sleepless nights. Poor sleeping routines may also cause havoc on overall productivity during the daytime. When there is a lack of sleep, individuals often get irritated and can't focus on anything properly. Insufficient sleep also has been related to issues with blood glucose levels, chemical accumulation in the brain, and obesity.
  • Fasting for only eight hours a day or significantly reducing calories are two prominent fasting methods that both result in significant appetites and cravings. While people are hungry, their minds are preoccupied with the thoughts of food or how many calories every bite has. This desire may sometimes lead to their uncontrollable consumption of food, which will not help in reducing weight but rather would only increase their appetite and cravings.
  • Fasting for an extended amount of time can cause insulin levels to drop, leaving one feeling sick, light-headed, and unsteady, with severe migraines, dizziness, and nausea. Individuals with type 1 diabetes or people using insulin-dependent drugs may be more prone to terrible side effects or might even have difficulty in controlling their blood sugar levels.
  • Another side effect that might occur as a result of intermittent fasting is bad breath. This is produced by a decrease in saliva or cortisol levels and an increase in acetone in the breath. Our body burns up the unwanted fats when we fast for a longer period. Since acetone is a by-product produced by fat metabolism, it cannot move out and gets accumulated in the blood and the breath while we are on fast. Furthermore, dehydration is another sign of starving oneself for a longer period, and this lack of water in the body can go on to cause a dry mouth which contributes to bad breath.
  • The body excretes a substantial amount of liquid and sodium while urinating during the first few days of starvation or fasting. This is referred to as the process of natural fasting diuresis. And individuals who follow intermittent fasting may sometimes forget to drink a sufficient amount of water. Hence drinking plenty amount of water is necessary to avoid dehydration, and this dehydration may sometimes lead to the dark colour of urine.
  • While intermittent fasting is not a modern phenomenon, different studies and research shows that it has different side effects on various health and sleeping patterns. As a result, it is indeed difficult to say if the benefit will continue for a longer period. Furthermore, various other studies and researchers frequently state that long-term studies and investigations are required to ascertain whether the intermittent fasting diet program is safe for more individuals for a longer period.
  • Some inconsistent results were also reported in alternate-day intermittent fasting for cardiac indicators such as cardiovascular risk. Both LDL (bad cholesterol) and HDL (good cholesterol) levels are shown to have increased in different research, whereas triglyceride levels are shown to decline.

Intermittent Fasting for Men and Women

Though gender may be considered a delicate and contentious topic, the disparities between males and females in health are crucial to address. Apart from political, economic, and social considerations, biology has shaped men and women differently based on genetics. Both men and women differ in different ways that go beyond the X and Y chromosomes. Sometimes, this disparity can be seen biologically between men and women in the way that they differ in their body structure, physical development, and so on. According to different studies undertaken by various researchers, men's metabolisms accelerate by up to 14% after brief durations of fasting i.e., for 12 or 24 hours. Various other effects that may occur in the body of the male as a result of intermittent fasting are an increase in growth hormone application ranging from 10 to 200%, a boost in testosterone ranging from 100 to 200%, advancement in total cholesterol levels to facilitate the elevated production of hormones and lower risk factors for coronary heart disease. On the other hand, women do not adhere to intermittent fasting in the same way their male counterparts do. Women's bodies react differently to instances of fasting and starving than the males. In comparison, the metabolism is lowered to preserve calories and gain weight in preparation for possible long-term starvation. This implies that for women's bodies, intermittent fasting may not be as beneficial as it is to men. 

Women also undergo periods every month; hence, they are more affected by hormonal imbalance than men. On those specific days, it is of utmost necessity that one should listen to their body, especially when one's period is approaching or when one is on her period. It is advisable to eat nutrient-rich foods on such days to get enough strength to cope with the situation. In such a case, intermittent fasting may potentially deprive a woman of having nutrient-rich foodstuffs. Thus, they should ensure that they are obtaining enough nutrients to enhance their health by maintaining a constant flow of high-quality calories. Women may hence benefit more than men by sticking or adhering to the traditional way of having four to six light meals every day. 

Also, women who are pregnant or are about to conceive should avoid intermittent fasting. Diets that emphasize consistency in food consumption rather than rigid calorie restriction are especially helpful for women who desire to conceive. This is because intermittent fasting can disrupt the period (menstrual) cycle in women resulting in missed periods or infertility. On the other hand, intermittent fasting may increase fertility in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome. Researchers discovered that obese women with PCOS, who limit their calorie intake per day, per week, or month, have higher levels of the interstitial cell-stimulating hormone, which modulates ovulation.

The Bottom Line

Intermittent fasting is a dietary strategy consisting of regular or brief fasts. Many types of research have been conducted, and all of them indicate the benefits of this eating pattern. Regardless of the various approaches that have been created, there is one core fact about Intermittent Fasting: it is a pattern of eating that must be tailored to the lifestyle and experiences of every individual. One may either feel better following any of the fasting methods (such as the 16:8 method or the 5:2 method, 24 Hour fasting method, or even alternate day fasting and so on) or may go continuously for two days without consuming food. It necessarily depends upon the individual undertaking this fasting regime. For some individuals, intermittent fasting might be beneficial in causing weight loss by reducing the amount of calorie intake where various hormones are at play, whereas for some, intermittent fasting might not work at all. Hence, it is very important for individuals to first understand their appetite to know about the status of their own body and mind, which then will lead them to find a proper rhythmic and beneficial pattern to follow for intermittent fasting.




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