Health: On Intermittent Fasting – Benefits And Precautions

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Empty plate with clock on it - Intermittent Fasting
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Intermittent fasting for health and fitness has been taking the world by storm. People use it to lose weight, improve their health and simplify their lifestyles. While most diets focus on regulating what you eat, intermittent fasting focuses on when you eat. With intermittent fasting, you only eat during a specific time which makes it less of a diet in the conventional sense and more of an eating pattern. The logic is pretty simple, everyone fasts whether or not it’s on purpose. When you go to sleep, you technically are on a 6 or 8 hour fast depending on how much beauty sleep or rest you need. The idea is to be deliberate about when you eat in order to minimize or restrict your calorie intake. Intermittent fasting means you don’t eat for a period of time every day or every week.

There are so many different schedules and plans. Some people for example will skip breakfast and have their first meal after 1 p.m., others will not eat anything after 7 p.m. while for some they alternate between days, so that if they eat today, they fast all day the following day. The varied approaches to it make it possible for individuals to tailor plans to their preferences and ability. Intermittent fasting works on a principle called metabolic switching. After hours without food, after the body has exhausted its sugar stores, the body begins burning fat. This is what is referred to as metabolic switching and it is why intermittent fasting is so popular as a weight-loss technique.

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

1. Weight Loss

This is the most well-known benefit and use of intermittent fasting. Long periods between meals leads the body to burn fats after exhausting the sugar supplies.

This lowers the risk of obesity-related diseases such as diabetes, sleep apnea and some types of cancer.

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2. Mental health

It improves cognition and may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease by reducing the incidence of memory loss. It also boosts verbal memory.

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3. Heart health

Intermittent fasting is linked to improved blood pressure and resting heart rates as well as other heart-related measurements.

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4. Better sleep

Eating late at night disrupts sleep and causes sleep disturbances.

5. Promotes mindful eating habits

Intermittent fasting makes people deliberate about when they eat so that they don’t just mindlessly eat or junk in the course of the day.

6. Linked to improved immunity, clearer skin and delayed ageing

Precautions

Intermittent fasting can have some very unpleasant side effects including hunger, fatigue, insomnia, nausea, and headaches. It is also not advisable for women who are pregnant and/or breastfeeding. If you have any underlying medical conditions or are on any medication it is also advised that you speak to your doctor before trying it. It is especially dangerous for people with diabetes.

Research also shows that it may actually end up sabotaging your weight loss plan. People end up losing lean mass including muscle but not fat. It is for this reason that it is discouraged among older people who need to preserve their muscles. Longer periods without meals like 24, 36, 48, and 72-hour fasts may be counter-productive and dangerous. They may lead your body to actually store more fat in response to perceived starvation.

Intermittent fasting has many health benefits, not least of all as pertains to weight loss. The fact that it makes people more deliberate and mindful about their lifestyles and eating habits is also a total plus. Of course, like with everything else there are serious considerations to be made before embarking on it.

If you are on a weight loss journey, check out this piece on foods you should avoid after a workout in order to lose weight.

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