Intermittent fasting 101

Everything you need to know

Since ancient times, fasting has been practiced mostly for spiritual purposes but also for the many health benefits it entails. Intermittent fasting was first recorded in a study conducted by Guelpa and Marie in 1911 as a treatment for epilepsy. It was a ketogenic type of diet that mimics fasting.

Intermittent fasting has gained popularity in recent years as a weight loss regimen. There are a lot who would swear by its effectivity but there are those who were not successful. What went wrong? More important, we should ask those who have lost weight through intermittent fasting if they are indeed healthy beyond the weight loss they had achieved. You see, being healthy doesn’t equate to being skinny. You may be at the right weight for your height but you could also be nutrient deficient or, worse, have a compromised immune system that makes you susceptible to getting ill. Weight is not the sole indicator of being healthy and well.

Intermittent fasting is done in different ways. The most common one is the time-restricted feeding. In this method, there is a designated window of time to eat and a period of fasting within the day. Fasting can vary from 12 to 20 hours. Feeding time could also differ depending on the individual’s preference. For example, one can choose to eat between 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (eight hours) and abstain from food between 6 p.m. to 10 a.m. (16 hours).

The second type of intermittent fasting is the 5:2. You choose two days a week of consuming a very low-calorie diet (500 to less than 1,000 calories). Some could go as low as 200 to 300 kcal per day on those two days. The rest of the five days, you eat a healthy and normal diet.

The third type of intermittent fasting is the 24-hour fast. This method requires no food intake or zero calories within 24 hours. It is done once or twice a week. You return to normal diet after the one-day fast.

The fourth type of intermittent fasting is the alternate day fasting. This method involves alternate days of regular diet and very low calorie or calorie restricted diet that is about 25 percent of your usual caloric intake. For instance, if you normally consume 2,000 calories when not fasting, you will then only eat around 500 calories on fasting days.

Before you do intermittent fasting, it is important to know the pros and cons behind the different methods. In a study on circadian rhythms, time-restricted feeding, and healthy aging conducted by Manoogian and Panda in 2016 and another research on metabolic effects on intermittent fasting done by Patterson and Sears in 2017, it was concluded that eating in alignment with the circadian rhythm or body clock is associated with reduced risk of chronic diseases, which also included weight management and gut microbiome.

The American Heart Association issued a scientific statement, which conveys a message on the benefits of intentional eating in addition to mindful attention to timing and frequency of eating occasions on promoting a healthier lifestyle and cardiometabolic risk management.

Intermittent fasting may be beneficial to health if you eat within a window period that matches the body’s natural clock.

Simply put, intermittent fasting may be beneficial to health if you eat within a window period that matches the body’s natural clock. Fasting during the day and feasting at night will probably make you lose weight but will be detrimental to overall health.

While calorie deficit is still the solution to losing weight, meal timing is still important, especially when doing intermittent fasting. One of the reasons is the production of hormones related to the metabolism or utilization of nutrients. The body produces less insulin at night, therefore compromising the breakdown and absorption of sugars from carbohydrates. It also affects fat metabolism.

Studies have shown that fasting during breakfast and prolonged fasting of more than 13 hours tend to increase blood glucose. It also increases the insulin level, which could stimulate the body to store up more fat, increasing total cholesterol and weight. Having just one meal a day decreases glucose and weight, increases good cholesterol HDL but also increase triglycerides, which can clog up in your arteries and cause high blood pressure. Fasting during daytime can also cause mood swings, fatigue, and other symptoms, which could affect your productivity at school or at work.

It’s safe to say that intermittent fasting could be done by fasting overnight and having a meal in the morning or just before lunch. It is also important to take note of the quality of food that you consume during feeding time. There is no excuse for eating whatever you want. Consume life-giving food that will nourish your body like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein like fish or soy, and healthy fats like nuts and seeds. Avoid or keep to a minimum if you have to eat some sweet treats, animal meat, and some fatty food.

Pregnant women, the elderly, children, and those with medical conditions must not do fasting regardless of the method.