The process of Intermittent Fasting is better known within religion as a spiritual practice. But it can also be used for numerous health benefits, including fat loss, more energy and boosting your metabolism.
There are many variations of intermittent fasting. In order to benefit the most effectively, it is worth figuring out the most suitable method to implement within your own lifestyle.
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What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a dietary pattern that involves alternating periods of fasting and eating. It can take on various forms. These include skipping meals or restricting caloric intake on certain days of the week.
The goal of intermittent fasting is to reduce overall calorie intake and create a calorie deficit. This can lead to weight loss and other health benefits such as improved insulin sensitivity and reduced inflammation.
However, it’s important to note that not everyone may benefit from this approach and it may not be suitable for individuals with certain health conditions. It is best to speak with a doctor before starting an intermittent fasting regimen.
Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting
Is Intermittent fasting really worth it? Listed below are the multiple benefits of intermittent fasting that you may not have heard of, or want to find out more about:
- Weight loss
- Portion control
- Cognitive function
- Regulated blood sugar
- Reduction of chronic inflammation
Let’s take a look at some of these potential benefits in more detail:
Intermittent fasting has been shown to be a beneficial approach to weight loss. By alternating periods of restricted calorie intake with periods of normal eating, can lead to a reduction in overall caloric intake, which is a key factor in promoting weight loss.
Intermittent fasting can also alter the levels of hormones that regulate hunger and metabolism, such as insulin and ghrelin. Thus leading to improved insulin sensitivity and decreased appetite. During fasting periods, the body may switch to using stored fat as its primary energy source. Therefore leading to an increased breakdown of fat and weight loss.
The body uses any excess fat stores to survive and goes cannibal mode to eat away at fatty deposits for energy. An organised review of 40 different studies found that intermittent fasting was beneficial for weight loss, with a typical loss of 7-11 pounds over 10 weeks.1
One of the benefits of intermittent fasting is that it can help with portion control.
When people fast, they tend to be more mindful of their food intake during the periods when they are allowed to eat. They may be more aware of their hunger cues and more intentional about the foods they choose to eat. This can lead to more controlled and deliberate eating patterns, which may help them to consume fewer calories overall.
By regulating hormones ghrelin and leptin, intermittent fasting may help people to better recognize when they are truly hungry. Rather than when they are simply experiencing cravings or emotional hunger.
Overall, intermittent fasting can be an effective tool for portion control because it encourages more mindful eating habits, regulates appetite hormones, and helps people to better understand their hunger cues.
Intermittent fasting has been shown to have a positive impact on cognitive function in several ways. Reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain may help improve brain function. It may also reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Additionally, research has shown that intermittent fasting can increase the production of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is essential for the growth and survival of neurons. This can help improve memory, learning, and overall brain health. Intermittent fasting has also been shown to increase the levels of ketones in the blood, which can serve as an alternative energy source for the brain. It may also help to improve cognitive function.
While more research is needed to fully understand the effects of intermittent fasting on cognitive function, it has shown promise. It may be a potentially effective way to support brain health and improve cognitive function over time.
One study suggests that IF may have benefits on cognitive health and improve different aspects of brain function.2 This has been shown to be particularly effective in adults who have mild cognitive impairment.
Intermittent fasting has been linked to increased longevity and a reduced risk of age-related diseases. Research has shown that fasting can help activate cellular processes known as autophagy and apoptosis. These processes help to remove damaged cells and promote cellular renewal.
This can help reduce the risk of age-related diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and neurodegenerative disorders. Additionally, intermittent fasting has been shown to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. Stress and inflammation are key contributors to ageing and the development of chronic diseases.
Intermittent fasting can also help improve insulin sensitivity and regulate metabolism. This can lead to a reduced risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other metabolic diseases. While more research is needed to fully understand the effects of intermittent fasting on longevity, it may be an effective way to support overall health and longevity over time.
Look better for longer, don’t look 10 years older than you are. Your skin will look clearer, less wrinkled and more glowing instead of blotchy and tired.
One study suggests that IF can potentially benefit those who suffer from acne. 3
Regulated Blood Sugar
Fewer energy spikes which reduce that tired middle-of-the-day feeling. This allows you to remain more focused and get more done for the whole day or allows you to enjoy it much more. A study undertaken on people who have levels of impaired glucose metabolism suggested that that the IF diet is an effective therapeutic option. The study also suggests that it may improve glucose and lipid metabolism, as well as achieve significant weight loss and improve insulin resistance.4
Reduces Chronic Inflammation
Chronic Inflammation can cause illnesses such as obesity, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, bowel cancer and many more. Published research suggests that chronic inflammation can be positively reduced through a type of fasting called recurrent circadian fasting.5
Recurrent circadian fasting is a type of fasting which works in conjunction with the natural rise and fall of the sun each day. Whilst there is no specific guideline regarding what times to begin and end your fast, the only rule is to stick to an eating window of between 6-12 hours. Any time out of this window should be spent in a fasted state.
Different Types Of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting does not necessarily have to be a one-size fits all approach. In fact, there are many different types of fasting available. Choosing the right type of fasting and the length of the fast can vary from person to person depending on their personal goals:
- The 16:8 Intermittent Fasting Protocol
- One Meal A Day Fast
- 5:2 Fasting
- 36 Hour Fast
- Ramadan Fasting
Let’s take a look at each of these different types of methods in more detail.
The 16:8 Intermittent Fasting Protocol
This method entails 16 hours with no food, then an 8-hour window to consume your target calories for the day. You can consume below 50 calories and still qualify as fasting, although it is not recommended due to additives and sweeteners irregulating blood sugars and potentially making you feel more hungry.
During these times it is important to keep your mind busy. Whether that is walking, doing more work, meditation, or any hobby that will keep your mind occupied. Whatever you decide to do, productive or not, is up to you. But it should be something that will distract your thoughts from eating.
If you need a caffeine fix in the morning you could have a cup of tea, coffee or a zero-calorie energy drink.
You could also supplement using L-Theanine which promotes similar effects to caffeine without the side effects and contains zero calories.
The satisfaction of breaking your fast after an extended period is a very spiritual one. Plus, any food that you consume will instantly taste incredible. Intermittent fasting also teaches you strong discipline which can lead to better results in your other goals.
Example Diet Plan For 16:8 Fasting Method
The 16:8 method involves fasting for 16 hours and eating during an 8-hour window. This particular example is a low-calorie example and can the calories should be calculated specifically for your personal goals:
- 8:00 am: Wake up and drink water or black coffee/tea
- 12:00 pm: Start the eating window with a balanced meal consisting of protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates – Example: Grilled chicken breast with mixed vegetables and sweet potato.
- 3:00 pm: Snack time example – Greek yoghurt with mixed berries and a banana
- 5:30 pm: Dinner time example – Baked salmon with quinoa and roasted vegetables.
- 7:00 pm: Evening dessert example – Dark Chocolate (80% or more cocoa) and strawberries
- 8:00 pm onwards: Begin the fasting period until the next day.
One Meal A Day Fast
The “One Meal a Day” (OMAD) fast is a type of intermittent fasting where an individual consumes all of their daily caloric intake in one meal. This one meal is typically eaten in the evening. This means that they fast for 23 hours and eat for only 1 hour. The OMAD fast requires a high degree of discipline and may not be suitable for everyone. This is especially true for those who have a history of disordered eating or have specific health conditions that make fasting unsafe.
It’s important to note that the OMAD fast should be approached with caution. It can be a very strict form of fasting that may not be sustainable for everyone.
The OMAD fast should also be balanced with a nutritious and well-rounded diet. Consuming a high number of calories in a single meal can be challenging for some individuals and may lead to overeating or nutrient deficiencies.
Example Diet Plan For OMAD Fasting
OMAD (One Meal A Day) fasting involves consuming all your daily calories in one single meal, usually within a one-hour window. Here’s a sample meal plan idea for an OMAD diet:
- Start with a large glass of water or unsweetened tea to hydrate and prepare your stomach for food.
- Appetizer: a salad with mixed greens, sliced vegetables (e.g., cucumber, carrot, radish), and a homemade vinaigrette dressing (e.g., olive oil, vinegar, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, garlic).
- Main course: grilled salmon (or tofu for a vegetarian option) with roasted vegetables (e.g., broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts) and quinoa or brown rice.
- Dessert: a piece of fruit (e.g., apple, pear, or orange) or a small serving of dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa) for a sweet treat.
- Optional: a cup of herbal tea or black coffee to help with digestion and boost metabolism.
This involves eating normally for 5 days of the week and restricting calorie intake to 500-600 calories for 2 non-consecutive days of the week. During the two fasting days, individuals typically consume only 500-600 calories for women and 600-800 calories for men from nutrient-dense foods.
On the other five days, there are no specific dietary restrictions, but it is still important to maintain a healthy, balanced diet. The idea behind the 5:2 method is to create a calorie deficit over the course of the week while still allowing for flexibility in dietary choices.
Example Diet Plan For 5:2 Fasting Method
The 5:2 method involves eating normally for 5 days of the week and reducing calorie intake to 500-600 calories for the remaining 2 days.
- Non-fasting days: Eat a balanced diet with protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates. Example – Whole-grain toast with avocado and eggs for breakfast, a salad with grilled chicken breast for lunch, and grilled salmon with quinoa and mixed vegetables for dinner.
- Fasting days: Consume 500-600 calories throughout the day. Example – A small salad with grilled chicken breast and a side of fruit for lunch, and a vegetable stir-fry with tofu for dinner.
Alternate Day Fasting
Alternate day fasting is a type of intermittent fasting that involves alternating between days of normal eating and days of fasting. During fasting days, individuals typically consume only a small amount of food, such as 500-600 calories, or nothing at all.
On non-fasting days, there are no specific dietary restrictions, but it is still important to maintain a healthy, balanced diet. The idea behind alternate-day fasting is to create a calorie deficit by restricting calorie intake every other day, while still allowing for regular food consumption on non-fasting days.
This approach has been associated with weight loss, improved insulin sensitivity, and other health benefits.
Example Diet Plan For Alternate Day Fasting
Alternate-day fasting involves fasting every other day.
- Fasting days: Drink plenty of water, herbal tea, or black coffee throughout the day. Example: A vegetable soup or bone broth in the evening.
- Eating days: Eat balanced meals throughout the day, avoiding processed foods and excess sugars. Example: Omelet with vegetables and a side salad for breakfast, chicken breast with mixed vegetables for lunch, and grilled fish with brown rice and steamed broccoli for dinner.
36 Hour Fast (Monk Mode)
A 24 hour fast is a completely different challenge altogether. It requires immense discipline which will ultimately lead you to some interesting results. These types of fast are usually linked to a ‘cleansing’ of the body and mind. You can really connect with your intuition with this method.
People have varying results when doing a 36-hour fast, but some claim to have very spiritual results which lead them to have epiphanic thoughts.
This of course also allows you to restrict your calories, as it is highly unlikely that you will be consuming a full day’s food of 2000+ calories upwards within the first meal that ends your fast.
Ramadan fasting is a form of religious fasting observed by Muslims worldwide during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. During Ramadan, Muslims abstain from food, drink, and other physical needs from dawn until sunset each day. The fast is considered one of the Five Pillars of Islam and is seen as a way to demonstrate devotion to God, promote self-discipline, and increase spiritual awareness.
Ramadan fasting involves refraining from food and drink, as well as other physical needs, from dawn to sunset each day. The fast is broken each evening with a meal called iftar, which typically includes dates, water, and a variety of foods and drinks to replenish energy and hydration. The fast is resumed the following day and continues for the duration of Ramadan, which typically lasts 29 or 30 days.
Ramadan fasting is considered a time of reflection and spiritual growth, and many Muslims also participate in additional acts of worship and charity during this time. The fast is seen as a way to promote self-discipline, increase empathy for those in need, and strengthen the sense of community among Muslims.
What To Eat After Intermittent Fasting
Any hard work and patience can be quickly undone if you decide to break your fast by consuming foods lacking nutrition. It would be easy to expect that now the fast is complete you can eat what you want.
Although you may have restricted your calories, if you decide to eat unhealthy foods the positive effects will be hindered and they will return you to a feeling of sluggishness very quickly.
Always break your fast with nutritious, whole foods for the most beneficial results. Fasting this way not only helps with weight management but improves mental and spiritual well-being too.
If you are working and do not have time to whip up a meal from scratch, consuming foods that are mobile and quick to prepare is vital:
These types of foods can be eaten whilst at your work desk or if on the go, which makes them a great choice for those who are fasting alongside maintaining a busy lifestyle.
Related Article – 10 Simple Fat Loss Tips
Can You Consume Any Calories Whilst Fasting?
Technically, consuming up to 50 calories during a fast may still be considered fasting, but it would depend on the specific type of fast you are following and the guidelines set forth for that particular fast.
For example, some types of fasts, such as a water fast or a dry fast, require the complete avoidance of all food and drinks except for water. In these cases, consuming any calories would break the fast.
On the other hand, during a time-restricted feeding fast, consuming up to 50 calories during the fasting period may not significantly affect the benefits of the fast, as long as the majority of the day is still spent in a fasted state.
However, it’s important to note that consuming even small amounts of calories during a fast can still stimulate the digestive system and reduce the potential benefits of the fast.
Summary And Recommendations
There are many different approaches which you can take in order to implement intermittent fasting. There is no one-size fits all approach and each different method will affect each individual differently.
Intermittent fasting is a popular approach to weight loss and overall health that involves alternating periods of restricted calorie intake with periods of normal eating. This type of fasting has been shown to be effective in reducing overall caloric intake, improving insulin sensitivity, and reducing inflammation in the body, which can all contribute to weight loss.
It is essential to balance fasting with a nutritious and well-rounded diet to ensure optimal health outcomes. Restricting calories and eating windows is great and clearly very beneficial, but be careful not to fall into the trap of making lacklustre food choices. It is easy to think you have ‘earned’ the right to eat what you want after a long period of food abstinence but just this should not be the case.
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- Ooi TC, Meramat A, Rajab NF, Shahar S, Ismail IS, Azam AA, Sharif R. Intermittent Fasting Enhanced the Cognitive Function in Older Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment by Inducing Biochemical and Metabolic changes: A 3-Year Progressive Study. Nutrients. 2020 Aug
- Bragazzi NL, Sellami M, Salem I, Conic R, Kimak M, Pigatto PDM, Damiani G. Fasting and Its Impact on Skin Anatomy, Physiology, and Physiopathology: A Comprehensive Review of the Literature. Nutrients. 2019 Jan 23
- Yuan X, Wang J, Yang S, Gao M, Cao L, Li X, Hong D, Tian S, Sun C. Effect of Intermittent Fasting Diet on Glucose and Lipid Metabolism and Insulin Resistance in Patients with Impaired Glucose and Lipid Metabolism: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Int J Endocrinol. 2022 Mar 24
- Alam I, Gul R, Chong J, Tan CTY, Chin HX, Wong G, Doggui R, Larbi A. Recurrent circadian fasting (RCF) improves blood pressure, biomarkers of cardiometabolic risk and regulates inflammation in men. J Transl Med. 2019 Aug 19