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What is Intermittent Fasting? Types and How Does it Work

Intermittent fasting is all the rage nowadays, especially among those who find it difficult to follow weight loss diets. Do you know what it is and how to do it? In this article, we’ll tell you all about intermittent fasting.

Before we begin, you need to understand that intermittent fasting isn’t a diet in itself, but a dietary protocol. Drawing from this premise, any diet can be adapted to this protocol, following a series of tips that we’ll discuss below.

It can be hard to lose weight. If you suffer from food cravings or just can’t resist a hearty dish or dessert, keep reading.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

As its name implies, this dietary weight loss protocol consists of not ingesting caloric foods for a certain number of hours.

Here’s an example that can help you understand it: Maria decided to try intermittent fasting to lose some extra pounds. For this reason, she’s decided to fast twice a week for 16 hours, always under medical supervision.

Although this protocol isn’t related to any food illness, it should be controlled by a nutritionist.

How does it work?

According to those who support this dietary protocol, each time you eat, you ingest more energy than you need. Thus, your body saves it to use it later, when it needs it.

The sugar carbohydrates are broken down and can only enter cells with the help of insulin, the hormone the pancreas produces that’s responsible for helping to store energy for when it’s needed.

When you ingest more energy than you use, some of it turns into fat and is distributed throughout the body. By fasting, insulin levels drop (as they’re no longer needed to store sugars) and the body begins to use stored fat for energy.

Thus, this protocol is easy to understand. By interspersing food intake periods (high insulin) and energy storage with fasting periods (low insulin), the body burns more fat than when it’s constantly consuming. In fact, several studies link this practice with weight loss.

Thus, the person who begins this protocol must do pre-established fasts that may have a different duration depending on their personal needs (and willpower).

Types of intermittent fasting

You can do intermittent fasting in countless different ways. Nevertheless, here are the main ways:

  • 12/12 fast. It involves having breakfast and dinner, separated by 12 hours of fasting. For example, you have breakfast at 7 a.m. and dinner at 7 p.m.
  • 8/16 fast. The idea here is to fast for 16 hours (consuming fluids, of course) and then eating for eight hours. This way, you could establish a fasting period from 9 p.m. to 1 p.m. and eat from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • 4/20 fast. The fasting period lasts 20 hours, followed by four hours when you can eat food.
  • 24-hour fast. In this case, the fasting period is a full day. You can drink water, of course, and simply fast on alternate days. According to research published in the journal JAMA, it may aid weight loss and reduce insulin resistance.
  • 48-hour fast. It consists of fasting for two whole days, always staying properly hydrated.

Is fasting healthy?

You fast every day, even without wanting to. Fasting consists of not eating food for a period of time, which is exactly what you do while you sleep.

According to different studies, when your fasting is controlled within a balanced diet and you don’t have health problems such as diabetes, it could help you lose weight. Thus, it could reduce the cardiovascular risks caused by fat accumulation.

However, some specialists point out that fasting could cause serious damage to pregnant women and people with diabetes (because fasting could cause hypoglycemia) or other chronic problems.

Before you start to do intermittent fasting, consult your doctor about it.

Its benefits are similar to those of other diets

In 2018, the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) conducted a study called HELENA. The researchers sought to establish if intermittent fasting could really aid weight loss and if it could damage health. The researchers concluded that:

  • It’s similar to other weight loss diets.
  • It can mainly help those who have trouble staying disciplined every day of the week.
  • Those who fasted lost the same amount of weight as a control group that followed a conventional diet.

Fasting would reduce body fat

Another 2016 study suggested that an eight-week 12/8 fast, along with exercise, would help improve health markers and reduce body fat in men, without causing a loss of muscle mass.

It would help modify appetite

Specialists also studied a group of people with obesity and prediabetes to determine if this protocol is suitable for them. Those who participated in the study only ate food in an eight-hour window.

The results showed that, after five weeks, the patients’ appetite and blood pressure had decreased. However, they didn’t lose weight.

Conclusion on all about intermittent fasting

If you plan to start intermittent fasting, consult your doctor about it. The professional will know how to guide you and tell you if fasting may be the best protocol for you.

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