Intermittent fasting is one of the most popular health trends this season. While mainstream religions such as Islam and Christianity have observed organised fasting for centuries now, it is only becoming a lauded health trend now after the numerous benefits of fasting are coming to light. People are using fasting to improve health, lose weight, and alter their hectic, loaded life styles with something simplistic and minimalistic. It is an ideal way to connect with your body and core a few times a week, escaping from the facade of consumerism and gluttony in our everyday lives.
WHAT IS INTERMITTENT FASTING
Intermittent fasting is a type of diet which dictates when to eat, rather than how much or what. So instead of being a conventional diet, it is more of an eating pattern.
Common intermittent fasting methods involve daily 16 hour fasts, or fasting for 24 hours, twice per week.
Humans have actually been fasting throughout evolution. When you think about it, our hunter-gatherer ancestors didn’t have supermarkets, refrigerators or food available year-round. Sometimes we couldn’t find anything to eat, and our bodies evolved to be able to function without food for extended periods of time.
In that context, fasting from time to time is more “natural” than constantly eating 3-4 (or more) meals per day.
BENEFITS OF INTERMITTENT FASTING
Research has shown that severe fasting (caloric restriction to less than 1000kcal/day) once or twice a week leads to improved heart health. One way this might happen is the control and restraint that people who fast show over their consumption of calories. Periodic fasting may also be linked to an improvement in the way our bodies process cholesterol and sugar. Regular fasting decreases the low density lipoproteins ( bad) cholesterol), which in turn leads to over all better health of the heart, the arteries and the rest of the body. Fasting for long periods of time also improves the body’s response to insulin, hence, leading to improved blood sugar levels, which may play a significant role in controlling and managing diabetes. A regulation in the insulin levels of the body also leads to increased fat burning at a cellular level. Studies have shown that intermittent fasting improves metabolic rate by 3-14%, leading to the added bonus of weight loss. Not only is the overall percentage of body fat reduced, but it has been shown that intermittent fasting decreases belly fat, which is the more dangerous type of fat present in the body.
Body cells also undergo essential repair processes during prolonged periods of fasting, which reduces the risk of protracting cancer and other chronic illnesses.
As practised in major religions, there is a time set for fasting in the religious calendar, and it may either involve abstaining from all food and drink items for a set periods of time (as in Ramazan for muslims), or it may involve avoiding one or more food groups of your choice for a limited number of days (as in Christianity). Intermittent fasting when practised as a health option, on the other hand, involves restricting your caloric intake for a set number of hours each day, to a set amount of calories. Most people who practise it advise limiting your intake to between 500-1000 calories a day, with the bulk of calories consumed coming from nutritious whole foods.