You don’t need a class called “intermittent fasting 101” to understand how to do it. That’s the easy part. The hard part is first trying it, and then sticking to it.
Intermittent fasting is also known as intermittent energy restriction. It’s a term applied to anyone of the various meal-timing schedules that cycle between voluntary fasting and non-fasting over a given period. In other words, you pick a time of day to start eating and stop eating but don’t eat anything in your downtime.
To help you better understand what it’s all about, let’s talk a little intermittent fasting 101. We’ll look at a few of the most popular intermittent fasting plans out there and how the practice helps you to lose weight and stay healthy.
Intermittent Fasting 101: The 16:8 Diet
One intermittent fasting method that’s growing in popularity is the 16:8 diet.
The 16:8 plan works like this: You’ll fast every day for 14 to 16 hours and restrict your daily "eating window" to 8-10 hours. Within the eating window, you can fit in three or more meals.
The good news is that during your fasting time, you are allowed to drink water, coffee, and other noncaloric beverages, which can help reduce feelings of hunger.
Intermittent Fasting 101: The 5:2 Diet
If you’re following the 5:2 diet you’ll eat normally five days of the week, but restrict yourself to 500-600 calories for two days out of the week. On the fasting days, it’s recommended that women eat 500 calories and men eat 600 calories. This diet is also called The Fast Diet, but there are no studies that prove its effectiveness.
Intermittent Fasting 101: The Eat-Stop-Eat
The Eat-Stop-Eat might be one of the more difficult intermittent fasting methods to follow. Using this plan, you’ll fast from dinner one day to dinner the next day. That’s a 24-hour fast, either once or twice per week. You can also fast from breakfast to breakfast or lunch to lunch. The end result is the same.
Water, coffee and other noncaloric beverages are allowed during the fast, but no solid foods are permitted. With this method and the “Alternate Day Fasting Method,” you’ll go to bed hungry a couple of nights per week, which will make it very difficult to maintain.
Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
When you fast, insulin levels drop and human growth hormone increases. Your cells also initiate important cellular repair processes and change which genes they express.
- Lower Blood Sugar: Studies show that intermittent fasting provides benefits for insulin resistance and leads to an impressive reduction in blood sugar levels. In fact, intermittent fasting can reduce fasting blood sugar by as much as 3% to 6%, while fasting insulin has been reduced by 20% to 31%.
- Weight Loss: You can also lose weight IF you don’t overeat between fasts. You will be setting yourself up to win by taking in fewer calories.
- Heart Health: In addition to improving blood sugar levels, intermittent fasting has also been shown to improve many risk factors for heart disease. They include blood pressure, total and LDL cholesterol, and blood triglycerides.
When reviewing the studies that have already been done on intermittent fasting, it appears the practice can do more good than harm. More studies are needed, but there’s enough evidence to tie intermittent fasting to benefits for metabolism and all sorts of health markers.
If you’d like to find out some additional information on ways to improve your blood sugar levels, check out our infographic. You’ll find three additional methods to control your blood sugar level.