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What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting, also called periodic fasting or interval fasting describes a rhythm of eating in which a person cycles between periods of eating and fasting.
Intermittent fasting focuses on when you eat, rather than what you eat.
The process calls for alternating between times of eating normally and periods of calorie restriction, and there are numerous intermittent fasting regimens you can follow, each of which divides the day or week into periods of eating and fasting.
What are the Benefits of Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting shows a greater decrease in body fat compared with ordinary dieting; approximately 90 percent of total weight loss (as body fat), compared with 75 percent of total weight loss in continuous diets.
A Healthier Lifestyle
Intermittent fasting has emerged as a popular alternate dietary rhythm and lifestyle to accomplish health goals, reduce body weight, and improve overall health, particularly as we get older. Many people consider it easier to stick with than traditional weight loss plans that emphasize calorie reduction.
Improved Quality of Life as We Age
Although the first noticeable benefits of an intermittent fasting plan, such as more energy and greater sense of well-being, occur within the first few weeks of starting a regimen, the benefits of intermittent fasting seem to increase with age.
Better Overall Health
- Strengthened Immune System
- Reduced Inflammation
- Slowing of Bone Mineral Density Loss
- Reduced Risk of Chronic Health Conditions, Including Diabetes and Heart Disease
- Reduction of Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Including a Lowering of High Blood Pressure
- Protection Against Degenerative Diseases of the Nervous System
- Improved Brain Health and Cognitive Abilities
Insulin resistance, asthma, seasonal allergies, viral and bacterial infectious diseases, fungal infections, autoimmune diseases, osteoarthritis, symptoms of inflammation of the central nervous system, cardiac arrhythmia, hot flashes during menopause, all appear to respond positively to intermittent fasting, as well.
How Do I Lose Weight on an Intermittent Fast?
Intermittent fasting works to break your body’s dependence on sugar, and it retrains your body to burn fat. When you are in the fasting period your body has to use up its stores of glucose (sugar). When glucose runs low, your body will burn fat for energy. Traditional eating patterns rarely force your body to burn fat. When you are eating almost constantly throughout the day, you are running almost entirely on glucose for energy. Even worse, excess glucose (sugar) is converted into fat.
Withholding food for prolonged periods, as in an intermittent fast, conditions your body to use calories from food more efficiently, improving your ability to convert food directly into energy instead of storing it as fat, which enhances fat loss.
How Do I Do an Intermittent Fast?
The practice of deliberate intermittent fasting has been used for centuries by monks and nuns, including Saint Hildegard of Bingen, to address age-related illnesses and healthy weight management. Thus, we need only look to our past to construct a healthy discipline for weight loss and overall health.
Once you’ve chosen an intermittent fasting regimen to follow, here are some things to keep in mind as you get started.
- Drink lots of water. Your body needs water to convert fat into fuel, and drinking water will help you feel full.
- Get your electrolytes. Along with proper water intake, proper electrolyte balance is important while fasting. Electrolytes are the minerals and salts you need for all basic bodily functions. When you lose water you also lose salts. You need to make sure you are eating foods that supply enough sodium (salt), potassium, magnesium, and calcium.
- Plan your fasting periods around sleep.
- Pick busy days/times for fasting. Staying busy will help keep your mind off of eating.
- Redefine what it means to fast. Internalize fasting as healing or resting and not as starving or withholding. Your mental state is a very important part of a successful fasting program.
- Incorporate regular physical activity into your schedule. You will get the best results from your fast when you include exercise. The exercise doesn’t have to be intense, just regular.
- Design your meals according to the nutrition guidelines of Hildegard of Bingen, eat slowly, and chew thoroughly. Consciously enjoy every moment and drink only water or herbal teas between meals.
- Alternative forms of fasting, including those inspired by Hildegard von Bingen serve the purpose of relieving and cleansing the body, but do not require a complete renunciation of food
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A fasting regimen following Hildegard of Bingen’s teachings helps correct your internal compass to arrive at your own personal “golden mean.”
What are the Most Common Intermittent Fasting Methods?
The 16/8 Method
The most popular intermittent fasting schedule is the 16/8 method, also known as the Leangains Diet. The 16/8 method is 16 hours of fasting with an 8-hour window for eating.
For most people, the 16/8 schedule can be easily practiced by extending the fast we experience when sleeping at night.
Upon waking, skip breakfast and start the 8-hour window for eating around 11 a.m. or 12 p.m., with the final meal completed by 8 p.m.
The Warrior Diet
The Warrior Diet involves eating a few servings of raw fruit and vegetables during a 20-hour fasting window, then eating a large meal of vegetables, proteins, healthy fats and some carbohydrates in the evening.
The Eat-Stop-Eat Diet
The Eat-Stop-Eat Diet is a form of alternate day fasting that involves avoiding all food intake for 24 hours at a time, although water, tea and other calorie-free drinks are allowed during the fasting window.
It’s most common to practice this method by fasting from breakfast to breakfast or lunch to lunch rather than by fasting based on the calendar.
The 5:2 Diet
The 5:2 Diet, or the Fast Diet, involves eating standard amounts of healthy food five days a week and restricting calories to 500-600 per day on the other two days.
People practicing the 5:2 Diet typically separate their fasting days because it’s recommended to have at least one non-fasting day in between the fasting days.
Can I Eat What I Want During an Intermittent Fast?
In order to get the most from an intermittent fasting regimen, you should only consume healthy, nutrient-dense foods during your eating window. This means lots of vegetables, whole foods and protein.
Simple carbohydrates lead to spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels. Out-of-balance blood sugar levels trigger feelings of hunger, which especially happens following the regular consumption of simple carbs. As a result, intermittent fasting plans generally contain minimal amounts of sugar and other isolated carbohydrates (e.g., white flour, white rice), in order to keep blood sugar and insulin levels low.
To help control hunger pangs during the fasting window, eat high-fiber and/or high-protein foods such as nuts, beans, fruits, fish, tofu and meat. Bitters can be used to limit sugar cravings during fasting periods.
Also, drink lots of water. Coffee, tea and other non-caloric beverages are also allowed.