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Intermittent Fasting. Is it for you?

Updated: May 30, 2022

Recently, you might have noticed Instagram posts of fasting for fitness, followed by photos of enjoying a hearty meal at their favorite restaurants. Seems paradoxical, right? But if you don’t want to do away with your favorite dishes completely and yet remain fit, intermittent fasting (IF) might be the right ‘fit’ for you.

What is intermittent fasting? Simply put, it is the act of abstaining from the consumption of food for a certain period in a day. It will be a bit puzzling to know that there is no one standard way of doing intermittent fasting.

So, what are the different approaches to IF?

· The most popular intermittent fasting plan is 16/8, i.e., you fast for 16 hours a day and consume food during the remaining 8-hour period. The fasting window includes the sleeping hours at night. So, ideally, anyone who practices 16/8 IF times her consumption period from, say, 10.30 a.m. to 06:30 p.m. or any period of similar duration.

· Another one is 5:2 approach. In this method, one eats regularly for five days in a week and follows a calorie deficit plan for the remaining two days.

· There is also a 24-hour fast approach, which involves fasting for complete 24-hours. This is usually done once or twice in a week.

Benefits of Intermittent fasting:

Intermittent fasting is found useful for reducing weight. During fasting, the carbohydrates in our body are depleted, resulting in using up fat as the main source of fuel. A study has proved that intermittent fasting over 3–12 weeks decreased body weight and total cholesterol by up to 7% and 20% respectively. Intermittent fasting is also done by many for decreasing insulin resistance. A study carried out on obese adults for 10 weeks where the participants were following time restricted feeding of 4 and 6 hours showed decrease in insulin resistance and thus better management of Type-2 Diabetes Mellitus. Not only this, but a study showed that alternate day fasting helped decreasing Low Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol (LDL-C) and triglycerides along with reduction of leptin and resistin concentrations post treatment hence helping in maintaining a good heart health.

While the benefits of Intermittent fasting have been vouched by many, it comes with its fair share of risks too. Read on to understand the risks that you would be taking while signing up for intermittent fasting.

If you follow the most popular 16/8 approach, you may feel lethargy, nausea, headache and irritation, as the fasting period is longer than what your body is used to. Studies showed that subjects following alternate day fasting or reduced frequency fasting had increased hunger by the end of fasting. This could later lead to over-eating. Losing weight faster could also be associated with the loss of muscle mass. This is usually seen in older adults. Also, if you are already taking certain medications for diabetes, heart issues or hypertension, it is not advisable to fast longer than normal periods as IF may cause imbalance in minerals like sodium, potassium etc., in the body.

While these enlisted are the short-term effects of IF, it is to be noted that the long-term effects of IF in humans have still not been studied upon. Currently, long-term studies on IF are being conducted on mice. We believe, more studies need to be conducted to validate the long-term benefits of intermittent fasting.

If you have made up your mind to try intermittent fasting, here are some tips for you.

Dos and Don’ts of IF:

· Start off easily and slowly

· Stay hydrated

· It is okay to have black coffee or tea during fasting days but refrain from diet soda or other carbonated beverages

· Do not hog on junk food or deep-fried food during your eating time. Make healthy choices in your meal.

· Moderate exercises can be done during fasting but any strenuous activity is to be avoided.

· Stick to one approach rather than changing it often.

Every person is different, and you may or may not get the same benefits from IF like another one. Hence it is very important to take advice of your nutritionist/dietician/physician before starting any form of intermittent fasting. And most importantly, listen to your body and do not push too hard.

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