Intermittent Fasting May Be a Way to Break Into a Healthier 2018
Post a calorific Christmas and new year's, why not try eating healthier; Intermittent Fasting may just be the diet plan you never knew you wanted.
Image: ©Dean Mitchell/Istock.com
We hope you have a calorific Christmas and a heavy new year. And as we blearily wake up post days of fun, festivities and feasting, the beginning of 2018 may be the perfect excuse to eat and live a little more healthily. Hey, at least we can try.
Perhaps after all the excess, it's time for an austerity drive. Say hello to Intermittent fasting. Allow us to elucidate.
An Introduction to Intermittent Fasting
Biohacking: it’s not a way for new for hackers to steal your data and kitten (not to mention other) videos, but a fitness regime that’s all the craze in Silicon Valley and aims at increasing both quality and longevity of life. While biohacking constitutes practices including food and exercise habits, both pharmaceutical and herbal aides, mapping sleep and metabolism cycles and a host of other stuff, all of which which sounds pretty intimidating to the average lifestyle noob, or even the regularly healthy.
Luckily, Intermittent Fasting, one of biohacking’s most popular tools, is something Indians are intimately familiar with, even if this particular type of fast isn’t so much about honoring your faith or your spouse as it is about looking and feeling younger and healthier. And if you’re thinking that for self-love this sounds pretty masochistic, experts say it’s totally worth the pain of not eating that leftover mithai in the fridge.
To understand the science behind this diet, we need to start with some history. For the majority of our time on earth, humans haven’t had access to regular meals thrice, or even more times, a day. Our bodies adapted accordingly, allocating calories and nutrients where they were needed most and maximizing their utility. However, because of our modern lifestyles wherein food is available all the time and we’re used to snacking on something throughout the day, our body is constantly occupied with processing the surfeit of calories we’re putting in, and is too busy to do other stuff. Like cell repair. Which doesn’t sound like much until you remember we’re made entirely out of cells.
While research is still ongoing, studies have shown that, apart from the obvious weight loss, intermittent fasting improves vital areas including cardiac, cognitive and metabolic functioning. The reduction of cell inflammation, which causes many chronic diseases, including cancer, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, has also been observed as well as a substantial increase in the production of Human Growth Hormone, which affects weight loss and muscle gain, among other beneficial features. Fasting has also shown to influence gene expressions, which impacts our health and fitness levels on a cellular level. More importantly, it also has an impact on longevity, meaning it can help one live a potentially longer, more fulfilling life.
Scientists have frequently cited religious fasting as examples of the efficacy of fasting, whether it's Hindu, Jain, Buddhist or Islamic traditions or the practices of certain monastic orders of Christianity. They noted the high levels of physical fitness and mental acuity that is almost ubiquitous among aesthetics as well as their high resistance to infections and diseases.
Among people around the world who have been following this diet, its most vocal supporters have Silicon Valley executives and technocrats who claim that with intermittent fasting, they sleep better, look and feel healthier and younger, have more energy, are more alert, and even have better sex. Intermittent fasting apps and online communities are mushrooming, with WeFa.st being among the most popular. This global community is a fantastic resource wherein fasting enthusiasts exchanges notes, tips, weight and health updates as well as keeping tabs on the latest research on Intermittent Fasting, with dozens of studies and projects being studied on the same.
Achievement unlocked: first time since high school that I weigh less than 200 lbs. Five months of intermittent fasting experiments, -56lbs. pic.twitter.com/h0FsiJXTzp— Phil Libin (@plibin) February 4, 2017
So let's get into the specifics.
Types of Intermittent Fasting (IF)
16/8 Protocol: This is probably the most popular variant of intermittent fasting, and full disclosure, the one I follow. This is not just because of a childhood ambition to be one of the cool kids, but also because it's one of the most convenient. Basically, one fasts for 16 hours and keeps meals between a fixed eight hour period. Women are typically advised to fast for a 14 hour period in comparison to the 16 hours advised for men. Most experts also suggest keeping your calorie intake period for slightly later in the day, never mind breakfast for champs.
The reasoning is that if you don't load up your system with calories soon after you wake up, you'll remain alert and keep your edge throughout the first half of your day without falling prey to post-lunch sluggishness, that bane of our working lives. If you wake up around 6-7 AM, for instance, you could consider keeping your meals between 12-8 PM. This timing is by no means a requisite, as everyone has different schedules and ways of functioning. Just keep the majority of a 24-hour cycle free of calorie intake.
Eat-stop-repeat: This is another popular variant, and in a sense, far simpler than other plans. Basically, keep a couple of days in the week in which you don’t eat. At all. Zero calories in a 24-hour period. And eat normally the rest of the week. Interestingly, people following this plan have noted that, after a period of adjustment, even on the days they are free to eat normally, they automatically eat lighter.
5:2 Plan: This is probably the easiest plan to follow and stick to. Quite simply, you eat normally for five days of the week, and minimize your calorie intake for two days, not consuming more than 500-600 calories. The best part? You can choose any two days you like, even switch them up every week if you wish; variety is, after all, the spice of life. Just remember to keep one non-fasting day (or more) between the two days that you do fast.
Other IF Plans: While the above three are among the most followed plans, other variants include fasting every alternate day, the formidable Himalayan Plan which involves fasting for 60-hour periods at a time as well as variations of other plans. Basically, you need to try out a few variations until you find the one that works best for you.
Things to Remember
• Not eating doesn’t mean you can’t consume anything at all. Drinking water is vital, even more so during your fasting cycles as you need to keep your body hydrated.
• Caffeine can be your best friend to stave off hunger pangs and is permitted during the fasting period. Just remember to not add any sugar to your tea or coffee. While no-calorie sweeteners and a splash of double toned milk to your caffeinated beverage is allowed, it’s not particularly encouraged. Also remember that caffeine is a dehydrating agent so make sure to increase your water intake accordingly so as not to risk kidney damage.
• Intermittent fasting is NOT recommended for children, pregnant women, and people with certain medical conditions. ALWAYS consult with your family doctor/health specialist before beginning any diet.
• If one particular plan proves too difficult or inconvenient, there are always alternatives. Find the plan that works best for you and causes the least disruption to your day.
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