If you’ve been trying to get fit recently, chances are you’ve heard of Intermittent Fasting (IF). This trendy fitness regime is different from most fad diets since it doesn’t really tell you what you should and shouldn’t eat. In fact, IF doesn’t require you to count calories continuously or cut down on carbs either. Instead, intermittent fasting works by providing you with a fixed schedule of when you can eat, within reason, and when you can’t. There are a number of schedules available, but the most popular is the 16:8, which recommends fasting for 16 hours a day and eating during an 8-hour window. The 5:2, which recommends eating less than 500 calories for 2 days a week while maintaining your regular diet for the rest of the 5 days, is also quite common. If you’re wondering if IF is really as good as everybody is claiming, here’s a look at everything you should know before you try it out for yourself.
1. It Improves Your Body Composition
When you fast for long periods through the day and eat regularly for the rest of the day, you’re not consuming as many calories as usual. During the fasting period, your body will use up stored sugars and fat as fuel. This means that your body will burn its own fat for energy, which will help you lose weight. The decreased body fat will also have a positive effect on your metabolism, which improves your body’s overall composition.
2. It Helps Keep Heart Issues at Bay
A nutritional metabolism researcher at the University of Surrey found that intermittent fasting can have a positive effect on your heart health. Researchers at the University found a 9% decrease in the blood pressure readings of individuals who followed an IF schedule. On the other hand, those who continued with their regular daily diet had a 2% increase in blood pressure. At the Cleveland Clinic, it was found that fasting can also help lower cholesterol and control diabetes.
3. It Boosts Brain Growth
When you fast, the rate of neurogenesis, or growth and development of new brain cells, increases. This means that fasting can boost your focus, mood, memory and your overall brain performance. According to a professor of neurology at John Hopkins University, fasting also forces your brain to take preventative measures against a number of diseases.
The Not So Good
1. There Can Be Unhealthy Side Effects
Making the switch from your traditional lifestyle to IF can be a bit of a task. Initially, the new schedule can cause hormonal imbalances, which can lead to increased stress, thyroid problems and even insomnia. It can also cause menstrual and fertility issues. While this may sound scary, it’s important to remember that by consulting a trained physician, it is possible to make the switch and find the IF schedule that works best for you.
2. It Isn’t Always Easy
Sticking to a rigid 16:8 or even 5:2 schedule can be difficult in the long run. A single day of low energy or cravings could break your schedule. Additionally, some people tend to feast when they aren’t fasting, but this isn’t helpful. The idea of IF is to create a calorie deficit in your day. If you end up binging or eating more than usual during the eating window, you may not see any results – which will only serve to demotivate you.
3. It Can Disrupt Your Social Life
Meeting up with friends after work or cooking up delicious breakfasts and dinners on the weekend may not be easy to sustain if you’re trying intermittent fasting. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, if you’re meeting people during a fasting period, you may not want to be around others who are eating and drinking. Secondly, you may have less energy initially, which could mean that you don’t go out as often as you would. While maintaining a social life may be a little difficult while fasting, it isn’t impossible.
Intermittent fasting, like any other health trend, has its own pros and cons. But, if done right, it could definitely help you shed a few pounds and lead a healthier lifestyle.