• Chiara Saccardo

Intermittent Fasting

What do we really need to know

Intermittent fasting has become one of the new fitness trend.

So let’s see how it works and if it can be a good option for you.

What is it?

Intermittent fasting is a broad term that encompasses a variety of programs that manipulate the timing of eating occasions by utilizing short-term fasts in order to improve body composition and overall health. It’s an eating pattern more than a diet.

Fasting has been practiced throughout human evolution. Ancient hunter-gatherers didn’t have supermarkets, refrigerators or food available all year and sometimes they couldn’t find anything to eat. As a result, humans evolved to be able to function without food for extended periods of time.

In many cultures like Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism, fasting has been religiously practiced and observed for years, but only recently, studies have been focused on its beneficial health properties.

How does it work?

According to some findings from controlled studies on animals and emerging on humans, eating in a short period of time and fasting the rest of the time trigger a metabolic switch from glucose-based to ketone-based energy inducing ketogenesis, with increased stress resistance, increased longevity, and a decreased incidence of diseases, including cancer and obesity.

There are several different ways to do intermittent fasting, but the most popular are the following

  • 16/8: which involve skipping breakfast and restrict your time of eating at 8 hours (1-9pm) then you fast for 16 hours. This is the most popular and easiest to stick with.

  • Eat-Stop-Eat: This involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week, for example by not eating one day from dinner until dinner the next day.

  • The 5:2 diet: you eat normally 5 days a week and you consume only 500–600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week

Which are the benefits of fasting?

It can have powerful benefits for managing weight and the health of your body and brain. It may even be a good strategy for longevity.

The main health benefits of intermittent fasting are:

  • Weight loss: As mentioned above, intermittent fasting can help you lose weight and belly fat, without having to consciously restrict calories

  • Insulin resistance: Intermittent fasting can reduce insulin resistance, lowering blood sugar by 3–6% and fasting insulin levels by 20–30%, which should protect against type 2 diabetes.

  • Inflammation: Some studies show reductions in markers of inflammation, a key driver of many chronic diseases.

  • Heart health: Intermittent fasting may reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood sugar and insulin resistance — all risk factors for heart disease

  • Cancer: Animal studies suggest that intermittent fasting may prevent cancer

  • Brain health: Intermittent fasting increases the brain hormone BDNF and may aid the growth of new nerve cells. It may also protect against Alzheimer’s disease.

  • Anti-aging: Intermittent fasting can extend lifespan in rats. Studies showed that fasted rats lived 36–83% longer.

Is it for everybody?

If you’re underweight or have a history of eating disorders, you should not fast without consulting with a health professional first as in these cases, it can be harmful.

It may not be as beneficial for women as for men, there are a number of reports of women whose menstrual period stopped when they started doing Intermittent Fasting and went back to normal when they resumed their previous eating pattern.

For these reasons, women should be careful with intermittent fasting and maybe opt for a more sustainable and flexible 14/10 method in case, but always under a professional supervision.

They should follow separate guidelines, like easing into the practice and stopping immediately if they have any problems like amenorrhea (absence of menstruation).

If you are trying to conceive and/or have issues with fertility, consider holding off on intermittent fasting for now. This eating pattern is also not recommended if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.

Is it safe?

The most common side effect of intermittent fasting is hunger.

People with certain medical conditions like diabetes, blood sugar regulation, low blood pressure, history of eating disorders, underweight, women breastfeeding or pregnant, trying to conceive or with history of amenorrhea (lack of menstruation), should not fast without consulting with a doctor first.

Can you eat whatever you want during the non-fasting time?

You need to eat healthy in order to get the health benefits above mentioned.

If you want to lose weight without losing your energy, these are the foods that you need to include in your meal plan:

  • High Fiber and Protein: Lentils, beans, chicken, brown rice, yoghurt, eggs, and whole-grain bread.

  • Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, cashews, chestnuts, and other types of nuts as healthy snack options when you are feeling slightly hungry. Nuts are good sources of healthy fats and can help lower your cholesterol level as well.

  • Leafy Greens and Vegetables: Vegetables are filled with fiber and other essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, etc. which can help in preventing your body from being lazy and feeling tired.

  • Fruits: the fiber and water present in fruits, along with other vital nutrients, can make you feel energized while also help in satisfying your sweet cravings.

In the fasting time you can drink coffee, tea or herbal tea, making sure you don’t add sugar and have your usual supplements, although some supplements are more efficient while taking with meals.

Intermittent fasting is great for some people, not others.

If you feel good when fasting and find it to be a sustainable way of eating, it can be a very powerful tool to lose weight and improve your health, but at the same time it can only be done in moderation as an intense degree of fasting may cause side effects such as low energy, laziness, stress, mood swings and much more.

Begin by doing your research and understanding your body needs and requirements by going to a nutritionist, and after figuring out what works for you, opt for a suitable option.

That’s all for now!

See you soon!



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