Intermittent Fasting 101

Intermittent fasting (IF) is more than a diet; it’s a lifestyle. In short, IF is a way of adjusting your eating schedule to include periods of eating and fasting. The diet doesn’t establish any rules for what you can eat. Instead, the focus is on consuming food during a set window of time. Learn more about intermittent fasting, including the benefits and potential downfalls, here.


Styles of Intermittent Fasting

It’s important to note that there are several styles of intermittent fasting, but they all involve periods of food consumption and fasting. The goal is for the body to use all of its sugar stores during the fasting period, so it begins burning fat.

Some styles of IF involve fasting for a certain number of hours per day, while others include full days of fasting. The following are a few of the most popular styles of IF:

  • Eat-Stop-Eat: This involves eating normally five days per week and fasting for two.
  • 16:8: This common form of intermittent fasting involves eating during an eight-hour window every day. For instance, you may eat between 1 p.m. and 9 p.m. or 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. The remainder of the day is fasting.
  • 5:2: The 5:2 style of IF involves eating regularly five days per week and consuming just 500 to 600 calories on the other two days. The calorie-restricted days are not consecutive.

There are several other styles of IF and all involve windows of fasting and eating. The form of IF  you choose depends on numerous factors, including your current health and the benefits you seek.


Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Research shows intermittent fasting can offer numerous mental and physical health benefits, including mental clarity and weight loss. The following are a few benefits studies have shown:

A Healthy Heart

Intermittent fasting has been shown to improve resting heart rate and blood pressure.

Reduced Chance of Obesity

Studies on animals showed that IF can prevent obesity. Other studies showed obese humans losing weight due to IF. In addition to helping people lose weight, it can reduce insulin resistance and lower levels of fasting insulin, fasting glucose and leptin.

Intermittent fasting may serve as a helpful tool before or in addition to different types of weight loss surgery. However, experts suggest waiting five weeks after surgery before beginning an intermittent fasting eating plan.

Superior Tissue Health

Research on animals showed that IF improved the results of some surgeries and reduced tissue damage.

Physical Fitness

Intermittent fasting can be a weight loss tool. Generally, a restricted eating schedule helps you consume fewer calories and burn them more efficiently. Research shows that fasting can increase your metabolism by 3.6 to 14%.

A Sharper Mind

Research shows that IF can increase the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) hormone that plays an essential role in neuronal growth and survival. Intermittent fasting may help grow nerve cells.

Research surrounding IF is still developing, but many studies show evidence that intermittent fasting can benefit the body and mind.

Intermittent fasting can make living a healthier lifestyle easier. Preparing fewer meals means you have more time and energy to make healthy, delicious foods during the food consumption windows.


Potential Downfalls of IF

Intermittent fasting is not for everyone. The effects of IF vary from one person to another. It’s imperative to discuss intermittent fasting with your doctor before starting a program.

Intermittent fasting is not recommended for anyone under 18, women who are breastfeeding or pregnant, individuals with type 1 diabetes or anyone who struggles with eating disorders.

Research by neuroscientist Mark Mattson of Johns Hopkins showed that the body may take two to four weeks to adjust to IF. Intermittent fasting may make you hungry, lightheaded, dizzy, tired or weak. You may also experience headaches when starting your new eating/fasting routine. Side effects are often temporary.


Should You Try Intermittent Fasting?

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be challenging in modern society. Computers, smartphones, social media and other technologies distract many adults from establishing healthy eating schedules and exercise routines.

Intermittent fasting is a way to refocus on your wellbeing. Speak with your doctor to determine if intermittent fasting is a tool that can help you achieve your mental and physical health goals. For more information, please see the accompanying resource.


Author bio: Dr. Myur S. Srikanth is a board-certified bariatric and cosmetic surgeon at the Center for Weight Loss Surgery. He has been performing bariatric surgery exclusively since 2000 and has performed over 4,000 weight loss surgeries. Dr. Srikanth performs nearly every operation that is currently available to treat obesity.