A Beginner's Guide to Intermittent Fasting – Diet Plan, Benefits, and Weight Loss

Begginer's Guide to Intermittent Fasting (Image via Unsplash/Anna Pelzer)

Intermittent fasting is one of the most popular trends in the health and fitness industry.

People generally use it to lose weight, increase their appetite, or just improve their lifestyle. Many studies have shown that it can have significant effects on the body and brain and may even help slow down the aging process.

Here's a guide to intermittent fasting for beginners to follow:

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent Fasting is often followed for weight loss. (Image via Unsplash/Towfiqu barbhuiya)
Intermittent Fasting is often followed for weight loss. (Image via Unsplash/Towfiqu barbhuiya)

Intermittent fasting involves an eating pattern that cycles between periods of eating and fasting. It doesn’t specify food items to eat but rather when to eat and when not, so, intermittent fasting can be described as an eating pattern and not a diet form.

Fasting has existed throughout human evolution during ancient times. Hunter-gatherers didn’t have storage facilities, refrigerators, preservation techniques, or food available year-round, which made them fast unwillingly.

Common intermittent fasting methods involve daily 12-16 hour fasts or fasting for 24 hours, twice weekly.

Fasting is also often done for religious or spiritual reasons. Fasting from time to time is more natural than eating frequent meals per day.

Intermittent Fasting Methods

Intermittent fasting involves splitting the day or week into eating and fasting periods. During fasting, no food or very small amount of food can be eaten.

The popular methods of this form of fasting are:

  • The 16/8 method: This is the most popular and widely followed. It involves skipping breakfast and keeping the daily eating period to eight hours, often till dinner. That's followed by 16 hours of fasting till lunch on the next day.
  • 24 hours fasting: This involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week, lunch to lunch or dinner to dinner.
  • The 5:2 diet: Here, one has to consume only 500–600 calories on two nonconsecutive days of the week, but eat normally on the other days. This is also an easy method for beginners.

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

In intermittent fasting, insulin sensitivity improves and insulin level drops significantly. Lower insulin levels help in fat loss. Improved insulin sensitivity can help in the reversal of diabetes. Intermittent fasting helps us consume fewer calories overall.

Fasting triggers cells to initiate cellular repairs. That includes autophagy, where cells digest and remove dysfunctional proteins that build up inside them. The level of Human Growth Hormone increases, which triggers fat loss and muscle gain.

Intermittent fasting also increases the release of the fat-burning hormone norepinephrine (also known as noradrenaline). Few studies have shown that short-term fasts boost metabolism.

Recent studies in humans have shown that restrictive diets such as intermittent fasting can delay the onset of tumors and cancers. Some studies suggest that this form of fasting can help decrease cholesterol and triglycerides in both humans and animals.


Diet Plans for Intermittent Fasting

Time Management is Crucial in Intermittent Fasting (Image via Unsplash/Ocean Ng)
Time Management is Crucial in Intermittent Fasting (Image via Unsplash/Ocean Ng)

There are various ways of intermittent fasting, and people choose the type based on personal preference or feasibility. Here are a few common diet plans:

12-Hour Fasting

7 am Breakfast: Eggs, Bread, Fruits, etc

12-1 pm Lunch: Rice, Chicken, Vegetables, Fish

6-7 pm Dinner: Steak, Grilled Fish, Rice, Soup

Fasting from 7 pm to 7 am

16-Hour Fasting

12-1 pm Lunch: Rice, Meat, Vegetables, Fish

6-7 pm Dinner: Soup, Chicken Stew, 1 Cup of Rice

Fasting from 8-12 pm the next day

Similarly, in 24-hour fasting, meals are skipped for the whole day, while all other days, you have regular meals. Fasting can be done between consecutive lunches or dinners.

Intermittent fasting and weight loss

Research suggests that intermittent fasting can have several health benefits. Fasting may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. This form of fasting may also help reduce the risk of cancer and several neurological degenerative disorders.

Studies claim that intermittent fasting can lead to a reduction in blood pressure and heart rate. There's very little evidence to support the the health claims of intermittent fasting, but research shows that it can help in weight loss.

It may also be easier to follow than conventional calorie restrictions. Further research is required to find concrete evidence between intermittent fasting and fat loss. One must follow and take advice from health professionals before switching to a new lifestyle. People with medical issues must consult a doctor before they do intermittent fasting.

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Edited by Bhargav
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