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What is Intermittent Fasting and Can It Help You Stay in Shape?

You may have heard of intermittent fasting. You may also have wondered whether this is just another health fad or if it offers real benefits.

There is a reason that intermittent fasting has become so popular – it may really provide benefits that allow you to reach your fitness goals.

Intermittent fasting isn’t the same is skipping a meal randomly. It does require a little bit of planning. But, it is relatively easy to learn.

Cycle Between Periods of Eating and Fasting

Intermittent fasting simply refers to the process of cycling between periods of eating and fasting. It has nothing to do with the types of foods that you eat. Instead, it focuses solely on when you eat.

You actually fast when you sleep. But, with intermittent fasting, you will adjust your current periods of fasting and eating.

There are several different intermittent fasting techniques for determining when you should fast. This includes:

  • Skipping a meal
  • Eat-stop-eat
  • The 16/8 method
  • The 5:2 diet

Skipping a Meal

The first technique is the easiest. You could simply skip a meal each morning. The important thing is that you perform this daily. Skipping a single meal will not make a difference.

Typically, if you choose to skip a meal, you should skip breakfast. You’ll hold out until lunchtime.

If you choose to use this method, you should consider working out in the morning, before you eat. When you exercise on an empty stomach, you will burn more calories.

Eat-Stop-Eat

With the eat-stop-eat method, you will fast for 24-hours. You will do this once or twice per week. It is up to you whether you do this once or twice, as long as you remain consistent.

On the days that you choose to fast, you will stop eating after dinner and not eat again until dinner the following day. You are really only skipping two full meals with this process. You are eating dinner on both days, but skipping breakfast and lunch.

The 16/8 Method

The 16/8 method is the most popular form of intermittent fasting. With this technique, you will fast for 16 hours each day. This leaves you with an 8-hour eating window.

For example, you may choose to only eat between 11 AM and 7 PM. You will still continue to consume your recommended daily calories. But, you will restrict your three meals to this eating window.

The 5:2 Diet

The final technique is called the 5:2 diet. This is not really intermittent fasting. You will eat normally 5 days of the week and restrict your calories to 500 calories two days of the week. This is really a form of diet restriction. But, it can help people that have trouble with overeating.

Can Intermittent Fasting Really Help You Lose Weight?

Now that you know more about the intermittent fasting, it’s time to explore some of the proven health benefits of these techniques.

When you don’t eat, several things happen to your body. Your insulin levels decrease, which improves your ability to burn fat. Human growth hormone increases, as does the cellular repair. These two advantages can help promote muscle growth and recovery.

By lowering your insulin levels and increasing your growth hormone levels, you can also boost your metabolism. You gain a short-term boost to your metabolism after a period of fasting. This can help you get more out of your workouts.

Another benefit brought by this reduction in insulin levels is a reduction in your risk of developing diabetes. If you already have type 2 diabetes, fasting could help you control your disease.

Some studies suggest that intermittent fasting may help improve your heart health. Though, the main advantage is that intermittent fasting could improve the health of your brain. This may even reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

The reason for this benefit is that fasting increases the levels of a brain hormone called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). A deficiency of this hormone has been linked to depression, strokes, and degenerative brain conditions, such as Alzheimer’s.

Final Thoughts on Intermittent Fasting

Should you start using intermittent fasting to get in better shape? This is entirely up to you. Before making any changes to your diet, you should always consider talking to your doctor. This is especially true if you suffer from any existing health conditions.

Intermittent fasting is a safe technique with numerous health benefits. These benefits have been proven by research, studies, and common sense. But, intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone.

It is mostly for people that want to get more out of your workouts, promote weight loss, or get in better shape. It can also be helpful for people that have trouble with overeating.

Consider the different techniques and then decide which type of fasting will work best for your schedule. Choose a technique that you can easily fit into your existing daily routine.

Remember that you will not adjust your daily calorie totals unless you choose the 5:2 diet. The 5:2 diet is the only form of intermittent fasting that specifically calls for you to reduce your calories.

Otherwise, you will continue to eat the same amount of food, you will just adjust the time of the day that you eat your meals.

Skipping breakfast or using the 16:8 method are the two best options for most individuals. They are also essentially the same if you choose an eating window that allows you to skip breakfast.

You should try this for several weeks. It is not a drastic change in your regular eating. You do not need to go 24 hours without food. But, you will need to push your eating to a later time of the day or avoid eating in the afternoon.

Think about the time of the day that causes you the most trouble. If you tend to snack on random food late in the evening, then setting an eating window that ends at 7 or 8 PM could help you avoid overeating.

If you choose to use intermittent fasting, you should pay attention to your body. If you feel fatigued at any point, you should resume your regular diet. But, the chances of this occurring are limited.

Intermittent fasting really isn’t that hard to use in your daily routine – and it could be the solution that helps you reach your fitness goals.

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