Intermittent Fasting has been one of the most in vogue health-care practices in the past few years. From celebrities to social media influencers and from fitness freaks to quarantine warriors, intermittent fasting has caught the fancy of people across the globe.
Fasting got a scientific angle and the world’s attention when Yoshinori Ohsumi, a Japanese cell biologist, won a Noble Prize for his research related to autophagy. Autophagy is the natural, regulated mechanism of the cell that removes unnecessary or dysfunctional components and fasting is proven to trigger the process of autophagy in humans.
But fasting-as-a-developed-science is not a ‘Breaking News’ for India. Since centuries, Indians follow fasting for varied religious purposes. Even today many Jains follow the daily ritual to eat dinner before sunset and maintain a fast till next day morning. Similarly Ramadan, the holy month celebrated by Muslims globally, is another instance where people undergo prolonged intermittent fasting.
When quarantine forced people to slow down their hectic schedules, many realised they can take this chance to focus more on their own health. If nothing else, the past few months did teach us that good health should be on top of our goal charts. These days, there is an uptick in the health conscious populace. And among the many options out there, Intermittent Fasting has proved to be one of the most respected.
So, what exactly is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent Fasting (“IF”) is about WHEN to eat – it is scheduling your meals during a particular time-frame in a day. There are several approaches to IF such as:
- Twice-a-week method – 5:2;
- Alternate day fasting –restricting calorie consumption on fasting day to 500 or about 25% of your normal intake;
- Eat: Stop: Eat method– Complete 24 hour fasting;
- Time-restricted fasting (16:8 or 14:10)… and a few others
Amongst all, the general population is more comfortable with the time-restricted fasting model. It is a model of concentrating all you’re eating during 8 hours of the day and then fasting for the remaining 16 hours. That’s why it is also nicknamed 16:8.
IF is certainly not a diet and therefore it is free from the common dieting taboos like no-carb, no-fat, etc. One of the major pros of IF is you can eat almost anything during your selected time-frame. Except for junk of course!
Also, one is at a liberty to choose their 8 hours eating span, it can be from 9:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. or 12 noon to 8 p.m. or any other – You can have your pick.
The human body is naturally designed to be in sync with the circadian rhythm, which is the natural, internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Intermittent Fasting helps the body set itself back into this rhythm. It is almost surreal to see how eating religiously during day time and by fasting overnight results in high metabolism level and other health benefits.
The science behind Intermittent Fasting
Our liver on an average holds 700 calories of glucose, a simple sugar and a component of carbohydrates. When we fast, we slowly start burning the glucose from our liver which takes about 10-12 hours.
Post this, fats are used to provide energy. And that’s what everyone wants: more fats being used up.
This is the reason one needs to fast beyond 12 hours to burn fats and therefore those extra 4 hours are added to your fasting-cycle.
Is IF really beneficial or just a hype?
Many pieces of research depicts the following visible benefits of IF:
- Weight loss
- Improved metabolism
- Lower blood sugar
- Controlled diabetes
- It aids in the removal and renewal of toxic damaged cells
- It activates autophagy that slows down the ageing process
A few researchers even reveal that if a patient is fasting and at that time is put under chemotherapy then the cancer cells get killed easily, since cancer cells use glucose as a source food. But we have a long way before it is established that IF helps control or contain spreading of cancer.
One cannot deny that a lot more study is yet to be carried out before it receives the complete backing of the medical fraternity, as it may not work for everyone and can even prove counter-productive. But it seems that this fasting technique is here to stay.
If you choose IF then here are a few rookie tips to pass the elongated fasting period:
- Don’t binge after fasting
- Drink lots of water
- Drink sugarless coffee or tea
- Stay busy
- Drive out of hunger pangs
- Avoid eating at night
- Say an absolute No to snacking
And if you still can’t resist, then give yourself a month, wait for the results of IF to kick in and then there will be no going back.
A suggestion for the wise
Intermittent Fasting is a lifestyle and not just any another ‘diet’ plan to weight loss. It would benefit the health conscious to try and make it a part of their daily life. With the pandemic raging on with no end in sight, there is no better time than now to start leading a healthier lifestyle.
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