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Article written by Moneeba Younis — Reviewed by Rohini Prasannan and Cosimo Simeone

What is the intermittent fasting?

We have all heard of the new dieting craze called intermittent fasting. But what exactly is it and how does it work? Intermittent fasting is a type of diet that involves alternating between periods of eating and fasting. It’s based on reducing the number of calories by eating only during some specific windows of times.

Furthermore, there are different types of intermittent fasting, which will be discussed here. Why should you choose this diet? Because could be a convenient and effective way to lose weight and improve the overall health.

Types of intermittent fasting:

16/8 intermittent fasting:

The 16/8 method is one of the most popular and effective types of intermittent fasting. It involves fasting for 16 hours and eating within an 8-hour window. However, If you choose to eat between 12-8 pm, you would fast from 8-12 pm the next day. 

During the 8-hour eating window, you can eat two or three meals, depending on your preference. In addition, during the fasting period you should only consume water, black coffee, or other non-caloric beverages. 

5:2 diet:

The 5:2 diet involves eating normally for 5 days and restricting calories to 500-600 for 2 consecutive days. For example, you might eat normally during the week and then restrict your calories to 500-600 on weekend. Furthermore, on fasting days eat nutrient-dense foods that will keep you feeling full.

It’s also important to consume plenty of water and other non-caloric beverages. The 5:2 diet can be more challenging. It requires more planning and preparation than other types of intermittent fasting. However, it can be an effective way to lose weight, improve insulin sensitivity, and reduce inflammation.

Eat-stop-eat:

Eat-Stop-Eat is a type of intermittent fasting that involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week. For example, you might fast from dinner one day until dinner the next day. 

During the fasting period, you should only consume water, black coffee, or other non-caloric beverages. On non-fasting days, you can eat normally and there are no specific restrictions on what you can eat.  

Alternate day fasting:

Alternate-day fasting is a type of intermittent fasting that involves alternating between fasting days and non-fasting days. On fasting days, you should restrict your calorie intake to 500-600 calories, while on non-fasting days, you can eat normally. For example, you might fast on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and eat normally on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. 

Choose nutrient-dense foods during the fasting period to keep you feeling full, such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. It’s also important to consume plenty of water and other non-caloric beverages. 

Warrior diet:

The Warrior Diet involves fasting during the day and eating one large meal at night. During fasting, you can eat some raw fruits, veggies, and lean protein in small amounts. 

The Warrior Diet is based on the idea that humans evolved to eat this way, as our ancestors would hunt and gather during the day and feast at night. The one large meal at night should be nutrient-dense and include a variety of foods. However, it may not be suitable for everyone, especially those with a history of disordered eating or certain medical conditions.

How to do intermittent fasting in a good way?

Intermittent fasting can work differently for everyone, but some people start seeing results in as little as a few weeks. If you’re new to intermittent fasting, here are a few tips:

1. Start slowly: Gradually increase the amount of time you spend fasting, so your body can adjust to the new eating pattern.

2. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water and other non-caloric beverages during the fasting period to stay hydrated.

3. Choose nutrient-dense foods: Eat nutrient-dense foods that will keep you feeling full, such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.

4. Listen to your body: Pay attention to your body’s signals and make adjustments as needed to ensure that you’re meeting your nutritional needs and feeling your best.

 5. Consult a healthcare professional: If you have a medical history, it’s a good idea to consult a healthcare professional such as GP or nutritionist before intermittent fasting.

Intermittent fasting is not a standard fixed approach, because what works for one person may not work for another.

Can I eat whatever I want while intermittent fasting?

It is important to eat nutrient-dense foods that will keep you feeling full and satisfied during your eating window. Here are some foods to eat and avoid:

Foods to eat:

– Fruits and vegetables

– Lean proteins, such as chicken, fish, and tofu

– Whole grains, such as brown rice and quinoa

– Healthy fats, such as avocado, nuts, and seeds

– Water and other non-caloric beverages

Foods to avoid:

– Processed foods, such as chips and cookies

– Sugary drinks, such as soda and juice

– Foods high in saturated fats, such as fried foods and fatty meats

– Refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pasta

– Alcohol

What are the  benefits of intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting has been shown to have a number of health benefits  including: (1),

1. Weight loss: Intermittent fasting can help you lose weight by reducing your calorie intake and increasing your metabolic rate.

2. Improved insulin sensitivity: Intermittent fasting can improve insulin sensitivity, which can help prevent type 2 diabetes and other metabolic disorders.

3. Reduced inflammation: Intermittent fasting has been shown to reduce inflammation in the body, which can help prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.

4. Improved heart health: Intermittent fasting can improve heart health by reducing blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglycerides.

5. Increased lifespan: Some studies have suggested that intermittent fasting may increase lifespan by reducing the risk of age-related diseases.

6. Improved brain function: Intermittent fasting improves brain function and protect against diseases such as Parkinson’s disease.

7. Increased autophagy: Autophagy is the process by which the body cleans out damaged cells and re-generates new ones. Intermittent fasting increases autophagy, which can help prevent cancer and other diseases.

Is Intermittent fasting safe for women?

One consideration for women is the potential impact of intermittent fasting on hormonal balance. Hormones play a vital role in a woman’s reproductive system and overall health. Some studies suggest that prolonged fasting or significant calorie restriction may disrupt hormonal levels in women, potentially affecting the menstrual cycle, fertility, and overall hormonal balance.

However, research in this area is limited, and the specific effects can vary from person to person. It’s important to listen to your body and pay attention to any changes or irregularities in your menstrual cycle while practicing intermittent fasting. If you experience any disruptions or concerns, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional.

Another potential side effect of intermittent fasting, particularly for women, is the risk of nutrient deficiencies. Fasting for extended periods may limit the intake of essential vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients necessary for optimal health. Women have specific nutrient requirements, such as iron and calcium, which need to be met to support bone health, hormonal balance, and overall well-being.

To mitigate this risk, it’s crucial to prioritize nutrient-dense foods during the eating window and ensure a well-rounded and balanced diet. As with any dietary change, it’s advisable for women to consult with a healthcare professional or a registered nutritionist before embarking on an intermittent fasting regimen. They can provide personalized guidance based on your individual health needs, goals, and any specific considerations related to your reproductive health or hormonal balance.

Regular monitoring of your overall well-being, including menstrual regularity, energy levels, and nutrient intake, is essential to ensure that intermittent fasting is suitable and beneficial for you.

Intermittent Fasting Myths You Should Stop Believing:

With its increasing popularity, there are also several myths surrounding intermittent fasting (2).

1. Intermittent fasting slows down your metabolism.

Intermittent fasting can actually boost your metabolism by increasing your metabolic rate during your eating window.

2. Intermittent fasting causes muscle loss.

Intermittent fasting does not cause muscle loss as long as you’re consuming enough protein 

3. Intermittent fasting is only effective for weight loss.

Intermittent fasting improves insulin sensitivity, reduces inflammation, and increases autophagy.

4. You can eat whatever you want during your eating window.

It is important to focus on nutrient-dense foods and avoid processed and sugary foods.

5. Intermittent fasting is not safe.

Intermittent fasting is generally safe, but it’s important to listen to your body and make adjustments as needed. 

Remember, there’s a lot of misinformation out there about intermittent fasting. So it’s important to do your own research and consult with a healthcare professional if you have any concerns.

Who should avoid intermittent fasting?

Although intermittent fasting can be safe and effective for most people, some should avoid it or proceed with caution. These include:

1. Pregnant or breastfeeding women: Intermittent fasting can deprive the body of the nutrients it needs during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

2. Children and teenagers: Intermittent fasting can interfere with growth and development in children and teenagers.

3. Individuals with a history of disordered eating: Intermittent fasting can trigger eating disorders

4. Individuals with certain medical conditions: Intermittent fasting can be risky for individuals with diabetes, low blood pressure, and heart disease.

5. Individuals taking certain medications: Intermittent fasting can interact with certain medications. So it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional if you’re taking any medications.

Side effects of Intermittent fasting:

While intermittent fasting can have many health benefits, there are some side effects to watch for (3). Here are a few of the most common ones:

1. Hunger: Adjust your fasting schedule or increase your calorie intake.

2. Headaches: Drinking plenty of water and consuming enough calories during your eating window.

3. Fatigue: Get enough sleep and stay hydrated.

5. Constipation: Consume plenty of fibre-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Example of 7 days 16/8 intermittent fasting diet plan:

Day 1:
  • Eating Window: 12:00 PM – 8:00 PM
  • Lunch: Grilled chicken salad with mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and balsamic vinaigrette.
  • Snack: Greek yogurt with berries.
  • Dinner: Baked salmon with roasted asparagus and quinoa.
  • Snack: Raw almonds.
Day 2:
  • Eating Window: 1:00 PM – 9:00 PM
  • Lunch: Spinach and feta omelette with whole wheat toast.
  • Snack: Carrot sticks with hummus.
  • Dinner: Grilled lean steak with steamed broccoli and sweet potato.
  • Snack: Apple slices with almond butter.
Day 3:
  • Eating Window: 12:30 PM – 8:30 PM
  • Lunch: Turkey wrap with lettuce, tomato, avocado, and whole wheat tortilla.
  • Snack: Hard-boiled eggs.
  • Dinner: Baked chicken breast with sautéed spinach and brown rice.
  • Snack: Mixed berries.
Day 4:
  • Eating Window: 12:00 PM – 8:00 PM
  • Lunch: Quinoa salad with roasted vegetables (bell peppers, zucchini, eggplant) and feta cheese.
  • Snack: Cottage cheese with sliced peaches.
  • Dinner: Shrimp stir-fry with mixed vegetables and cauliflower rice.
  • Snack: Trail mix (nuts and dried fruit).
Day 5:
  • Eating Window: 12:00 PM – 8:00 PM
  • Lunch: Grilled vegetable wrap with hummus in a whole wheat tortilla.
  • Snack: Greek yogurt with granola.
  • Dinner: Baked cod with lemon garlic sauce, served with roasted Brussels sprouts and quinoa.
  • Snack: Celery sticks with peanut butter.
Day 6:
  • Eating Window: 1:00 PM – 9:00 PM
  • Lunch: Chicken Caesar salad with grilled chicken, romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, and Caesar dressing.
  • Snack: Edamame.
  • Dinner: Beef stir-fry with broccoli, bell peppers, and brown rice.
  • Snack: Sliced mango.
Day 7:
  • Eating Window: 12:30 PM – 8:30 PM
  • Lunch: Lentil soup with a side salad (mixed greens, cucumber, and balsamic dressing).
  • Snack: Rice cakes with almond butter.
  • Dinner: Baked tofu with roasted vegetables (carrots, bell peppers, onions) and quinoa.
  • Snack: Mixed nuts.

Remember to adjust portion sizes and calorie intake based on your individual needs and goals. It’s also important to stay hydrated throughout the day and listen to your body’s hunger and fullness cues during the eating window. Take a look at some of these nutrient-dense meal ideas to get you inspired. 

Conclusions:

Intermittent fasting can have many health benefits, including weight loss, improved insulin sensitivity, and reduced inflammation. However, it’s important to approach intermittent fasting with caution and take the necessary precautions to ensure that you’re doing it safely. 

It’s important to remember that all diets may not be suitable for everyone, especially those with an eating disorder or disease. If you’re considering taking up intermittent fasting, it’s a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional first.  You can book here with one of our nutritionists to get tailored advice on the best diet plan for you.

Intermittent fasting is not a universal approach, and what works for one person may not work for another. It’s important to listen to your body and make adjustments as needed to ensure that you’re doing it safely and effectively. So, finding your right balance and maintaining a sustainable approach is key.

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