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Intermittent fasting is probably a term you’ve heard a lot about lately. This new trend about when to eat your food has taken over the internet and I myself have been very curious to learn more about it. Personally, I’ve done intermittent fasting occasionally but I’ve decided to dig a little deeper into it.
Intermittent fasting is as it sounds, its alternating periods of time where you go without eating followed by periods where you may eat. Meaning, we consciously decided to skip one meal and wait for the next. Most of us already do it unconsciously when sleeping at night and, although it may be difficult to practice not eating consciously, it is much easier than you think and even has important health benefits.
The basic principle is that thousands of years ago our ancestors didn’t eat 3 times a day let alone 5 or 6. Which is why this practice has a lot to do with the paleolithic diet, which is one of the healthiest lifestyles out there. Many times we eat without realizing if we are actually hungry or not. It could be because it’s just a rule of modern life or a learned behavior. There are different types of hunger, many times what we feel is emotional hunger rather than a physical need to eat and feed ourselves.
So, Why Fast?
- Our bodies are prepared to go long periods of time without food because humans have been fasting for thousands of years due to the lack of availability of food and the necessity to survive. Most doctors agree that the body can survive without food for up to 8 weeks.
- During a fasting period, many processes change in the body, like for example, with the hormonal and reparative processes. It increases insulin sensitivity that helps prevent chronic diseases like diabetes.
- Fasting promotes the production of growth hormones that help burn more fat, promote muscle growth, and slows aging.
- During fasting, blood sugar and insulin levels drop dramatically. It also decreases the production of ghrelin – the hunger hormone – so we control our appetite much better during the day.
How Do You Fast?
There are three ways of fasting which you can adapt depending on what feels better to you:
- 16/8 Method:
This method is the most popular. It consists of eating during an 8-hour window and fasting for 16 hours. It’s very easy to do since if you have your last meal at 8:00 p.m. and do not eat until noon the next day, you will have completed the fasting period without having suffered because you slept for 8 hours of it. Meaning, you’ve consciously skipped breakfast. Of course, you can adjust the window of time as you see fit, perhaps instead of 16 hours of fasting, you choose 12, 14, or 15 and adjust the length of time little by little.
- 24 Hour Method :
This is one of the hardest method and is often times done by people who are veterans of fasting. This is very difficult the first few times as we are not used to going a whole day without eating. However, if you start by progressively increasing the hours you go without food, you will probably realize that time will go unnoticed. With this method, you only eat once a day and you are allowed to drink herbal teas, lots of water, and coffee (alone).
- 5/2 Method:
With this method, you choose 2 days a week where you only eat a maximum of 500 calories and the rest of the days you eat as normal. I must say that this method is my least favorite as it is seen more as a restrictive diet and not a conscious effort to skip one meal a day.
As you can see intermittent fasting may sound difficult but it doesn’t have to be. The most interesting thing about this practice is that learning to control your desire to eat is a great strength. It’s very liberating because it saves us time and also teaches us to worry about eating only what our body needs to live. In a world over-stimulated by fast food and sugar, we are programmed to constantly feel hungry. Therefore, getting rid of these stimuli is liberating, energizing, and motivating. Willing to try it? Tell us in the comments below!