Intermittent fasting is a way to cycle between periods of fasting and eating. People are applying intermittent fasting to lose weight, improve health, and promote overall well-being.
History of fasting
Fasting is one of the most ancient healing traditions in human history. Hippocrates of Cos (c460 – c370 BC), who is widely considered the father of modern medicine, wrote “To eat when you are sick, is to feed your illness.” Some Chinese Emperors in the Ming and Qing Dynasty applied a strategy called “No feeding after lunch”.
In modern time, Ori Hofmekler mentioned the concept in 1999 in the book “The Warrior Diet”, the first mainstream book written on intermittent fasting. In this book, Ori encouraged people to fasting until dinner and only eat one large meal every day.
In 2006, Brad Pilon released “Eat Stop Eat”, in which he recommended fasting until dinner 1 – 2 times per week. Instead of a large meal, he encouraged a moderate dinner of 800 – 1000 calories.
In 2012, a documentary by BBC Horizon “Eat, Fast, Live Longer” triggered massive discussion of intermittent fasting. The documentary mentioned three kinds of intermittent fasting:
1. Fasting for 3 and a half days per month, during which period you are only allowed to drink lots of water.
2. Alternate Day fasting. Starve yourself for 24 hours (during which you can only have one meal) and eat normally the next day.
3. 5:2 diet. Eat normal for five days and eat less than 600 calories for men and 500 calories for women in the other two days per week.
Does fasting work?
If you imagine your body as a car, then the car is keeping running when you constantly have regular meals. During fasting periods, the car fixes itself, which brings you some benefits.
Promotes weight loss
When you eat, your body uses glucose as its primary source of energy, and store whatever is left over as glycogen in your muscles and liver.
When you don’t give your body a steady stream of glucose (during a fasting period for example), it begins breaking down the glycogen to use as fuel. After the glycogen is consumed, fat cells are broken down to power your body, leading to weight loss.
However, some scientists also consider that fasting for weight loss can backfire. They think that although you may lose some weight during the fasting period, your body is in a starvation mode during that period and will close the mode after fasting. When you start to eat again, you’ll feel hungrier and is more likely to overeat.
Lowers blood sugar
Some research found that intermittent fasting lowers the blood sugar levels by keeping them well-regulated and preventing spikes and crashes. So it’s believed that intermittent fasting can help reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes. (To see more about preventing type-2 diabetes, click here: )
However, similar to the views on weight loss, some people also worry that diabetics may experience dangerous dips and spikes in blood sugar with fasting.
Keeps your heart healthy
Studies showed that fasting can help lower the risk of certain hear diseases by helping control the cholesterol levels.
In one animal study on rats, rats who fasted every other day were nearly 66% more likely to survive a heart attack than those on a normal diet.
Protects you brain
An animal study showed that intermittent fasting helps enhance cognitive function, protect against changes in memory, and boost learning function.
Repair your cells
Your cells initiate cellular repair processes during the fasting period. Old cells and dysfunctional proteins in cells will be digested and removed.
Some doctors explained that our body is like a car running on the motorway, and intermittent fasting periods are when you stop the car and give it some repairment. In this way, cars with regular repairments can certainly run longer than those which always running.
Guideline for beginners
Intermittent fasting is currently one of the world’s most popular health and fitness trends.
The most popular ways are:
The 16/8 method
It means restricting your daily eating period to 8 hours. For example, you can skip breakfast and eat between 1 – 9 pm. In this way, you have a 16-hour fasting period every day.
This involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week. For example, you can skip a dinner and keep fasting until the next dinner.
The 5:2 diet
This means fasting for two non-consecutive days per week, during which days you only consume 500 calories for women, and 600 calories for man. On the other days, eat normally.
On your calorie limited day, you can distribute the calories like this:
150 calories at breakfast
100 at lunch
200 at dinner
50/150 for snacks throughout the day (depending on your gender)
You can easily find calories on the labels of the foods. If you want to cook for yourself, try vegetable and fruit salad, or simply boil the vegetables. Cooking the foods with much oil or butter may not be proper for your calorie limited day.
Some foods you can consider on your calorie limited day:
Fruit and vegetables
Grilled fish (certainly not fried)
Coffee (to see how caffeine helps you lose weight, click here: )
Other things with relatively low calories.