Below are a few frequently asked questions about intermittent fasting
1. What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a term used to describe various eating patterns that cycle between scheduled periods of not eating (fasting) and eating (feasting). Intermittent fasting is one form of caloric restriction (CR) – a dietary regimen that is based on low (or lower than previous) caloric intake.
2. Is intermittent fasting a diet?
Intermittent fasting is not a diet, in the traditional sense, as there are no forbidden foods and calorie-counting is not a requirement. Intermittent fasting focuses on when and how often you eat or “meal frequency” rather than on what you eat.
3. What are the different ways of practicing intermittent fasting?
There are three basic intermittent fasting protocols:
- Daily Fasting: Eating only within certain hours of the day, everyday
- Alternate-day Fasting (ADF): Fasting a few times per week on non-consecutive days, and eating “normally” on the other days
- Random: Fasting every now and then (e.g., once per month, or once a year)
4. How does intermittent fasting work as a weight-loss method?
First, by reducing the number of hours you’re eating, known as your “eating window,” intermittent fasting enables you to create a caloric deficit without dieting or calorie-counting. However, according to some studies, even without consuming fewer calories IF is beneficial for weight loss as it’s thought to rev up metabolism. Intermittent fasting also induces ketosis, the condition produced when the body doesn’t have enough carbohydrates (glucose) from food for cells to burn for energy, so it burns fat instead. Depending on the individual, the body can enter ketosis at around 14 to 16 hours into the fast.
5. Is intermittent fasting a form of starvation or a “starvation diet”?
No. Starvation is an extreme form of malnutrition that occurs when there is a severe deficiency in caloric intake. Prolonged starvation can cause permanent organ damage and eventually, death. During intermittent fasting, whether daily or alternate day fasting, sufficient energy exists in the form of stored fat and caloric intake to provide the body with enough fuel to function efficiently.
6. I don’t need to lose weight. Why should I practice intermittent fasting?
Beyond weight loss, there are several benefits to intermittent fasting related to the following key health markers:
- Inflammation: Some studies have shown a reduction in inflammation– a condition linked to several chronic diseases including asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Insulin Resistance: Intermittent fasting may reduce insulin resistance thus lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Brain Health: Intermittent fasting increases “brain-derived neurotrophic factor” (BDNF). High BDNF is associated wtih lower Alzheimer’s risk.
- Cancer: Some animal studies suggest that intermittent fasting may help prevent cancer.
- Anti-aging: Intermittent fasting has been shown to extend the lifespan of rats by as much as 83%.
- Heart Health: By reducing LDL (“lousy”) cholesterol, triglycerides, inflammation, and lowering insulin resistance, intermittent fasting can reduce the risk factors for heart disease.
- Autophagy: IF triggers autophagy – recognized as a crucial defense mechanism against malignancy, infection and neurodegenerative diseases.
7. I’d like to try fasting, but I’m sure I’d feel too hungry to go that long without food. Does it get any easier?
People are often surprised how easy fasting is and how quickly the body adapts to fasting despite the habitual practice of eating throughout the day. However, this shouldn’t be surprising. First, you should understand that you are already fasting every single day during your sleep. Depending on the amount of sleep you get, your body is in a fasting state for several hours, yet rarely, if ever, are you awakened by hunger. Secondly, after becoming accustomed to intermittent fasting, you are likely to experience a normalized appetite which includes:
- Less of an urge to eat all day
- Lessened (or eliminated) cravings
- Less tendency to overeat within your eating window
- A tendency to eat healthier
- A more refined palette
8. How do I get started?
There are several different fasting protocols, or ways of practicing intermittent fasting either daily or on alternate days of the week. The most popular methods have a significant online community available for information, tips and support. They are:
- Lean Gains (Martin Berkhan): A 16:8 daily fast during which you skip breakfast and eat only within an eight hour window
- The Warrior Diet (Ori Hoffmekler): Fasting daily consuming only one meal at the end of the day
- Eat-Stop-Eat (Brad Pilon): Fasting for a full day (24 hours) once or twice a week
- The 5:2 or Fast Diet (Dr. Michael Mosley): An alternate day (every other day) fasting schedule that involves two days of intermittent fasting during the week
- The Fast-5 Method (Dr. Bert Herring): Eat within five consecutive hours daily. This is the method I follow.
I also highly recommend Dr. Bert Herring’s Fast-5 ebook and Dr. Mercola’s video on fat loss through intermittent fasting.
9. Where can read more about the science of intermittent fasting?
Here’s a good starting point: http://www.foodcanwait.com/home/research-studies/
Below are some frequently asked questions about my personal journey.
1. How long have you been fasting
I began practicing intermittent fasting on July 1, 2014.
2. Have you always followed a 19:5 (Fast-5) schedule?
Yes– although I didn’t know I was doing so when I first started. When I discovered Fast-5, I adopted it because it was closest to what I was already doing for the past month as opposed to other fasting protocols like 18:6, alternate day fasting, etc. I was already eating whatever I wanted within about a five hour window for about a month and feeling great when I discovered there was a name for it– Fast-5.
3. What time is your eating window?
My eating window has been in the evening, from 5-10PM daily for most of my fasting experience. I experimented briefly with a noon window, but find the wind-down time in the evening works best for me.
4. Do you ever move your window to accommodate events such as business functions, family get-togethers or travel?
I’ve rarely moved my window to accommodate events. I know that many people frequently change the time of their eating window based on various events, even changing their schedule from day to day depending on their activities. I prefer the consistency of fasting during a set time and don’t mind sipping tea or drinking water while others eat. I found that once I overcame the feeling of social awkwardness (which was all in my own mind) it was no longer difficult to go without eating during such events.
5. What do you eat when you break your fast? Do you follow a specific diet?
I don’t follow a specific diet; however, I eat pretty healthy, most of the time. I rarely eat out or consume fast food, soda, etc. and prefer home cooked “real food” meals like these: http://www.foodcanwait.com/home/break-fast-plates/. This is a lifestyle that does allow me to eat anything in moderation.
6. Do you count calories?
No, but I don’t knock calorie-counting. A few months into fasting I did track macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats and protein) and calories through My Fitness Pal. I tracked for a few months until I got the hang of what constitutes a reasonable amount of food conducive to my weight loss. I don’t track calories strictly, but I do guesstimate on my consumption.
7. What do you say to people who comment that fasting is unhealthy, ineffective or dangerous?
I’m fortunate to not have many nay-sayers around me as my family, friends and co-works are very supportive. They’ve seen the weight loss first hand, so it’s hard to deny fasting works. However, every now and then I’ll encounter someone who is critical of fasting. I never try to convince, but I do try to educate giving my own experience as evidence. If they are interested in the science, I point them here: http://www.foodcanwait.com/home/research-studies/
8. Do you exercise regularly?
Not as much as I should. I try to walk at least 30 minutes daily, though.
9. How much weight have you lost? How much weight can I expect to lose?
As of November, 2015 I’ve lost 70 pounds and gone from a size 18 to a size 10. For most people, fasting is not a quick weight loss strategy, but it is a sustainable way to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. According to Dr. Bert Herring, creator of the Fast-5 Diet and Lifestyle, you can expect to lose about a pound per week which is 52 pounds in one year, if you have that much to lose.
10. Have you experienced any negative aspects of daily intermittent fasting?
Yes, but they didn’t last. Becoming “fat-adapted” comes with some side effects including headaches, brain fog, and irritability. I experienced those symptoms for a few weeks, but rarely have such issues now.
11. Why daily intermittent fasting over alternate day fasting?
I don’t knock AFD, but it never appealed to me. If I were able to have the fortitude to eat 500 calories and stop at that, I wouldn’t be overweight in the first place. Not eating at all for most of the day, is actually easier for me than trying to eat a little bit. Think of the difference between having just one potato chip and not having any.
12. Where can I review some of the research and science related to fasting? Here’s a starting point: http://www.foodcanwait.com/home/research-studies/