What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is an extremely popular eating schedule used to help people lose weight by cycling between periods of eating and fasting. Rather than specifying what foods you should eat, intermittent fasting focuses instead on when you should eat. With this in mind, intermittent fasting is less of a diet but rather an eating pattern that can still help provide you with many health benefits.
There are several styles of intermittent fasting schedules, but some of the most common methods include:
- The 16/8 Method suggests a 16-hour fast followed by an 8-hour window of eating.
- The 5:2 Diet (also called the Fast Diet) involves eating only 500–600 calories for 2 days of the week then eating normally for the remaining 5 days of the week.
- The Warrior Diet requires eating small handfuls of raw fruits and vegetables throughout the day (20-hour window), followed by one large meal at night (4-hour window).
What Should You Eat When Intermittent Fasting?
The purpose of IF defines when to eat rather than what you should eat. As such, there aren’t any restrictions or specifications about what type or how much food you should eat when IF.
If your goal of intermittent fasting is to lose weight, it’s recommended to stick to whole foods that are nutrient-dense and generally considered healthy.
Foods that are great with IF:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Nuts and seeds
- Beans, peas, lentils, and legumes
- Dairy, eggs, and lean protein sources
- Water: Incredibly essential when fasting.
What Shouldn’t You Eat When Intermittent Fasting?
Again, intermittent fasting doesn’t describe what you should eat as much as it recommends the timing or schedule of when you should eat. As with any eating style that is striving to improve your overall health, there are some general food groups that are best to avoid.
Foods to avoid when IF:
- Added sugars: Soda, candy, cookies, cakes, sugary cereals
- Processed foods: packaged snacks, refined carbs, processed meats, potato chips
Challenges of IF
As with most styles of eating, IF is not without its challenges. Despite its exploding popularity, there are still a few challenges and concerns you should be aware of before starting.
- Requires significant self-control: IF requires that you go for significant periods of time without eating anything. Not only is this difficult to stick with for a week, but even harder to stay consistent over long periods of time.
- May affect you socially: In most parts of the world, eating has become commonplace for meeting and connecting with other people. When IF, you’ll have restrictions on when you can eat, which may put a strain on your relationships.
- Lightheadedness or fatigue: Intermittent fasting requires periods of time without eating. If you are new to fasting, there is a possibility of lightheadedness or fatigue when getting started.
What are the Primary Benefits of Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is widely researched, and its benefits are well-documented. Not only can intermittent fasting help with weight loss and disease prevention, but it also has a myriad of other great benefits.
- Weight loss: By eating fewer meals, intermittent fasting causes an automatic calorie reduction, thus helping you lose weight.
- Lowers blood pressure and cholesterol: The Cleveland Clinic reported that IF could help control diabetes and lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Promotes healthy brain function: According to Mark Mattson, professor of Neurology at John Hopkins University, fasting can boost the growth and development of new brain cells and tissues, which in turn can increase mood, focus, and memory.
- Reduces inflammation: A 2011 study concluded that IF could significantly reduce inflammation in the body.
- Heart health: May reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol and a variety of other risk factors for heart disease.
Can you Intermittent Fast as a Vegetarian?
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern, recommending the timing of meals rather than what you should be eating. With this in mind, vegetarians can easily follow an intermittent fasting method while consuming all their normal favorite meals. This style of eating can easily be combined with different diets for weight loss and health.
Concerns About IF
IF has become wildly popular, and with good reason. Its benefits are vast, and people seem to love it. There are, however, a few groups of people who should avoid intermittent fasting.
Those who should not fast include:
- Children and teenagers
- Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- People with type 1 diabetes.
Before starting any new dietary program, consult with your doctor if it’s right for you. More importantly, because IF requires periods of not eating, it’s even more important to consult your physician.
Resources About IF
Intermittent fasting is exploding in popularity. As a result, there are many resources available to learn more or get started. Here are a few of our favorites.
Here are some great resources:
- What Foods Are Great for IF
- The Beginner’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting
- Harvard Heath on Intermittent Fasting
- The Complete Guide to Fasting