Thinking about trying intermittent fasting? Here’s what it is, how to start, and the potential benefits and downsides of fasting.
Intermittent fasting is a wildly popular fasting method that’s been adopted by many as a way to lose weight or help manage their blood sugar levels. It involves restricting your “eating window” to a limited number of hours per day and fasting for the remainder of the day.
In this article, you’ll learn what intermittent fasting is, who it’s right for, and the potential benefits and downsides of intermittent fasting.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a fasting pattern that requires you to limit your entire calorie intake for the day to a single period of a limited number of hours. Popular fasting patterns include 16:8 (16-hour fast, 8-hour eating window), 18:6 (18-hour fast, 6-hour eating window), and 20:4 (20-hour fast, 4-hour eating window).
Intermittent fasting is a natural process, as we typically fast through the night and break our fast with the first meal of the day. For example, a 16:8 intermittent fasting pattern is in line with a standard 3-meal-per-day eating pattern.
Additionally, many people aren’t hungry upon waking and naturally fall into a more stringent intermittent fasting pattern—closer to 18:6—by skipping breakfast and only eating lunch and supper.
Health benefits of intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting has many potential benefits. Although it’s a relatively new concept, emerging research suggests that it can profoundly improve blood sugar and weight management.
Intermittent fasting may be a helpful weight loss tool to help reduce overweight and obesity. Weight loss works through calorie restriction, and limiting your eating window to a set number of hours each day is an easy and manageable way to slash your calorie intake.
Intermittent fasting may also have some benefits for your metabolism, helping to keep your metabolic rate (the number of calories you burn at rest) high even as you lose weight.
Insulin resistance is a precursor to a variety of health issues, most notably type 2 diabetes. It occurs when your body begins to “ignore” insulin, the hormone that helps manage your blood sugar levels. Over time, insulin resistance can lead to weight gain, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and a number of other health complications.
However, intermittent fasting can increase your body’s insulin sensitivity, potentially resulting in better blood sugar levels, less weight gain, and a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes.
Intermittent fasting appears to be safe for most people, but you should let your doctor know before you start any new diet or fasting regimen.
If you’re taking any prescription medications—especially blood pressure, diabetes, or heart medications—you’ll want to work closely with your doctor as you may need adjustments to your medication dosages.
If at any point during your fast you start to feel dizzy, weak, or light-headed, you should discontinue the fast immediately.
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