Obesity has become a worldwide concern due to the multiple health complications associated with it. People living in the developed countries are especially affected by the problem of weight gain. To address the issue of obesity, nutritionists have introduced many different diets and eating patterns. There are experts advocating to adopt the eating habits of the Stone Age in the form of paleo diet. Then there are some who are in favor of fat-based diets to curb the malevolence of obesity.
The one common denominator with all these eating plans is to eat healthily. Among all these diet programs, intermittent fasting* has gained much popularity among the weight loss aspirants. However, it seems as if many people still don’t know exactly what intermittent fasting is and therefore, they hold certain reservations and misconceptions about the concept.
What is intermittent fasting?
Simply, it is an eating model in which an individual goes through alternative cycles of eating and fasting. Intermittent fasting is not about what you eat, rather it’s concerned with when to eat. There are several sub-categories of intermittent fasting, all of which depend on the duration of fasting and eating periods.
Misconceptions regarding intermittent fasting
Misconceptions often hold us back from adopting the right habits. Here are some of the widespread misconceptions about the functioning of intermittent fasting.
You are allowed to binge eat during the eating period
Many people think that intermittent fasting is all about going extreme with your eating routine i.e. for a period you have to starve and then for a time slot you are entitled to non-stop eating. That’s not the case at all; otherwise, you won’t be able to get any benefits from this eating pattern.
Only water is allowed during the fasting period
This is another false fact associated with intermittent fasting that you are only allowed to drink water during the fasted phase. You can consume caffeine products (green, black tea and coffee) during the fasting period. Supplements and other drinks with zero calories can also be used during the non-eating phase.
Longer fasting periods are better
No, this is not true. Fasting for more than 20 hours can become counterproductive. Remember that a fasting phase doesn’t entail starving yourself.
Feeling hungry is bad for health
There isn’t any substantial body of research behind this claim that feeling hungry is harmful to your health. So don’t get worried that a mere feeling of starvation will result in the loss of vital mass (muscles) of the body, no such thing happens during the fasting period.
Benefits of intermittent fasting
Now let’s’ delve into some of the proven benefits of perfectly carried out intermittent fasting.
Losing abdominal fat
Losing abdominal fat in order to reduce weight and to get back into shape is the primary reason many start intermittent fasting. There are certain characteristics of intermittent fasting that helps in losing excessive fat:
- Overall, you consume fewer calories during the complete cycle of fasting. Fewer calories mean there will be less amount of residual fats produced from the excessive calories.
- Fasting helps in enhancing different beneficial hormone functions of the body resulting in revved-up metabolic rate which also helps in burning more calories.
It means intermittent fasting is a two-pronged method of reducing weight. It limits the average calorie intake of an individual while simultaneously increasing the metabolic rate.
Preventing and lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes
In recent years, type 2 diabetes has become one of the most prevalent diseases all around the world. Type 2 diabetes is a condition where blood sugar or glucose levels exceed their normal limits in the bloodstream due to lower insulin levels in the blood. A research study indicates that intermittent fasting can improve insulin resistance which helps in reducing blood sugar levels.
Health concerns related to intermittent fasting
While with its benefits for the people facing obesity and type 2 diabetes, there are certain downsides of intermittent fasting as well that can affect certain individuals.
In some instances, the fasted phase can result in dehydration. It usually occurs because people practicing intermittent fasting are not getting the fluid portion of the solid food items.
High-stress levels and headaches
During the initial phase of intermittent fasting, one can experience increased stress levels resulting from disturbed sleep pattern and headache.
If carried out properly, intermittent fasting can provide you with its benefits. However, it is always better to consult a nutritionist before adopting a new eating pattern.
* Note: You should always confer with a health professional prior to beginning any weight loss program!