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Is Intermittent Fasting Good For Your Overall Health?

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Whether you wanted to shed a few pounds or control your cravings, or just wanted to detox, intermittent fasting has an array of benefits that are beneficial for your body.

Like with any eating plan, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. 

How would you know if you might benefit from intermittent fasting? 

Other questions include:

  • How do you start?
  • How long will it take to see the desired effects?

That’s what we’re going to discuss in this article!

First of all, fasting is not a diet or fad. It is a lifestyle where you eat only at specific times, for example, a certain number of hours during the day or days of the week.

Photo Credit: Nathan Cowley, Pexels

When should you NOT fast?

-If you have a history of eating disorders, proceed with caution and ONLY with the help of a medical professional.

– In some cases, intermittent fasting disrupts menstrual periods in women.  Women who do it regularly sometimes report a change in period days or even totally missing one cycle.

In light of this, you should be careful in working your way towards intermittent fasting,  especially if you’re trying to conceive because it will affect fertility.

I suggest taking a gradual approach to see how it affects you. 

Different types of intermittent fasting:

  • The 12-hour Window fasting (12:12)

You consume your meals within a 12-hour window, and then you don’t eat anything for the other 12 hours.

Example:  you had dinner at 6:00 pm, your next meal should be 6:00 am the next day. This can be great for beginners.

  • The 16:8 

This is the most popular type of intermittent fasting.  You can still eat three meals a day if you manage your time wisely. 

Example:  you can have breakfast at 10:00 am, have lunch at 2:00 pm, then have your last meal of the day at 5:30 pm for dinner.  You do not eat anything else until you have your breakfast at 10 am the next day.

For some, this won’t be easy at first.  You will likely have to ease your way in, but once you do it regularly, you won’t have midnight cravings.  It will be great.

  • The 20:4

You will fast for 20 hours while eating within a window of 4 hours. You will only have two meals a day.

Example: You can eat between 2:00 pm and 6:00 pm every day. 

This means you have to eat either one large satiating meal or two smaller meals within 4 hours.

  • The OMAD 

Photo Credit: Ella Olsson, Pexels

OMAD stands for one meal a day. You literally eat one meal a day. This can be considered extreme for some.

You are free to try any of these depending on how it suits your lifestyle. When you’re just starting, you can do it every other day until you feel comfortable doing it on a daily basis. 

Alternatively, you can mix and match.

Example:  you might do an 18:6 from Monday-Wednesday and 12:12 on Friday-Saturday. 

If you are doing this to lose weight, it’s best to keep a shorter eating window.

There are many other complex forms of fasting, but these are believed to be the safest.

Benefits of intermittent fasting: 

  • Weight loss:

As per a study, “Fasting is a simple concept, which makes it easy to follow with no difficult calorie counting every other day. This approach does seem to promote weight loss. “

However, it is linked to hunger. For this lifestyle to be maintained and to be able to lose weight, you are advised to consume healthier food which is satiating and has nutritional value.

  • Insulin resistance: 

On the show Unwell on Netflix, an obese woman with Type 2 diabetes went on a water fast and proved that it lowered her insulin levels and reversed her diabetes.

As per a study, “Results reveal superior decreases… in visceral fat mass, fasting insulin, and insulin resistance.” 

  • Improved concentration: 

At first, you will feel irritable, but when your body gets used to fasting it actually increases mental sharpness. A study says mental acuity does not decrease even on a 24-hour fast.

In fact, it has an energetic effect and may protect against Alzheimer’s and other degenerative decease.

Reduce in inflammation is another benefit, especially related to having a healthy heart. 

  • Cardiovascular health:

It may reduce bad cholesterol (LDL), lower triglycerides, decreases visceral fat, lower blood sugar and insulin resistance. 

  • Cancer prevention: 

On the same Netflix show Unwell, there was a guy who is now in remission from Hodgkin’s lymphoma. And part of his remission, he credited it to fasting, among other changes. 

According to an animal study. “The survival of tumor-bearing rats was enhanced by short-term relatively mild dietary restrictions.”

How do you start?

Gradually. Start by 12:12 on alternate days and slowly incorporate the 16:8 or 20:4.

How long will it take to see the desired effects in terms of losing weight? 

We have different metabolisms but according to a study mentioned in this article of women over age 50, participants in the study lost 6 lbs of weight and 5 lbs of fat in 8 weeks, despite eating 100% of their calorie needs.

The women in this study participated in the Alternate Day Fasting, which means you eat normally on one day then fast the next day.

Tips to make fasting more effective when losing weight

  • Avoid sugars and refined carbs
  • Be active and let your muscle burn the fat during the fasting window (but not vigorously)
  • Choose a simple form of fasting so you won’t be overwhelmed. Have your eating window earlier in the day.
  • Drink black coffee and lemon water.

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