Fasting has been popular with yogis for centuries as a detoxification and healing method – but not uncontroversial. A much gentler approach is intermittent fasting.
Hi, my sunshine. I know that many of you are curious about: “What is intermittent fasting good for?” So, today I decided to offer you all the important information about the popular nutritional trend. It’s not only healthy for your body but will truly uplift your spirits as well.
The Vicious Circle of Modern Nutrition
In contrast to our ancestors, food is always available in the modern world. From sweet, baked goods to fast food restaurants and delivery services, we are exposed to the temptations of the food industry from morning to late at night.
Ever so often we cannot resist these temptations. There are many reasons for this: In the morning, the time is not enough for a full breakfast; only for a coffee and a croissant. Instead of eating in peace at home, there’s a quick lunch with colleagues or, in the worst case, just a sandwich in front of the monitor.
Many compensate for their stressful everyday life with snacks – here a chocolate bar, there an energy drink as a “reward”, but also to persevere. Finally, in the evenings, some people are sitting in front of the TV, exhausted and full of a ready meal, because they cannot cook something nutritious anymore.
The worse and heavier we eat, the more difficult it becomes to turn our diets back into healthier tracks. This is because our blood sugar levels are running so wild that we crave carbohydrates.
Our body gets so little nutrients that it constantly screams for food, because we have lost contact with our needs and no longer feel whether we just need a glass of water, a break or a bowl of warming soup.
This not only leads to overweight (often with simultaneous lack of high-quality nutrients) but also increases the likelihood of heart and circulatory problems of any kind: diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, depression and burn out. These diseases do not only massively reduce the quality of life, but also the lifespan.
So, what can we do to resist the temptations, and to rebalance blood sugar and energy levels? Solutions are offered from everywhere: We should eat completely sugar-free, vegetarian or vegan anyway, according to the rules of Paleo, or according to our Ayurvedic constitution.
Most of these diets are quite elaborate in implementation; make restaurant visits and barbecues difficult to impossible. As a result, they lead to a bad mood at the dinner table, because just not every steamed fennel is delicious.
The Alternative to Diets and Prohibitions: Intermittent Fasting
There is another approach, though. One that anyone can implement immediately, and without much financial or organizational effort: intermittent fasting, also called interval fasting.
Unlike traditional fasting, this is not fasting for several days or even weeks in a row. Instead, phases of fasting and normal diet alternate in a regular rhythm.
You can fast for 16 hours each day and only eat for the remaining 8 hours, you can be fasting for two days a week, or even alternating one day fasting and eating a normal day. During the fasting phases, you only intake water and herbal teas.
Red tea is a vitamin and mineral packed drink that is nurturing and keeping you satiated during this time. Please, feel free to read my in-depth guide here:
During the eating periods, you are basically free to decide how much and when you eat (although it does not make sense to eat unhealthy, heavily processed foods during the food phases).
In addition to numerous positive health effects, intermittent fasting is a quick and easy way to lose weight, detoxify and effectively channel unhealthy, uncontrolled eating behavior into healthier ways.
You will notice that you will begin eating more mindful, and this will make you think what and how much you consume before you even do it.
How does Intermittent Fasting Work?
Particularly well-known are the following variants of the intermittent fasting, which you can, of course, adapt to your needs.
16/8 – 16 Hours Fasting, 8 Hours Eating
This variant of the interval fasting is best suited for beginners since it differs the least from our usual eating rhythm. While you usually do not eat during the night and eat several meals during the day, you turn the tables on the 16/8 variety: You increase the nocturnal fasting period to 16 hours and only eat during the following 8 hours.
It is best if you take two healthy, wholesome meals during the mealtimes. For example, you can have a late breakfast at 11 o’clock and then have dinner between 6 and 7 o’clock. Weekend brunch, dining out with friends in the evenings, and even afternoon barbecues or coffee and cake events are no problem with this system.
If you are used to eating late at night or wake up hungry in the morning, of course, this variant is still a challenge for your mind to adjust. The body, however, according to my own experience, adapts rather quickly.
There are still more extreme variations of this method: 18/6 and 20/4. That way, one is fasting respectively 18 to 20 hours in a row, and may only eat during 6 or 4 hours.
These versions are not suitable for continuous use in contrast to the 16/8 method.
5/2 – Five Days of Food, 2 Days Fasting
If you have no problem eating for a long time, you can also try the 5/2 variant of intermittent fasting. Here you are on fasting two days a week from morning to evening. Some people really drink only water and herbal tea on these days, others have a very reduced calorie intake of 500 to 600 calories.
The latter is more in the direction of “salad day”, and it is no longer a fasting diet. It does allow people who have circulatory problems to somewhat participate in interval fasting.
Scientific research suggests that the benefits of interval fasting are most profound when eating normally for two to three days and then fasting for one day at a time. Specifically, this means that you e.g. are fasting on Monday and Thursday, and eat the rest of the week normally.
But if you get an invitation to a romantic dinner on Thursday, that’s no problem. It may even be better to vary the days every now and then; that’s just how our ancestors did it, and they did it correctly.
When we were still hunters and collectors (before our time as sedentary farmers and ranchers), it was not possible to plan on which days there would be food, and on which there wouldn’t be any. Our bodies still have that primeval rhythm stored.
24/24 – 24 Hours of Food, 24 Hours Fasting
The principle is simple: One day you eat what you want, the next day you fast. This is the most extreme type of interval fasting and therefore only suitable for shorter periods.
The Effect of Interval Fasting
Intermittent fasting has a variety of positive effects. Basically, many people find it easier to meet specific fasting times than complicated dietary rules. Knowing that they are allowed to eat what they want during mealtimes also relaxes some people, so that their eating habits naturally become healthier.
In contrast to classic fasting, the digestive system is not completely paralyzed. The body also releases no massive amounts of toxic substances. Normally, when fasting, the body attacks the fat storage (in which the most toxins are located) only after a few days without carbohydrates.
This must then be processed by the liver, kidneys, etc. so that it doesn’t evolve to become a fasting crisis. Furthermore, the body will not attack your muscle mass since it’s not put into starvation mode. In addition, intermittent fasting is not likely to turn into an eating disorder, as is known from regular fasting.
Also, you do not need exotic or expensive foods for intermittent fasting, and it only has a minimal effect on your lifestyle. As a rule, you can easily go about your work and daily routines.
Your stomach benefits immensely from the digestive pauses. Whoever eats constantly, employs his digestive system at all times, too: The stomach must then work with strong acids to process the large and differently digested amount of “porridge”.
This can lead to problems such as heartburn, stomach ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, etc. But if you regularly give your body longer digestive breaks, in which it can metabolize the food at rest and perform necessary detoxification, you not only save a lot of energy but also effectively alleviate stomach problems and digestive difficulties.
In addition, the interval fasting ends the unhealthy ups and downs of blood sugar: If you often eat chocolate bars, the blood sugar level jumps up every time you do. Thus, your body releases insulin, whereupon the blood sugar level rushes back into the cellar and you crave your next chocolate bar. This toxic cycle is not only similar to addiction, but it is also a major cause of type 2 diabetes.
Athletic performances can improve interval fasting, as well. Those who fast intermittently produce more of the body’s own growth hormone HGH. This ensures that fat breaks down faster and muscle mass builds up much quicker, too. That’s why it’s also possible to lose weight with intermittent fasting, even if you take in as many calories as before.
There are several other positive effects of interval fasting, which, however, are only sufficiently proven in animal experiments and can not be directly transferred to humans. Nevertheless, they are impressive: They range from increased life expectancy, and lower cancer growth, to less pronounced symptoms of diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
Are There any Disadvantages with Intermittent Fasting?
If you have chronic ailments, or actually ill, you must first check with your doctor to what extent interval fasting is suitable for you.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should not fast intermittently, but this applies to any kind of nutritional change and diet. Otherwise, no negative effects of intermittent fasting have so far been proven.
As always, you should, first of all, listen to your feelings. Is this kind of diet good for you? If you feel worse, rather than better, after a few days of interval fasting, you need to clarify the reasons why.
However, if you’re somewhat like me, then it is much more likely that you will feel so much better after a short time that you will fast intermittently on a regular basis.
Please, share your own experiences regarding intermittent fasting with us by leaving a comment below. We’re always looking forward to hearing from you with your stories, questions or requests for topics you’d love to read and learn more about.
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Meanwhile, I’m sending you lots of love, happiness and an abundance of all good things. Always remember that you are beautiful, precious and unique regardless of what others might say. Thus, keep on shining.