What is intermittent fasting? How the weight loss diet works and the possible benefits

The term ‘intermittent fasting’ has been in circulation in recent years, with a host of celebrities and influencers touting the health benefits of the diet.

Simply put, it is an eating plan in which people alternate between fasting and eating on a fixed schedule.


Intermittent fasting involves limiting when you can eat within a certain windowCredit: Getty
Jennifer Aniston admitted that she tried the 16:8 method


Jennifer Aniston admitted that she tried the 16:8 methodCredit: Getty
Hugh Jackman also reportedly tried to amp up X-men films


Hugh Jackman also reportedly tried to amp up X-men filmsCredit: Getty

Fasting means going without food, so if you regularly skip breakfast, you may be unknowingly engaging in a form of time-restricted eating.

Research shows that intermittent fasting can help with weight loss and manage conditions such as cholesterol.

But the diet is certainly not suitable for everyone.

From different methods to how it affects your body and the health pros and cons, here’s what you need to know about intermittent fasting.

What is intermittent fasting?

While many diets focus on the foods you eat, intermittent fasting is all about when you eat.

It is a type of eating pattern where you limit when you can eat within a certain time frame.

The idea behind intermittent fasting is that it gives your body a break from digesting food, potentially allowing you to consume fewer calories than if you were eating more regularly, according to Bupa.

Eating less can also have positive effects on your blood sugar levels, which can be helpful if you have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, it added.

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Intermittent fasting can also trigger a process called autophagy, where your body works to remove damaged cells from your body.

Your body does this when it doesn’t have to concentrate on digesting food.

How to actually lose weight from an expert

Intermittent fasting has become increasingly popular among celebrities and influencers, with the likes of Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Aniston and Kourtney Kardiashian confessing to following the trendy diet.

Fans claim that it can have a large number of health advantagesincluding weight loss and a stimulated metabolism.

Research has also shown that time-restricted eating can improve blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol in the short term.

But other studies have raised concerns about the diet’s impact on heart health.

Meanwhile, experts at Harvard Health warned that intermittent fasting can make you cranky or lethargic and cause you to overeat after fasting. periods.

It can also be dangerous to skip meals or restrict calories if you have conditions such as diabetes, and fasting may not be right for you if you take medications for blood pressure or heart disease.

That’s because you may be more susceptible to imbalances in sodium, potassium and other minerals when you eat without food.

And it may be best to take certain medications with food to avoid nausea or stomach irritation.

How does intermittent fasting work?

There are a few different forms of intermittent fasting, some of which are more restrictive than others.

Popular examples include:

  • The 16/8 method: A sixteen-hour fasting window and an eight-hour eating window – you can drink water, milk, tea and coffee during the fast
  • The 5:2 method: You choose two days a week when you consume approximately 500 to 600 calories, while on the other five days you eat a normal, balanced diet.
  • The 24-hour fast: Do not eat for a period of 24 hours, monthly or weekly
  • Alternative fasting one day: Fasting every other day, which Bupa says can be difficult to maintain in the long term

There are a number of ways to shorten your eating window; chances are you’ve already done this by accident.

It may include:

  • Have breakfast later
  • Skip breakfast altogether
  • Have an early dinner

What are the benefits of intermittent fasting?

According to short-term studies, intermittent fasting can help you lose weight if you consume fewer calories overall and stick to healthy foods when you eat.

Meanwhile, a study from the National Clinical Research Center for Geriatric Diseases has shown that diet monitoring can help reduce people’s “addiction” to food by rewiring the brain.

Chloe Hall, a dietician and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, told Patient.info that intermittent use can help improve cholesterol levels.

Some research has suggested that intermittent fasting may have health benefits for people with (or at risk of) developing type 2 diabetes, such as weight loss and helping control blood sugar levels.

But if you have type 2 diabetes, it’s important to consult a doctor before trying the eating plan.

While it can control blood sugar levels and reduce insulin resistance, it can also lead to dangerously low blood sugar levels if you take medications such as sulfonylureas and insulin.

It’s also important to note that most studies on this topic are small and short-term, so we don’t know much about the long-term effects of intermittent fasting.

Finally, studies have also suggested that intermittent fasting could improve memory and endurance, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Is intermittent fasting healthy?

Intermittent fasting can provide some short-term health benefits.

But Chinese researchers recently warned that people who followed the diet by eating within an eight-hour window were 91 percent more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than those who ate normally over 12 to 16 hours.

Dr. Victor Zhong, from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, said: “We were surprised to find that people who followed a time-restricted diet were more likely to die from heart disease.

“While this type of diet is popular for its potential short-term benefits, our research clearly shows that shorter eating duration was not associated with living longer.

“It is critical that patients, especially those with heart disease, are aware of the link between an eight-hour eating window and an increased risk of cardiovascular death.”

While short-term intermittent fasting may be safe for healthy adults to try, Bupa notes that you shouldn’t try it if:

  • If you are pregnant
  • Have type 1 diabetes
  • Have a history of disordered eating
  • Have anxiety or depression

Famous fans of intermittent fasting

OVER THE years, a number of celebrities have admitted to giving intermittent fasting a try.

A well-known follower of the trendy diet is Jennifer Aniston, who told Radio Times in 2019: “I do intermittent fasting, so there’s no food in the morning.”

Her favorite method of intermittent fasting is the 16:8 method: “I noticed a big difference when I didn’t eat solid food for 16 hours,” Jen said.

Another enthusiast of the 16:8 fasting routine is Hugh Jackman, who tried fasting to get his ripped Wolverine physique.

When Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger doesn’t have time to hit the gym due to her busy schedule, the star pushes back her first meal of the day to around lunchtime.

Another celebrity who has tried intermittent fasting is Kourtney Kardashian.

She explained it on her lifestyle site Push that she often did not want to eat for 14 to 16 hours after eating.

“I wouldn’t eat after 7pm at night and then I would wait to eat the next day until after my morning workout, which would be around 10:30 or 11am,” she said.

“Then I fasted 24 hours a day one day a week.”

During those fasting days, she only drank bone broth, water and green tea.

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