Intermittent fasting has become an incredibly popular health and fitness trend in recent years. But what exactly is intermittent fasting, and how can it benefit your health?
In this beginner’s guide, we’ll cover the basics of intermittent fasting and a specific type called time-restricted eating. Read on to learn how to get started with intermittent fasting!
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating pattern that involves cycling between periods of fasting and eating. It doesn’t specify which foods you should eat, but rather when you should eat them. The most common IF approaches involve daily 16-hour fasts or fasting for 24 hours, twice per week.
IF contrasts with the normal pattern of eating three meals per day plus snacks. By fasting for time-restricted “windows”, you’re giving your body a break from digestive duties so it can focus on rest and rejuvenation.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Studies suggest that intermittent fasting may:
- Enhance weight loss – IF makes it easier to reduce calories and lose weight. Periods of fasting can burn stored body fat for energy.
- Extend lifespan – Animal studies link intermittent fasting with longevity. It may also protect cells and tissues from damage.
- Improve health – Intermittent fasting can reduce risk factors for chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
- Boost brain function – It may improve memory, reduce oxidative stress and preserve learning capabilities.
Time-Restricted Eating: A Type of Intermittent Fasting
Time-restricted eating (TRE) is the most straightforward IF approach for beginners. With TRE, you narrow your eating window each day. For example, you might only eat within an 8-hour timeframe and fast for the remaining 16 hours.
A common TRE schedule is the 16:8 method:
- Fast for 16 hours per day
- Eat within an 8 hour window, such as 12-8pm
- Drink water, black coffee and tea during the 16-hour fast
This daily fasting period allows your body to enter a metabolic state called ketosis, which burns stored fat for fuel. The 16:8 method is a simple way to get started with intermittent fasting.
Tips for Getting Started with Time-Restricted Eating:
- Gradually reduce your eating window – Start with 12 hours fasted, then 14 hours, and work your way up to 16 hours. This allows your body time to adjust.
- Stick with your chosen hours – Try to be consistent and fast during the same hours each day. Most people prefer afternoon to evening eating windows.
- Listen to your hunger cues – Eat regular meals and healthy snacks during your window. Only eat when hungry.
- Stay hydrated – Drink plenty of non-caloric fluids like water and herbal tea during fasting periods.
The bottom line is intermittent fasting can be a sustainable, flexible way to improve your health when done properly. Start slow with time-restricted eating to see if intermittent fasting works for you. Pay attention to your body and don’t hesitate to make changes as needed.
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