A phenomenon called intermittent fasting is currently one of the world’s most popular health and
fitness trends. It involves alternating cycles of fasting and eating.
Many studies show that this can cause weight loss, improve metabolic health, protect against disease and perhaps help you live longer.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern where you cycle between periods of eating and fasting.
It does not say anything about which foods to eat, but rather when you should eat them. There are
several different intermittent fasting methods, all of which split the day or week into eating periods and
fasting periods. Most people already “fast” every day, while they sleep. Intermittent fasting can be as
simple as extending that fast a little longer. You can do this by skipping breakfast, eating your first meal
at noon and your last meal at 8 pm.
Then you’re technically fasting for 16 hours every day, and restricting your eating to an 8-hour eating
window. This is the most popular form of intermittent fasting, known as the 16/8 method.
Despite what you may think, intermittent fasting is actually fairly easy to do. Many people report feeling
better and having more energy during a fast. Hunger is usually not that big of an issue, although it can
be a problem in the beginning, while your body is getting used to not eating for extended periods of
No food is allowed during the fasting period, but you can drink water, coffee, tea and other non-caloric
beverages. Some forms of intermittent fasting allow small amounts of low-calorie foods during the
fasting period. Taking supplements is generally allowed while fasting, as long as there are no calories in
Humans have actually been fasting for thousands of years. Sometimes it was done out of necessity,
when there simply wasn’t any food available. In other instances, it was done for religious reasons.
Various religions, including Islam, Christianity and Buddhism, mandate some form of fasting. Humans
and other animals also often instinctively fast when sick.
Clearly, there is nothing “unnatural” about fasting, and our bodies are very well equipped to handle extended periods of not eating.
All sorts of processes in the body change when we don’t eat for a while, in order to allow our bodies to
thrive during a period of famine. It has to do with hormones, genes and important cellular repair
When fasted, we get significant reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels, as well as a drastic increase
in human growth hormone.
Many people do intermittent fasting in order to lose weight, as it is a very simple and effective way to
restrict calories and burn fat. Others do it for the metabolic health benefits, as it can improve various
different risk factors and health markers. There is also some evidence that intermittent fasting can help
you live longer. Some research also suggests that it can help protect against diseases, including heart
disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and others. Other people simply like the
convenience of intermittent fasting. It is an effective “life hack” that makes your life simpler, while
improving your health at the same time. The fewer meals you need to plan for, the simpler your life will
Not having to eat 3-4+ times per day (with the preparation and cleaning involved) also saves time. A lot
Types of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting has become very trendy in the past few years, and several different types/methods
have emerged. Here are some of the most popular ones:
• The 16/8 Method: Fast for 16 hours each day, for example by only eating between noon and
• Eat-Stop-Eat: Once or twice a week, don’t eat anything from dinner one day, until dinner the
next day (a 24 hour fast).
• The 5:2 Diet: During 2 days of the week, eat only about 500–600 calories.
How to do it
The easiest way to follow the 16:8 diet is to choose a 16-hour fasting window that includes the time that
a person spends sleeping. Some experts advise finishing food consumption in the early evening, as
metabolism slows down after this time. However, this is not feasible for everyone.
Some people may not be able to consume their evening meal until 7 p.m. or later. Even so, it is best to
avoid food for 2–3 hours before bed.
People may choose one of the following 8-hour eating windows:
▪ 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
▪ 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
▪ noon to 8 p.m.
Within this timeframe, people can eat their meals and snacks at convenient times. Eating regularly is
important to prevent blood sugar peaks and dips and to avoid excessive hunger. Some people may need
to experiment to find the best eating window and mealtimes for their lifestyle.
Intermittent fasting has some associated risks and side effects. As a result, the plan is not right for
Side effects and risks
Potential side effects and risks include:
▪ hunger, weakness, and tiredness in the beginning stages of the plan.
▪ overeating or eating unhealthful foods during the 8-hour eating window due to excessive
▪ heartburn or reflux as a result of overeating
The plan is not right for everyone. Individuals who wish to follow the intermittent fasting diet should
speak to a doctor or dietitian if they have any concerns or underlying health conditions.
As long as you stick to healthy foods, restricting your eating window and fasting from time to time can
have some very impressive health benefits.
It is an effective way to lose fat and improve metabolic health, while simplifying your life at the same