Intermittent fasting is a type of eating plan that alternates between fasting and eating periods. The goal is to systematically starve the body long enough to trigger fat burning.
While research is still underway and the method may not be suitable for everyone, there is evidence that, when done correctly, intermittent fasting can help lose weight, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, prevent or control diabetes, and improve brain health.
During a meal, carbohydrates in food are broken down into glucose. Glucose absorbs through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream and is transported to various organs, where it serves as the major energy source. Excess glucose is stored for later use in the liver and adipose tissue, in the form of glycogen and fats.
When an inactive person fasts, their liver converts glycogen back to glucose to keep supplying them with energy between meals. Typically, an inactive person takes about 10 to 12 hours to use up the glycogen stores-although someone who exercises may do so in much less time.
Once the reserve of glycogen in the liver is depleted, the body taps into energy stores in adipose tissues. This is when fats are broken down into free fatty acids which are then converted into additional metabolic fuel in the liver.
Thus, if the fasted state lasts long enough, the body burns fat for energy and loses that extra fat. Losing the extra fat is translated into a range of associated health benefits. Insulin is the hormone required for driving glucose into cells. Insulin level is regulated to match the amount of glucose in the blood, that is, high after a meal and low between meals.
Because insulin is secreted after each meal, eating throughout the day keeps insulin levels high most of the time. Constant high insulin levels may de-sensitize body tissues, causing insulin insensitivity. Fasting helps keep insulin levels low, reducing diabetes risks.
Fasting also has beneficial effect on the brain. It challenges the brain the same way physical or cognitive exercise does. It promotes production of neurotrophic factors, which support the growth and survival of neurons. Fasting, however, is not for everyone.
Among those who should not attempt fasting are:
- children and teens - pregnant or breastfeeding women
- people with eating disorders, diabetes type 1, advanced diabetes, or some other medical problems - people who are underweight or frail.
Fasting can also be unsafe if overdone, or if not done correctly.
There are several approaches to intermittent fasting, but the easiest to achieve is perhaps the one that simply extends the usual nighttime fast. A daily cycle of 16-hour fast followed by an 8-hour eating window is usually sustainable. For intermittent fasting to be safe and effective, it must be combined with balanced meals that provide good nutrition.
It is important to stay hydrated and know your physical limits while fasting. The fast must be broken slowly. after being on an empty stomach for 16 odd hours your stomach is raging and you feel like you can eat two meals at once! but once you do that, you'll probably feel super bloated and tired and sleepy this feeling makes you not like if too much and hence you give up on the idea of fasting. Overeating after fast, especially of unhealthy foods, must be avoided. You don't want to inflame an empty stomach so foods high on masalas dairy foods especially if you're even mildly lactose intolerant, and deep-fried foods should be avoided while breaking a fast. You most likely have some unpleasant experiences from indulging in food after a period of fasting. And that I know from experience.