There are those who say that we should never EVER skip meals, and that having pizza for breakfast is much better than no breakfast at all. They say that skipping meals turns your brain to mush, makes you hangry, slows down your metabolism and increases body fat in the long run. But there's a growing trend around Intermittent Fasting and people now say you should start skipping meals to lose weight and be healthy. So who should we believe? What's the real deal?
First thing’s first: What is Intermittent Fasting, or IF?
IF is essentially skipping meals, but there are many ways that people go about it. Sometimes people reduce their daily "feeding window" so that they only eat within 8 to 12 hours in a day. Sometimes it's just skipping a random meal every now and then. Sometimes people do longer, extended fasts that go on for a couple of days. Some fast daily, weekly or just whenever they feel like it.
Why do people do IF? Below are some of the benefits associated with it:
- It puts your body in cell repair mode. This leads to anti-aging benefits and also helps with maintaining brain health and function.
- It has been shown to reduce inflammation. Research from Yale indicates that fasting may lower inflammation in the body associated with certain disorders like diabetes and Alzheimer's disease.
- It can help with weight loss and regulate insulin response.
- It helps with fat loss. Also, exercising in a fasted state helps you burn more fat without necessarily affecting performance.
- In cancer patients, it has been shown to reduce the negative side effects of chemotherapy.
Below are some tips for people who are thinking of getting started on IF:
- Get fat-adapted. People who eat carb-heavy diets may have some difficulty with fasting because the usual side effects like brain fog and gnawing hunger are more likely to affect them. For those who have been on a low-carb diet for some time, such as keto dieters or Primal and paleo eaters, IF becomes almost effortless.
- Ease into it. Start off with an easy 12-hour eating window and gradually reduce this to 8 hours on and 16 hours off.
- You still need to watch what you eat. If you want to fully benefit from IF, then you shouldn't go and gorge on junk food and sodas as soon as you're past the fasting window. Also, stay hydrated.
- Observe and experiment. Take note of how you feel before, during and after your fast. Are you feeling better? Worse? Are you getting results?
Intermittent Fasting is not for everybody and while many people report fantastic results there are also those who don't. There are studies that say that women, in particular, may not experience the same benefits from IF as men, but there are always exceptions. As always, you know your body best. Take note of the tips above, give it a shot, and see if it works!