The idea of not eating food for a prolonged period of time might sound impossible but it is actually one of the most popular methods to control weight gain. This diet trend is known as intermittent fasting. We explore this popular diet and the different fasting to eating ratios to find out which one works best.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Fasting is the act of refraining and abstaining from food and/or drinks for a period ranging from hours to days. Other reasons for fasting besides weight management include improving general body wellness, mood, mental health, and even religious beliefs.
Many refer to intermittent fasting as intermittent energy restriction. This is a type of fasting done at intervals. This implies that it occurs on and off at different periods. Moreover, this type of fasting is meant to controls one’s intake and portioning of food. The fasting period is called the “fasting window”, while the non-fasting period is called the eating window.
Proponents of this diet include obese patients and men who want to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle. However, there are some categories of men who cannot participate in intermittent fasting. These include men with cardiovascular disorders, liver or kidney problems, and diabetes.
This type of fasting is relatively new. Moreover, top nutrition experts, dieticians, and some medical practitioners are noticing how unique this weight loss method is. During intermittent fasting, most health practitioners advise their patients to take water, tea, and coffee, especially for men.
Some other nutrition experts even recommend taking food with low calories, usually below 500 calories during the fasting window. Most importantly, doctors highly recommend lots of fruits and vegetables during intermittent fasting.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Now that you have a clear understanding of what intermittent fasting is, it’s time to understand the benefits it brings to the human body.
Like other dieting regimens, intermittent fasting brings about many positive results if undertaken properly. As a result, it can lead to a more comfortable and healthier lifestyle.
According to Dr. Mark P. Mattson of the National Institute on Aging and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, fasting results in the creation of new proteins that are essential for one’s survival. Additional benefits include improvements in insulin resistance and a reduction of symptoms in those with multiple sclerosis.
Other benefits of intermittent fasting consist of the following:
Weight Loss and Control
According to experts, intermittent fasting counts as an effective tool to control weight gain. Research shows that after one to two months of intermittent fasting, individuals lose about 3-10% of body fat. In fact, this is higher than the calorie restriction technique, another method of controlling weight gain.
Intermittent fasting involves controlling one’s diet and calorie intake leading to weight loss. Fasting helps lose fat and maintain muscle gain in men. When food gets consumed, it breaks down into glucose which then gets stored as glycogen in the liver. When fasting, the body uses glucose in the blood. Afterward, glycogen and fat stored in fat cells become used which results in weight loss.
Control of Blood Glucose and Insulin Level
Fasting allows the body to process glucose more easily and improves the sensitivity of the body to insulin. This can be especially useful for pre-diabetic patients and some men with type two diabetes.
Reduces the Risk of Inflammation
Inflammation is a useful mechanism that alerts the body to the presence of infections and helps fight off infections. This is carried out by monocytes in the body. Recent studies have shown the correlation between overeating and the number of monocytes found in the blood per time.
These studies concluded that the high number of monocytes in the blood correlates with the presence of some diseases caused by inflammation. Some of these diseases include diabetes, inflammatory bowel syndrome, and multiple sclerosis.
Fasting lowers the oxidative stress the body becomes exposed to during the inflammatory process and helps with the body’s fight against free radicals. As a result, the occurrences and risk of inflammation-related illnesses such as auto-immune conditions are significantly reduced.
Improving Brain Function
Intermittent fasting enhances and boosts brain function in men by decreasing memory loss. It boosts the promotion of certain proteins that aided the learning and memory function of the brain. Fasting also helps by improving the total cognitive function of the brain by increasing the frequency at which nerve endings are produced.
Prevention of Cancer
There have been several types of research that support the claim that intermittent fasting can prevent the formation of cancer. They also show that it increases the effect and sensitivity of cancer cells to chemotherapy.
Reduction in Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Levels
Fasting reduces the blood pressure of hypertensive patients as well as cholesterol levels of obese patients. This is of great importance to these patients because it improves their health and further protects them from risks involved with these diseases.
Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
One common concern a lot of men have when it comes to intermittent fasting is its efficacy. Irrespective of the various reasons for which people have when intermittent fasting, scientific studies have shown that fasting can have several health benefits.
A study by neuroscientists at the National Institute of Aging showed that alternate-day fasting extended the lifespan of mice by about 30%. This discovery led to further studies that showed possible relationships between fasting and brain function. Research has also shown that intermittent fasting improves the ability of nerve cells to cope with stress, thereby minimizing the degeneration of these cells, especially in men.
However, there are still several studies ongoing on the effects of intermittent fasting in humans. These studies are essential to fully understand the effects of intermittent fasting in humans. Assessing the efficacy of intermittent fasting depends largely on the reasons for fasting.
Types of Intermittent Fasting
There are different approaches to intermittent fasting as there is no one-way method approach that suits everyone, and these differences are based on the lifestyle of an individual. The various types include:
The 16/8 Method
This method involves having a fasting window of 16 hours with an eight-hour eating window. Some practitioners encourage between 14-18 hours of fasting depending on the lifestyle and endurance of the individual.
For example, if you eat by 8 pm, the next ideal time to eat is 16 hours later at 12 noon the following day. This ratio of fasting is one of the most explored due to the convenience in the eating schedule and its suitability for the body’s natural circadian rhythm when properly planned.
The Alternate-Day Method
This type of intermittent fasting involves fasting on alternate days with an appropriate intake of calories. At first, this method might make you feel lethargic on fasting days, leading to a drop in productivity and energy at work. However, over time, your body will get used to fasting and adjust its cycle accordingly.
The 5/2 Method
The 5/2 method entails having five non-fasting days in a week and fasting on the remaining two days. This method is very flexible as you can decide when your fasting and non-fasting days will be, depending on your schedule. However, this fasting ratio can be quite difficult if you happen to have major activities on your fasting days.
The Warrior Diet
This method of carrying out intermittent fasting involves the person just eating once a day usually at night, and this typically involves having about a 20-hour fasting window with a four-hour eating window. An example would be an eating window between 6 pm-10 pm and subsequently fasting from 10 pm until 6 pm the following evening.
The major downside of this ration is that it is not in line with the body’s natural circadian rhythm as the digestive system functions better and metabolism is higher during the day. Having meals at night might reduce the quality of your sleep as the digestive system will be kept active.
Eat-Stop-Eat (24-Hour Method)
This type of intermittent fasting involves not eating for a minimum of 24 hours a week. It also involves just taking liquids and food with calories matching up to about 500 calories during the 24-hour fasting window. Again, the downside of this approach is if not properly planned, it may lead to you performing sub-optimally on fasting days.
Spontaneous Intermittent Fasting
Many regard this type of intermittent fasting as a more natural diet because it requires no structured timetable to follow. It also allows you to develop discretion and trains your body to not to eat unless very hungry. This type of fasting is highly advantageous because you don’t need to need to deprive yourself of food for unnecessarily long hours.
The Best Ratio for Intermittent Fasting for Men
According to research, the best ratio for intermittent fasting for men is the 16/8 method. This is because it has the importance of following the body’s natural order and rhythm with the circadian sleep cycle.
This ratio recommends eating between 12 pm and 6 pm, which allows for an early dinner. This is ideal because it decreases the rate of stomach acid’s influx to the esophagus, causing heartburn in people who eat quite late. The eight-hour eating window also gives you ample time to eat enough for lunch and dinner to last you the whole day
This method allows weight loss and does not allow for a significant dip in the blood glucose level. This method is easier to do compared to other types because you should be asleep for about eight to ten hours of the fast.
That said, keep in mind that every individual’s body has different nutritional requirements. If you do want to try intermittent fasting, it’s important to listen to your body and not push yourself beyond your limits. As with most diets, intermittent fasting is not without its share of side effects so make sure to check with a dietician or professional if you are able to take part in this diet.
Intermittent fasting has been shown to be an effective way of controlling weight and losing excess weight. However, it does require some self-control and discipline to maintain. Before embarking on this, it’s important to speak to the right professionals and remember to keep oneself hydrated throughout the day.