A Beginner’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting

Blog Author
Harry Longworth
Date of post
31 May 2024
Blog Category

In a world guided by social media, fitness influencers and nutrition trends, it’s hard to know what nutritional approaches are right for you. So, we’re here to help educate you in order for you to make the most informed, best decisions for yourself. One hot topic at the moment is intermittent fasting… so let’s chat about it.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting isn’t a ‘diet’ in a traditional sense. It focuses on when you eat, not necessarily what you eat. It involves cycling between eating and fasting. These cycles can take various forms, for example:

  • Week-long fasting: This involves restricting your intake or not eating at all for a long period of time.
  • 5:2 Method: This approach involves eating normally for 5 days of the week and restricting calorie intake to 500-600 calories on the remaining 2 non-consecutive days.
  • Hourly fasting/ 16/8 Method: This involves restricting your eating window to 8 hours and fasting for the remaining 16 hours. For example, you could eat between noon and 8 pm, then fast for the rest of the day and night.

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting:

Research suggests that intermittent fasting offers a range of potential benefits, including:

Weight Management:

  • Restricts calorie intake: By limiting your eating window, you naturally consume fewer calories, promoting a calorie deficit and weight loss.
  • May increase metabolism: Some studies suggest intermittent fasting can boost metabolism, further aiding weight management.
  • Improves insulin sensitivity: intermittent fasting may help your body use insulin more effectively, regulating blood sugar and potentially aiding weight control.

Improved Metabolic Health:

  • Blood sugar control: As mentioned above, intermittent fasting may improve insulin sensitivity, leading to better blood sugar control and potentially benefiting those with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes.
  • Reduced risk of metabolic syndrome: Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and unhealthy cholesterol levels. Studies suggest intermittent fasting may help reduce the risk of developing this syndrome.

Enhanced Brain Function:

  • Improved cognitive function: Research suggests intermittent fasting may positively impact memory, focus, and overall cognitive function. This could be due to increased production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that promotes the growth and health of brain cells.
  • Neuroprotection: Some studies indicate that intermittent fasting may have neuroprotective properties, potentially reducing the risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Cellular Repair and Reduced Inflammation:

  • Autophagy: Fasting may trigger autophagy, a cellular process where the body cleans out damaged cells and promotes cellular repair. This can potentially improve overall health and longevity.
  • Reduced inflammation: Chronic inflammation is a risk factor for various health issues. Studies suggest intermittent fasting may help reduce inflammation markers in the body.

Additional Potential Benefits:

  • Improved heart health: Some research suggests that intermittent fasting may improve cholesterol levels and other heart health markers.
  • Increased longevity: Studies on animals suggest that intermittent fasting may promote longevity, although more research is needed in humans.
  • Improved gut health: Preliminary research indicates that intermittent fasting may positively impact gut microbiome composition, potentially leading to improved gut health.

Intermittent Fasting and Women’s Health: Considerations and Safety

Intermittent fasting has gained popularity for its potential health benefits, but the impact on women’s health requires a closer look. While research suggests potential benefits for everyone, women’s hormonal fluctuations can be affected by intermittent, making it crucial to approach it with caution.

Potential Safety Concerns for Females:

  • Menstrual Cycle Irregularities: Restricting calories or fasting for extended periods can disrupt the delicate hormonal balance involved in menstruation. This could lead to irregular periods, missed periods, or even amenorrhea (absence of periods).
  • Reduced Bone Density: Studies suggest IF may increase the risk of bone loss in women, particularly those already prone to osteoporosis.
  • Nutrient Deficiencies: Limited eating windows can make it challenging to meet all your nutritional needs. Women have specific needs for iron, calcium, and other essential nutrients.

Safety Tips for Women Considering Intermittent Fasting:

  • Consult a professional: Before embarking on IF, talk to your doctor, especially if you have any pre-existing health conditions, are pregnant, or breastfeeding. They can help you determine if intermittent fasting is safe and design a plan that suits your needs.
  • Modify Intermittent Fasting Methods: Consider less restrictive methods like the 16/8 method or alternate-day fasting to minimise hormonal disruption.
  • Focus on Nutrient-Dense Foods: Prioritise whole foods, fruits, vegetables, and lean protein sources during your eating window to ensure you’re getting the vitamins and minerals your body needs.
  • Listen to Your Body: Don’t push yourself too hard. Pay attention to hunger cues and adjust your fasting duration or eating window if necessary.
  • Monitor Your Cycle: Track your menstrual cycle and be mindful of any changes. If you experience irregularities, consult your doctor.

Who Should Consider Intermittent Fasting?

While intermittent fasting offers potential benefits, it’s important to understand it may not be suitable for everyone. Consult your doctor before starting intermittent, especially intermittent fasting you:

  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Have a history of eating disorders
  • Have uncontrolled diabetes
  • Are undergoing cancer treatment

Getting Started with Intermittent Fasting:

Intermittent fasting you’re curious about trying intermittent fasting, here are some tips for a smooth transition:

  • Choose a Method: Research intermittent fastingFerent intermittent fasting methods and select one that fits your intermittent fasting style best.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of water and unsweetened beverages is crucial during fasting periods.
  • Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your hunger cues and adjust your eating window or fasting duration intermittent fasting needed.
  • Focus on Nutrient-Dense Foods: During your eating window, prioritise whole foods, fruits, vegetables, and lean protein sources.
  • Mindful Eating: Practise mindful eating during your eating window, chewing slowly and savouring your food.

Conclusion:

Intermittent fasting is an interesting approach to potentially improve your health and well-being. However, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. intermittent fasting you’re considering trying intermittent fasting, ensure you consult with an online coach (like one of our coaches) and choose a method that aligns with your intermittent fasting style and health goals. 

Disclaimer: This blog post is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. 

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