Everyone knows what fasting is but no one pays any attention to it when it does: fasting is simply when you don’t eat, therefore, most of the time people fast.
Normally the longest period without eating is between dinner and breakfast, so 10-12 hours (and many even skip breakfast); the British in fact call breakfast breakfast: breaking a fast.
Intermittent fasting (IF) is not a diet, but a way of dealing with it; provides for the alternation of phases of fasting (or undernourishment) lasting from 16 to 36 hours to feeding phases and can include any choice of food (paleo, Mediterranean, vegan, vegetarian, zone and so on and so forth).So nothing special and upsetting, just add a few hours to the night fast.
Intermittent fasting is a hormetic stimulus: it means that if it is dosed correctly it produces a restorative and strengthening response from the body, as happens in the case of physical training.
How does it work and what are the benefits?
Among the most popular strategies are:
The 16: 8 scheme which is the most widespread and easily applicable. This pattern divides the day into two parts: 8 hours of eating and 16 hours of fasting. Usually breakfast is skipped, thus prolonging the night fast, and the first meal is eaten at noon, to eat until eight in the evening.
The 5: 2 scheme provides for an alternate-day diet: in this model the caloric intake is reduced to no more than 600 calories for two days a week. The days of fasting, however, do not have to be consecutive. On the other days, you can eat whatever you want.
The Eat Stop Eat scheme involves fasting for 24 consecutive hours, once or twice a week. Also in this model, as in the others, in the fasting phases it is possible to drink low-calorie drinks such as tea and coffee without sugar, as well as water of course.
This intermittent fasting diet would allow to keep blood sugar levels under control, as well as increase brain functions and promote weight loss, which can vary from 3 to 8% over a period ranging from 3 to 24 weeks. All the benefits of intermittent fasting, combined with each other, would favor a decrease in the risk of getting sick from some metabolic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases, even if there are still no reliable data on these possible positive implications.
Possible side effects?
One of the negative effects of intermittent fasting seems to be the yo-yo effect when returning to old eating habits. Breaking the “rules” maybe with an aperitif with friends in the fasting window can then become the new rule, with the risk of gaining weight and losing the benefits of this diet which must always be followed by a nutritionist or in any case by a specialist.
Another disadvantage of this diet is social and you have to take your social life into account before starting this diet. If you go out often with friends, you will have to give up brunch, birthday parties, Sunday lunches: can you imagine everyone eating and you drinking a glass of water or sipping a bitter coffee? Even if you schedule times and days based on going out with friends, you won’t always be able to be flexible. Therefore, if you have an active social life, it will be difficult to follow this diet.
Intermittent fasting would also increase hunger and the sense of fatigue, situations that can occur in the fasting phase, but which would only last a few days. In case of hunger, only green tea or unsweetened coffee is allowed. It is also important to pay attention to the hours of physical exercise as it is not recommended to practice sports during the fasting phase. It is also important to eat immediately after exercise, so as to nourish the muscles after training.
This diet is not suitable for everyone, there are some people who should avoid it. Among these:
- those suffering from diabetes, hypoglycemia and low blood pressure;
- children, pregnant and lactating women, athletes;
- people who suffer or have suffered from eating disorders.
In fact, these are categories of people who need to eat continuously during the day, or have energy needs that cannot have time windows. Furthermore, the restriction of calories must not lead to nutritional deficiencies.