Can Intermittent Fasting Really Work For Your Health Goals?
Firstly, don’t let yourself get tangled up by the terminology, because although intermittent fasting (IF) may sound complicated, all it really means is going for an extended length of time without eating anything.
It’s become a pretty popular health trend these days, especially when it comes to weight loss, but the reality is it’s nothing new. We all do a form of fasting every single day, when we go to sleep. Plus, people have fasted throughout history, either for religious purposes or when food was scarce.
Now though, the benefits of intermittent fasting are widely reported, with many experts stating how it can help you lose body fat, combat neurodegenerative diseases, and even slow down the ageing process. Of course these benefits can vary depending on the person, and how exactly they are using intermittent fasting within their diet. So, do you think IF can help you reach your health goals?
How does IF work?
Essentially IF involves an extended break between meals. The majority of people fast between the last meal of the day and breakfast the following morning. However, intermittent fasting involves intentionally extended periods of fasting, anywhere from 12 to 24 hours.
Various healthy meal prep, weight loss, muscle gain and general fitness plans are now advocating different levels of IF. For example, some suggest that you spend 8 hours eating steadily followed by a fast of 16 hours, while others recommend a 4 hours of high calorie intake followed by a 20 hour fast. Some of these plans even suggest fasting for a whole 24 hours once a week, with the rest of the week open for you to eat as much as you want.
IF only works when you make a conscious effort to skip certain meals on purpose, because this means you’ll only be consuming calories during a specific window of the day.
Does IF actually work?
So, although there are numerous benefits that have been attributed to successfully using intermittent fasting in your diet plan, the main reason people choose to practice it, is for weight loss. If this is also your main health and fitness goal at the moment than IF could very well help you reach that goal.
The reason for this, is because those who practice IF end up eating fewer calories compared to the calories they burn off every day. Limiting your eating time to specific windows during the day, or week, makes it much more difficult to overeat. It provides an easy to follow structure, which allows you to better measure your calorie intake, and it can also help you avoid binge eating during your fasting time.
Of course you can still end up overeating, but having the limited time window will hopefully get you to be more disciplined with your meals. IF can also be very flexible, which can make it an ideal option for those who think they are too busy to lead a healthy lifestyle. You could start early and have your last meal in the early evening, or skip breakfast, and have your initial meal around midday. If you’re disciplined and consistent, then the energy deficit you create through IF will lead to weight loss, and sticking to the time windows will make it easier to limit your calories.
Can IF work for you?
Keep in mind that if you decide to try IF, you can’t just reach for the junk food during your window, you still need to make an effort to consume healthy well balanced meals. If you start randomly skipping meals while continuing to eat a diet high in processed foods, you won’t see any weight loss benefits or improvement to your overall health.
It’s essential that you have a healthy meal prep plan in place before you begin any intermittent fasting, and that you pay attention to the nutritional specifics of the food you’re consuming during your eating window. Otherwise the whole process won’t end up giving you the results you desire.
IF might be inconvenient and not right for your lifestyle, and for some it can also end up being quite dangerous. For example, if you’re pregnant, chronically stressed, or if you have a history of eating disorders. So before you start skipping meals, make sure IF won’t be detrimental to your health and make sure that you’re properly prepared to put it into practice.
Don’t forget, intermittent fasting isn’t the only option to achieve your health and fitness goals. Getting healthy delicious meal prep plans delivered to your door, combined with regular exercise can also work wonders!