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intermittent fasting

What is intermittent fasting?

Changing your diet can be one of the best ways to improve your health and aid weight loss (along with regular exercise, of course).1 But finding the right diet can be really hard, especially with so many different plans to choose from. One of the biggest trends in the dieting industry at the moment is ‘intermittent fasting’.2 If you’re wondering whether this type of diet could work for you, we’ve got everything you need to know below.

What is intermittent fasting?

Let’s go back to basics. Intermittent fasting isn’t necessarily a diet because no food groups are excluded or restricted. All you need to do is avoid eating during a particular timeframe. This cycle of fasting and eating is repeated over and over again, helping you reduce your calorie intake over time.

Intermittent fasting is inspired by ancient eating patterns when food wasn’t as readily available as it is now. These days, we tend to lead much more sedentary lives, making it tricky to maintain a healthy weight. This way of eating aims to balance our modern lifestyles by taking our habits back in time.3

Different types of fasting

If you think intermittent fasting might be right for you, it’s worth remembering that there are quite a few different plans you could follow. These include:

  • The 16:8 method encourages you to fast for 16 hours, using the 8-hour window to refuel

  • The 5:2 diet involves eating normally for five days a week, with two 500-600 calorie fast days

  • The Eat Stop Eat diet involves two 24-hour fast days into each week while eating normally the rest of the time

  • The Alternative Day Fast encourages you to eat normally for four days a week, with three very low-calorie days interspersed

  • The Warrior Diet involves fasting during the day and eating as usual within a 4-hour evening window. It’s sometimes called the 20:4 diet

  • Unstructured fasting: you may prefer an unstructured approach, where meals are skipped when you’re not hungry, or you’re too busy to cook4

Whichever type of intermittent fasting plan you choose, it’s essential to include healthy and nutritious meals during your fueling windows.

What are the potential benefits of intermittent fasting?

There are many potential benefits to intermittent fasting. Weight loss is the man benefits, however, researchers are starting to learn more about the way intermittent fasting works, and there is some evidence that it can be beneficial for certain people.5

Like with all diets, though, it’s essential to consider your lifestyle, health requirements and goals before you start. Talk to your doctor to check that it’s a safe approach for you.

Who should avoid intermittent fasting?

Many enjoy intermittent fasting because it doesn’t feel like a diet. Instead of dictating what you eat, it tells you when to eat instead. However, it is still a restrictive way of eating, and it’s essential to think before you decide to start a fasting plan.

You should avoid intermittent fasting if you are:

  • pregnant or breastfeeding
  • have a history of disordered eating
  • have a chronic illness or ongoing health conditions (like diabetes or heart disease)
  • under 18 years old6

Preparations to take when starting intermittent fasting

If you’re interested in intermittent fasting, there’s no need to jump right into a 24-hour fast. It could be worth starting slowly to get your body used to your new eating pattern. Try shorter fasts for the first few weeks and gradually increase your fasting time if you want to.

You may also want to invest in certain diet foods to help you keep your calories low, particularly if you choose to do the 5:2 diet. These can help you feel fuller while keeping within your calorie allowance. It’s also essential to maintain a healthy diet during your eating windows. Use healthy cooking ingredients, unprocessed food, and primary food groups to keep your body as healthy as possible. Remember to stay hydrated too.7

Read more: Foods to eat and avoid during fasting

Last updated: 2 October 2020

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