Intermittent fasting remains a popular option for losing weight. Here’s the latest take on this strategy as we approach the end of 2020.
Surely but slowly, the world heads towards recovery. At least, we sure hope so. That being said, amid the lockdowns and social-distancing ordinances, a lot of people have ended up leading more sedentary, less active lifestyles punctuated by home delivery of fast food. So, for those of us in need of a better diet—or for any of us simply looking to upgrade our dietary habits—perhaps it’s the perfect time to (re)visit a popular staple of healthy eating: intermittent fasting.
Now, as the name suggests, intermittent fasting or IF basically means alternating between periods of fasting and periods of eating more
or less normally. There are, of course, arguments for less challenging methods, from adopting plant-based diets to Mediterranean-style diets or simply cutting off sugars and refined grains. However, there is plenty of scientific evidence that corroborate the effectiveness of IF. It’s also worth noting that the human body is more than capable of missing out on occasional meals. Our bodies won’t “go into starvation mode” and start losing muscle just because we don’t eat three square meals a day.
Interestingly, there are quite a few methods or eating patterns that fall under the intermittent fasting umbrella. Chances are, any of us can find a system that can easily blend into our day-to-day routines. So, in no particular order, here are some of the most popular forms of IF:
ADD AN ELEMENT OF RANDOMNESS: SPONTANEOUS MEAL SKIPPING
This is basically the least structured form of intermittent fasting and simply entails skipping several meals each week. For instance: No breakfast on Monday when you have to rush out to work extra early anyway and skip dinner on Thursdays and Saturdays.
AS SIMPLE AS IT GETS: ALTERNATE-DAY FASTING
This one is simple and straightforward: fasting every other day. So, you eat normally today, fast tomorrow, eat normally again the day after and so on. The usual approach to this method, however, is to limit yourself to, say, 500 calories during your fast days. By comparison, the recommended daily calorie intake is 2,000 calories a day for women and 2,500 for men. The extreme form of alternate-day fasting would be doing a full, 24-hour fast every other day. Please note the word “extreme” and be careful about considering this approach. But since we’re already talking about 24-hour fasts, this brings us to the next option:
DISCIPLINE REQUIRED: EAT-STOP-EAT
Popularized by fitness expert and author Brad Pilon, this method involves doing one or two 24-hour fasts each week. Water and other zero-calorie drinks are allowed on fast days, but solid woods are a definite “no.” The key to this diet, however, is that you eat normally during your non-fasting days. It goes without saying that this can be a rather challenging eating pattern. So, approach with caution. Perhaps reading Pilon’s book, “Eat Stop Eat” would help.
“IT’S ALSO WORTH NOTING THAT THE HUMAN BODY IS MORE THAN CAPABLE OF MISSING OUT ON OCCASIONAL MEALS. OUR BODIES WON’T “GO INTO STARVATION MODE” AND START LOSING MUSCLE JUST BECAUSE WE DON’T EAT THREE SQUARE MEALS A DAY”
HARDCORE OPTION: THE WARRIOR DIET
For his book “The Warrior Diet,” fitness expert Ori Hofmekler looked to the to the primal habits of early cultures. There are, of course, a lot of nuance and details that go with this approach, but the system basically boils down to: Eat small amounts of raw fruits and vegetables throughout the day, eat one huge meal in a four-hour eating window at night. On top of that,
the recommended food choices for this diet are similar to what is proposed in the paleo diet.
BY THE NUMBERS PART 1: THE 5:2 DIET
Also known as the Fast Diet as popularized by British journalist Michael Mosley, the 5:2 diet entails eating normally for five days of the week, then restricting yourself to small meals totaling about 600 calories a day for the other two.
BY THE NUMBERS PART 2: THE 16/8 METHOD
Now we come to what is perhaps the best known IF method, where the 24 hours of a day are divided into a 16-hour fast period and an 8-hour eating window. So, if you usually eat dinner at around 7PM, you can start your fast period at 8PM and eat again at 12PM the next day. Of course, there’s also a famous fitness expert behind the popularity of this method: Martin Berkhan aka the godfather of intermittent fasting.
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