Literally everybody – whether they practice it or not – knows that eating right is the best way to stay healthy. But over the last few years, there’s a trend gathering momentum, which advocates that choosing when you eat is as important as what you ingest. Yes, we’re talking about intermittent fasting, perhaps one of the world’s most popular health and fitness trends today.
So what exactly is intermittent fasting? Simply put, it’s an eating pattern that revolves around alternating periods of fasting and feasting. Given that it doesn’t specify the kinds of food that one should eat, but rather dictates a schedule for when one should partake, it’s rather more of an eating habit than a diet per se, albeit one that’s quite Spartan in spirit.
Yet, this frugal lifestyle is something that humans are conditioned to adapt to rather well. Throughout the course of human evolution, fasting has been a common-enough practice. Ancient cavemen ate whatever food they could hunt or gather, and when conditions were unsuitable for either, a period of enforced fasting would ensue. Hence, humans have evolved to be able to function without food for prolonged periods of time.
Perhaps because of that, to this day, fasting continues to have religious and spiritual connotations, with the practice of abstaining from food thought to be purifying for the body and soul in almost all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism.
Mystical implications aside, the more scientifically-inclined will undoubtedly be happy to hear that intermittent fasting has quite a few proven health benefits. When we fast, our body releases the fat-burning hormone, norepinephrine, which in turn boosts metabolism rates that can lead to weight loss, particularly the much-hated belly fat. Simultaneously, our growth hormone levels increase while insulin levels go down, kicking off cell repair processes that can boost our health in the long run.
Given all its benefits, it’s not surprising, then, that several different types of intermittent fasting have been devised, and should you be so inclined, here are three of the most popular versions to try:
The 16/8 method: As the name implies, this method restricts your daily eating period to eight hours, say, from 1pm to 9pm. Then you fast for 16 hours in between, skipping breakfast.
Eat-Stop-Eat: This involves fasting for 24 hours, once a week, but having regular meals at regular hours on all other days.
The 5:2 diet: With this method, your calories consumption goes down to a bare minimum of 500-600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week, but you can eat normally on the other five days.
Text: Suchetana Mukhopadhyay