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There are many ways to increase your overall well-being. For some people, opting for healthy vegan snacks is the way to go, while others prefer a low-carb, high-protein approach. Intermittent fasting is an old favourite that’s making a comeback in a big way.
How familiar are you with this eating plan? What makes it more effective than the usual starve-yourself-count-your-calorie plans?
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Essentially, intermittent fasting is an eating plan that alternates between fasting and eating specifically chosen foods according to a regular schedule. While many conventional diets generally focus on what you should eat, intermittent fasting switches the focus to when you eat. In short, on an intermittent fasting eating plan, you’re only allowed to eat at specific times.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
Intermittent fasting works by increasing the time between calorie intakes to give your body adequate time to burn through all the calories you’ve consumed at the previous meal. By prolonging the period between meals, you encourage your body to start burning fat.
Consider this. If you eat three meals every day, a few snacks and several sugary drinks with no or minimal exercise, what are you doing? You may think you’re being semi-healthy but in fact you’re just running on calories without burning any of your fat stores. By continually eating without burning fat, you’re simply restocking your fat stores.
With intermittent fasting the premise is that your eating habits result in nothing being added to your fat stores.
Intermittent Fasting Eating Plan Types
For the most part, intermittent fasting involves a variety of different plans created around daily 16-hour fasts. Alternatively, you can opt to fast for 24 hours, twice per week.
The most common intermittent fasting methods are:
- The 16/8 method: Also known as the Leangains protocol, this method involves skipping breakfast and then only allowing for an 8-hour window in which you can eat. For instance, you can choose to have your first meal of the day at 1 pm and your last by 9 pm. Essentially, you’ll be fasting for the 16 hours in between, only drinking water and black tea.
- Eat-stop-eat: This plan involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice every week. This means not eating between dinner on day one to dinner time on the next day. You can however drink water or black tea.
- The 5:2 diet: Here you can consume only 500-600 calories on two non-consecutive days per week. You can eat normally on the other five days.
With these fasting plans, you may start feeling less bloated and find that you have more energy. You will also experience some weight loss if you don’t overeat on the days that you can eat normally. The 16/8 method is the most popular of the three plans because it’s the easiest to follow and is reported to be the most sustainable.
What Can You Eat on an Intermittent Fasting Plan?
For the most part, none of the intermittent fasting plans limits the types of food you can eat during the periods that you’re allowed to eat. However, there are recommendations for people who want to generally eat healthier.
If you’re doing an intermittent fasting plan to lose weight, or improve your overall health, it makes sense to avoid junk food, sugary snacks and any foods that offer no nutritional value. It’s recommended that you include fresh vegetables, fruit and omega-3 food sources during the times you’re permitted to eat.
Healthier alternatives will also limit the headaches and general weakness that you might feel in the first few days of fasting. Many people who have had success with these plans suggest stocking up on a variety of vegan treats as these are packed with vitamins and nutrients.
Benefits of an Intermittent Fasting Plan
Some of the top benefits of opting for an intermittent fasting plan are listed below:
- Aids with weight loss and reduces visceral fat: Did you know 67% of Australians are overweight? For various age groups intermittent fasting is a safe eating plan to consider because you’re essentially eating fewer calories and encouraging internal fat burning.
- Lowers risk of type 2 diabetes: By reducing your food intake, you’re also limiting your insulin resistance which in turn makes you less susceptible to type 2 diabetes.
- Beneficial for heart health: Intermittent fasting can help prevent heart disease. The most significant effects are blood pressure, blood sugar levels and LDL cholesterol levels that often become better after this type of diet has been followed.
- Induces several cellular repair processes: Fasting activates a waste removal process called autophagy. This not only cleanses the body but has been shown to reduce the possibility of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
If approached with the correct mindset, an intermittent fasting plan can help you lose weight and improve your general well-being. Keep in mind that you need to be disciplined about the food that you do consume to ensure the fasting is effective. With the benefits to your health, it’s well worth a try!