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Fasting has been a part of many cultural and religious traditions for ages. In ayurveda, it is used to balance the doshas and treat certain diseases. Fasting or upavasa is one of 10 langhana (that which produces lightness) therapies and it is considered beneficial in diseases characterized by heaviness such as obesity, indigestion, sinusitis, diabetes etc.
Intermittent fasting is a cyclical method of food intake involving set periods for eating and fasting. The common question on everyone’s mind is – how to do intermittent fasting? There are different types of intermittent fasting for weight loss, like the 16/8 method, where you only eat for 8 hours in a day and fast for 16 hours, or the 5:2 method, in which you eat normally for 5 days and take small meals for 2 days. Another method involves fasting every alternate day.
It is used to tackle an imbalance in kapha and pitta and is thought to help:
Intermittent fasting can help with weight loss. This makes sense to us instinctively. In fact, in prehistoric times it used to take a lot of time and effort to hunt for food, so we have evolved to go without food for long periods.
But how does it work? When we consume food it’s broken down in our gut and released into our bloodstream. Carbohydrates are broken down into sugar, and moved from the bloodstream into our cells by a hormone known as insulin. This sugar is used for energy by our cells. If our cells don’t need to use it all up then we store it as fat in our fat cells. When we fast our insulin levels go down. Instead of sugar moving into our fat cells, stored sugar is released from fat cells and used for energy. The basic idea behind intermittent fasting for weight loss is that when our insulin levels go down sufficiently, for long enough, we start to burn fat. So we’re essentially giving our bodies time to burn through the calories that we had during our last meal and then start burning fat.[Intermittent fasting: Surprising update]. Harvard Health Publishing. [Intermittent Fasting: What is it, and how does it work?]. The John Hopkins University.
While weight loss might be an obvious benefit of fasting, it also appears to trigger many functions and reactions in the body. Research indicates that it may offer various benefits:
Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating plan where you regularly switch between eating and fasting according to a schedule. While many weight loss plans and diets focus on what you eat, intermittent fasting for weight loss is focused on when you eat. In this eating plan, you only eat during a fixed time – this can translate to various schedules such as fasting for a specified number of hours in a day, having only one meal for a couple of days a week, etc. Let’s take a look at some common intermittent fasting methods:[Intermittent Fasting: What is it, and how does it work?].The John Hopkins University.
In this kind of intermittent fasting for weight loss, your calories are restricted to 500 calories for any two days in a week provided that they don’t immediately follow each other. This typically translates to 2 meals on fasting days – a 200-calorie one and a 300-calorie one – with a focus on high protein high fiber foods. You have a healthy, normal diet for the other five days in the week.
In this pattern of intermittent fasting for weight loss, you limit your calorie intake to 500 calories or around 25% of your normal diet every other day. In strict variations of this approach, you don’t consume any calories at all on alternate days. On non-fasting days you have a healthy normal diet.
People follow this form of IF fast completely for 24 hours – for instance, you can fast from lunch to lunch or breakfast to breakfast. It’s usually done only once or twice a week. And you may experience side effects such as headaches, fatigue, hunger, low energy, and irritability with this version. On non-fasting days you have a healthy, normal diet.
In this pattern of intermittent fasting for weight loss, you have set time periods during which you eat or fast. For instance, in the 14/10 method, you fast for 14 hours in a day and you can eat for 10 hours, say between 10 in the morning and 8 at night. Meanwhile, in the 16/8 method, you fast for 16 hours and you can eat for 8, say between 7 in the morning and 3 pm.
You can follow this pattern of eating once or twice a week or repeat it whenever you like.
And do keep in mind that it’s important to have a healthy balanced diet while intermittent fasting for weight loss no matter which method you follow. You can’t consume excessive calories or junk food during the non-fasting days and lose weight.[Intermittent Fasting: 4 Different Types Explained].Cleveland Clinic.
Some experts seem to favor time-restricted eating over other forms of intermittent eating. For one thing, we already fast when we sleep. It’s easier to extend this fast by a few hours than going for a version of intermittent fasting for weight loss which requires the severe restriction of calories.[Intermittent Fasting: 4 Different Types Explained].Cleveland Clinic.
Does it work? Yes. One study looked at the effect of restricted time eating on people with metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a combination of factors such as abdominal fat, high blood pressure, high triglyceride level, high fasting blood sugar, etc. which raises your risk for diabetes, heart disease, and other health issues.[Metabolic Syndrome]. U.S. National Library of Medicine. When the participants in this study restricted the window of time during which they consumed food to 10 hours for 12 weeks they found that it promoted weight loss and reduced abdominal fat, percentage of body fat, and waist circumference. It also reduced blood pressure and improved cardiometabolic health.Wilkinson, Michael J., Emily NC Manoogian, Adena Zadourian, Hannah Lo, Savannah Fakhouri, Azarin Shoghi, Xinran Wang et al. “Ten-hour time-restricted eating reduces weight, blood pressure, and … Continue reading
Experts also suggest that “early time-restricted feeding” where your meals are taken during the early part of the day (say between 7 am and 3pm) might be more beneficial because our internal clock has evolved to be in sync with the cycle of day and night.[Intermittent fasting: Surprising update].Harvard Health Publishing.
But irrespective of the method you choose, it’s recommended that you ease into it. For instance, if you want to follow the 16/8 method you might want to start off by fasting for 10 hours before gradually increasing the fasting period to 12 hours and then eventually 16 hours.[The benefits of intermittent fasting]. UCI Health.
Langhana therapies are supposed to be done under the supervision of an ayurvedic doctor. Inappropriate or excessive fasting can result in:
It is important to maintain a healthy weight because obesity is known to cause complications such as high blood pressure, sleep disorders, atherosclerosis, diabetes, heart disease, high blood cholesterol, and certain cancers.[red][Overweight and Obesity].National Institutes of Health.}} Fasting has traditionally been used in ayurveda for weight loss to treat obesity.
If intermittent fasting is safe for you then, you can make it a part of your lifestyle, that is, you can continue with your regimen indefinitely. But do check in with your doctor before you start this eating plan.[Intermittent Fasting: What is it, and how does it work?].The John Hopkins University.
Yes, intermittent fasting is generally safe for everyone. You should avoid it during pregnancy or if you are breastfeeding. Intermittent fasting might not be suitable for people with diabetes, gastroesophageal reflux, kidney stones, or a history of eating disorders. Young people below 18 years should avoid fasting. It is important to check with your doctor before you try intermittent fasting.
Yes, you can do intermittent fasting daily. As with any new routine, start slow and see how your body responds. If you plan to do intermittent fasting daily then start with 1o-12 hours of fasting and gradually move to 16 hours of fasting daily with an 8-hour eating window. It is important to check with your doctor before you try intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting is considered one of the healthiest forms of losing weight naturally. Fasting lowers insulin levels, triggering the body in utilizing stored fat as a source of energy for all our body functions. It also provides enough time for the body to digest and burn calories.
Experts believe that it takes a few weeks (8-10 weeks) for any visible reduction in weight. As with any weight loss regimen, the key is discipline and supplementing fasting with staying active, sticking to healthy foods, and handling stress in everyday life. People have lost about a pound of weight (~1/2 kg) every week.
You should avoid intermittent fasting during pregnancy or if you are breastfeeding. Intermittent fasting might not be suitable for people with diabetes, gastroesophageal reflux, kidney stones, or a history of eating disorders. Young people below 18 years should avoid fasting. It is important to check with your doctor before you try intermittent fasting.
Time-restricted eating (16:8 being the most favored) has been found to be the most effective form of intermittent eating. It’s easier to follow as you just have to extend the fasting while you sleep by a few more hours. All other forms of intermittent fasting require the severe restriction of calories and drastic changes in your normal diet patterns.
|↑1||[Intermittent fasting: Surprising update]. Harvard Health Publishing.|
|↑2||[Intermittent Fasting: What is it, and how does it work?]. The John Hopkins University.|
|↑3, ↑11||[The benefits of intermittent fasting]. UCI Health.|
|↑4, ↑14||[What is intermittent fasting? Does it have health benefits?].Mayo Clinic.|
|↑5, ↑12, ↑15||[Intermittent Fasting: What is it, and how does it work?].The John Hopkins University.|
|↑6, ↑7, ↑13||[Intermittent Fasting: 4 Different Types Explained].Cleveland Clinic.|
|↑8||[Metabolic Syndrome]. U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑9||Wilkinson, Michael J., Emily NC Manoogian, Adena Zadourian, Hannah Lo, Savannah Fakhouri, Azarin Shoghi, Xinran Wang et al. “Ten-hour time-restricted eating reduces weight, blood pressure, and atherogenic lipids in patients with metabolic syndrome.” Cell metabolism 31, no. 1 (2020): 92-104.|
|↑10||[Intermittent fasting: Surprising update].Harvard Health Publishing.|
With 6+ years of experience as a medical nutritionist, Ninny Sunny has worked with hospitals and brands like HealthifyMe and CureFit to guide people on lifestyle and nutritional issues. She is an expert in evaluating the nutritional status of people and can advise a balanced nutritional plan for optimizing overall health and wellness.