Eating with structure: everything about intermittent fasting
What do yoga fans, Hollywood actresses, and Bavarian housewives have in common? They all swear by intermittent fasting. For a good reason: Hardly any other nutritional method is so uncomplicated and at the same time so effective. What you have to consider
Intermittent fasting, i.e. not eating for a limited time per day or week, has risen from being a widespread and extremely popular diet method in recent years.
No wonder: It is easy to implement, can be applied to all nutritional preferences, helps very effectively with weight loss, and steers unhealthy, uncontrolled eating behavior into healthier channels.
Oh, and it also optimizes your metabolism, your digestion, your sleep, your immune system, and, and, and…
But from the beginning.
The modern diet: We snack on ourselves when we are sick
In contrast to our ancestors, who naturally had to endure constant fasting phases, in the modern world, food is available to us at all times: from sweet baked goods to fast-food restaurants and delivery services to 24-hour kiosks, we are available from morning to night exposed to the temptations of the food industry.
The effect: Many of us snack our way through the day. Instead of eating freshly cooked meals at fixed times in peace and quiet, we stuff ourselves with highly processed foods that usually contain a lot of sugar and fat but few nutrients.
As a reward, an anesthetic, or simply because we couldn’t get through the day without our sugar high.
On the one hand, this leads to a fluctuating blood sugar level, which on the one hand, makes us constantly crave even more carbohydrates but also causes emotional fluctuations.
If we snack in front of the TV until late at night, we also sleep less well because our digestion is completely overwhelmed and is active all day and all night. As a result, our body has less energy for other detoxification and renewal processes that take place during sleep.
When we get up, we don’t feel the least bit recovered. We suffer from swollen eyes, a coated tongue, and bad breath – in short: we feel bad. In the long term, the consequences of modern nutrition are even more devastating.
It not only leads to obesity (often accompanied by a lack of high-quality nutrients), but also increases the likelihood of all types of cardiovascular problems, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, depression, and burnout – and thus not only massively reduces the quality of life, but also the lifespan.
So what can we do to resist the temptation to rebalance blood sugar and energy levels?
Solutions are offered from everywhere: We should eat completely sugar-free, vegetarian, or vegan anyway, according to the rules of Paleo or Clean Eating, or according to our Ayurvedic constitution.
Most of these diets are quite complex to implement, make going to restaurants and barbecue parties difficult if not impossible – and lead to a bad mood at the dinner table because not everyone finds steamed fennel delicious. Quite apart from the fact that we usually don’t last long for all of the reasons mentioned.
The alternative to diets and bans: intermittent fasting
But there is salvation! In the form of a fasting method that anyone can implement immediately and without great financial or organizational effort, interval fasting is also known as intermittent fasting.
In contrast to classic fasting, fasting is not done for several days or even weeks in a row; instead, phases of fasting and normal nutrition alternate in a regular rhythm: you can fast for 16 hours every day and only eat during the remaining eight hours fasting two days a week, or even alternate fasting one day and eating normally one day.
During the fasting phases, you only drink water and herbal teas. During the eating phases, you can decide how much and when you eat.
However, if you follow the tips below, you can significantly increase the effect of intermittent fasting.
They all ensure that your body can metabolize the food optimally and with little energy expenditure and thus relieve your entire organism:
- Always eat at the same time (exceptions prove the rule here, of course).
- Eat calmly and with pleasure, and chew each bite thoroughly.
- If possible, only eat warm, freshly prepared food made from as few processed products as possible.
- Don’t eat your last meal too late: five hours before bedtime.
- Do not drink during meals, but preferably an hour before or after eating.
If these tips sound familiar to you: These are classic recommendations from the ancient Indian health system Ayurveda.
This is no coincidence: Because longer fasting phases are a classic Ayurveda method to allow the body to digest optimally – and thus to supply the body with as many nutrients as possible and to form as few toxins and waste products as possible, which in Ayurveda are the main causes of most diseases apply.
The 3 most popular variations of intermittent fasting
The following variants of intermittent fasting are particularly well known, but you can adapt them to your needs.
16/8: 16 hours of fasting, eight hours of eating
This variant of intermittent fasting is best for beginners because it differs the least from our usual eating rhythm.
While you normally do not eat anything at night and eat several meals during the day from early in the morning to late in the evening, the 16/8 variant turns the tables on you: You extend the overnight fasting phase to 16 hours and only eat during the following eight hours.
It is optimal if you eat two healthy, wholesome meals during the eating period. For example, you can have a late breakfast at 11 a.m. and then have dinner between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Brunch at the weekend, going out to dinner with friends in the evening, and even (albeit as an exception) afternoon barbecues or coffee and cake events are no problem with this system.
If you are used to eating late in the evening or waking up hungry in the morning, this variant is still a change – but experience has shown that the body adapts to it fairly quickly.
There are other extreme variants of this method: 18/6 and 20/4 require fasting for 18 or 20 hours, and eating is only permitted for six or four hours. In contrast to the 16/8 method, these variants are unsuitable for long-term use.
5/2: Five days of eating, 2 days of fasting
If you don’t have a problem with not eating for a long time, you can also try the 5/2 variant of intermittent fasting. Here you fast two days a week from morning to evening.
Some people only drink water and herbal tea these days, while others eat a very reduced calorie intake of 500 to 600 calories.
This can also be a broth day, a kitchari day, or a potato day. This is no longer considered strict fasting, but it allows people who would have circulatory problems or could not concentrate without eating to do this type of intermittent fasting.
Scientific research suggests that the positive effects of intermittent fasting are most evident when eating normally for two to three days, followed by fasting for one day each.
In concrete terms, this means that you fast on Monday and Thursday, for example, and eat normally the rest of the week. But if you get an invitation to a romantic dinner on Thursday, that’s no problem.
It may even be better to vary the days every now and then. After all, that’s how it was with our ancestors: when we were still hunters and gatherers (i.e. before our time as sedentary farmers and cattle breeders), it wasn’t possible to plan which days there would be food.
And our body still seems to have memorized this rhythm.
24/24: 24-hour eating, 24-hour fasting
The principle is simple: one day, you eat what you want. The next day, you fast. This is the most extreme type of intermittent fasting and is therefore only suitable for shorter periods of time.
The effect of intermittent fasting: many advantages, hardly any disadvantages
Intermittent fasting has a variety of positive effects:
- Basically, many people find it easier to adhere to specific fasting periods than complicated dietary rules.
- The knowledge that they can eat whatever they want during mealtimes also noticeably relaxes some people’s eating habits to eat more naturally and healthily naturally.
- In contrast to classic fasting, the digestive system is not completely paralyzed. The body also does not release massive amounts of toxic substances. When fasting, the body only attacks the fat reserves in which many toxins are stored after a few days without carbohydrates. Which then have to be processed by the liver, kidneys, etc. So that it too there are no fasting crises and the like. The body is not attacked and broken down by the muscle mass in starvation mode.
- In addition, there is no danger of slipping into an eating disorder with intermittent fasting, as is known from fasting.
- Also, intermittent fasting doesn’t require exotic or expensive foods, and it imposes minimal lifestyle restrictions. As a rule, you can also perform normally to go about your work without any problems.
- Your stomach benefits immensely from the digestive breaks. If you eat constantly, your digestive system is constantly busy: the stomach then has to work with strong acids to process a large amount of food pulp that has been digested to varying degrees – which can lead to problems such as heartburn stomach ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, etc. However, suppose you regularly give your body longer digestive breaks, in which it can metabolize the food in peace and carry out the necessary detoxification processes. In that case, you save a lot of energy and effectively alleviate stomach problems and digestive difficulties.
- In addition, intermittent fasting puts an end to the unhealthy ups and downs in blood sugar. If you eat chocolate bars at regular intervals, the blood sugar level shoots up every time, so your body releases regulating insulin. After that, the blood sugar level rushes back into the basement – and you want it next candy bar. This toxic cycle resembles an addiction, but it is also a major cause of type II diabetes.
- Intermittent fasting can even improve athletic performance. Those who fast intermittently produce more of the body’s growth hormone HGH. This ensures that fat is broken down faster and muscle mass is built up faster. That’s why it’s possible to lose weight with intermittent fasting, even if you’re consuming the same number of calories as before!
- However, there are many other positive effects of intermittent fasting, which have only been sufficiently proven in animal experiments and cannot be directly transferred to humans. Nevertheless, they are impressive. They range from increased life expectancy to lower cancer growth to less pronounced diabetes and Alzheimer’s symptoms.
Are there any disadvantages to intermittent fasting?
If you are chronically or acutely ill, you should first clarify with your doctor to what extent intermittent fasting is suitable for you.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should not fast – but this applies to nutritional change and diet. Otherwise, no negative effects of intermittent fasting have been proven so far.
As always, you should listen to your feelings first and foremost. Is this type of diet good for you?
If you feel worse instead of better after a few days of intermittent fasting, you have to clarify this.
However, it is much more likely that you will feel so much better after a short time that you will start intermittent fasting regularly from now on!