Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Ben Affleck, Beyonce, Alia Bhatt, Jacqueline Fernandez, and Malaika Arora-Khan may seem to have little in common other than being celebrities but if media reports are to be believed, all of them follow the principles of intermittent fasting and have achieved great results because of it.
Those who swear by it because it is simple yet effective and easy to implement.
In Hollywood, British actor Tom Hardy has said that he could quickly gain lean muscle and lose weight for various movie roles thanks to intermittent fasting. According to media reports, Beyonce lost her pregnancy weight by it and Ben Affleck got in shape for the role of Batman by following intermittent fasting.
Similarly, Malaika Arora Khan has revealed that she eats her dinner by 7-8 pm and does not have breakfast in the morning. Her first meal is at noon. Alia Bhatt’s nutritionist has mentioned that she follows a vegetarian intermittent fasting plan and Jaqueline Fernandez too swears by intermittent fasting. She has her last meal by 7 pm and intakes lots of lemon water during the early morning hours.
What exactly is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting or IF as it is commonly known is an eating pattern with fixed cycles of eating and fasting. It is different from diets because intermittent fasting doesn’t specify what you can eat but when you can eat. It is also known as time-restricted eating.
When you are fasting, you are allowed to have water and zero calorie beverages like black coffee and green or herbal tea without sugar. The meal you have in the eight hour window can be regular meals.
The most common patterns are 16:8 where you fast for 16 hours and eat in the eight hour window and 5:2 where you eat normally for five days and restrict to 500-600 calories for two days. Other patterns are eat-fast-eat where you fast for 24 hours once or twice a week and alternate day fasting where you fast every other day.
What is the science behind intermittent fasting?
Human bodies have evolved to be able to go on many hours without food. Before humans started farming, they had to spend many hours without food as they hunted their prey or gathered fruits and berries to eat. Our bodies can not just survive but thrive when we fast.
In modern times, we eat as soon as we wake and eat till the time we go to sleep. Not just meals, we have snacks and junk food throughout the day. As most of our food is carbohydrate heavy, it causes a hike of glucose in the blood. Our body needs the hormone insulin to metabolize that glucose. If you have more glucose than you can use, insulin signals the body to store the glucose as fat.
When we fast, our body burns off the glucose from the last meal and uses fat stores for energy, this is called metabolic switching. This is a simplified reason why intermittent fasting leads to weight loss.
What are the benefits?
There have been many studies on intermittent fasting (IF) and there is growing evidence about its health and clinical benefits.
Weight loss: IF has shown to work as any other standard diets and leads to weight loss and abdominal fat loss and reduction in obesity.
Cognition: IF has shown to improve working memory, executive function and cognition i.e. conscious mental processes.
Diabetes: Two recent studies show IF reverses insulin resistance (where the organs develop resistance to insulin and require more insulin to use glucose in the body) in those with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.
Cardiovascular health: IF improves blood pressure, resting heart rate, high cholesterol, triglycerides. It also helps in reducing oxidative stress and inflammation that are linked to thickening of arteries.
Inflammation: Since IF reduces inflammation, it has shown improvement in conditions like arthritis, multiple sclerosis and asthma.
Neurodegenerative diseases: Animal and human studies show that IF can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease though more studies are needed to prove its impact on these diseases.
What are the drawbacks of intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting has multiple benefits but is not suitable for everyone. It should be avoided by pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding, children and teens under 18, those with eating disorders or those with diabetes or blood sugar problems.
Intermittent fasting can cause hormonal issues in women and missed menstrual cycles. Women are recommended to do relaxed fasting periods with shortened fasting windows, fewer fasting days and to halt fasting if side-effects are experienced.
It is recommended to seek advice from your medical practitioner before starting intermittent fasting.
Also it takes a while for the body to get used to the new eating pattern so you may experience-hunger, headache, nausea, insomnia and fatigue for the first few weeks when you start intermittent fasting.