Intermittent fasting is an increasingly popular diet trend that involves going for extended periods without eating, allowing your body to enter a state of fasted or "empty" metabolism.

Proponents of intermittent fasting claim that it can help you lose weight, reduce the risk of chronic disease and increase lifespan.

But is it safe? Should you worry about side effects?

If you're trying to decide whether or not intermittent fasting is right for you, read on for a comprehensive breakdown of everything you need to know how fasting.

What is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting (IF) or intermittent caloric restriction (ICR) is an eating pattern where you cycle between periods of fasting and eating. There's no one-size-fits-all approach to IF, and the fasts' length, frequency, and duration will depend on your health goals, lifestyle, and personal preferences.

The most common types of IF include Alternate-Day Fasting (ADF), 16:8 fasting (16-hour feeding window each day), and 24-hour fasting. These are all forms of prolonged fasting ‚Äď not short-term fasting. Lengthy fasting can last anywhere from a couple of days to several months.

How does intermittent fasting work?

The goal of intermittent fasting is to take advantage of the benefits of both short-term and prolonged fasting. You get the health and weight loss benefits of short-term fasting without having to go extreme or spending a lot of time in a "no food" state. Intermittent fasting also allows you to reap the benefits of prolonged fasting without going extreme.

Many people who try to fast for an extended period run into trouble and become so greedy that they end up binging at the end of the fast. This happens because they don't eat enough calories during the fast, so their bodies are depleted of energy. This can cause feelings of intense hunger at the end of the fast, and it makes it hard to stick to your plan. Intermittent fasting can help overcome this problem.

Intermittent fasting, also known as time-restricted eating or intermittent calorie restriction, is a type of dieting that restricts your caloric intake to specific periods of the day. Intermittent fasting has many benefits, including weight loss, better blood pressure control, and improved digestion. However, there is some debate surrounding the safety of intermittent fasting. Here we explore the science behind intermittent fasting and determine whether it is safe for you to try.

Pros of intermittent fasting

Here are the pros and cons of intermittent fasting, also known as "time restricted eating."

1. Intermittent fasting can help you lose weight.

2. It can improve your memory and cognitive function.

3. It can reduce inflammation in the body.

4. It can improve your mood and anxiety levels.

5. It can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

6. It can improve your sleep quality.

7. It can increase your lifespan.

8. It is an effective way to detoxify the body.

9. It is an effective treatment for various diseases, including epilepsy, cancer, and Alzheimer's.

10. Intermittent fasting is simple to follow and easy to stick with, which makes it a good choice for people who are new to dieting or nutritionism‚Äć

Styles of fasting

In one version of intermittent fasting called 5/2, people select two days each week to have just a small meal, eating normally for the other five days each week. There is the 5/2 plan, in which you have five days when you eat everyday meals, but then you fast two of those days. For the other two days, you restrict yourself to a single 500-600-calorie meal. You know, on Mondays and Thursdays, if these are your fasting days, you will not be eating, but you can only restrict yourself to one 500-calorie-lower meal. 

You can pick any two fasting days you want (say, Tuesdays and Thursdays) so long as between those; there is one non-fasting day. You can go with the 16/8 program, in which you fast for 16 hours, not eating anything, and for eight hours, eat. Most people tend to go for the 16/8 method, in which you get a one-hour window to eat and fast 16 hours each day, with all foods and all beverages with calories.

For example, you could only try eating for one eight-hour period per day and then fast the rest of the time. You could choose a day-to-day approach, where daily eating is limited to a single six-to-eight-hour timeframe every day. The 16/8 or split-time method involves skipping breakfast and restricting your daily eating periods to 8 hours (such as from 1 to 9 pm). This is where, each day, there is a specific amount of hours when you are fasting and a specific amount of hours where you limit yourself to eating only during this period. 

Longer fasts

Some people go on 24-hour fasts, which involves not eating any calories for a single day during a week or a month. You designate one window of time each day when you are allowed to eat, then you fast for the rest. So that is how you ultimately lose weight by going into intermittent fasting. When you are training hard, you have got to stay well-hydrated, and you have got to get lots of protein, but if on the fasting day, you are getting 500 calories when you are working out for2, then intermittent fasting could pose health risks.

Fasting research

Numerous studies show intermittent fasting is effective in helping people lose weight. The mechanisms through which intermittent fasting influences health are not fully understood, but they could include improvements in insulin sensitivity and anti-inflammatory effects. Through many short-term studies, intermittent fasting has been shown to be beneficial for weight loss, improving your health, and possibly protecting against the development of some diseases. Fasting to lose weight is a relatively new phenomenon, and it is becoming more and more popular, partly because it seems to work, at least for some people.

Research studies have shown that circadian rhythm-based fasting, combined with healthy eating and living, may be an effective weight loss method. Studies show that alternating day fasting does not result in more significant weight loss than continuous caloric restriction weight loss programs. Perhaps what produces the health benefits is not so much fasting itself but rather the overall reduced calorie intake (if that is, you are not overeating on the non-fasting days, which can cause caloric surpluses rather than deficits). 

A 2015 review of 2,650 adult women found that reducing caloric intake at night and long-term overnight fasting can lower inflammation and risk for breast cancer and other inflammatory conditions. Similar to the potentially heart-friendly benefits of intermittent fasting, studies have shown that prolonged Mediterranean-style dietary compliance can lower heart attacks and strokes by as much as 30% over five years.

Side effects of intermittent fasting

Some of the most common side effects of intermittent fasting are headaches, fatigue, and decreased energy levels. These side effects are often due to dehydration in the early stages of fasting. People who are new to fasting may find that they experience headaches and other symptoms as their bodies adapt to lower caloric intake.

Other potential side effects of intermittent fasting include low blood sugar, electrolyte imbalances, and decreased iron levels.

Should you try intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting is a relatively safe eating pattern that can help you lose weight, improve your health and increase your lifespan. That said, it's not appropriate for everyone, and you'll want to check with your doctor before embarking on any new diet.

If you're trying to lose weight, intermittent fasting can be a helpful strategy, especially if you find it challenging to stick to a reduced-calorie diet. It may also help reduce your risk of chronic disease. However, note that intermittent fasting is not an excuse to eat as much as you want during your eating window: all calories count, even those consumed during a fast.

That said, intermittent fasting may not be a good option for you if you're highly sensitive to hunger, have iron deficiency, or already eat a relatively low-calorie diet. If any of these apply to you, then intermittent fasting may cause more harm than good.

Final words

Intermittent fasting has numerous benefits, but it's not for everyone. You'll want to talk to your doctor before starting a fasting plan.

If you do get the go-ahead, be sure to follow these tips to make your fasting experience as easy and healthy as possible:

Drink plenty of water. Water can help curb hunger and prevent headaches.

Eat healthy fats. Healthy fats like nuts, avocado, and coconut oil can help curb hunger and improve mood.

Exercise. Exercising during your fasting window can help prevent cravings and feelings of lethargy.

If you're looking for a sustainable way to improve your health and lose weight, intermittent fasting may be just what you need.