What is intermittent fasting? Everything you need to know

Intermittent fasting has become fashionable to lose weight, especially among those who find it difficult to follow a diet to lose weight. However, Do you know what the intermittent fasting diet is and how it is carried out? In this article we tell you in detail.

Intermittent fasting to lose weight

Losing weight can be a difficult task. If you suffer from food cravings or simply can not resist a hearty dish or a delicious dessert, read on.

What is intermittent fasting?

As the name implies, this diet to lose weight consists in fasting sporadically, that is to say that the person following this diet stops eating during a pre-established period.

Let's take an example to make it clear: María has decided to try intermittent fasting to lose her extra kilos. For this reason, has decided to fast twice a week for 16 hours, always under medical supervision.

The intermittent fasting diet is not related to any food disease. On the contrary, it must be controlled by a nutritionist.

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How does this diet work?

Fasting does not mean starvation, but choosing not to eat for a period of time to burn fat.

According to the people who support this diet, every time we eat, we ingest more energy than necessary. A) Yes, our body saves it for later use, when I need it.

The sugar in which the carbohydrates are broken down can only enter the cells with the help of insulin, the hormone produced by the pancreas that is responsible for helping to store energy for when it is needed.

When we ingest more energy than we use, a part of it is converted into fat and distributed throughout our body. When fasting, insulin levels fall (since it is not necessary to store sugars) and the body begins to use the stored fat to obtain energy.

The functioning of the diet is, then, easy to understand: it is assumed that by interspersing periods of food intake (high insulin) and energy storage with periods of fasting (low insulin), the body will burn more fat than when it is in a continuous state of consumption.

A) Yes, the person who adheres to this diet must perform pre-established fasts which may have a different duration depending on personal needs (and willpower).

Types of intermittent fasting diet

This diet can be carried out in countless different ways. However, we want to present you the main models to carry it out:

  1. Fasting 12/12: this diet would involve a breakfast and dinner, separated by a 12-hour fast. For example, breakfast at 7 in the morning and dinner at 7:00 p.m.
  2. Fast 16/8: the idea here is to fast for 16 hours (consuming liquids, of course) and then, feeding for 8 hours. In this way, we could establish a fasting period of 21 to 13 hours and a diet of 13 to 21.
  3. Fast 20/4: the fasting period extends to 20 hours, followed by 4 hours where you can eat food.
  4. Fasting 24: the fasting period is, in this case, a full day. Water consumption is allowed, of course, and fasting is done every other day. For example, one day or two days a week, alternated with days of habitual intake.
  5. Fasting 48: who follows the diet must fast for two whole days, always maintaining a good hydration.

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Is it healthy to fast?

Every day we fast, even without wanting it. The definition of fasting is not to eat food for a period of time, just what we do daily while we sleep.

According to different studies, when fasting is controlled within a balanced diet and there are no health problems such as diabetes, it could be beneficial to lose weight and thus reduce the cardiovascular risks caused by the accumulation of fats.

However, some specialists point out that fasting could cause serious damage to the body in pregnant people, with diabetes problems (because fasting could cause hypoglycemia) or other chronic problems.

Before starting on the intermittent fasting diet, consult your doctor about it.

Its benefits are similar to those of other diets

Different studies have suggested that the benefits of intermittent fasting would be similar to those of other diets.

In 2018, the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) conducted an investigation called HELENA. There, it was sought to establish if the intermittent fasting diet could become really beneficial to lose weight and if it caused damage to health. The conclusions of the study were the following:

  • It is a diet similar to others to lose weight.
  • It can mainly help those who have problems maintaining discipline every day of the week.
  • The loss of kilos of those who performed the fast was similar to that of the control group that performed a conventional diet.

Fasting would reduce body fat

Another investigation of 2016 suggested that performing fasting 12/8 for 8 weeks, in conjunction with mentoring sessions, by men would help improve health markers while reducing body fat, without generating muscle mass loss.

It would help to modify the appetite

The specialists also studied a group of people with obesity and prediabetes to determine if this diet would be suitable for them. Fasting was done in such a way that people ingested food during a period of 8 hours a day.

The results showed that, after five weeks, the patients had decreased their appetite as well as their blood pressure, although they had not lost weight.

Risks of intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting is not without causing side effects; therefore, it must be done under medical supervision.

As we have already mentioned, there are no conclusive results that guarantee 100% the benefits of intermittent fasting. In fact, at the annual meeting of the European Society of Endocrinology held in 2018 in Barcelona, ​​possible consequences on the metabolism were suggested when fasting:

  1. Possibility of developing type 2 diabetes: In a study conducted in rats, it was observed that, after intermittent fasting, they lost weight. However, it increased the accumulation of fats in the abdomen, a situation that has been shown to be related to the possible development of type 2 diabetes.
  2. Risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases: intermittent fasting could increase oxidative stress and the production of free radicals, two situations that according to current data would accelerate the aging of DNA, increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, cancer and neuronal degeneration.
  3. Damage to insulin secretion by pancreatic cells.
  4. High levels of free radicals.
  5. Signs of insulin resistance. At this point, researchers have pointed out that it should be considered that many people with obesity were already resistant to insulin before fasting.

The specialists pointed out that, despite helping to lose weight quickly, the intermittent fasting diet could seriously damage the organism, which is why they do not recommend follow-up.

If you plan to start the intermittent fasting diet, consult your doctor about it. The professional will know how to guide you and recommend you if really fasting could be the best for you or not.