If you’ve been looking to shed some extra weight, chances are you’ve heard of intermittent fasting. It involves changing your eating routine to include periods of fasting staggered with periods of normal eating. Fasting can be done on a variety of schedules, depending on what is more convenient. There are many health benefits linked to intermittent fasting and studies have shown that the intermittent fasting weight loss results were superior over normal calorie restricted diets.
Intermittent Fasting Meal Plans
There are several formulas for intermittent fasting.
The 16:8 plan is by far the most common and the easiest to follow. It involves skipping breakfast and having the first meal of the day at 1 pm and the last before 9 pm, allowing for a 16 hour fast from 9 pm throughout the night to 1 pm the next day.
The Eat-Stop- Eat version requires two 24 hour fasts per week. The easiest way to pull this off is to have dinner on the first night and to skip meals until dinner the next night.
The 5:2 plan involves eating 500-600 calories on two consecutive days and then eating normally for the rest of the week.
The Warrior plan consists of a daily 20 hour fast with one large meal at night. This plan is inspired by the way that humans used to eat in the hunter-gatherer era when food was scarce.
Another plan involves a cheat day, followed by a 36 hour fast, while any of the above fasting methods can be followed for the remainder of the week.
Intermittent Fasting Health Benefits
Intermittent fasting has been linked to many health benefits.
Intermittent fasting stimulates the release of the human growth hormone (HGH) which stimulates muscle growth and fat loss .
Norepinephrine is released which has a fat-burning effect and is especially important in helping to lose belly fat .
Intermittent fasting improves cognitive processing 
Research has shown that 3-8% weight loss and 4-7% reduction of weight circumference has been observed with intermittent fasting . Also, less muscle loss has been observed compared to continuous calorie restricted diets .
Intermittent fasting reduces risk factors for cardiovascular diseases .
The Risks of Intermittent Fasting
One of the major risks of intermittent fasting is dehydration as the body is denied fluids obtained from food. It is critical that followers of an intermittent fasting diet drink lots of water to prevent dehydration. Intermittent fasting can also lead to increased stress and headaches, especially in the beginning. Heartburn can be experienced if excess stomach acid is produced in during the fasting period. There is also the risk of binge eating during the non-fasting periods of an intermittent fasting diet.
Safe Intermittent Fasting
The health benefits of intermittent fasting seems to outweigh the risks, most of which can be mitigated. If you do decide to give intermittent fasting a go, remember that weight that is lost quickly can also quickly be regained, so it’s important to commit to an eating pattern that is sustainable if you want to keep the weight off.
(Featured Image: Thrillist)