In recent years, the mentalities of our society have evolved regarding health, well-being and nutrition . Overall, people want to eat better and take better care of their bodies. With this in mind, health plans are becoming more and more publicized. Particular attention is paid to intermittent fasting, a popular diet that allows you to take control of your health. Today, its benefits on the body are controversial. Through this article, we will try to answer your questions about intermittent fasting and above all to confront the “what they say” with scientific facts.
What is intermittent fasting?
Fasting is the ability we have to go without food without really feeling the sensation of hunger while still being active. We differentiate between continuous fasting and intermittent fasting, which consists of alternating periods of fasting and periods of meals according to regular schedules. This type of fasting is increasingly practiced. It is not seen as a low-calorie or restrictive diet but rather as a cure that would improve one's health. Indeed, continuously providing calories to the body would constantly make the body's cells work. According to some researchers, intermittent fasting allows the body to rest and thus purify it and restore the organs.
What is the difference from ordinary fasting?
Ordinary fasting, which consists of continuous fasting, involves longer periods without food than intermittent fasting. The duration varies from 1 to more than 40 days. It is a drastic step which disrupts the functioning of the body and forces it to draw on its resources. Discomforts such as frequent headaches, dizziness and malaise may appear as well as significant micronutrient deficiencies, muscle wasting and heart problems if it exceeds 2 weeks. Intermittent fasting, carried out over relatively short phases, is easier to follow than continuous fasting, and could thus become a real lifestyle habit. Indeed, this eating method does not generally lead to deficiencies or fatigue because the body can easily adapt by using the glucose circulating in the body and then transforming fat reserves into energy .
What is the ideal approach to fasting?
Changing your eating habits can have many physical and psychological impacts, which is why, to practice intermittent fasting, the ideal is to talk about it with health professionals in order to set up the best program adapted to your lifestyle. life and your obligations. It is only recommended for healthy adults. There are several ways to do intermittent fasting. The most popular methods that are being studied are:
- Modified Fasting : Often identified as the 5:2 fast. It is the fact of doing 2 days of fasting per week, non-consecutive, during which you must fast or limit yourself to a meal of 600 calories.
- Alternative fasting : consists of alternating between days of unrestricted eating and days of fasting. It involves fasting for 24 hours or even 36 hours one or several times a week.
- Fasting with time-limited eating : 16/8 is an example, it consists of eating over a period of 8 hours and fasting for the remaining 16 hours. There is also the 18/6 and 20/4 model. For many, the 16/8 method would be the simplest to follow and therefore the most sustainable.
It's up to everyone to determine which method suits them best by testing it for themselves, the goal being not to endure it and to stick to it: you can either skip breakfast and eat from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. or skip breakfast. dine and eat from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
What are the benefits?
Intermittent fasting has gained popularity in recent years because it is believed to have many health benefits. Its benefits are based on the fact that digestion is a mechanism that consumes a lot of energy on a daily basis. Intermittent fasting would therefore consist of resting your digestive system and your body and stopping the introduction or production of toxins in the body linked to food and digestion. As a result, it could mobilize more energy to take care of other functions of the body such as immunity, memory, vitality and repair tissues.
Several studies have shown that intermittent fasting can lead to weight loss. Indeed, if accompanied by a healthy diet , it naturally reduces caloric intake and promotes fat burning while preserving muscle mass since it draws the energy it needs from glucose reserves then in the body's fat reserves.
Rebalancing the microbiota
The microbiota, or all the bacteria that inhabit our body, plays an essential role in our health. The ratio between good and bad bacteria is essential for its balance. Intermittent fasting would reduce bad bacteria by starving them and thus good bacteria could recolonize the space and improve intestinal transit.
Reduction of oxidative stress
Fasting promotes autophagy, a process of self-cleaning and detoxification of cells primarily triggered by lack of food. Fasting gives our cells the ability to detoxify and recycle themselves. This cellular cleansing thus slows down cellular aging.
Better cognitive abilities
Some studies have tested the effect of intermittent fasting on memory and found improved memory test scores in participants, which may be due to better attention span linked to higher energy levels. It would also prevent the onset of certain neurodegenerative diseases.
Benefits in people with metabolic syndrome
Intermittent fasting could help combat the risk factors of metabolic syndrome. Researchers observed reductions in blood pressure, bad cholesterol, insulin resistance and blood sugar, as well as weight. It could therefore delay this type of chronic diseases or improve the condition of those who suffer from them and have a role to play in the context of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
Effects against cancer?
This is a never-ending debate that we would like to return to. Experts have studied hundreds of scientific studies to understand whether intermittent fasting has real benefits against cancer, whether as a preventive or therapeutic action. Even if the latest clinical trials are promising, the study of these publications has not allowed them to conclude that there are effects on cancers. Indeed, caloric restriction would cause a loss of weight and muscle mass in these patients and would therefore constitute a risk of worsening malnutrition and sarcopenia, two factors associated with a poorer vital prognosis. In light of the latest tests, you must remain cautious with this type of practice and especially talk to your doctor.
Should we opt for a specific diet alongside intermittent fasting?
Even if it does not require specific menus, intermittent fasting must be associated with a varied and balanced diet . The recommended foods are those of the Mediterranean diet: large quantities of fruits & vegetables, good fats such as olive oil, whole grains and lean proteins (beans, peas, lentils, fish, tofu).
What about hydration?
Intermittent fasting is regularly associated with dehydration. Indeed, when we don't eat, we very often forget to drink. However, it is essential to hydrate properly during a fast, the goal being to reach almost 3 liters of water at the end of the day.
What are the side effects of intermittent fasting?
According to some experts, the body has to get used to intermittent fasting and it can take a few weeks. During this time, you may feel hungry and have some mood disorders. Particular attention should be paid to non-fasting days because fasting can cause greater cravings than usual and therefore overeating .
Are there any specific contraindications to intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is not suitable for everyone. It is not suitable for elderly people at risk of hypoglycemia, hormonal imbalances or even sarcopenia and osteoporosis. It should be avoided in children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, underweight people and should be avoided if you are prone to eating disorders (bulimia, anorexia) or have diabetes.
Are there enough studies proving the benefits of intermittent fasting?
There are scientific studies that suggest that intermittent fasting, combined with a healthy lifestyle, has beneficial effects on human health. They are unfortunately still few in number and often insufficient to prove its benefits because most concern animal or in vitro models. Therefore, it is not yet possible to recommend intermittent fasting for preventive or therapeutic purposes even if researchers do not recommend against its use as a personal nutritional strategy.