Intermittent Fasting: Does not eating for periods of time work?

Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating plan in which you switch between eating and fasting. According to research, it is among the best ways to help manage your weight and also in preventing and even reversing some specific diseases. But before trying it, it is important to learn some facts. So let’s dive in and see if this diet can work for you.

What is Intermittent Fasting (IF)?

Intermittent fasting doesn’t specify the types of food you have to eat, but is all about the timing in which you should eat them. In that sense, it’s less a diet plan and more a pattern of eating. The two most common intermittent fasting methods involve 16 hours of fasting every day or 24 hours twice a week.

Fasting is not a new concept for humans as our ancestors lacked supermarkets or refrigerators. Sometimes when food was not available to hunter-gatherers, they didn’t eat for an entire day or more. That’s the main reason that humans evolved to survive and function without having food for long periods. As well, fasting is done for spiritual and religious reasons such as in Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, and Judaism.

How does intermittent fasting work?

Though there are different methods to intermittent fasting, all of them work when you select regular intervals for your fasting and eating. The varied amount of IF schedules allows you to select one that suits you.

When you do not have food for hours, your body will exhaust its sugar storage, resulting in burning of fat. Intermittent fasting works when your body has burned the calories from your last meal and then starts burning fat.

Methods of Intermittent Fasting

There are different ways to do intermittent fasting, and in all of them, there is a split of days or weeks into fasting and eating periods. In the fasting period, either you are allowed to eat a little or maybe nothing at all.

Here are the few most common and popular methods in intermittent fasting.


In this method, you fast for 24 hours about once or twice a week. For Instance, there is a fasting period from today’s dinner to the next day’s dinner.

The 16/8 Method

It is also famously known as the Leangains protocol. In this method, you skip breakfast and restrict your daily eating period for about 8 hours, such as in the case of 1-9 pm. That means you have to fast for about 16 hours.

5:2 Diet

In this method, you normally eat 5 days a week. But, there are two nonconsecutive days during that week where you are allowed to take in only 500-600 calories.

Alternate-day fasting

You have to fast every other day in alternate-day fasting. There are various types of these methods. In some of them, you are allowed to have only 500 calories during the fasting days. 

This fasting method is not recommended for beginners because a full fast every other day is extreme. When you follow this method, there are times when you go to bed hungry, which is unpleasant in the long term. 

The warrior diet

These allow small amounts of vegetables and raw fruits in the daytime and a huge meal at night. The warrior diet basically has you fast all day and take one huge meal at night.

This method’s choices of food are mostly whole and unprocessed foods that are quite similar to the Paleo diet.

If you are not compensating for the food you are skipping in the fasting period, then all of these methods help weight loss. 16/8 is the most popular fasting method for people. People can stick to it pretty easily as it is the simplest and most sustainable.

Effects on the body on a molecular level

When you start intermittent fasting, several changes take place at the cellular and molecular levels. Intermittent fasting starts off changing your gene expression and also starts the repairing process.

Here are some of the main changes that take place when you fast.

Insulin sensitivity

During fasting, there is an increase in insulin sensitivity, in which insulin levels drop dramatically. When insulin levels are low, your body fat is easily primed for weight loss.

Cellular repair

While fasting, there is an initiation of the repairing process in your cells. It is also known as autophagy, where cells remove the old and dysfunctional proteins by digesting them.

Human Growth Hormone (HGH)

During fasting, the level of growth hormones improves almost 5 fold, which benefits both muscle gain and fat loss.

Gene expression

Some changes take place in the functions of genes that relate to the protection against certain diseases.

Health Benefits

Several studies show that there are a lot of health benefits while fasting in humans. This diet helps in weight loss and proves to be very helpful in the overall improvement of brain and full-body health.

Here are some ideal benefits of IF, intermittent fasting, in overall health.

  • Heart Health
  • Weight Loss
  • Insulin resistance
  • Inflammation
  • Anti-aging
  • Brain Health
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Cancer

Remember that still; there is a lot of research needed to know the exact benefits as most of them are short-term and small. Many questions demand high-quality and long-term studies about it.

Top tips for intermittent fasting

Here are some best tips for intermittent fasting:

  • Give yourself at least a month to see whether it is working for you or not?
  • Drink water
  • Make yourself busy
  • Ride out your hunger waves
  • After fasting, don’t binge
  • Drink tea or coffee
  • By following a low-carb diet, you can make your intermittent fasting easier as it will reduce your hunger.

Safety and Side Effects

Hunger is the main side effect that you feel in intermittent fasting. Besides, a feeling of weakness, there is a possibility that due to starvation, your brain will not be able to work at the same level you are used to.

Fortunately, these symptoms are temporary and last only a few days because your body tries to adjust in accordance with demand.

Who should avoid it?

If you have any medical condition, you must consult your doctor before trying it. Especially if you have

  • Diabetes
  • Are currently underweight
  • On medications
  • Have a problem with low blood pressure 
  • Trying to conceive
  • Have an eating disorder
  • A woman with a history of amenorrhea
  • Breastfeeding or currently pregnant

But if you have overall good health and are well-nourished, then there is absolutely no problem in not eating during the fast.

How do I break a fast?

There is a general rule. The longer your fast, the gentler you have to be in breaking it. Having a large meal after fasting is the biggest mistake people make; it results in a stomach ache. However, it is not serious because we all learn to eat normally after breaking a fast.

Can I lose weight on intermittent fasting?

Yes, absolutely. You maximize chances of weight loss while adapting any of the intermittent fasting methods. But the condition is that you not consume a lot during your eating period. Because if you eat more in your eating time, then the weight loss element will be automatically canceled because you are compensating for all fasting you have done all day.

But according to research, most people automatically start to eat less.

Should You Try It?

Intermittent fasting is one of the famous strategies that people use for overall improvement of health. But still, you need to be mindful of other important factors like proper sleep, healthy eating, and exercise.

However, when you talk about nutrition, there is no one-size-fits-all. The diet from which you can expect results is the one you can stick to. The best way to find out that whether it suits you or not is by trying it. Many have commented that it has helped them improve their overall health.