There are endless tricks and methods listed on the internet to help you lose weight. Looking closely at them all, you may notice them stemming from a single principle of maintaining a calorie deficiency. No matter what the tricks inform you to do- only Diet and workout can guide your way to weight loss with special emphasis on ‘diet’.
One such popular and globally adopted method to fitness is Intermittent fasting (IF). It shall be too narrow to say that IF simply helps in weight loss or in getting fit. There is a spectrum of benefits that would b
e disclosed to you ahead, and we shall also address if intermittent fasting with a vegan meal plan is effective? Don’t simply believe what you read on plant-based intermittent fasting; we are here to talk about the science behind it. Let’s get started.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
In simple words, intermittent fasting means condensing your mealtime to a fixed time window and fasting for the rest of the day. There are several formats of intermittent fasting to follow according to your lifestyle and habits, of which some popular ones are –
- 5:2 – This takes a week into consideration and not just 24 hours where one stays on a normal diet for 5 days and then restricts the calories for the last 2 days of the week.
- 16:8 – Have all your meals scheduled in the 8-hour window and then fast for 16 hours.
- Alternate-Day Fasting – Fasting for the whole day every other day.
- Periodic Fasting – Fasting for 1-2 days a week as per convenience.
You can choose any of the four options according to your preference, but the 16:8 method is the most popular and easy way to start your journey of fasting.
Is IF any different for a Vegan Bodybuilder?
Intermittent fasting regulates ‘When you eat’ and ‘How much you eat’ rather than ‘What you eat.’ Well, obviously, your diet does make a difference because if you end up eating more calories than your daily requirement during the eating window, you may defeat the cause behind the practice. Only if you plan out your intermittent fasting diet well it can give you better control of your mood and relationship with food.
You need to calculate the macros and calories you need every day. Thereafter you need to eat the foods that meet the calculation. Does not matter if you get the protein from tofu or meat; as long as you get the necessary protein, fats, and carbs, maintaining the calorie deficit, IF shall do wonders for you.
The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
1. Helps Facilitate Fat loss
If you are reading this, most likely, you want to shred some of that extra pounds. Well, who doesn’t? And indeed, intermittent fasting is one of the best possible ways to do it.
By restricting your meals to a fixed time period, you consume fewer calories than you usually would. Insulin is one such hormone of our body, whose work is to store all the extra calories in the form of fat. By reducing the insulin levels in your body, vegan intermittent fasting promotes the burning of fat for generating energy. It also induces excess growth hormone and norepinephrine production, which also works towards the same goal.
Contrary to the popular belief that fasting lowers down your basal metabolism rate, plant-based intermittent fasting actually increases it, helping you use up much of those unnecessary calories. If you’re a bodybuilder, vegan intermittent fasting won’t eat out much of your hard-earned muscle gains, contrary to other methods of weight loss.
2. Better Mood And Focus
Our generation is more aware of fatigue than ever. From work-related exhaustion to loss of focus and motivation, several stressful instances pull our spirits down. Lack of better focus and mood also negatively impacts our performance in the gym and bodybuilding routine.
Intermittent Fasting is known to enhance your good mood. The scientific explanation behind this is that vegan intermittent fasting ramps up the production of BDNF(Brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which has been associated with better mood and cognitive functions. The more it stimulates the mind, the better shall you feel over time and generate a good mood.
While it might feel difficult in the beginning, as you would tend to feel a little drained due to fasting, tides will soon turn to your benefit and keep you motivated over the long run. You would be highly energized and motivated all day, enabling you to focus your energies on productive things.
3. Reduces Oxidative Stress
Oxidative stress is one of the evil by-products of our metabolism, which damages our body cells. The free radicals and unstable molecules react with protein, DNA, and other important components in your body, hampering general growth and recovery. Oxidative stress also plays a vicious role in our aging process. It contributes to the pathogenesis of many dreadful cardiovascular diseases like atherosclerosis, stroke, and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Various research shows that intermittent fasting can improve our body’s ability to fight against oxidative stress, reduce the risk of the diseases mentioned above, and improve our general well-being. It soothes internal inflammations, which is a trigger to oxidative stress. You can expect intermittent fasting to enhance your immunity to many common and fatal diseases by and large.
4. Reduces Insulin Resistance
It shall not be excess to say that Type 2 diabetes has become increasingly prevalent globally in the past few decades. Type 2 diabetes is caused due to increased levels of blood sugar in the body. Our body’s increased resistance to a hormone called insulin causes this spike of blood glucose. Insulin promotes the storage of excess sugar in the form of glycogen in the liver. It also helps our body tissue in metabolizing the sugar and facilitating energy wherever necessary.
Researchers have proven that intermittent fasting can reduce the body’s resistance to insulin. Decreased resistance can lead to more amount of sugar being used by our tissues and a reduced risk of diabetes type 2. Furthermore, the reduction of oxidative stress, as discussed above, shall make the heart healthier and free of potential risks of stroke. Not only the heart, but IF can also protect your kidney and liver from damage due to increased blood sugar.
5. May Help Prevent Cancer
Cancer is caused due to the disordered growth of cells, which usually spreads to different parts of the body, leading to life-threatening complications. Intermittent fasting regulates physical metabolism in a way that decreases the potential risk of cancer.
But that being claimed, not many studies have been done on humans with IF reducing cancer. Studies done on specific animals have shown positive evidence that intermittent fasting can reduce the abnormal growth and multiplication of cells that proceed to malignant tumors and cancer. Fasting can also reduce the side effects of chemotherapy which is used to treat some forms of cancer.
In general, fasting also has a detoxifying effect. The somatic cells of your body remove waste through a process known as autophagy, where they break down and metabolize dysfunctional proteins.
6. May Help Prevent Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s is one the most widely known neurodegenerative disorders globally. It is mostly noticed in the elderly and aged population. Unfortunately, there is no medical cure for Alzheimer’s available, which means once the disease shows up, there is no way to reverse it. Therefore, it is critical to prevent Alzheimer’s from occurring.
Intermittent Fasting experimented on rats revealed that it can delay the onset of the disease and resist Alzheimer’s from acquiring severity. The research done on the lifestyle implications of intermittent fasting has also shown positive results of Intermittent fasting reducing the threats to neurodegeneration and improving the health of the human brain. It promotes nerve growth which should directly have a better impact on the brain and cognitive function.
7. May Extend Your Lifespan
Longer life has a direct relation to healthier habits and lifestyle choices. Intermittent fasting may extend your lifespan. All the credits go to consistent calorie restriction patterns and improved adaptability, which are the core techniques of IF. It has been scientifically proven that fasting can increase your life expectancy through reduced vulnerability to diseases, better adaptability, lower toxin levels, improved immunity, and decelerated aging process.
Additionally, the boost to the metabolism adds cherry to the cake of a longer and healthier life. No doubt, you may find your favorite fitness influencer siding by intermittent fasting for a healthier lifestyle and long years of growth. Besides anti-aging, fasting can detoxify your body and cleanse you of free radicals that cause cell damage and loss. Also, when you feel happier, you live not just longer but also better. Guess who also has uplifting mood benefits in-house? Yeah- Intermittent fasting.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
Technically, intermittent fasting assists in losing weight because you tend to control your daily calorie intake by limiting the eating window. When your body gets fewer calories than the daily expenditure, insulin levels drop. Low insulin capacitates your body to utilize the energy stored in the form of fats.
The fat molecules break down, helping you get into shape and shed a few pounds. Moreover, extra fat breakdown also happens due to sympathetic nerve activation along with the release of norepinephrine hormone, which is your body’s natural response to fasting. So, a calorie deficit is crucial to losing weight.
Since one pound of fat is made of 3,500 calories, an approximate deficit of 7000 calories can help you shed two pounds of weight or nearly one kilogram. Many fitness enthusiasts incorporate high-intensity training per week to increase the deficit further. But that does not mean you should excessively starve yourself or burn your body out at the gym. Remember consistency is the key, and extreme measures may push you back enough to never get back to your regime.
Intermittent fasting does not only help you generate the deficit, but it also allows you to develop a healthy relationship with food. For the eating period, you get to easily incorporate a variety of food with essential macros and micros without overstepping the threshold of deficit. Since your eating time is less, you perhaps can not overfeed yourself, and that you would have to go longer without food, you refrain from underfeeding too.
Intermittent fasting with a vegan diet also trains your body and mind to differentiate eating and non-eating windows. This, in turn, translates into energy gaining and energy spending brackets. People having practiced intermittent fasting have experienced better control over their cravings, mood, and focus.
Since intermittent fasting is for the short-term and cyclically repeats every day, it accelerates your metabolic processes. A fasting period of more than 48 hours can slow the body’s metabolism, whereas intermittent fasting increases it.
Is Intermittent Fasting Any Superior to Other Calorie Restrictive Diets?
Intermittent fasting is just like any other calorie-restrictive diet because the ultimate motive is to control consumption. Well, that being said- they are equivalent from a weight-loss perspective. If you are looking forward to other potential health benefits from Intermittent fasting, then there are many positives to consider.
As we have already discussed above, Intermittent fasting has many benefits, from regulating hormones to facilitating growth that other calorie-restrictive diets may fail to vouch for. Though it follows a pattern of daily calorie restriction, intermittent fasting also helps the body regulate healthy levels of insulin action, body fat, cholesterol, and glucose in the practitioner’s body.
Not only physical but intermittent fasting also has cognitive benefits. It improves focus and helps one feel more productive. You can get better control of your stress levels as you get to manage your energy gain and energy expenses window distinctively. Your brain resisters your daily behavior and resets the body clock in accordance with the time when you eat and when you simply work or train. This may further assist in the prevention of over-eating or diet stress. The best way to plan out a vegan intermittent diet schedule has been discussed ahead.
How To Set Up A Vegan Intermittent Fasting Diet?
1. Calculate your Maintenance Calories
Our body requires a certain amount of calories to conduct its everyday metabolic activities. These may include the repairing of worn-out tissues, cell regeneration, growth, circulation, respiration, digestion so on. Any external activity like walking, talking, moving, and even chewing the food burns extra calories to generate the required energy.
The amount of energy that our body spends in a day is known as Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). This gives us the number of calories that we must intake from food and supplements to enable our body to carry out our everyday activities, known as maintenance calories.
2. Set An Appropriate Deficit
A TDEE calculator can take into account your body measurements and activity levels of the day to give you an idea of this maintenance calorie. Once you have found out the approximate number of calories you need every day, decide on a deficit bracket.
To lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than what your body spends; that is the TDEE value. You can start with a calorie deficit of 200-300 calories and check the results every month. As you move a little closer to your weight goals, recalculate your TDEE and readjust your calorie deficit. You can go up to developing a maximum of 500 calorie deficit range.
3. Work Out Your Macros
A nutrient-specific TDEE calculator such as the ones you find in MyFitnessPal or HealthifyMe can help you calculate the amounts of protein, fats, and carbohydrates you need to sustain your basal metabolic needs every day under the calorie deficit diet.
With the knowledge of macros in mind, you can customize a nutritious diet plan that meets your body’s needs and helps you get healthier. Without the knowledge of macros, you may end up starving yourself of the necessary amounts of carbs, fats, or proteins, which can hold potential risks against your health.
4. Finalize Plant-based food options to hit those macros
Now it’s time to plan the diet. As you must have got the balance of macronutrients, which you should incorporate in your everyday meal, all you now have to do is fit the right food into the puzzle. Navigate the high-carb, low-carb, high-protein, low-protein, high-fat, and low-fat food options and find the approximate amount of macronutrients in them.
You can list out two or three different menus that you can pick from each day. This shall prevent monotony. Generally, plant-based foods are low in calories. Make sure that you do not widen the deficit scale and starve yourself up unnecessarily.
5. Set Appropriate Fasting-Feeding Windows
After taking your lifestyle and work hours into consideration, find a suitable window where you can fit your fasting period. Mostly 16:8 diet with 16 hours of fasting is ideal. If you are a person who sleeps for 8 hours every day at a stretch, maybe you can fit the fasting window into your sleep hours.
You can stop the eating window 4 hours before sleeping and 4 hours after waking up. 16 hours of fasting – done. However, it is just a suggestion. If that does not suit your habit, you may try and test other slots for yourself. It is all about understanding your habits and planning your meal. You can also start with a 10 or 12 hours eating window and gradually trim to 8 hours.
What Should You Expect From An Intermittent Fasting Diet As A Vegan?
Fasting for about 16 hours or more may sound daunting at first. But trust me- once that your body gets used to it in a few days, you would actually feel more active and concentrated during the non-eating or fasting window. Your brain and body shall be aware of when you get calories and when you must spend calories.
Apart from that, you can always revitalize yourself with a glass of water or have a sip of your favorite green tea or coffee during the fast. Intermittent fasting also aligns your hormones in a way that helps you lose weight, improve mood, detoxify the cells, develop healthy food habits and enhance cognitive focus. With consistency, you can centralize IF in your day-to-day lifestyle and reap all the benefits every day.