Yoga and Intermittent Fasting : A Health Beneficial Combo

yoga and intermittent fasting

Yoga and Intermittent Fasting: A Health Beneficial Combo

Considering that weight management is a crucial aspect of yoga, the practitioners are more likely to pay better attention to their health and wellbeing compared to non-practitioners. Hence, it’s understandable to see several yoga enthusiasts showing interest in weight loss and diet plans. In this regard, one of the most popular opinions is intermittent fasting. However, some still wonder whether yoga and intermittent fasting can be complemented.

Engaging intermittent fasting for weight management is completely recommendable for practitioners of yoga. However, it is must be done in a proper manner. Nevertheless, yoga and intermittent fasting are safe for most individuals. For those who are pregnant or dealing with some food disorders or injuries, they may need to take extra precautions to combine both practices. 

Before delving into intermittent fasting and yoga, it’s advisable to understand both practices fully. In this way, you can practice safely and get maximum benefit. In this article, we’ll walk you through the objectives and effects of the two practices to determine whether intermittent fasting and yoga complement each other nicely or not. Also, you’ll be able to identify differences and how to resolve them to your own advantage. Let’s begin!

Introducing Yoga

Originated in India, yoga is a form of posture-based physical exercise. It involves mental, spiritual, and mental practices that help relieve stress and relax. Several schools of yoga offer similar practices in the Western World. However, while some focus more on the mental and spiritual aspects, otherwise known as a mantra, laya, others emphasize the physical aspects (Hatha). 

Yoga is a holistic practice as it benefits the body, spirit, and mind. Asana, which is the common pose associated with yoga, is combined with ujjayi or pranayama (controlled breathing) and meditation. Some common benefits of yoga practice include weight loss, stress relief, inflammation reduction, anxiety relief, improved heart health, chronic pain relief, depression relief, increased flexibility, better balance, enhanced breathing, promote healthy eating habits, better life quality, and enhanced cognitive function, or mental abilities. 

Introducing Intermittent Fasting

For those who are not accustomed to fasting, it refers to being intentional about not eating for a specific period. Fasting is an age-long practice across different cultural groups, religions, and communities. In the modern era, fasting has been redefined into intermittent fasting, which involves fasting a certain number of hours daily or on specific days per week. During the fasting hours, practitioners are not allowed to consume food. 

Intermittent Fasting Plan

While there are several plans for various practitioners, the most common intermittent fasting protocol is the 16/8. Hence, it will be used as a reference plan across this article. 16/8 intermittent fasting involves refraining from intake of caloric foods and drinks for a period of 16 hours. The practitioners are allowed to eat only during the 8-hour eating timeframe. 

Intermittent fasting stands out among dieting plans because of its relative simplicity and flexibility. This contributes significantly to the high rise in the number of practitioners in recent years. Without any strict rules, practitioners will experience fat burning and weight loss effects of intermittent fasting. This is not the case with many other diet plans with a series of restrictions. In short, intermittent fasting is more of a lifestyle change than dieting. 

16/8 Intermittent Fasting: Potential Benefits

While fat burning and weight loss are the most popular benefits of intermittent fasting, several purposes are also associated with the wellness plan. These include improved cognitive function, enhanced longevity, improved blood sugar regulation, etc. More importantly, intermittent fasting is completely safe, straightforward, and sustainable.

However, before you can relish the benefits of intermittent fasting, you need to be meticulous about your choice. The choice of the time window is an integral aspect of getting results from intermittent fasting. Several individuals prefer midday (12 pm) to 8 pm as their food time. By so doing, the fasting hours automatically fall across the nighttime, even though they still have to overlook breakfast. This works for many practitioners because it enables them to eat balanced meals at lunch and dinner. More so, it gets them enough time to snack in between. 

intermittent fasting and wellness

Intermittent fasting and Yoga

Going forward, you’ll learn about how the two practices may work together. In other words, you get to understand the compatibility between intermittent fasting and yoga. Read on.

Weight Loss Effectiveness

Most people are interested in intermittent fasting to manage their weight and/or lose weight. Interestingly, yoga is a known approach for weight loss and weight management as well. More so, the practice is sustainable and natural. With the Hatha yoga variant (asanas) and controlled breathing (pranayama), there are several ways to lose weight. Learn more about how the psychosocial, behavioral, and physical effects of practicing yoga can help facilitate weight loss.

Physical exertion to lose weight

Popular yoga variants such as Kundalini, Iyengar, Bikram, and Ashtanga, combine flowing movement (vinyasa) and rhythmic breathing via postures to experience a proper aerobic workout. A proper session in any of the variants helps burn calories as much as you’ll lose when you engage in cycling, swimming, or jogging session.

However, it is noteworthy that the existing physical condition and proficiency level of the practitioner play crucial roles in the effectiveness of yoga as a weight loss exercise. If you are out of shape as a beginner, you might lack the stamina and experience to relish the benefits of a good session concerning weight loss. Nevertheless, you’ll surely benefit in other ways. 

Improved mindfulness to lose weight

The physical intensiveness of yoga is well popularized by many for reducing weight. But, some believe that the principle of mindfulness in yoga helps most get through with their weight loss journey. Mindfulness refers to being conscious of what goes on in your body in a non-reactive and objective manner. This mind-body connection is the heart of yoga practice. It enables practitioners to observe and change their relationship with food and eating. 

Considering that you are conscious of your body and mind, you’ll find it less challenging to adapt to the food habits required by an intermittent fasting plan. Suppressing destructive eating patterns and cravings is easier when you are more conscious of your body, including how it works. 

Ideal Yoga Practice Times While Intermittent Fasting

Concerning the best time to engage in yoga despite practicing intermittent fasting, you are best advised to practice before your fasting hours or after you are done. This helps reduce the risk of inadvertently harming your health. Choosing the hours before fasting means your body still possesses enough energy reserves to work through the yoga session, regardless of the intensity. 

If you decide to perform your yoga session after the fasting hours, you’ll be doing so with an empty stomach. However, you are free to take snacks or meals after the workout to regain your energy. In fact, several practitioners opine that working out or performing yoga without any food leads to more significant weight loss results. This is because the body is forced to burn fats for needed energy, a process known as metabolic switching. 

Metabolic Switching

Ideally, consumed foods are stored in the liver as glycogen (sugar). At some points, the liver will get filled, and the body will have no choice but to save the remaining energy in body reserve as fat. When we consume more food energy than we utilize daily, we gain weight. This happens because the stored fats in the body gradually grow.  

By engaging in exercise, it helps utilize the food energy. Also, yoga is a recommendable activity for burning off calories. These activities help balance our weight in the long run. When you throw fasting into the mix, it reduces the amount of available glycogen in our system. This forces the body to burn fats for needed energy instead. Besides, the muscles prefer to get energy by burning glycogen as they are readily available. 

Sustained intermittent fasting and yoga can train the muscles to burn fats more efficiently – the simple science behind the use of yoga and intermittent fasting for losing weight. In this regard, the human body is remarkably adaptable; thus, the combination is highly effective and sustainable, considering you don’t need to make any extra external inputs.

It is noteworthy that intermittent fasting may result in some side effects for beginners whose body is still trying to adjust to the demands of the new food routine. Such side-effects could be fatigue, weakness, and/or hunger. For this reason, yoga practitioners are encouraged not to go harder if they experience any symptoms during their sessions. Give the side-effect some time to disappear or heal.

Stress Relief Effectiveness

Some individuals have no interest in any orthodox drug to relieve stress. These people prefer yoga as a stress-reliever. Although meditative and relaxing yoga is well-known for stress relieving, the physically challenging yoga variant such as Ashtanga and hot yoga also come in handy. 

Most yoga variants involve physical postures and breathing practices. These demands help relieve stress, anxiety, and depression. In this regard, yoga works by reducing the amount of stress hormone cortisol that is being released within the body.

Compatibility of Yoga and Intermittent Fasting for Stress Relief

For people whose priority is to reduce stress, intermittent fasting may not be the best approach. In fact, intermittent fasting induces as much stress on the body as engaging in exercise. This leads to a higher amount of cortisol in the body. However, you can improve the situation by drinking enough water. By so doing, the body will have sufficient fluid to flush toxins. 

While this may sound like a piece of unexciting news for people planning to utilize intermittent fasting and yoga for reducing stress, it’s not entirely the case. If you are practicing intermittent fasting, engaging in yoga sessions will help lower cortisol secretion. This saves you from the negative effects that intermittent fasting practitioners who do not practice yoga have to deal with. 

To be clear, relieving stress is not achievable by practicing intermittent fasting. However, when combined with yoga, you will not have any troubles. More so, the body will naturally adapt to the new routine as you start losing weight. The more hours you spend practicing, the less challenging it becomes. 

Sleep Assisting Effectiveness

When done correctly, yoga is an effective approach to improve sleep quality. As a matter of fact, it’s recommended as a therapy for insomnia. In other words, affected individuals who practice yoga will be able to sleep more comfortably and for a prolonged period. Even when you wake up at midnight, you’ll experience little to no difficulty getting back to sleep. 

Yoga facilitates better sleep because it reduces stress and anxiety. At the same time, the age-long practice activates the parasympathetic nervous system of the body, which is responsible for digestion and resting. 

Furthermore, the body will be stimulated to produce extra melatonin, a hormone that works for the regulation of sleep and wakefulness. From the spiritual perspective, yoga comes in handy in handling doubts and establishing quality routines for our day-to-day activities. 

Intermittent Fasting and Sleep Assistance

It is true that intermittent fasting has no direct impact on sleep quality. However, it can contribute a positive effect in the long run. Our internal body systems and organs detoxify when we enter a fasting state. However, this encourages the body to release adrenaline and cortisol – these are stress hormones that reduce sleep quality. 

In order to counter such a natural reaction, you should stay hydrated across the fasting period. When you are properly hydrated, it helps alleviate hunger cravings and enhance your mood. Additionally, it’s an ideal approach to stay focused and keep up good energy during the no-food period, not to mention its contribution to quality sleep during nighttime. By combining intermittent fasting with yoga practice, you can count on the latter to contribute to your night sleep with its cortisol-reducing effect. 

It is also worth noting that the most common reason for engaging in intermittent fasting, weight loss, is an effective approach to manage certain conditions, including sleep apnea. Thus, it is safe to say that yoga and intermittent fasting are compatible for achieving quality sleep every night. The key part is to stay hydrated. 

Brain Health Improvement Effectiveness

It’s pointless having a healthy body but a poorly functioning brain. Fortunately, working to improve the body also benefits the brain in different ways, including cognition, awareness, focus, mood regulation, memory, and overall brain functioning. 

The brain needs oxygen-rich blood, which is the fresh blood flow that yoga usually stimulates. By getting a good circulating of blood, the brain works optimally. Several studies reveal that regular yoga practitioners experience substantial growth in some areas of their brains in terms of size and efficiency. It is also reported to increase the capacity and ability that such areas are responsible for. 

A good example is that when the amygdala gets bigger, it increases our emotional regulation capacity. Also, a bigger prefrontal cortex is known to help achieve better decision-making, multi-tasking, and planning. As for the hippocampus, the bigger it becomes the higher our memory processing efficiency. 

Furthermore, yoga practitioners are known to hardly complain about headaches or intense headaches. Also, it is rare to see the practitioners complain about migraine intensity. This is believed to be due to the effect of yoga in stimulating the vagus nerve. 

Intermittent Fasting’s Role in Promoting Brain Health

Brain health is also one of the crucial benefits of practicing intermittent fasting. Generally, the positive effects of fasting on various metabolic qualities of humans often have a knock-on effect on the state of the brain. Such effects include reduced blood sugar levels, lowered oxidative stress levels, and reduced inflammation.  

To be specific, intermittent fasting has the substantive probability of stimulating the growth of new nerve cells. In this way, the brain capacity and functioning are improved. Also, a higher amount of brain hormone known as a brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is known to prevent depression and other brain-related conditions.

Globally, the most prevalent neurodegenerative condition is Alzheimer’s disease. This condition’s severity is even more saddening because there is no known cure. In other words, prevention is the most important crucial to the health condition. To this condition, intermittent fasting plays a crucial role in its prevention. More so, studies have shown that intermittent fasting helps the brain withstand possible damages from strokes. The same studies indicated that fasting contributes to mental cognition and overall brain health. 

Since the findings, no studies have suggested that such positive effects are counteracted by practicing yoga. Thus, a combination of intermittent fasting and yoga offers considerable benefits to the body and the functioning of the brain.

yoga longevity intermittent fasting

Longevity and Quality of Life Increase

The extent to which a person can enjoy their daily life in a healthy and comfortable way regularly is known as the quality of life. Over the years, it has been known that yoga facilitates improvement to the quality of life in different ways. Yoga practitioners find it easier to manage affairs and execute operations because the exercise helps them feel less stressed, become fitter, more flexible, and stronger. 

Furthermore, when you experience a better quality of life, there is a good chance of living longer. This is because yoga helps mitigate or eliminate factors that can result in a shorter life span. These include stress, obesity, etc. When these conditions are absent, extended life becomes more achievable.

Intermittent Fasting’s Role in Improving One’s Quality of Life

Both quality of life and longevity can be impacted positively by intermittent fasting. Studies conducted on intermittent fasting and continuous calorie restriction using mice indicated a significant gain in lifespan. Thus, it’s not wrong to say that the yoga and intermittent fasting combo is compatible for increasing quality of life and longevity. 

NB: All the effects listed herein are by no means exhaustive when it comes to yoga and/or intermittent fasting. For instance, yoga offers extra values such as improved heart health, prevention of depression, improved breathing, reduction of inflammation, and chronic pain management. 

Again, there is no doubt about the effectiveness of yoga and intermittent fasting as regards making an improvement to the quality of life. The two practices complement each other nicely. 

Points of Caution Regarding Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting offers several health benefits, especially to a practitioner without underlying conditions. However, some people need to take extra precautions if they are to engage in intermittent fasting. Check the list of people below:

Injured patients or individuals undergoing recovery

For those practicing yoga to recovery or manage an illness or injury, endeavor to see a physician before commencing an intermittent fasting plan. If you are dealing with low blood pressure, hypertension, diabetes, or any related condition, always consult your medical condition before taking any drastic step.

People dealing with eating disorders

Patients having anorexia, bulimia, or any other form of an eating disorder could be at risk of triggering their conditions if they engage in intermittent fasting. Hence, you should speak with your doctor first off. For individuals without such history, it is not strange to experience overeating to compensate for the fasting hours. This could lead to unhealthy eating habits, eventual weight gain, and digestive disturbances. Hence, it takes some effort and guidance to get it right.

Pregnant or Breastfeeding

If you are a beginner of intermittent fasting and also a nursing mother, there is a chance of experiencing some jarring effects. The same applies to people who are pregnant. Again, do not forget to speak with your doctor. A suitable plan could be recommended for you based on your health status. 

Any individual who experiences the side effects of intermittent fasting should follow the same advice given herein, regardless of whether you fall into any of the categories or not. This is especially important for those who are beginners. 

Final Note

In reality, everyone is already practicing intermittent fasting. The only difference is that you are probably not intentional about it and not paying attention to certain dos and don’ts. After all, most people refrain from eating again till the next morning after taking their evening meal.

By practicing intermittent fasting, you have chosen to extend the habit with a better structure and awareness. This, alongside yoga practice, can become a lifestyle that presents no challenges to an average healthy adult. When you keep proper hydration, balanced and healthy meals, and attention to your body, you can expect to experience many of the long-lasting benefits discussed herein. Stay healthy!

Find out our article regarding biblical fasting.

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