Just how trendy is intermittent fasting? In the recent past, many people have been talking about this practice. Normally, people associate intermittent fasting with numerous health benefits, including improved metabolism, weight loss, and extended longer healthy life. And trying to fast in this manner is the easiest way to have a longer, healthier lifestyle.
Human beings have been practicing fasting since time immemorial with or without their knowledge. They could function without food for a long time. Still, others did it for spiritual and religious reasons.
What Is Intermittent Fasting (IF)?
But what is intermittent fasting? Typically, this is a pattern of eating, where you schedule your meals in a particular way, to get the most of the meals. Usually, it cycles between periods of fasting and eating.
This type of fasting doesn’t change or specify what you eat. Instead, it only specifies when to eat food. In a conventional sense, it is not a diet plan, but simply how you plan your meals. There are many ways of achieving this – you can skip breakfast twice a week, giving you a 16-hour fasts or try fasting for 24 hours twice a week.
How to Do Intermittent Fasting
There are many methods of intermittent fasting. However, not all of the methods work for everybody. If you want success in this form of fasting, you need to find a method that will work for you without causing adverse effects. The common methods are:
- The 16/8 Method
This is a method of fasting that involves fasting for 14-16 hours a day, and it restricts your eating window to between 8 to 10 hours. Within this eating window, you can fit in 2 or more meals.
Fitness experts are always for this method, and you can also call it, Leangains protocol. The easiest way to carry out this type of fasting by not eating anything after dinner and skipping breakfast. Mostly, you should eat your last meal of the day (dinner) before 8 pm; then your next meal should be the next day at noon. This technically translates to 16 hours of fasting.
Slightly shorter periods of fasting work well for women. So a period of between 14-15 hours is feasible. If you are fasting and you feel hungry, you can take water, non-alcoholic beverage, or a cup of coffee to reduce hunger levels.
- The 5:2 Diet
Also called fast diet, this method involves eating for five days a week and fasting on the remaining two days. Besides, you should restrict your intake of calories to 500-600 on two days of the week.
Experts advise that women should take 500 calories while men should take 600 calories on the fasting days. To put it into perspective, you can normally eat on all days of the week except Mondays and Thursdays where you eat only eat two meals. The calorific intake for men should be restricted to 250 calories in women and 300 for men.
This method of intermittent fasting simply involves fasting for 24 hours once or twice a week. The best part of this method is that it is easy to carry out. For instance, you can fast from breakfast to breakfast or dinner to dinner.
What am I saying? If you take your breakfast or dinner today, you should not eat anything until tomorrow’s breakfast or dinner, respectively. This practically translates to 24 hours without eating anything.
If you feel hungry within the period of fasting, you can take water, coffee, and other non-caloric beverages. Do not take any solid foods.
- The Warrior Diet
The Warrior Diet is a method where you fast during the day and feast during the night. Simply put, you eat light meals during the day, e.g., you can eat only fruits and raw vegetables during the day then eat a single massive meal at night.
This diet pattern also emphasizes your food choices for better outcomes, making it quite similar to the paleo diet, i.e., eating unprocessed foods (natural foods)
- Alternate-Day Fasting
In this plan, you fast every other day. You can do it in various ways. Some forms allow 500 calories during the days that you are fasting, while others do not recommend anything at all. Nonetheless, going a whole day without anything can be extreme for some people because going to bed hungry several times a week can take a toll on you.
- Spontaneous Meal Skipping
In this method, you do not follow a structured intermittent fasting plan. You can just skip meals randomly from time to time. You can conveniently achieve this by skipping meals when you are too busy, or you do not feel like eating.
Benefits of intermittent fasting
- Alters the functioning of cells, genes, and hormones
- Intermittent Fasting for Weight loss
- Reduce insulin resistance thus reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes
- May reduce oxidative stress and inflammation
- Intermittent Fasting promotes the health of the heart
- Intermittent Fasting induces cellular repair processes
- Intermittent Fasting important for brain health
1. Intermittent Fasting alters the functioning of cells, genes, and hormones
Denying your body food for some time causes a series of changes. For instance, you’ll have decreased sugar levels. This causes changes in hormone levels to make fats more accessible. Common changes include:
- Insulin levels: drop in insulin levels causing fat burning
- Cellular repair: the body initiate process that repair cells such as waste removal from cells.
- Increase in human growth hormone: this increase facilitates fat burning and muscle mass increase
- Gene expression: some genes and molecules change for protection against diseases.
2. Intermittent Fasting is Powerful tool for Weight loss
The majority of people participating in intermittent fasting aim to lose weight. Usually, this practice makes you eat less food. Also, the following occurs to cause weight loss:
- Enhance the hormonal function to facilitate weight loss. This includes lowering the insulin level and increasing the level of growth hormones and norepinephrine which promote the breakdown of fats makes it available t used as a source of energy (1)
- Increases metabolism by 3.6-14% hence burning more calories(14), (15)
Here’s the details…
The final product of carbohydrate digestion is glucose. The body cells breakdown glucose to produce energy. Insulin converts excess glucose into fats and stores them around body organs. This leads to things like belly fat and general increase in the body size.
When fasting, the level of glucose in blood drastically falls, prompting another home (glucagon) to be released and a decrease in insulin. The hormone helps in the process of burning down fats to release energy. When you repeat the process of intermittent fasting regularly, you burn more fats. Regular burning of fats causes weight loss.
Still, when you fast, you reduce the intake of calories, which also contributes to weight loss. The best thing with intermittent fasting is that it works on both sides of the equations, i.e., it boosts metabolism and reduces the intake of food and calories.
A study conducted in 2014 showed that intermittent fasting causes weight loss by an impressive 3-8% over 3-24 weeks. Still, the same study showed a loss of 4-7% of waist circumference, indicating that the participant lost a significant amount of belly fat.
Another review study showed that intermittent fasting results in less muscle loss as compared to continuous calorie restriction.
3. Reduce insulin resistance thus reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes
Intermittent fasting has a significant effect on insulin resistance, which leads to a notable decrease in blood sugar.
Type 2 diabetes results from elevated and uncontrollable blood sugar levels. This results from insulin resistance. So anything that reduces insulin resistance will lower blood sugar levels; thus, reducing the chance of type diabetes.
Intermittent fasting reduces blood sugar level by 3-6% and reduces insulin resistance by 20-31% according to studies. Also, the process protects against kidney damage in a complication of diabetes.(2)
4. Intermittent Fasting may reduce oxidative stress and inflammation
Oxidative stress leads to aging and promotes the occurrence and progression of most chronic diseases.
5. Intermittent Fasting promotes the health of the heart
Fasting is associated with many benefits to the heart.
6. Intermittent Fasting induces cellular repair processes
The notable importance of intermittent fasting in cellular repair is the removal of wastes.
Typically, the cells breakdown, and metabolizing the broken parts that build up in the cells with time, a process called autophagy. This protects the body from a disease like cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
7. Intermittent Fasting is important for brain health
Intermittent fasting improves metabolic functions that are important for the health of the brain, such as reduced oxidative stress, blood sugar levels, and reduced inflammation.
Also, it boosts the levels of the brain hormone brain-derived neurotrophic factor – BDNF.
How intermittent fasting works
The body is usually in two states – the fed state and the fasted state.
- Fed state: this is when your body’s digestive system is working. It starts when you start eating and lasts for about 5 hours. In this state, your body finds it hard to burn fats because of the high insulin level. This state is followed by the post-absorptive state, which lasts for about 12 hours.
- Fasted state: after 12 hours, the body enters the fasted state. Here, there is no food in your system, so no digestion and absorption. The levels of insulin decrease. This makes the fat to be accessible for burning to produce energy. This is the primary reason why people who start intermittent fasting lose weight and belly fat without the need to change diet. Simply put, fasting sends your body into a state of fat burning.