Intermittent Fasting Explained
Intermittent fasting has become increasingly popular as new research is proving its merits. People are using it to lose weight, improve health and simplify their healthy lifestyle. Many studies show that it can have powerful effects on your body and brain, and may even help you live longer.
In simple terms, intermittent fasting is basically an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. There are various versions of intermittent fasting methods. Here are the most popular:
- The 16/8 Method - Requires skipping breakfast and restricting your daily eating period to 8 hours, while fasting for 16 hours in between
- Eat-Stop-Eat - Requires fasting for 24 hours 1-2 days per week
- The 5:2 Diet: Requires only eating 500-600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week
HOW DOES IT WORK?
It is actually makes perfect sense when you think about it. After you eat, your body spends the next few hours digesting that food, processing it and then burning what it can as fuel. Your body will take the most readily available energy source, which is the food you just ate, rather than the fat you have stored. This is especially true if you just consumed glucose (aka sugars and carbs), as your body prefers to burn glucose as energy before any other source.
If you are in a fasted state (i.e. where you haven't recently consumed a meal), then the body doesn't have that readily available glucose to use as energy, so it is more likely to pull from the fat stored in your body. And as we know - once you start burning fat, good things happen!
- Weight Loss: As described above, intermittent fasting can help you lose weight and belly fat
- Simplified Meal Planning: Most intermittent fasters skip breakfast, meaning that is one less meal to have to plan, prepare and eat. So not only are you saving money, it is one less decision you have to make every day
- Healing: Taking long breaks between meals gives your digestive system a break where it isn't actively trying to process/breakdown food. This break allows your body to rest and heal
- Increased Metabolism: Giving your digestive system a rest can also energize your metabolism to burn through calories more efficiently by regulating your digestion and promoting healthy bowel function
- Insulin Resistance: Intermittent fasting can reduce insulin resistance & lower blood sugar, both of which are great for weight loss (1)
- Reduced Inflammation: Some studies show reductions in markers of inflammation through intermittent fasting, a key driver of many chronic diseases including heart disease, and cancer (2, 3, 4)
- Brain Health: Intermittent fasting increases a brain hormone called BDNF, may aid the growth of new nerve cells and may also protect against Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and dementia (5)
IS IT SAFE?
For the most part, the only negative side effect of intermittent fasting is hunger. Most people only experience that side effect in the first few days, while there body is still adjusting to the method. For people who have issues with blood sugar regulation, suffer from hypoglycemia or have diabetes, intermittent fasting may not be advised.
Like anything new in your diet, check with your doctor before beginning an intermittent fasting protocol.