Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve probably heard someone throw out the phrase “intermittent fasting” (IF).
So what’s the deal with intermittent fasting? Is there any research on this approach to eating? If so, what are the benefits or side-effects if any?
Is intermittent fasting a strategy that can be used effectively for weight loss?
Let’s look at this topic and determine once and for all the rage about intermittent fasting is worth it.
What is Intermittent Fasting (IF)?
Intermittent fasting can be done in a number of ways, but simply put, intermittent fasting involves taking a period of time to refrain from taking in calories.
There are many approaches to doing intermittent fasting. These include fasting for a period of time each and every day, or even fasting for days a time.
Purists will argue that to really be “fasting” one must avoid anything but water, while others argue that caffeinated beverages are fine (assuming no sweeteners are added). Furthermore, others will have their “butter coffee” or “bulletproof coffee” during their fasting periods.
How to do Intermittent Fasting
One of the most common approaches to intermittent fasting is adopting a 16-8 plan. This is done by fasting for 16 hours per day and only eating in an 8 hour window. Most people are able to accomplish this by skipping breakfast, having their first meal at noon, then refraining from eating after 8pm.
Alternatively, others may decide to fast for a full day at a time, or even 2 days per week.
Finally, others still may just skip meals at their convenience. We’ve all missed a meal when busy, but that’s not necessarily intermittent fasting – but you would still get some of the health benefits from doing that!
What Happens When You Fast
There are host of things that happen at a cellular level when you refrain from consuming calories for an extended period of time.
At a cellular level, genes and molecules linked to longevity are switched on. At the same time cells begin recycling and repairing themselves.
Growth hormone increases significantly (especially after 48 hours of fasting), thus protecting muscle mass, and aiding in fat loss. As a result, many fitness competitors, body builders, and athletes are taking advantage of this principal to try fasting on their rest days.
Brain and heart health are both positively affected by fasting. Fasting has been shown to reduce blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar levels. In the same token, those who routinely fast have also shown better insulin sensitivity.
Speaking of insulin, intermittent fasting can even reduce insulin resistance, thus helping prevent type 2 diabetes. Many people that choose to do some form of intermittent fasting find that their sugar cravings are significantly reduced.
Furthermore, fasting allows the body to access its fat stores and use stored body fat as its primary fuel source. There is a lot of research that looks at how specifically belly and visceral fat is targeted when in a fasted state.
These are just a few of the evidence based health benefits of intermittent fasting. I encourage you to do your own research to see the full list
If you look back to our hunter-gatherer ancestry, there have always been times when humans went without food for periods of time. Nowadays people are going back to this pattern of eating by choosing to go without food at times
The bottom line is, intermittent fasting must be a conscious decision not to eat. Considering many people eat mindlessly (when tired, bored, stressed, etc.) adopting an intermittent fasting protocol may be an excellent way to regain control of ones eating and be a way to lose or maintain weight.
I’ve been adopting an intermittent fasting protocol for over 6 years. I’ve found a system that is extremely manageable for my busy lifestyle. I’ve not only been able to significantly reduce my own body fat by following my plan, I’ve also used intermittent fasting strategically to increase my lean muscle mass (with the increases in growth hormone).