Intermittent Fasting is a term for the eating pattern that cycles between periods of eating and fasting that is quickly gaining popularity in the health and fitness community. For Good Reasons too as it works!
This technique is helping people to kick start weight loss, improve their health and continue living a healthy lifestyle.
If you are ready to get started, follow this ultimate beginner’s guide to intermittent fasting.
Firstly, what is Intermittent Fasting (IF)?
Intermittent fasting (IF) doesn’t determine which foods you should eat but instead when you should eat. Therefore it is not really a diet but an eating pattern to improve your health. Throughout history, humans have naturally fasted for periods of time, our hunter-gatherer ancestors didn’t have the same ready access to food all year around like we do now.
Before domesticated animals and agriculture techniques humans were somewhat nomadic, travelling from place to place looking for food. Sometimes humans weren’t successful in finding food and so our bodies evolved to be able to go without food for extended periods of time.
So if anything, periodic fasting is more naturally that constantly eating 3 or 4 meals every day as we lived like that for a long time and it is in the last 1000 years or so that our lifestyles have dramatically changed. (timeline may not be exact).Nowadays it also appears for religious reasons in major religions like Islam, Buddhism and Christianity.
Current common intermittent fasting techniques require daily 16 hour fasts, or fasting for 24 hours, twice a week.
Intermittent Fasting Is A Powerful Technique for Weight Loss
Generally weight loss is the reason that people try intermittent fasting simply because eating fewer meals, or not eating for certain days leads to a reduction is overall calorie intake as well as those hormonal changes that make fat more accessible to burn. Fasting also increases the release of the fat burning hormone norepinephrine (noradrenaline).This means that short term fasting increases metabolic rates of up to 14%
Eating less (fewer calories in) and encouraging your body to burn more (more calories out), intermittent fasting results in weight loss by changing your calorie equation. In fact the results from a study in 2014 concluded that intermittent fasting can cause a weight loss of 3-8% during the study period of 24 weeks.
According to this study, participants lost not only weight but 4-7% from their waist circumference. Belly fat is one of the most dangerous types of fat as it builds up around the internal organs and leads to disease.
More typical calorie restriction diets can lead to muscle loss however a study showed that intermittent fasting retained higher muscle mass levels.
Losing weight also has positive effects on your mental health as well especially for women, many people fail to recognize the connection between physical and mental health.
How To Get Started With Intermittent Fasting?
There are many different methods for fasting. All of them split the day, or day into eating periods and fasting periods. During those fasts you either eat very little or nothing at all.
Some of the popular methods are:
- The Leangains Protocol:Also known as the 16/8 method. You skip breakfast and restrict your daily eating period to within 8 hours, Like from 12 pm to 8 pm. The fast period is for the 16 hours in between.
- Eat-Stop-Eat:This method means you fast for the entire 24 hours once or twice a week.
- The 5:2 Diet:This diet has become increasingly popular. On two non-consecutive days of the week, you eat restricted calories so between 500-600 calories and eat within normal caloric ranges for the other 5 days.
- The Juice Fast – slightly different to your normal fast in the respect that you are consuming liquids instead of food, this means you can fast for longer, click the link for more info.
If you are fasting to lose weight, just remember not to over compensate your calories on non fast days.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Affect Your Body?
Fasting for short periods actually has positive effect on your body. The hormone levels in body change to make stored body fat more accessible as fuel for your body.
Your body also initiates cell repair processes and can change the expression of genes.
Here is a breakdown of some changes that occur when you fast:
- Human Growth Hormone (HGH):The levels of growth hormone increases as much as 5 times. The following studies have shown benefits for fat loss and muscle gain, if you want to read more click (4, 5, 6, 7).
- Insulin:Insulin sensitivity can lead to storage of fat. Fasting improves your sensitivity and drops the levels of insulin. This in turn makes stored body fat more accessible (8).
- Cellular repair:During fasting, your cells begin cellular repair processes. Including a process called autophagy where cells remove old or dysfunctional proteins that build up inside cells (9, 10)
The reasons for this are believed to be a survival mechanism, when you go without food you get tired, weak and begin to lose focus. This triggers a survival mode in your body, thus the body enhances itself so that you are more able to hunt or travel long distances in order to get food.
Should You Try Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is generally safe for everyone to try and can become a lifestyle strategy to improve your health. Pair this with eating ‘real’ unprocessed foods, drinking filtered water, exercising and ensuring you get enough sleep are all important factors to keep in mind.
Aside from weight loss, intermittent fasting has a wide range of health benefits.
- Heart health – intermittent fasting reduces risk factors for heart disease like LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood sugar and insulin resistance.
- Inflammation – studies have shown reductions in the markers of inflammation which is a key driver in many illnesses.
- Cancer – promising studies in animals have shown reduced rates of cancer from fasting.
- Brain health – Fasting increases a hormone called BNDF which may aid the growth of new nerve cells which can protect against Alzheimer’s Disease.
- Anti aging – Studies in rats have shown an increased life span of up to 38% longer.
Who Shouldn’t Practice Intermittent Fasting?
As with all new diets, if you have a medical condition, consult with your doctor before trying intermittent fasting.
This is even more important if you have any of the following conditions:
- Have diabetes.
- Have problems with blood sugar regulation.
- Have low blood pressure.
- Take medications.
- Are underweight.
- Have a history of eating disorders.
- Are a female who is trying to conceive.
- Are a female with a history of amenorrhea.
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding.