Intermittent fasting means eating your calories during a specific window of the day, and choosing not to eat food during the rest. It is an “eating pattern”, and can be implemented in a variety of ways, while maintaining the need to ‘fast’. Once you get past the idea of not eating for up to 24 hours, and then consuming all of your calories, it differs from fad diets because it’s actually easier to follow than you think.
How To Do It?
The first thing to note is that the ‘fast’ includes the time you spend sleeping. So, theoretically, if you eat at 8pm then go to sleep, consume water and green tea during the day, and eat at 8pm again, you’ve succeeded at intermittent fasting. It also isn’t meant to be a daily ritual, but a way of limiting your caloric intake and becoming aware of when your body is actually hungry, compared to when you perceive yourself to be.
One of the main reasons that people struggle to control their weight is because they actually struggle with maintaining the quality of food they ingest and how must of it they actually eat. By intermittently fasting you’ll be able to become more mindful and manage portions much easier. You’ll also want to eat food of a higher quality because it will make you fuller and healthier.
But fasting for 24-hours isn’t the only way. Another one of the main ways to intermittently fast is by eating at specific times of a day, and skipping a meal. So instead of eating 3 to 6 times a day, you’ll miss breakfast time and then only eat in the afternoon and evening, without snacking. Another way to take on intermittent fasting is known as the 5:2 approach. It is essentially eating normally for 5 days of the week with 2 days split out during the week reserved for high calorie restriction.
How Does It Work?
Your body uses the food you have eaten for energy, and its preferred fuel source is glucose when it is available. After you eat, your blood glucose remains elevated for several hours, any many of us eat before glucose levels come back down to baseline. By continuously topping up our glucose stores, our bodies continue selectively ‘burning’ glucose for energy.
But our bodies have other major energy stores, in the form of fat, and will tap into these when glucose is in short supply. One way to induce this switch in metabolism is fasting.
When in a fasted state, your body will first use up it’s available glucose before exploring other routes of energy production, with the major backup generator being stored fat.
Tapping into these fat stores can promote healthy weight loss.
Another aspect is that fasting improves insulin sensitivity. Improved insulin sensitivity means that more energy from your food is absorbed where it’s needed, such as muscle tissue, rather than being dumped into fat cells.
Fasting has been used by many religions, doctors, scientists over the years, and there’s good reason for that. Occasionally fasting can have health promoting effects. Intermittent fasting improves your portion control, and simplifies your eating and day-to-day tasks because you have one less thing to worry about.
What Does Science Say?
There’s been a lot of research into intermittent fasting and calorie restriction over the years:
One study found that it reduced oxidative damage and increased cellular stress resistance. Recent findings suggest that some of the beneficial effects of intermittent fasting on both the cardiovascular system and the brain are mediated by brain-derived neurotrophic factor signaling in the brain. If that wasn’t enough, cellular repair also increases as autophagy in the brain is upregulated.
Intermittent fasting also affects energy and oxygen radical metabolism, and cellular stress response systems, in ways that protect neurons against genetic and environmental factors to which they would otherwise succumb during aging. So you age less, and it can extend your life span!
Studies have also shown that if you’re in the gym it will definitely not have an adverse effect on your lean muscle mass. Your muscles are stronger than that and won’t deplete through slight calorie restriction. As it explains that “the decrease in resting energy expenditure after IF indicates the possibility of an increase in weight during IF when caloric intake is not adjusted.”
Is It For Everyone?
There is no one-size-fits-all that will miraculously solve all your problems – this trick is in finding what works for you. Intermittent fasting also isn’t meant to be constant, hence the word intermittent. It’s meant to teach you how to better control your quality of food and portions.
Many of us will find such a method of eating unmanageable, and that’s alright. This is simply another effective way to approach your health and wellness, while making nutrition a priority. So if it’s not for you, don't stress. When you eventually find a way to approach your diet that works for you you’ll see the difference it makes in your life.
One thing to always remember is that you should consult a professional if you have health issues, namely diabetes and hypoglycaemia, and want to try out intermittent fasting. Find what works for you and the results will eventually follow.