Intermittent fasting is becoming one of the most popular fitness and health trends. Whether it be for simplifying one’s lifestyle, improving health, or losing weight, many have found benefits with intermittent fasting.
Studies have shown that intermittent fasting has strong effects on the brain and body, which may help one live longer (in comparison to eating regularly without the program). Thankfully, we’re going to show you what intermittent fasting is – and share some intermittent fasting tips on how to get started.
Intermittent Fasting: What Is It?
Intermittent fasting is known as an eating pattern that involves periods of eating and fasting. The fasting cycle doesn’t have specifics in regards to the food one should eat, but it focuses on the times you should eat your meals. Given this context, intermittent fasting isn’t necessarily a conventional diet, but it’s better off described as an eating pattern.
How Do The Fasting Cycles Work?
The common methods of intermittent fasting involve fasting for 24 hours twice a week or daily 16 hour fasts. This isn’t anything out of the ordinary, as fasting itself has been performed throughout our evolution. For example: Our ancient gatherers and hunters did not have food available all year, they didn’t have refrigerators, and they didn’t have anything close to a supermarket. In many situations, they wouldn’t be able to find things to eat.
So given these scenarios, early humans had no choice but learn how to operate with no food for lengthy timeframes. Although such eating behaviors may seem dangerous for those of us who eat three to four meals a day, fasting every once in a while is more natural.
If this isn’t convincing enough, religions such as Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam fast for spiritual purposes as well.
What Are Common Methods for Intermittent Fasting?
There are several different methods of intermittent fasting, with all of them splitting the week or day into fasting and eating periods. The trick is during the periods where you’re fasting, you either eat nothing or very little. The most popular intermittent fasting methods are:
The 5:2 Fasting Method
The 5:2 fasting method allows one to consume just 500-600 calories on two days of the week (nonconsecutive), yet eat normally for the rest of the week. (1)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26438184/
The “Eat-Stop-Eat” fasting diet consists of fasting for roughly 24 hours at least twice a week. A great example would be not eating from breakfast until breakfast the next day.
This method is also referred to as the Leangains protocol, which involves passing on your breakfast meal and restricting any meal for 8 hours. For example: If you eat at 2pm, you won’t eat again until 10pm. After this, you start to fast for 16 hours between meals.
So if one can reduce their intake of calories, each method should prove successful in losing weight. (2)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26438184/ However, it’s important to not eat more (to compensate for meals lost) on your eating periods. 16/8 method has been the easiest and most sustainable for many, which explains its popularity among many.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Affect Hormones & Cells
Whenever one fasts, many things happen to your body on a molecular and cellular level. When one fasts, the body will adjust its hormones in order to make body fat easier to access. In addition to this, cells will change how your genes express and perform repair processes.
Other changes that occur with the body during intermittent fasting are:
- Levels of insulin in the body drop significantly and one’s insulin sensitivity makes improvement. Body fat stored becomes more accessible due to a lower insulin level.
- Growth hormone levels skyrocket in the body. How does this benefit you? Well, it has benefits for muscle gain, fat loss, and so much more.
- One’s genes make changes, which relate to disease protection and overall longevity.
- During the fasting process, the cells in the body begin repairing. This especially benefits one’s autophagy, which is when cells begin to remove and digest the dysfunctional and old proteins that may have been building up within the cells.
Given the changes with one’s gene expression, cell function, and hormone levels, it’s abundantly clear that intermittent fasting provides a plethora of health benefits.
Is Intermittent Fasting A Powerful Tool for Weight Loss?
When it comes to intermittent fasting, losing weight is the most common reason why individuals try it out. By simply eating less meals, it can lead to automatic reductions in regards to calorie intake.(3)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26438184/
In addition to this, intermittent fasting alters hormone levels in order to contribute to weight loss. That’s right, intermittent fasting increases the levels of your growth hormone, lowers insulin, and even releases noradrenaline, a fat burning hormone. So many perks by simply cutting out unnecessary meals.
Even studies have shown that intermittent fasting is an incredibly useful tool for losing weight. A study in 2014 proved that intermittent fasting can help one lose 3 to 8 percent of their weight in roughly 3 to 24 weeks, which is a very high success rate in comparison to other weight loss programs. The same study also found that 4 to 7 percent of individuals who were intermittent fasting lost weight circumference, which was harmful fat in the belly capable of causing disease and building around the organs.
It was another study that proved intermittent fasting caused significantly less muscle loss in comparison to more standard methods of regular calorie restriction. (4)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26438184/
However, it should be mentioned that the main reason that intermittent fasting was successful for the test subjects was due to the fact that they consumed fewer calories overall. If one eats to compensate for lost meals or binges, the likelihood of weight loss is significantly smaller.
Finding The Right Diet for You
In regards to intermittent fasting, many studies have been performed on both humans and animals. Such studies proved that this method of health and weight control have had a positive impact on one’s brain and body. Heck, in certain cases it’s capable of helping one live longer. So given the perks that come with intermittent fasting, there’s no excuse to try it out and see if it works for you.
Want to learn more about the different types of intermittent fasting?
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