Intermittent fasting is the practice of cycling between periods of eating and periods of intentional fasting, or abstaining from food. Humans have fasted for millennia, whether for religious or cultural purposes or out of necessity during times of scarcity.
However, it’s a rare occurrence for most modern people to skip a meal when there are convenience stores on every corner.
Researchers are beginning to investigate how fasting intermittently affects weight loss and body composition. Unlike traditional “diets” that dictate what you eat, intermittent fasting focuses on when you eat, and it can be a powerful practice for better health.
Intermittent fasting is quickly becoming one of the most popular and profound weight loss practices, and for good reason: it’s simple, effective, flexible, sustainable, and best of all, it’s free. Fasting can be incorporated into nearly any other diet and lifestyle with relative ease!
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
The benefits of fasting are similar to those of calorie restriction, which has been shown to have positive effects on weight loss and potentially even longevity. The problem is that for most people, counting calories is extremely tedious, requires a lot of guesswork, and is not sustainable. It tends to create a vicious cycle of losing weight only to gain it all back. Long term calorie restriction without regular refeeds can be catastrophic for your hormones and lead to lower energy levels, loss of muscle or leave you feeling hungry and cold. Not fun.
That’s where intermittent fasting comes into play.
Intermittent fasting has been shown to mimic the benefits of calorie restriction without the potential drawbacks and the need to intentionally restrict food intake. Studies suggest that intermittent fasting is as effective as traditional calorie-restricted diets for weight loss due to specific benefits that occur during the fasting window:
1) Improved Fat Oxidation: Human studies have shown that fasting for periods of 12 or more hours can improve fat oxidation and induce mild ketosis.
2) Increased Metabolic Rate: Short-term fasting has been shown to lead to increased energy expenditure and metabolic rate in human studies.
3) Blood Sugar Regulation: Fasting can improve insulin sensitivity, lower overall levels of blood sugar, and reduce systemic inflammation, all of which are crucial factors for appetite regulation and metabolic health.
4) Normalized Appetite: Fasting has been shown to help regulate ghrelin, the“hunger hormone”. Ghrelin antagonizes leptin, the hormone responsible for telling us we’re satiated,
so balancing the two is key to regulating appetite.
5) Better Muscle Retention: Intermittent fasting stimulates the production of growth hormone and testosterone, especially in overweight populations.These hormones help you maintain muscle mass while losing weight, and the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest.
In addition to its benefits for fat loss, intermittent fasting has a host of other health benefits:
1) Autophagy: A repair process wherein cells dispose of damaged proteins and replace them with new ones. This process has been linked with anti-aging, longevity, and improved metabolic health because it keeps cells young and functioning optimally.
2) Improved Gut Health: Fasting can make your gut stronger by giving it a break from digestion, protecting it from the negative impacts of stress, increasing levels of good bacteria, and killing off harmful microbes.
3) Improved Blood Lipid Profiles: Fasting has been shown to improve a number of blood lipid markers including blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and triglycerides.
4) Improved Energy Levels: Most people equate hunger with lethargy, but fasting tends to lead to increased energy levels and cognitive function. This is due to increased fat metabolism and ketone production.
Intermittent fasting is a simple way to regulate energy intake without the need to weigh, measure, track, and count every morsel of food you consume. Many people find fasting to be an easier alternative to calorie-restriction for losing fat, increasing energy levels, and improving metabolic health.