5 Benefits of Intermittent Fasting, A Beginner’s Guide
Intermittent fasting. You may have heard of this buzzy healthcare concept that has grown in popularity over the past decade. From celebrities to doctors, everyone talks about intermittent fasting. Conversations often revolve around how effective it is and how good people feel when they eat this way. But I remember the first time I heard the phrase “intermittent fasting.” I try to block it from my mind, writing it down as something that clearly sounds like a diet. If you don’t eat, you’ll lose weight — anyone can tell you that! (Or, at least, that’s what my inner monologue was trying to convince me.)
Little do I know, there is a lot of research behind intermittent fasting. And while it can lead to weight loss, the benefits are much more profound. All eyes are on this dietary practice as research has begun around its ability to “cleanse cells”, increase longevity and reduce the risk of common diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Adding to the list, intermittent fasting keeps your DNA and cells healthy, slowing down the aging process. That, I suppose, is the closest thing to finding the fountain of youth.
Intermittent fasting isn’t just based on influencers’ radar. The method has undergone rigorous testing at research institutions including USC’s Institute for Longevity and Harvard. Interest rates promote? Yes – intermittent fasting is legal, friends. Below, I’ll look at the science behind intermittent fasting and point you in the right direction on how to get started. Let’s dive in.
Featured image of Kristen Kilpatrick.
How does intermittent fasting lead to weight loss?
Let’s talk about how to focus when you eat (and not worry too much about What you eat), can kick-start your metabolism, reduce your lifetime risk of major diseases, and possibly help you live longer. Intermittent fasting is all about burning off your sugar stores and getting to the point where your body starts burning the fat it has stored. On a normal day, our bodies use the food we consume for energy. When we fast, our bodies are forced to switch from burning the sugar in those regular meals for energy to burning fat already.
Neuroscientist John Hopkins Mark Mattson calls this “metabolic conversion”. Essentially, you shut down your body’s energy supply to encourage it to switch from eating regular meals for energy to working on a fat-storage basis. And voila – here’s how intermittent fasting helps you lose weight.
What is Ketogenesis, and how does it affect blood sugar, inflammation, and metabolism?
Let’s chat ketogenesis. Our bodies rely on glycogen stored in the liver for energy to move, shake, jump, and generally stay alive! We get glycogen from the food we consume, and as humans, we don’t stop burning it just to function and survive. Even when we are sleeping, we need fuel! As time has passed since our last meal, those glycogen stores begin to decrease and deplete. You may recognize the feeling of depleted glycogen stores as a feeling of “hangover”. When our bodies start to run out of glycogen, fat cells release fat that is sent straight to the liver for new fuel. In essence, you are burning fat to sustain life. This process is where ketogenesis occurs. Simply put, ketones are released into the bloodstream.
This is where the magic happens. According to the National Institutes of Health, “(Ketogenesis) enhances the body’s defenses against oxidative and metabolic stress, and initiates the elimination or repair of damaged molecules. Effects of ketogenesis transitioning to the non-fasting phase and possibly improving glucose regulation [blood sugar]Increases resistance to stress and prevents inflammation. ”
Ketones also send signals to the brain to release a molecule called BDNF. BDNF is responsible for strengthening neurons and neural connections in the part of our brain involved in learning and memory. Literally mind!
When our bodies are continuously exposed to periods of fasting, we will train our metabolism and cells to do better in the future no matter what kind of stress they face. In a world where we are exposed to oxidative stress due to pollution, alcohol, endocrine disruptors and plastic, this is pretty amazing news!
What are the long-term benefits of intermittent fasting?
In a 2019 New England Journal of Medicine article that reviewed the cumulative research and evidence on intermittent fasting, Dr. Mattson discussed and lend credence to the big claims that the researchers and fanatics were enthralled. Specifically, this article has revealed many benefits of intermittent fasting. This includes a longer lifespan, better physical performance, and improved memory. The list below summarizes the long-term benefits of intermittent fasting, according to Dr. Mattson.
- Thinking and memory. Studies have found that intermittent fasting enhances working memory in animals and verbal memory in adults.
- Cardiovascular health. Intermittent fasting improves blood pressure and resting heart rate, as well as other heart-related measurements.
- Physical activity. Young male fasting for 16 hours shows fat loss while maintaining muscle mass. The rats that were fed alternately showed better running endurance.
- Diabetes and obesity. In animal studies, intermittent fasting prevented obesity. And in six brief studies, obese adults lost weight through intermittent fasting.
- Tissue health. In animals, intermittent fasting reduces surgical tissue damage and improves outcomes.
How to start intermittent fasting?
In general, people tend to follow one of two intermittent fasting routines. One is fast daily. Many people tend to use this method because they find the daily routine closer and easier to stick to. During fasting, it is very important to drink water and beverages such as black coffee, unsweetened tea and carbonated water are fine. Also, avoid snacking and eating large meals as that prevents you from reaching the ketogenic state needed for intermittent fasting to work. Additionally, research shows that it takes about four weeks to “adjust” to intermittent fasting. Note that you may feel tired, irritable, or “hangover” as your body gets used to the fast. You will eventually adjust and begin to reap the benefits of scheduled eating.
Daily fast or 16/8
The daily fasting method is usually followed by choosing a time period for fasting and a period for eating. The most commonly used is the 16/8 method. Break up a day into 24 hours, 16 hours are indicated for fasting and meals are consumed over an 8-hour period. Know that consuming high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods during your mealtime will outweigh the benefits of following an intermittent fasting routine.
While you can structure the 16/8 method however you like, ending your eating time after 6pm can be a helpful way to achieve a more normal balance while fasting. . This can be like finishing your last meal of the day by 6 p.m. and eating your first meal the next morning no earlier than 10 a.m. Between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. you can eat and drink normally unrestricted.
Fasting twice weekly or the 2/5 . method
This method involves five days of normal, healthy, and unrestricted eating, followed by two days of restricting your calorie intake to about 25% of your daily needs. This only equates to about 500-600 calories, two days per week. This can be easily achieved by fasting in the morning followed by a healthy lunch followed by a late afternoon snack. You’ll then fast again until the next morning when you’re back to a normal day of eating. Many people use Monday and Thursday as fast days.
Who shouldn’t do intermittent fasting?
You’re better off seeing your doctor for a checkup to make sure that intermittent fasting is safe for you, especially if you have any underlying medical conditions. People who have or have experienced the following conditions should not intermittent fast:
- Children and adolescents under 18 years old
- Pregnant or lactating women
- People with diabetes or blood sugar problems
- People with a history of eating disorders