Intermittent fasting is currently one of the biggest and most talked about health and fitness trends. People are using this technique to lose weight, improve their health and mental clarity and simplify their lifestyles.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that cycles between eating periods and fasting periods. It’s not referred to as a Diet as it’s more an eating pattern. Common patterns are 16 hour fasts or 24 hour fasts at least twice per week.
Fasting has been done by humans throughout evolution. Ancient hunter-gatherers didn’t have supermarkets or refrigerators at hand so had to go quite some time without eating.
Fasting from time to time is actually more natural than eating 3-4 meals per day.
Fasting is also an adopted pattern for many religious such as Isam, Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism.
Intermittent Fasting Patterns.
There are many different patterns to adopt into your eating schedule. They involved splitting the day or week into an eating and fasting period.
These are the most popular methods –
- The 16/8 method:
It involves skipping breakfast and restricting your daily eating period to 8 hours, such as 1–9 p.m. Then you fast for 16 hours in between.
This involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week, for example by not eating from dinner one day until dinner the next day.
- The 5:2 diet:
With this methods, you consume only 500–600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week, but eat normally the other 5 days.
By reducing your calorie intake, all of these methods should cause weight loss as long as you don’t compensate by eating much more during the eating periods. Many people find the 16/8 method to be the simplest, most sustainable and easiest to stick to. It’s also the most popular.
How fasting affects Cells and Hormones
So much happens to your body on a cellular and molecular level when you start a fasting pattern. An example is that your body adjusts hormone levels to make stored body fat more accessible. This meaning that it uses and burns body fat for energy.
Your cells also initiate important repair processes. Here are some changes that occur in your body when you fast:
- Human Growth Hormone (HGH): The levels of growth hormone go through the roof! Increasing as much as 5-fold. This has benefits for fat loss and muscle gain, to name a few (4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source).
- Insulin: Insulin sensitivity improves and levels of insulin drop dramatically. Lower insulin levels make stored body fat more accessible (8Trusted Source).
- Cellular repair: When fasted, your cells initiate cellular repair processes. This includes autophagy, where cells digest and remove old and dysfunctional proteins that build up inside cells (9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source)
- Gene expression: There are changes in the function of genes related to longevity and protection against disease (11Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source).
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
- Weight loss
- Insulin Resistance
- Heart Health
- Brain Health
Keep in mind though that research is still in the early stages however, what is being done at the moment is showing very positive results!
For those wanting to make life a little simpler, Intermittent fasting can make things easier, as you don’t need to plan, cook or clean up after as many meals as before!
When should intermittent fasting be avoided?
Intermittent fasting is certainly not for everyone. If you have a history of eating disorders or are underweight you should not fast without consulting your health professional.
It would be extremely dangerous if you fell into this category and decided to fast without an expert opinion and a controlled environment.
Safety and Side Effects
Hunger is always the first side effect that people experience. You might also feel weaker than usual and your brain isn’t performing as well as you’re used to. This may only be temporary as it can take some time for your body to adapt to the new meal pattern.
If you have an existing medical condition or any of the following you should consult with your doctor before fasting –
- Problems with blood sugar regulation
- Low blood pressure
- Take medications
- History of eating disorders
- Woman who is trying to conceive
- Woman with a history of amenorrhea
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding
With all the side effects and precautions listed, intermittent fasting has had extremely positive results if you’re healthy and well-nourished overall.