Intermittent fasting – It’s been spoken about a lot in the past few years as a revolutionary new method of losing weight and increasing longevity but not everyone is familiar with the facts revolving around this style of eating. There are also still a lot of misconceptions about it out there because of the fact that it contradicts a few of the lessons we’ve had burned into our heads as children; the importance of 3 meals per day and depending on the eating window you choose you may be skipping breakfast (Aka. The so-called most important meal of the day). So what is it exactly?
Well, Intermittent fasting is essentially a way of eating that doesn’t center around changing the diet or restricting calories necessarily, although it often does cause one to eat less indirectly. It is actually just a strict way of eating where one only consumes calories within a set eating window of usually 8 hours time.
The most typical and least invasive method of intermittent fasting is to completely limit your calorie intake to an 8-hour eating window every single day. This has been my go-to eating plan in recent years and from experience, I can attest to its effectiveness when utilized correctly. There are other types of intermittent fasting, such as fasting for an entire day once per week but since that type of fasting is much more difficult to adhere to, I’m only going to focus on the daily intermittent fasting style.
So what’s the science behind adhering to an 8-hour eating window anyways and why does it work?
Well, essentially intermittent fasting revolves around the fact that in today’s societies most of us are constantly in a fed state thanks to our 3 meals a day rule, but we had not evolved to live perpetually fed in that way.
When our bodies have sugars in our bloodstreams because of the digestion of foods (particularly processed grains and sugars), we will also have insulin present to aid our bodies in utilizing and storing those sugars. As long as that insulin is present in our systems we will not be able to efficiently break down and start to use stored fat deposits, but when that insulin presence is very low then the body will go into a fat burning mode and that is where the magic happens!
Science suggests that it takes the human body approximately 12 hours of fasting before the body has depleted most of its glycogen stores in both the liver and muscle tissues. So it’s around the 12-hour mark that the body really begins to burn fat, and then since intermittent fasting is a 16 hour fast with an 8-hour eating window, that leaves an individual with 4 hours of complete fat burning time every single day because of the very low insulin levels!
That means that no matter what you’ve been eating in that 8-hour window, or even to some extent, how much you eat, you will always have a 4-hour window of solid fat burning time on a daily basis. Although intermittent fasting will always work best for health purposes if paired with a healthy and balanced diet!
So is it just a fat burning tool?
Now, the most noticeable effect of intermittent fasting is probably the quick and efficient weight loss but it does so much more good for the human body than just shedding some unsightly pounds.
When we allow our body to wallow in that fasted state for a few hours every day, we are allowing our bodies to regulate our blood sugars more effectively, reducing our risk for diabetes and increasing longevity.
When our bodies are in a fasted state, our bodies are also more focused on cell repair and cell cleaning because there is not as much energy being directed towards digestion! The body is able to do a sort of house cleaning.
Imagine if you had never cleaned your home unless you were 12 hours fasted, how messy would your house be right now???
When our cells are cleaned they work more efficiently and when our body becomes a finely tuned machine because of its optimal state it’s also capable of digesting our food more efficiently!
Intermittent fasting has been shown to both lower blood pressure and resting heart rate in individuals. Heart health has also been shown to improve through the reduction of unhealthy triglycerides and cholesterol in the cardiovascular system.
Intermittent fasting can also affect a person cognitively, decreasing inflammation in the brain and improving cognitive function and focus. Some studies have shown that intermittent fasting on animals could reduce the risk of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and stroke. Although further human studies are still required to prove the results can be replicated in humans.
It is also possible that intermittent fasting, through positive weight management, can reduce the risks for many types of cancers. Studies have shown this effect in animals, but the studies have not yet been replicated the results on humans and further studies are needed to confirm this fact. Yet intuitively this makes sense, as the healthier our bodies are and the less fat we carry in our abdominal regions, the apter our systems are in dealing with dangerous ailments and health risks such as rogue cancer cells and tumors.
Intermittent fasting has also been shown to increase the amount of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) in the human body up to five-fold in some individuals, especially while exercising in a fasted state. Increases in HGH can increase lean muscle tissue, help with the reduction of fat and can also aid the body in other ways.
Now it’s important to note that many of the same benefits found through intermittent fasting can also be achieved through strict calorie reduction diets, but some may find an eating window easier to adhere to. This type of dieting will not be for everyone, and so it’s important to figure out what works best for you and your health goals. If you are a diabetic or have any health conditions it is important that you consult a healthcare professional before attempting any drastic changes to your lifestyle or eating habits.
Finally, I would like to end this article with a few tips for those considering an attempt at implementing intermittent fasting into their daily lives!
- Pick an 8 eating window that works best for you! Usually, later in the evening, skip breakfast and work up to that 8-hour window slowly if you need to. Perhaps start with a 10-hour window for the first week, then 9, then 8. Don’t chastise yourself if you break your window once or twice a week, this will not affect your long term results or your health benefits.
- When you are in a fasted state it is perfectly okay to drink black coffee and black teas. These can also aid in appetite suppression, so guzzle away. Sparkling waters are also a great way to achieve a feeling of satiation without ingesting any calories and it can do wonders for keeping hydrated.
- If you’re feeling blah when fasting, try taking in some electrolytes. My go-to bevy of choice when fasting is the Canada Dry Club Soda line of soft drinks because they are calorie free and have trace amounts of both sodium and potassium (electrolytes).
- Try exercising while fasted, just before the end of your fasting period for maximum weight loss and HGH increases, then have your first big meal directly afterward! This works best for athletes and bodybuilders. More information can be found here.
- It may seem like you are going to be starving at all times but actually, your body will adjust to only expect food during your eating window after a few days and appetite will be suppressed outside of those eating hours. Hang in there! 🙂
Of course, the best thing about intermittent fasting is that it is easy to implement, costs nothing, and alters a person’s eating habits in a minimal way. So if you ever feel like experimenting with your own body and health, or have a difficult time losing stubborn fat, perhaps this is just the regimen that you’ve been looking for. Give it a shot and take care of your health, but remember that no eating routine is an excuse for a poor unbalanced diet!
Here’s to wishing you a long, healthy and happy life!