As an effective way to boost fat burning, intermittent fasting is quite the trend these days. However, the practice of fasting, in some form or the other, has long been part of many religious and ethnic cultures.
Intermittent fasting has been found to help with weight loss, decreasing your sugar levels, reversing metabolic disorders such as type-2 diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol levels, and much more.
Keep on reading to learn more about intermittent fasting, its benefits, eating patterns, or the types of intermittent fasting, and most importantly, how to do this correctly to reap the most rewards.
What is Intermittent fasting (IF)?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is the voluntary abstinence of food or drink for a set period of time. You fast for a particular period and then eat one or more meals during the eating window. In other words, it is an eating pattern where you cycle between fasting and eating if not feasting.
Intermittent fasting has been proved to be sustainable as there is no restriction on the type of food you eat during the eating window. But, the time of eating is of utmost importance and carefully calculated.
Also Read: Eat Healthy For A Healthy Life
Types of Intermittent Fasting (IF)
Intermittent fasting is of different types. The three most popular ones are:
1. The Leangains diet or the 16/8 method
This method involves fasting for 16 hours and eating during the remaining 8 hours. In this eating window, you can fit any number of meals you want. It can be two, three, or more, and it is totally up to you. This particular method was popularized by Martin Berkhan, a fitness expert.
2. Eat-Stop-Eat or the Periodic Diet
As the name suggests, during this type of diet, you normally eat for a day and fast the next day. However, do not fast more than twice a week. It should be done between the days of normal eating and not on consecutive days. It’s 24 hours fasting, and no solid food is allowed during this time. You can have drinks that do not contain any calories.
3. The 5/2 Diet or the Fast Diet
This diet was popularized by British Journalist Michael Mosley and is also known as the Fast Diet. During this diet, you are required to normally eat for 5 days of the week and restrict your calories for the rest of 2 days. Men are recommended to take 600 calories, and women to take 500 calories on those fasting days.
Intermittent fasting and weight loss-
The core of all diets is fat burn. Abstinence from food simply allows the body to use its stored energy which is the fat. This is nothing to be intimidated by, as humans are programmed to be able to fast for a certain duration.
When you eat, a key hormone called insulin is released by the body to help in the uptake of the food. Whatever is needed is taken, and the rest is stored away for future use. They are stored as glycogen and fats.
Glycogen is stored in the liver and muscles, whereas fats are stored in fat cells called adipocytes. Therefore, when you do not eat, and there is no availability of sugar in the blood, the body is forced to use these stored energy molecules.
First, the body starts with glycogen burning, which usually dwindles within 12 hours. Next comes the burning of fat for energy. So if you fast for that long, you start to burn fat.
It lowers insulin, increases growth hormones and norepinephrine hormones that facilitate fat burning. They increase metabolic rate, which boosts weight loss even more.
Effects of Intermittent Fasting and your hormones
The biggest benefit of intermittent fasting is lowering your insulin levels. All foods that burn and release calories raise insulin. Therefore simply said, the most effective method of reducing insulin is to avoid food. Low insulin level facilitates fat burning.
2. Human growth hormone
Growth hormone (GH) is an anti-aging hormone. It helps protect muscle, collagen, joints, and skin. Growth hormone increases the availability of fat to the body, breaking them down and utilizing them. GH preserves muscle protein and helps burn fat.
As you age, GH starts reducing and most people over 50 are really deficient in GH. This is one of the reasons for fat accumulation as you age.
When you fast, GH increases manifold. Studies have shown that a 5 day fasting period could increase the growth hormone by double. It functions in two ways. It preserves the muscle while fasting and stimulates fat burning simultaneously.
Fasting in any form stimulates the production of a protein in the nerve cells called BDNF, also called brain-derived neurotrophic factors. This protein helps in the generation of new nerve cells in the hippocampus area of the brain. It improves memory, learning, and other cognitive functions.
Studies have shown that intermittent fasting delays brain aging and can successfully delay neurodegenerative diseases.
Intermittent fasting for cellular purification (Autophagy)
Fasting promotes autophagy. This term was first named by Christian de Duve in 1963 and then identified by Yoshinori Ohsumi that earned him Nobel Prize in 2016. “Autophagy” means “self-eating” or “self-devouring” (auto means self, and phagy means to eat). As you fast, your body is in a nutrient deficient state that forces it to be more efficient in using whatever is available. This means all unwanted, damaged, and dysfunctional cells are used up by your body, and in the process, the system is cleaned of this debris.
During fasting, your cells are in resource conservation mode, and after fasting, they enter the growth mode and form new cells. This optimizes body functioning as well. In other words, you are giving your body a complete renovation.
Intermittent fasting and other health benefits
1. Intermittent fasting helps lose visceral fat:
The fat that is found in our viscera or abdominal cavity is known as visceral fat. It sits around your internal organs and is the reason for most of the metabolic disorders rampant these days. Visceral fat releases proteins and hormones that cause inflammation, which can damage your blood vessels and is extremely harmful. Intermittent fasting has been shown to reduce this fat and reverse the order.
2. Intermittent fasting reduces insulin resistance and lowers the risk of Type-2 diabetes:
Fasting helps drop the insulin levels in the body that maximizes the body’s ability to metabolize sugar. This also sensitizes the cells to insulin resulting in effective sugar uptake. As a result, fasting lowers the risk of diabetes).
3. Improves heart health:
Intermittent fasting lowers blood triglyceride level, LDL cholesterol, often named as the bad cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. It also promotes fat burning and helps with weight reduction. All these factors together directly benefit the overall condition of the heart.
4. Slow down aging:
With intermittent fasting, your body increases the ability to repair cells and DNA, thereby slowing down the aging process. It reduces oxidative stress, another process that slows down aging.
5. Prevent certain cancer:
Like all cells, cancer cells also use glucose as the primary fuel for energy. As fasting is a glucose-depleted state, it can stop and even alter this growth.
The Final Note
Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating pattern which cycles between a prolonged duration of fasting and an eating window period. In this window, you can have two or more meals without much restriction.
As long as you stick to healthy eating during that time, you will be gifted with good health. Different types of IF are there to suit your needs. Give it a try and get a better you.