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Intermittent fasting (IF) is currently one of the world’s most popular health and wellness trends. And with the addition of “quarantine weight” I find that more people are looking for ways to shed a few extra pounds and get back into peak shape for summer. But IF isn’t just to lose weight, it can improve overall health, serve as a mini detox, as well as simplify eating patterns.
Unlike a diet, intermittent fasting isn’t so much about what you eat as when you eat it.
Common intermittent fasting methods involve daily 12-16 hour fasts, fasting for 24 hours, or skipping meals at predetermined intervals.
Intermittent fasting, for both humans and animals, has been quite normal up until about the last 120 years. In earlier times people didn’t have supermarkets, refrigerators or food available 24/7 year-round. And wild animals still don’t. It’s natural to not be able to find anything to eat for a brief or even extended period of time. But in Western culture, skipping a meal seems almost tantamount to torture; we are not conditioned to do without and often feel hard-done-by when that is the case. Still, many studies have shown that intermittent fasting can have powerful effects on your body and brain and overall health.
Here are three of the most popular types of intermittent fasting.
Time Restricted Eating or the 16/8 Method
Also called the Leangains protocol, the 16/8 method, simply put, involves skipping breakfast and restricting your daily eating period to 8 hours a day, such as 10am–6 p.m. Then you fast for 16 hours in between. This is one of the most popular and easy methods of fasting for most people to follow. For me personally, I’m not great at skipping breakfast! And going cold turkey for 16 hours without any… well… cold turkey, or anything else for that matter is a bit tough! I don’t function well in the morning without food and my productivity takes a beating. I’ve managed 12 hours at a shot pretty consistently ( 7pm – 7am) and am trying to bump it up one hour at a time, i.e. 6:30pm – 7:30 am. Maybe 6pm – 8 am will eventually become the norm.
Periodic Fasting or the 5:2 Diet
Popularized by British journalist Dr. Michael Mosley in the 2012 TV documentary “Eat, Fast, Live Longer” the 5:2 diet got its name because five days of the week are normal eating days, while the other two restrict calories to 500–600 per day. Because there are no requirements about which foods you can eat but rather when you should eat them, this is considered more of a lifestyle diet.
It’s important to emphasize that eating “normally” does not mean you can just eat anything you want, including junk food or bingeing and then starve yourself. (#eatingdisorder?) The idea is to just eat as you would on an average day, then two days a week, reduce your calorie intake to a quarter of your daily needs. This is about 500 calories per day for women, and 600 for men. You can choose whichever two days of the week you like, (i.e Tuesday and Friday) as long as there is at least one non-restricted eating day in between.
This is considered one of the strictest forms of intermittent fasting. It involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week. An example would be eating dinner on Monday and then nothing again until dinner on Tuesday, essentially skipping two meals and any in-between snacks. On fasting days, you’re allowed to drink as many calorie-free beverages as you like such as water and coffee or tea as long as you skip the milk and sweetener.
How Intermittent Fasting Affects Your Cells and Hormones
When you fast, several things happen in your body on a cellular level that can have dramatic health benefits
Insulin Sensitivity improves and levels of insulin drop significantly. The lower insulin levels make stored body fat more accessible for immediate use.
HGH or Human Growth Hormone levels skyrocket, increasing as much as 5x, and accelerating fat loss and muscle gain in the process.
Cellular Repair is initiated when fasting, and includes a process called “autophagy”, where cells digest and remove old and dysfunctional proteins that build up inside cells. It’s the body’s way of clearing out damaged cells, in order to regenerate newer, healthier ones.
How Effective is Intermittent Fasting for Health and Weight Loss?
Carbohydrates, broken down by enzymes are stored as glucose in our fat cells for generating energy. But glucose can only penetrate into our cells with insulin. During fasting, insulin level falls while human growth hormone (HGH) goes up, burning off the fat. Our body at this point also instigates a cellular repair processes and there are changes in the functions of genes that have been related to longevity and protection against disease.
Various studies have also shown intermittent fasting to be helpful in strengthening brain function, promoting blood sugar control, and yes, accelerating the weight loss process.
Intermittent fasting is not a magic weight loss pill and should certainly be used in conjunction with a healthy, nutritionally balanced diet. If you’re considering it for yourself, keep in mind that the benefits extend far beyond dropping a clothing size. As always, seek advice from a qualified medical professional before embarking on any weight loss plan or dramatic dietary change.
Have you decided to try intermittent fasting? Have any personal experiences to share? Head to the comments below …. I love to hear from you! And consider pinning and sharing this post if it helped you 🙂