What Is Intermittent Fasting?
In the health sphere, intermittent fasting has been all the rage. Well, it should be, and I think it's here to stay. Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that switches between periods of fasting and eating. Intermittent fasting isn’t focused on what you should eat, but rather when you should eat. It's essentially an eating pattern as opposed to a diet.
How it works- Intermittent Fasting on the Cellular Level
When you fast, several things happen on the cellular and molecular level. Here are some of the highlights that occur in your body when fasting:
Human Growth Hormone [HGH] - Levels of HGH increase as much as 5 times. This means more fat loss and muscle gain, amongst other benefits.
Insulin - Insulin levels lower and insulin sensitivity increases which means it protects against type 2 diabetes.
Cellular repair - your cells initiate cellular repair processes when fasting. This includes autophagy, the process where cells digest and remove old, dysfunctional protein that builds up in cells.
Increase Longevity - The function of genes related to longevity and protection against disease changes when fasting.
Intermittent Fasting as a Tool for Weight Loss
Now, let’s get to the juicy stuff. The primary purpose of Intermittent fasting is to induce metabolic rest and achieve optimal health, with weight loss and calorie reduction being secondary effects. This is because fasting allows your hormone levels to make stored body fat more accessible, and facilitates weight loss. It also releases the fat-burning hormone norepinephrine. These changes in your hormones may increase your metabolic rate making it easier to burn calories and keep the weight off.
PROS: Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
When it comes to intermittent fasting, there is no shortage of benefits. If weight loss and better insulin wasn’t enough for perks, here are some more benefits of intermittent fasting:
Cancer - Fasting has shown several beneficial effects on metabolism that may lead to a reduced risk of cancer. Fasting has been shown to help block tumor formation and delay tumor growth.
Inflammation - studies have shown a reduction in inflammation markers. This is good because inflammation causes many chronic diseases.
Heart health - much of the research based on animal studies have shown that intermittent fasting may reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood sugar and insulin resistance. These are all risk factors for heart disease that you don’t want.
Anti-aging: Many studies show intermittent fasting helps the body resist oxidative stress, which is related to aging and chronic disease. Many studies are showing that intermittent fasting extends the lifespans of animals by delaying the onset of conditions common to aging such as fatty liver disease.
Brain health - fasting improves many metabolic features that are important for brain health. Studies on animals suggest that intermittent fasting may increase the growth of new nerve cells, and protect the brain against damage due to strokes. We also know that fasting increases the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which is a brain hormone. A decrease in this hormone is related to depression and other brain problems.
Alzheimer’s- studies in rats and mice show intermittent fasting may delay the onset of Alzheimer’s or reduce its severity, as is the case with other neurodegenerative diseases including Parkison’s disease. Another series of case reports show a lifestyle intervention of daily short-term fasts significantly improved Alzheimer’s symptoms in 9 out 10 people.
CONS: Potential Disadvantages of Intermittent Fasting
On a whole, intermittent fasting has a great safety profile. For the average healthy individual, intermittent fasting can be advantageous. That being said, it would be wise to take caution to some negative side effects that may possibly come to the surface. The good news is, these issues can be mitigated to minimize any potential harm.
Nutritional deficiencies- If fasting is leaving you low on your nutrients and minerals, then this is something you want to be cautious of. Plan your meals carefully to make sure you are eating a balanced diet.
Disordered eating- if you are prone to eating disorders or behaviors, then you are definitely going to want to caution yourself when trying to fast. This includes any tendency to binge eating- we don’t want to overeat, and you still have to pace yourself!
Discomfort & Pain - some people report feeling hungry, constipated or getting a headache. Hydrate, friends! Intermittent fasting can be an adjustment so start slow and build up your tolerance.
There are just some patterns to be cautious of when entering the world of intermittent fasting. You can be sure to make modifications where you can, in order to make sure that fasting is as safe as possible for you.
How to Do It: 7 Types of Intermittent Fasting
The nice thing about intermittent fasting is there is no one way to do it. As long as you are practicing abstaining from food for at least 12 hours, then you are essentially fasting. Here are the 7 common types of intermittent fasting:
12:12 - Fast 12 hours, and eat within a 12- hour window.This is a good way for beginners to introduce their bodies to intermittent fasting.
16:8 - Fasting 16 hours a day, eating with an 8 -hour window.This is common because of its practicality. People tend to have their first meal at noon and stop eating at 8 pm.
20:4 - Fasting 20 hours/day and eating in a 4 four window. This is most effective for weight loss because lipolysis (breaks fat cells apart) accelerates between hours 18 and 20.
5:2 - Fasting 24 hours 2 times a week on non-consecutive days. This is also effective for weight loss, and is a good plan for health maintenance, with fewer daily restrictions.
1:1- Alternate Day Fasting where you fast for 24 consecutive hours every other day. This is known as the fast of The Prophet Dawood [David] - peace be upon him.
72 hours - No food for 72 consecutive hours once a month, and drinking only water, black coffee, and black/green tea. This is great for people who want to boost their immune system, increase muscle growth and improve brain power. [Not recommended without medical support for those with existing health issues.]
Extended Fast - 7+ days- Fasting longer than 7 days without food doesn’t have additional benefits, in fact, it may permanently damage the metabolism, making it harder to maintain a healthy weight.
Safety and Side Effects
Overall, intermittent fasting has an outstanding safety profile because there is nothing dangerous about not eating for a set amount of time if you’re generally a healthy person. However, if you have a medical condition, you should consult with your doctor before trying intermittent fasting.
If one of the following applies to you, please consult your doctor:
- You have diabetes.
- You have problems with blood sugar regulation.
- You have low blood pressure.
- You take medications.
- you’re underweight or you have a history of eating disorders.
- You’re a woman who is trying to conceive, or you’re pregnant, or breastfeeding.
If you’d like some support with losing weight and optimizing your health, then know that I am here for you. My programs incorporate intermittent fasting in order to achieve the best results for your health. If you want to find out more, email me at [email protected]. I gotchu!
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