Intermittent fasting is a trending diet regimen that has been found to promote weight loss, boost the immune system and according to research can increase lifespan. Below we will answer the top questions about intermittent fasting so you can decide if it is right for you.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a way of eating more than it is a certain diet. It involves restricting calories and/or restricting the timing of meals. Some follow a method in which they will limit calories to 500 combined with alternating days with no calorie restrictions. Others will limit their eating to a specific time window of 8 hours so that the remaining 16 hours the body is in fasting mode. If you choose this method you would limit meals to between 10 am and 6 am or noon to 8 pm for example. With either method there are advantages and disadvantages as shown below:
- This method is well researched and tested and has been proven to be safe in clinical human trials
- Calorie counting is only necessary on your fasting days
- On alternate days you eat what you want
- You will burn more fat using this method than you will with dieting everyday
- Practicing fasting on alternate days lowers blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides
- On the days you fast it can hamper your social life
- If you have a family that you cook for it can be difficult on fasting days
- Some people get headaches and have insomnia for a week or so until their body adapts
- Restricting calories to 500 or less on alternate days may cause low energy levels on fasting days
Is intermittent fasting a fad?
While intermittent fasting is trending in popularity currently it is actually a method of eating practiced by humans going back to the beginning. You have to consider that our hunter – gatherer ancestors didn’t always have ready access to food and sometimes went days without eating.
Our bodies were designed to adapt in this way in order to survive. Intermittent fasting is actually a far more natural way to eat than eating 3 or 4 meals a day everyday. In addition fasting goes back thousands of years among religious practitioners who fasted for spiritual reasons but the health benefits for the body were not discovered until the early 20th century as doctors began treating issues such as epilepsy, diabetes and obesity.
How does intermittent fasting make one healthier?
Fasting causes numerous changes to occur in the body on the molecular and cellular level. This is due to our bodies being structured to adapt and survive. One of the things that happens almost immediately is the reduction of insulin levels which help to burn body fat for fuel instead of relying on glucose.
The body also goes into a more intense repair process and the immune system is boosted. Some of these processes include autophagy in which the cells digest and get rid of accumulated proteins that build up over time in the cells. Human Growth Hormone levels increase dramatically and can go up five times or more which aids fat loss and muscle gain.
Changes in gene expression help to protect against disease and have proven to increase lifespan as well. All of these factors contribute to the tremendous health advantages of following an intermittent fasting lifestyle.
Is intermittent fasting good for weight loss?
Actually weight loss is the main reason most people decide to give intermittent fasting a shot. Because you are eating fewer meals you automatically have a reduction in your overall caloric intake. Also, as mentioned previously, fasting helps with hormones such as insulin by bringing them to normal levels which aids in fat loss.
In addition the fat burning hormone norepinephrine is increased to higher levels.Short term fasting can increase your metabolic rate by as much as 14%. It is also found that most people see a substantial reduction in their waist measurement which is directly related to health.
Because intermittent fasting also releases so much HGH you have far less muscle loss than other calorie restrictive diets. In fact some following intermittent fasting actually have seen an increase in muscle mass when accompanied by a solid weight training method. Bear in mind that if you overeat on your “off days” you may not lose any weight at all. It is best to still eat somewhat moderately on your off days and not binge on junk food.