Imagine the ability to eat the same amount of calories per day while still burning fat. It's possible, and it involves a process known as intermittent fasting. While intermittent fasting works best as part of a healthy routine, the simple principle of fasting for periods of time will help you to lose weight. There are various ways to go about intermittent fasting, which makes it possible to adapt it easily to your lifestyle.
Overview of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting works because it's not a diet. Think of intermittent fasting as a break for your body. During the downtime, it's able to burn more calories and enter into a mini-fasting state for a period of time. Unless you have a very unhealthy diet, you can generally keep your caloric intake the same while still enjoying the benefits of intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting can also help you maintain your muscle mass while losing fat and staying lean.
It's a Simple Process
The process of intermittent fasting is simple, which means that you'll be able to stick to the process. Since it's not a diet, you don't have to count calories. It's also extremely easy to follow the diet. All you have to do is select a regularly recurring period where you decide you're not going to eat. This includes any beverages with calories. After about a week of intermittent fasting, you'll start to see why it's such a beneficial and useful diet.
Alternating Between Feeding and Fasting
Explained simply, intermittent fasting works by alternating between a nutrient-rich fed state and a fasted state. Once you eat something, it takes your body anywhere from three to five hours to digest the food. If you have a snack during that period, then your body's digestive process starts all over again. This results in a continually moving system where the digestive process is always working. For most people on a normal eating schedule, the only time when the body is not digesting is a few hours after they are at rest.
The Post-Absorptive Phase
This is the phase that your body enters when it's not trying to run the complex process of digesting a meal. When your body enters the post-absorptive state, it can more efficiently turn its attention toward burning fat. The reason that the body can burn fat more effectively in this stage is that your insulin levels are low and the body is consumed by other processes. This is the best time for the body to burn the fat that the body was unable to access while it was concentrating on burning calories.
An Issue of Time
The reason most people don't enter the post-absorptive state is that the body needs a full 8 to 12 hours after the last morsel of food to enter into a fasted state. Because most people rarely ever enter this state, fat can be burned more efficiently. Intermittent fasting offers a healthy way to give your body a break from eating and digesting so that it can concentrate on burning fat.
The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
There are multiple benefits to intermittent fasting, but one of the greatest benefits is that it is a diet that is very easy to stick with. Intermittent fasting can help you prevent disease, reduce inflammation and improve your overall level of health. With so many benefits for such a simple change in your diet, it's hard to rationalize any reason to not engage in intermittent fasting.
Decrease in Leptin and Insulin Resistance
When you take a break from eating at regularly scheduled intervals your insulin and leptin sensitivity increases. Your body produces leptin-based on a proportional relationship to the amount of body fat you possess. People with more fat also make your leptin. Leptin enters the bloodstream through your circulatory system, and it binds to any available protein in your blood. Leptin is one of those hormones that is lower when you weigh less and increases as you gain weight. However, intermittent fasting can help to keep these levels in check regardless of your size.
Leptin is one of the substances that can cross the blood-brain barrier. Once it gets to your brain, it tells your hypothalamus when it is time to stop eating. If you eat too much, the leptin in your brain begins to stop working as it should. Leptin resistance can make it difficult to experience satiety, and you'll feel a need to keep eating as a result. Since leptin also serves a predictive factor in insulin resistance, leptin may also help protect against insulin sensitivity that can lead to Type 2 Diabetes.
Ghrelin is not some mythological beast out to destroy your weight loss goals. Rather, it's a hormone that like leptin has a dramatic impact on your hunger levels. Where leptin works to decrease your appetite, ghrelin is designed to increase your appetite. Released primarily in the stomach, scientists believe that it sends a hunger signal to the brain. The body tends to increase the levels of ghrelin before you eat, and they go down about three hours after you've eaten. However, during an intermittent fast, researchers have discovered that intermittent fasting helps condition you to resist the call of ghrelin. Since you know that your fast is only for a short time, you won't feel the need to eat during your fasting periods.
A Decrease in Triglycerides and Inflammation
Intermittent fasting has been shown to decrease your triglyceride levels, which can help to reduce your risk of a heart attack. Simply put, triglycerides are just fat in your blood. They can be used to help promote energy, but they are often stored when you have excess levels. When you fast intermittently, the extra triglycerides in your body can be used for energy before they are stored as fat. This will help you lower your risk for heart disease.
Reduction in Inflammation
Fasting also helps to reduce inflammation, which can contribute to all sorts of diseases. While this is considered a new concept for medical professionals, the fact that inflammation can lead to disease is a well-documented fact. Food can cause inflammation, so a fast helps your body recover from inflammation more effectively. Dr. Tanya Edwards of the Center for Integrative Medicine notes that inflammation is the source of many conditions. While scientists recognize it's role in Crohn's disease, arthritis and asthma, it may also have a role in cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.
The Most Popular Methods of Intermittent Fasting
In the most basic sense, intermittent fasting works best when you restrict your eating to a 6- to 8-hour period of time. There are six common ways of going about intermittent fasting. Choose the option that makes the most sense for your lifestyle. With all of these programs, you shouldn't allow your feeding period to become a binge. Eat as you normally would, but space it out over the time allotted. Intermittent fasting isn't a cure for weight gain, it only helps you lose weight when you take your current schedule and condense it into a smaller feeding period.
16/8: The Single Day Method
This version has you entering and leaving the fasted state all within the same day. It asks that you fast for 14 to 16 hours of each day. During your eating window of 6 to 8 hours, you can eat your three meals per day normally. It's best to space out the meals so that they occur every two to three hours. This fast is incredibly easy, and it could simply mean not eating breakfast or skipping dinner. One thing to keep in mind is that women tend to do better with shorter fasts of 14 to 15 hours.
The 24-Hour Fast
This fast usually recommends that you don't eat for a 24-hour period once or twice per week. This is a more intensive fast, and it's often accomplished more easily when you start the fast as you go to sleep. The recommended approach is to eat dinner, go to sleep and then fast until dinner that night. This way, you eliminate many of the side effects that come from longer fasts like insomnia and irritability. It also feels more natural to eat dinner and then fast during the day.
On this fast, you'll fast every other day. Typically, this fast is more intense, and it's not something you should try as your very first fast. If you eat dinner and then fast for an entire day, sleep and then eat breakfast, this works out to a 36-hour fast. Since many people have trouble sleeping without eating, it's recommended that you eat dinner to end the fast. However, if you are able to sleep, then you can turn this into a 36-hour fast. If you end up going the full 36-hours, you should aim to do this no more than three days per week.
Once Per Day
On this fast, you'll eat small amounts of raw fruits and vegetables. At the end of the day, you'll eat one massive meal. For people who love to eat, this can be a good option. It gives you a feast at night during a recommended 4-hour eating window. This is one of the oldest forms of intermittent fasting, and it can be fairly easy to implement.
5/2 Diet: The Weekly Fast
During this fast, you'll fast for an entire day, two days of the week. However, it won't be a complete fast. On the two days per week that you don't eat, you typically still consume from 500 to 600 calories. Women should typically eat only 500 calories and men should aim for 600 calories. This is due to the fact that most men have more muscle, so more calories are needed to prevent wasting.
How Fasting Affects Cells and Hormones
There are a few key components in your body that are activated when you fast. When you go on a fast, your body increases the level of human growth hormone (HGH). This increases your level of fat loss and your gains in muscle. When you gain additional muscle, you'll also burn more calories when at rest. Cellular repair is also improved during a fast. During the fasting process, your cells begin to repair themselves. This can help to remove old cells and get rid of the problem proteins that may build up inside of your cells. You also experience a change in the function of your genes and gene expression. This can help you protect yourself against disease and lead a prolonged and healthy life.
From the removal of antioxidants to an increased metabolism, Intermittent Fasting is a simple, safe and easy to implement solution to aid in your weight loss and health goals. Studies have shown that intermittent fasting can result in an overall weight loss of 3-8 percent over the course of 3-24 weeks. When you consider that all you have to do to lose this extra weight is not eat for a few extra hours a day, it's no wonder more people aren't implementing an intermittent fast.
Fasting is an exciting time for the regenerative processes in your body. While it's true that we all enter a fasted state each night, increasing the amount of time between meals can do wonders for the body. You'll improve your hormone balance, lose weight and gain a healthier attitude towards food. People who adopt an intermittent fasting program with healthy diets like the ketogenic diet can gain even more benefits over time.