Intermittent Fasting Benefits, simply stated, is cycling between periods of fasting and eating. It’s currently a very popular method to lose weight and improve health. Not only was it the “trendiest” weight loss search term nowadays, but it was also prominently featured in a review article in The New England Journal of Medicine.
But there is nothing “new” about fasting. In fact, intermittent fasting might actually be an ancient secret of health. It is ancient because it has been practiced throughout all of human history. It’s a secret because this potentially powerful habit had until recently in many ways been virtually forgotten especially regarding our health.
However, many people are now re-discovering this dietary intervention. Since 2010, the number of online searches for “intermittent fasting” has increased by about 10,000 percent, with most of the increase happening in the last few years.
Intermittent fasting can provide significant health benefits if it is done right, including loss of excess weight, treatment of type 2 diabetes, and many other things. Plus, it can save you time and money.
The goal of this beginner’s guide is to provide everything you need to know about intermittent fasting, in order to get started.
Table of Contents:
- What Is Intermittent Fasting?
- Intermittent Fasting For Weight Loss
- Intermittent Fasting Benefits
- Weight and body fat loss
- Increased fat burning
- Lowered blood insulin and sugar levels
- Possibly reversal of type 2 diabetes
- Possibly improved mental clarity and concentration
- Possibly increased energy
- Possibly increased growth hormone, at least in the short term
- Possibly an improved blood cholesterol profile
- Possibly longer life
- Possibly activation of cellular cleansing by stimulating autophagy
- Possibly reduction of inflammation
- 5 Possible Side Effects Intermittent Fasting?
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating.
It doesn’t specify which foods you should eat but rather when you should eat them.
In this respect, it’s not a diet in the conventional sense but more accurately described as an eating pattern.
Common intermittent fasting methods involve daily 16-hour fasts or fasting for 24 hours, twice per week.
Fasting has been a practice throughout human evolution. Ancient hunter-gatherers didn’t have supermarkets, refrigerators, or food available year-round. Sometimes they couldn’t find anything to eat.
It is perhaps the oldest and most powerful dietary intervention imaginable.
As a result, humans evolved to be able to function without food for extended periods of time.
In fact, fasting from time to time is more natural than always eating 3–4 (or more) meals per day.
Fasting is also often done for religious or spiritual reasons, including in Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism.
Intermittent Fasting For Weight Loss
Several studies show that intermittent fasting can boost weight loss via several mechanisms.
First, restricting your meals and snacks to a strict time window may naturally decrease your calorie intake, which can aid weight loss.
Intermittent fasting may also increase levels of norepinephrine, a hormone and neurotransmitter that can boost your metabolism to increase calorie burning throughout the day.
Furthermore, this eating pattern may reduce levels of insulin, a hormone involved in blood sugar management. Decreased levels can bump up fat burning to promote weight loss.
Some research even shows that intermittent fasting can help your body retain muscle mass more effectively than calorie restriction, which may increase its appeal.
According to one review, intermittent fasting may reduce body weight by up to 8% and decrease body fat by up to 16% over 3–12 weeks.
At its very core, intermittent fasting simply allows the body to use its stored energy. For example, by burning off excess body fat.
It is important to realize that this is normal and humans have evolved to fast for shorter time periods – hours or days – without detrimental health consequences. Body fat is merely food energy that has been stored away. If you don’t eat, your body will simply “eat” its own fat for energy.
Life is about balance. The good and the bad, the yin and the yang. The same applies to eating and fasting. Fasting, after all, is simply the flip side of eating. If you are not eating, you are fasting.
Intermittent Fasting Benefits
Intermittent fasting’s most obvious benefit is weight loss. However, there are many potential benefits beyond this, some of which have been known since ancient times.
The fasting periods were often called ‘cleanses’, ‘detoxifications’, or ‘purifications’, but the idea is similar – e.g. to abstain from eating food for a certain period of time, often for health reasons. People imagined that this period of abstinence from food would clear their bodies’ systems of toxins and rejuvenate them. They may have been more correct than they knew.
Some of the purported health benefits of intermittent fasting include:
Weight and body fat loss
IF makes intuitive sense. The food we eat is broken down by enzymes in our gut and eventually ends up as molecules in our bloodstream. Carbohydrates, particularly sugars and refined grains (think white flours and rice), are quickly broken down into sugar, which our cells use for energy. If our cells don’t use it all, we store it in our fat cells as, well, fat. But sugar can only enter our cells with insulin, a hormone made in the pancreas. Insulin brings sugar into the fat cells and keeps it there.
Between meals, as long as we don’t snack, our insulin levels will go down and our fat cells can then release their stored sugar, to be used as energy. We lose weight if we let our insulin levels go down. The entire idea of IF is to allow the insulin levels to go down far enough and for long enough that we burn off our fat.
Increased fat burning
Eating more protein can also reduce the drop in metabolism often associated with losing fat. This is because it reduces muscle loss, which is a These chemical reactions keep your body alive and functioning.
Having a high metabolism can also give you energy and make you feel better.
The higher it is, the more calories you burn and the easier it is to lose weight and keep it off.
Lowered blood insulin and sugar levels
Insulin is a hormone your pancreas makes to lower blood glucose, or sugar. If you have diabetes, your pancreas either doesn’t make enough insulin or your body doesn’t respond well to it.
Your body needs insulin treatment to keep their blood sugar level in a healthy range. You can try Intermittent fasting to push Lowered blood insulin and sugar levels.
Possibly reversal of type 2 diabetes
Possibly improved mental clarity and concentration
Possibly increased energy
Possibly increased growth hormone, at least in the short term
Possibly an improved blood cholesterol profile
Possibly longer life
Possibly activation of cellular cleansing by stimulating autophagy
Possibly reduction of inflammation
In addition, fasting offers many important unique advantages that are not available in typical diets.
Where diets can complicate life, intermittent fasting may simplify it. Where diets can be expensive, intermittent fasting can be free. Where diets can take time, fasting saves time. Where diets may be limited in their availability, fasting is available anywhere. And as discussed earlier, fasting is a potentially powerful method for lowering insulin and decreasing body weight.
5 Possible Side Effects Intermittent Fasting?
There can be a number of possible nuisance side effects of intermittent fasting. Here’s what to do if you encounter them:
- Hunger is the most common side effect of intermittent fasting. This may be less of an issue if you’re already on a keto or low-carb, higher-fat diet. Learn more.
- Constipation is common. Less going in means less going out. However, keep in mind this a normal response to eating less. It is not a concern and should not need treatment unless you experience significant bloating or abdominal discomfort. Standard laxatives or magnesium supplements can be used to help if needed.
- Headaches are common and tend to disappear after the first few times on fasts. Taking some extra salt often helps mitigate such headaches.
- Mineral water may help if your stomach tends to gurgle.
- Other possible side effects include dizziness, heartburn, and muscle cramps. Learn more
A more serious side effect is the refeeding syndrome. Fortunately, this is rare and generally only happens with extended fasts (5-10 days or more) when one is undernourished.
Source: dietdoctor, heartline