Intermittent fasting has taken a huge trend in dieters and health enthusiasts. People who follow this diet swear by its weight loss benefits and brain-enhancing advantages. Although considered a diet, intermittent fasting is actually an eating plan more than anything. Studies on this way of eating have been mostly done on animals but all primary indicators of these researches agree on positive outcomes and many intermittent fasting benefits.
Diets mainly restrict you from eating certain types of food with a specific number of servings and calorie counts while intermittent fasting allows you to eat without any form of restrictive measures other than a window of time during your day.
Intermittent Fasting: A way of eating
Getting into this “diet” is more about changing your eating habits or eating patterns more than the actual food you eat. Intermittent fasting is a way of eating that involves cycles between periods of having no food and a window of unrestricted “feasting” to break your fast. This has been proven to promote a significant change in the body with loss of fat and weight management.
Alongside weight loss, there are noticeable improvements in health issues such as regulated blood pressure and lower levels of cholesterol in the blood.
Fasting in itself has its roots ingrained in many universal rituals related to health and spiritual benefits even in the early times and relates much to the basic principles of intermittent fasting. Traditional fasting would entail total abstinence from food and beverages other than water which can last from 12 hours to as long as a full month.
However, our bodies are designed with a perfect defense mechanism. Long periods of low-calorie consumption causes the body to adapt to this calorie restriction and prevents the body from losing weight any further. This is when the body reaches the “plateau” stage. Dieters experience this at a certain stage in their weight loss program. It is usually the point where they make or break their weight loss goals as some lose sight and become discouraged with their efforts showing no results.
Intermittent fasting is a workaround to the plateau stage as it cycles between a state of fasting/low-calorie intake for a short period which is then followed by the individual’s normal way of eating. This is a way to trick the body from going into defense mode.
Intermittent Fasting: How it Works
There are three popular ways to go about intermittent fasting.
Alternate Day Fasting ( ADF )
This is the strictest of all IF eating plans. Fasting is scheduled alternately with each day of “feasting”. Fasting days can be restricted to a water-only fast or a restricted calorie intake of only 500 calories for the day. But because this way of eating is too restrictive, it may not sit well with certain individuals unless this has been advised by a doctor or a dietician for specific health reasons.
Some prefer this way of eating as it is not as strict and allows them to enjoy a normal consumption of food for five days of the week and then go on a fast for two consecutive days. Again, fasting is a choice between a full water-only fast or a 500-600 calorie day restriction on food.
Also known to dieters as Leangains, eating is restricted to an eight-hour window only during the day. You may eat anything you want and as much as you want for this time period of eight hours only. This puts your body on a 16 hour fast each day on the same water-only fast. This eating schedule has been found to have the most compliant of followers because you can choose your fasting hours and can apply to individuals with odd working and waking hours. A typical eating schedule would go as follows: Fasting hours: 8 pm – 12noon Feasting hours: 12noon – 8 pm.
The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Word has it that intermittent fasting is just all hype and nothing really worth the viral trend it has been causing in the world of health and wellness. However, there are evidence-based health benefits that many followers can attest to this way of eating.
Increased functions of cells and hormones.
Depriving yourself of food causes a rippling effect of changes in the body. This triggers cellular repair as well as adjustments in hormone levels that encourage the body to access stored fat to burn energy.
When you are on a state of fasting, there are an increase in Human Growth Hormones ( HGH ) levels in the blood by 5 times its normal rate. Higher levels of HGH help in fat burning as it also helps with muscle gains.
Weight loss and decreased belly fat.
This is the number one reason people follow this way of eating. Generally, IF makes you eat less and have a limited number of meals a day. Doing this affects the way your hormones behave and facilitates faster weight loss.
Short- term fasting has been proven to increase one’s metabolic rate by as much as 14 percent. Research has evidence that IF can cause weight loss of up to 8 percent in just 3 weeks with up to 4- 7 percent in waist circumference. That is a significant loss of harmful, disease-causing belly fat.
Weakens insulin resistance.
That being said, you have a lower risk of acquiring type 2 diabetes. When you go into a fast, your insulin levels drop by 20 -30 percent, your HGH levels increase as it increases the rate of how body fat gets broken down to be used for energy.
Intermittent fasting has been known to improve insulin resistance which in effect means a reduction in blood sugar levels of up to percent. This pretty much protect you against type 2 diabetes as well as kidney damage.
Reduces inflammation and oxidative stress in the body.
The rate in how the body ages are relative to the amount of inflammation and oxidative stress it incurs during your lifetime. Diseases are brought about by inflammation that stresses the body as free radicals react with DNA and protein molecules that wreak havoc on them. Studies show that Intermittent fasting enhances the body’s ability to fight oxidative stress.
Good for the heart.
Intermittent fasting has shown improved results in regulating blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels which may dictate a decrease in chances of heart disease. This is could be highly beneficial for a healthy heart if the individual also stays away from fatty foods and food high in trans fats or saturated fats.
Induces the cell repair process in the body and eliminates free radicals.
When the body is in a state of fasting, cells start to break down and go through a self-repair process called autophagy. This is when cells get rid of cellular wastes, broken and damaged proteins that build up within.
Intermittent fasting induces the process of autophagy and can prevent damaging diseases such as cancer as well as reduces the crippling side effects of chemotherapy.
Prevents neuro-degenerative diseases.
Although there are no known cures for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Hungtington’s — intermittent fasting studies show that going on this way of eating may reduce the severity of symptoms and even delay the onset of these diseases. Research reports state a significant improvement in Alzheimer’s symptoms when patients were subjected to short term fasting.