If your checking out this post, you have likely heard about intermittent fasting and are wondering exactly what it is and whether you should try it out. Funny thing is, you already fast every day while you sleep! So lets get right into the basics!
What is intermittent fasting (IF)?
Simply put, intermittent fasting is a pattern of periods when you eat and periods when you don’t eat (aka fasting).
Why would I want to do that?
Historically speaking, our ancestors practiced intermittent fasting. While it wasn’t necessarily by choice, our ancient hunter-gatherers didn’t always have food available and couldn’t always find food. So naturally our bodies were designed to fast for survival. But since when do we do things just because our ancestors did?
With advancements in science and medicine, we now understand what happens to our body when we fast at a cellular and molecular level. Below are just a few of the highlights:
- Human Growth Hormone (HGH) Increase – When fasting HGH has been found to increase as much as 5 times normal levels. This increases fat burning and muscle gain according to the National Institute of Health studies.
- Inflammation Reduction – Some National Institute of Health studies show reduction in inflammatory markers which are often associated with chronic diseases.
- Cellular Repair – Repair processes, such as autophagy, the digestion and removal of dysfunctional protein build up within the cell, are initiated during fasting.
- Gene Expression – Everyone knows they have genes, but most people don’t know how they are expressed changes based on environmental conditions. Intermittent fasting changes the function of genes to improve protection against disease and improve life-span.
- Heart Health – Intermittent fasting has been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol (“bad cholesterol”), blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood sugar and insulin resistance, all risk factors for heart disease.
- Insulin Sensitivity – Insulin is a hormone that controls your blood sugar levels. Insulin sensitivity refers to how responsive your cells are to insulin. Intermittent fasting improves your sensitivity to insulin, also reducing the resistance to insulin. This helps your body utilize insulin more efficiently, which requires less insulin production, ultimately making stored body fat more accessible to burn for energy.
- Brain Health – Intermittent fasting increases the production of the hormone BDNF and may aid in the production of new nerve cells. The may be of great benefit toward protecting against diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
- Weight Loss – Intermittent fasting is a powerful weight loss tool. As mentioned above, increase in human growth hormone and improvement in insulin sensitivity, improve fat burning. Additionally, production of the fat burning hormone norepinephrine is increased. The factors combined have show 3.6–14% increase in one’s metabolic rate.
How do I get started with intermittent fasting?
Ok now that you have many reasons why intermittent fasting may benefit you, lets go over how to get started. The important thing to remember is that every person is different and may need to adjust length of fasted versus non-fasted periods. Additionally, always consult your doctor before implementing intermittent fasting. First we will define fasting and what you can and cannot do to remain in a fasted state.
Fasting = Abstain from all or some kinds of food or drink.
In the case of intermittent fasting it is fine to consume water, coffee, tea or other non-caloric beverages. Remember not to add sugar, milk or cream as it adds calories and will break your fast. Additionally, abstain from all foods as they contain calories and will break your fast. Now that we have defined what fasting is, lets get into some examples of intermittent fasting.
Here are three of the most popular forms of intermittent fasting:
- 16/8 Protocol – 16 hour Fasted / 8 hours Non-Fasted. Pick an 8 hour window that works with your lifestyle and only eat during this period. For example, many people select 1pm – 9pm for their window to eat. The remaining 16 hour period they would fast (forgo eating). As long as you are consistent with your 8 hour window, it doesn’t matter when it starts or ends as long as you have 16 hours between starting the next 8 hour window. This is the most popular form and is often most flexible for people’s lifestyles.
- 5:2 Protocol – Eat 500 calories or less of food two non-consecutive days a week. The remaining 5 days would have normal calorie consumption.
- 24 Hour Protocol – One or two non-consecutive days a week fast for 24 hours straight. Remainder of the week would have normal calorie consumption.
That’s it! It is that simple! Remember there is no one size fits all and you may want to play around with the time periods to find the right solution for your lifestyle and that you enjoy most. I hope these basics of intermittent fasting help you on your health journey!