Summer time is just around the corner and many of us are thinking about ways we can get in better shape and get ready for swimsuit season. If you happen to be in that boat, you might be looking into different diet and exercise options to help shed the extra few pounds. Well, have you considered intermittent fasting as an option? According to Harvard Medical School, there is new research evidence on intermittent fasting benefits. It can help you lose weight and get you more healthy but it’s important to keep in mind that timing of fasting is key.
What is intermittent fasting and how do you do it?
Intermittent fasting is not a diet but rather an eating pattern where you alternate between periods of eating and periods of fasting. There are different methods to do intermittent fasting.
- The most popular is the 16/8 method where you basically have to fast for 16 hours every day, and have an eating window of 8 hours. This method prohibits you from eating anything after dinner and from having breakfast, except for maybe a coffee with no milk or cream.
- Another popular method is the so-called Eat-Stop-Eat which involves a 24-hour fast, once a week.
- Alternate-Day fasting is similar to Eat-Stop-Eat but instead you fast every other day.
- Last but not least, Warrior Intermittent Fasting involves eating just one meal a day following the pattern 20/4: 20 hours fasting, 4 hours eating.
Below we’ll explain why intermittent fasting works. At first glance, it may seem as if you lose weight because you are eating fewer calories. In reality, intermittent fasting works on different levels and losing weight is just one of many benefits.
What happens to your body when you fast?
- A drop in insulin levels: Insulin can cause many problems in our bodies. When you fast, the level of insulin in your blood drops dramatically and this means the body accesses stored body fat and uses this to survive.
- Cell repair: fasting allows cells to start their repair processes. One of these processes is autophagy where cells remove bad proteins.
- Human Growth Hormone: when fasting, HGH greatly increases and this means fat loss and muscle gain.
These three changes in turn lead to many other changes in our bodies. That’s why many people prefer intermittent fasting to a traditional diet.
Intermittent Fasting Benefits
Beneficial for weight loss
Eating less means weight loss. Fasting allows you to lose weight in a healthier way: your body is, in fact, forced to use the fat stored as fuel instead of using glucose. Glucose is pretty much everywhere in the things we eat but as soon as you change your eating habits and start depriving your body of sugar, your body will react by using stored fat for energy. This leads to weight loss.
Blood sugar improvement
Insulin can be extremely dangerous for our bodies (not just for people with diabetes) as high levels of insulin also means high blood sugar levels which can cause fatigue, the need for more and more sugar and, in the long term, cardiovascular diseases. Intermittent fasting lowers blood sugar and prevents spikes and crashes due to hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia.
Intermittent fasting benefits your heart. It can help lower heart disease risk factors such as LDL cholesterol and this helps maintain a healthy heart.
Reduces feeling of hunger
Just like any other diet, it’s hard to adapt to this method at the beginning. However, over time, intermittent fasting reduces the impact of leptin (the satiety hormone) on the body. When there’s too much leptin circulating in the body, the body develops a resistance, therefore, our bodies don’t react to this hormone anymore so we need more and more food. Fasting lowers levels of leptin.
Intermittent fasting benefits your metabolism. In fact, it can increase your metabolism by up to 14%. At the same time, it’s a healthy boost that helps promote good weight loss. Sometimes, losing weight means you also lose muscle. Whereas, practicing short term fasting increases the chances of losing weight without losing muscle tissue.
Reduces dependence on sugar
The more you avoid sugar and fast intermittently, the less you’ll need sugar in your diet. Many people drink apple cider during their fasting time to lower the level of insulin even more and to get used to the absence of sugar.
Can become a routine
On a different, less scientific level, intermittent fasting gets easier when it becomes habit. It can certainly be hard to develop the routine at first, especially if you love having breakfast and after dinner snacks but as soon as you start seeing benefits and developing a serious plan, you’ll find this habit beneficial on many levels, for example giving a precise schedule to your days.
Can everybody practice intermittent fasting?
This depends purely on your health, eating habits and lifestyle. Anyone can follow this eating pattern but they need to make sure to adjust it according to their body and goals. Also, if you have any health issues you are concerned about, make sure to consult your doctor first.
Intermittent fasting benefits are enhanced if followed by regular exercise and healthy lifestyle habits. It definitely requires a certain level of commitment, especially at the beginning, to make sure the body can handle the changes. But as soon as you start feeling better, it will become an enjoyable habit.