The Skinny on Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting has climbed its way atop the mountain of trending diets as of late, with promises of a multitude of health benefits. Everything from sustainable weight loss, to protection from cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Along with enhanced physical strength and energy, intermittent fasting seems to have it all, but what exactly is it doing to your body, and is it safe?
So what is it?
Intermittent fasting is better classified as an eating pattern rather than a diet. Instead of specifying which foods you should be eating, it dictates when you should be eating. The most common method of intermittent fasting is the 16/8 method, also called Leangains protocol. This involves skipping breakfast, and limiting your eating hours to 8 hours, typically from 1-9 p.m., followed by 16 hours of fasting. More advanced methods include the Eat-Stop-Eat method, which involves several fasts per week, but non-fasted days you may eat normally.
How does it work?
Upon fasting, there are several changes happening in your body at the cellular and molecular level. The levels in of human growth hormone (HGH) will begin to dramatically increase (1), which heavily benefits your body when it comes to fat loss and muscle gain. Insulin sensitivity will improve, with your overall insulin levels dropping, making stored body fat more accessible to be burned off as energy (2). Certain functions in your genes related to longevity and protection against disease will be amplified, and even your cells will initiate their repair processes quickly and more efficiently(3)(4).
Amplify weight loss
Intermittent fasting is fairly simple when it comes to boosting weight loss. By cutting your caloric intake, and limiting your eating to only an 8-hour window, you are priming your body to facilitate weight loss. Along with increased hormones necessary for weight loss, your body will also begin to produce increased levels of norepinephrine, a powerful fat burning hormone. This change in hormones can result in increasing your overall metabolic rate anywhere from 3.6 % to 14 % (5).
Along with weight loss, intermittent fasting can have a huge impact on other processes within your body. Studies have shown that it can help reduce inflammation, reduce “bad” cholesterol, and even help grow new nerve cells in your brain. Several animals studies showed that intermittent fasting increased the average lifespan of subjects, though this has yet to be tested in humans (6).
Should you try it?
The main side effect of fasting is hunger, which can be tough at first, causing you to feel weak and even mentally fatigued. This is usually temporary, as your body adapts to these new dietary changes. Intermittent fasting might not be a great idea if you have diabetes, low blood pressure, or have problems with blood sugar regulation. Women who are trying to conceive might want to stay away from intermittent fasting as well. As always, it is best to consult with your physician if you have any medical condition that you think might be affected by fasting.