IF, which stands for intermittent fasting, is at the moment a very popular fitness and health trend across the world. There are good reasons for this. People who currently use this method for losing weight, have improved their health, and lost weight, along with a way to simplify their lifestyle.
Numerous studies have proven that intermittent fasting has a powerful effect on both eh brain and the body and might even assist you in living a longer life.
Here is a beginner’s guide to Intermittent Fasting as a way of eating:
What Is IF (Intermittent Fasting)?
IF is described as eating patterns which cycle between periods of eating and fasting. It does not involve specification on what type of foods to eat, but rather what time frames you should be eating them at. In this regard, it is not classified as a diet in a conventional sense, yet it’s rather described as eating patterns. The most common types of intermittent fasting technique involves a daily fast of 16 hours or fasting for a period of 24 hours twice a week.
Fasting is something that has been practiced throughout the ages. For example, ancient hunter-gathers did not have food, refrigerators or supermarkets available throughout the year. In certain times they were unable to find any source of food to eat. This resulted in humans evolving in such a way that they could function without eating food over extended time frames. In fact, many studies suggest that fasting every now and again is a lot more natural compared to consistently eating 3 to 4 meals every day.
Fasting is often practiced for spiritual or religious reasons, which includes Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Summary: IF (Intermittent Fasting) is the eating patterns that cycle between a period of eating and then fasting. Today it has become increasingly popular among the fitness and health communities.
Intermittent Fasting Methods
There are a number of ways to practice intermittent fasting. All of them involve dividing either a day or a week up into fasting and eating periods. During fasting periods, you will eat either nothing or very little.
Here is a list of the more popular methods:
– The 16/8 method: Also known as the Leangains protocol, it will involve skipping breakfast and then restricting your eating periods daily to 8 hours. For example, from 1pm to 9pm. You will then fast for the next 16 hours.
– Eat-Stop-Eat: This will involve a 24 hour fast, once or even twice in a week. For example, by stopping eating from your dinner on one day up until the same time the following day.
– The 5:2 Diet: With this method you will only consume 500 to 600 calories on two days that are non-consecutive during a week and the eat normally on the other 5 days of the week.
In the way of reducing your intake of calories, each method typically results in weight loss provided you avoid trying to compensate by eating a lot more during your eating periods. Most people find that the 16/8 method is the simplest method, the easier to adhere to and the most sustainable.
Summary: There are different ways to practice intermittent fasting. Each method splits the week or days into fasting and eating periods.
How Does It Affect Your Hormones And Cells?
When fasting, a number of processes occur in the body on both a molecular and cellular level. For example, The body starts to adjust the hormone levels, which makes any stored fat a lot more accessible. Your cells will also initiate a repair process that is important and change gene expression.
Here is a list of a few changes which will occur when you are fasting:
– HGH (Human Growth Hormone)
HGH levels will skyrocket while you are fasting, which will increase up to 5-fold. This has significant benefits for muscle gain and fat loss, just to name some.
Insulin sensitivity will improve, and insulin levels will drop dramatically. Lowered insulin levels also make body fat that is stored more accessible.
– Cellular Repair
When fasting, the cells will initiate cellular-repair processes. This will include autophagy which involves a process where the cells remove and digest dysfunctional and old proteins which have built up inside the cells (9,10).
– Gene Expression
This involves changes in functions of the genes associated with protection against illnesses and diseases and longevity.
Changes that occur in the cell functions, hormone levels along with gene expression hold the responsibility of health benefits linked to intermittent fasting.
Summary: When fasting, Human Growth Hormone levels increase, while insulin levels decrease. The cells in the body also change gene expression along with initiating essential cellular-repair processes.
A Powerful Weight Loss Tool
Weight loss is usually the primary reason why people try IF. By eating less meals, IF can result in automatic reductions in your overall calorie intake. In addition, intermittent fasting will change hormone levels which facilitate in weight loss. Over and above increasing Growth Hormone levels and lowering insulin, it also increases release of a fat-burning hormone known as norepinephrine or noradrenaline. Due to these changes in different hormones, fasting over a short-term might increase metabolic rates between 3.6% and 14%. In the way of assisting you to eat less calories and burn a lot more calories, IF results in weight loss in the way of changing either side of calorie equations.
Studies have shown that IF can be an extremely powerful weight-loss tool. In a review study conducted in 2014, it was discovered that these types of eating patterns can result in 3% to 8% weight-loss over a period of 3 to 24 weeks, which is a favorable amount in comparison to many of the other weight loss studies. This same study also stated that people lost 4 to 7% of their overall weight circumference, which indicates significant loss in association to harmful fat in the belly that accumulates around the organs and results in disease. In another study IF was shown to cause a lot less loss in muscle compared to more standard methods involving continuous calorie restrictions.
However, it is important to consider that main driver for the success of this method is that IF assists you in consuming less calories overall. If you eat excessive amounts or binge during the eating periods, you will probably not lose any weight.
Summary: IF might boost the metabolism slightly and assist you to eat less calories. It is a highly effective way to reduce belly fat and lose weight.
The Health Benefits
There have been a number of studies conducted on IF in humans and animals.
These studies show it can result in attractive benefits when it comes to weight control along with brain and body health. It might even assist you in living for longer.
Below is a list of some of the primary health benefits linked to intermittent fasting:
– Weight Loss
As mentioned before, IF can assist in losing belly fat and weight, without needing to restrict calories consciously.
– Insulin Resistance
IF can lower insulin resistance, decreasing blood-sugar by 3% to 6%, and the fasting insulin-levels by 20% to 31%, which can protect against Type 2 diabetes.
Certain studies have shown decreases in the markers linked to inflammation which is the key-driver for many of the chronic diseases.
– Heart Health
IF might lower LDL “bad” cholesterol, inflammatory markers, blood triglycerides, insulin resistance and blood sugar, which are all risk factors associated with heart disease.
Animal studies have suggested that IF might prevent cancer.
– Brain Health
IF increase BDNF a brain hormone and might assist in new nerve cell growth. It might protect against diseases like Alzheimer’s.
IF has been proven tot extend the life-span in rats. Studies have shown that rats that fast live 36% to 83% longer. Research is at this stage in the early stages. Most studies have been short-term and small or conducted on only animals. There are still many unanswered questions in the human studies.
Summary: IF can offer a host of benefits for the brain and the body. It might result in weight-loss and can lower risks of Type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease. It can also assist in a longer life span.
Makes A Healthy Lifestyle Simpler
Eating healthy might be a simple task, however it is harder to maintain. The main obstacle about eating this way is the work involved to plan for along with cooking these healthy meals. Intermittent fasting makes these obstacles easier, as there is no planning required, cooking or cleaning up after meals. For these reasons, IF is popular for the life-hacking crowd, because it offers a way to improve health, in a simple and easy way.
Summary: A main advantage of IF is that it makes following a healthy lifestyle a lot easier. There are less meals that you will need to prepare and less cooking and cleaning up.
Who Should Be Avoiding Intermittent Fasting?
IF is not suitable for everyone. If you are underweight or you have had one or more easting disorders in the past, you should not be fasting without consulting a doctor first.
For these cases, this method can be harmful.
Can Women Fast?
There is some evidence that suggests that IF might not be as advantageous in women when compared to men. For example, one of the studies discovered that it was able to improve insulin-sensitivity in males, yet worsened blood-sugar control when it came to females. Even though the human studies linked to this topic are currently unavailable, the studies conducted on rats have shown that IF can make rats that are female infertile, masculinized, emaciated and result in missed cycles. There are various anecdotal reports about women who stopped menstruating when they started IF, and this returned to normal when they went back to their previous way of eating.
For these reasons, women need to take care when it comes to IF.
They should be following separate guidelines, by easing into this practice and to stop immediately if they start to miss menstruation cycles.
Summary: People that are underweight and have eating disorders shouldn’t be fasting. There is also some evidence that IF may harm certain women.
The chances are you have already participated in a number of intermittent fasts over your life time. For example, when you have eaten dinner, followed by only eating again at lunch time on the following day, you have fasted for 16 or more hours. Certain people already instinctively eat in this way. This is because they do not feel hunger in the mornings. Most people consider the 16/8 method the most sustainable and simplest method of IF, you may want to start with this practice. If you have found it simple and you are feeling good during your fasts, move up to a 24-hour more advanced fast for once or twice a week, or eating only 500-600 calories for 2 days in the week.
One of the other approached is to fast when it is convenient to you by simple missing a meal every now and again, when you don’t feel hungry or you have run out of time to prepare a meal. Experiment with each approach until you arrive at something that is comfortable and matches up to your schedule.
Summary: It is suggested to first start with the 16/8 method, then move onto the longer fasts. You should try out each method to find the one that works for you.