What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is not a diet, but rather a dieting pattern. In simpler terms: it’s making a conscious decision to skip certain meals on purpose. By fasting and then feasting on purpose, intermittent fasting generally means that you consume your calories during a specific window of the day, and choose not to eat food for a larger window of time.
There are a few different protocols to take advantage of intermittent fasting.
16 – Hour Intermittent Fast
Popularized by Hugh Jackman and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as a fast to trim extra pounds. It is common to fast after dinner to around lunch the following day. Fast for 16 hours each day, for example by only eating between noon and 8pm. I am personally a fan of the 16/8 method, as I find it to be the simplest and the easiest to stick to.
13 – Hour Circadian Rhythm Fast
Once or twice a week, don’t eat anything from dinner one day, until dinner the next day (a 24 hour fast).
The 5:2 Diet
During 2 days of the week, eat only about 500–600 calories. A plan that involves eating the recommended calorie intake for 5 days a week but reducing calorie intake to 25% for the remaining 2 days – to 500 calories a day for women and 600 a day for men.
The 23:1 One Meal a Day
Referred to as 23:1, meaning a person spends 23 hours of the day fasting, leaving just 1 hour a day to eat, drink and consume calories. Basically you only eat one meal a day
The Potential Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Since the body is unable to get its energy from food during fasting, it taps into glucose that is stored in the liver and muscles. This begins around 8 hours after the last meal is consumed. When the stored glucose has been used up, the body then begins to burn fat as a source of energy, which can result in weight loss.
Here are some changes that occur in your body when you fast:
- Human Growth Hormone (HGH): The levels of growth hormone skyrocket, increasing as much as 5-fold. This has benefits for fat loss and muscle gain, to name a few.
- Insulin: Insulin sensitivity improves and levels of insulin drop dramatically. Lower insulin levels make stored body fat more accessible
- Cellular repair: When fasted, your cells initiate cellular repair processes. This includes autophagy, where cells digest and remove old and dysfunctional proteins that build up inside cells
- Gene expression: There are changes in the function of genes related to longevity and protection against disease
These changes in hormone levels, cell function and gene expression are responsible for the health benefits of intermittent fasting.
As long as you stick to healthy foods, restricting your eating window and fasting from time to time can have some very impressive health benefits. It is an effective way to lose fat and improve metabolic health, while simplifying your life at the same time.