What’s the Deal with Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting isn’t a diet, it’s instead a prescribed eating pattern. Rather than tell you what to eat, an intermittent fasting program defines when you should eat. Usually, methods include daily 16-hour fasts with full 24-hour fasts mixed in twice per week.
Fasting is nothing new. Our human ancestors often went days without substantial food. There were no refrigerators or grocery stores, and as a result we evolved to function without food for quite some time. In fact, though you should never attempt such a feat, humans can survive up to three weeks without food.
What are the Benefits?
So what’s the point of purposefully abstaining from food? For many, it’s weight loss. Intermittent fasting limits your caloric intake and as a result helps you shed weight.
For others, it is that fasting brings about bodily changes that can be beneficial.
When fasting, your body adjusts hormone levels so that stored fat is more accessible for use. Your cells begin crucial cellular repair processes that can change the expression of genes. Human Growth Hormone increases as much as 5 times the baseline level, which can benefit fat loss and muscle gain. Insulin sensitivity, or the efficiency with which we absorb insulin, improves and insulin levels in turn drop-- this makes body fat more accessible. The more accessible body fat is, the more likely our bodies are to use it, resulting in weight loss.
Cellular repair also begins to take place when fasting. This includes a process called autophagy, where cells discard old, unusable proteins. Think of it like cellular spring cleaning.
Overall, intermittent fasting can boost your metabolic rate, positively affect hormone levels like insulin, and help you ingest fewer calories.
There are numerous ways to go about intermittent fasting. Here are three of the most popular:
- Eat-Stop-Eat: Fast for 24 hours, twice a week. Otherwise eat normally.
- 16/8: Otherwise known as the Leangains protocol, this involves restricting your eating to a certain time period every day, like 2-10 pm. Between this time, you fast for 16 hours.
- 5/2 diet: Eat around 500 calories for two non-consecutive days of the week, then eat normally for the remaining five days.