The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Fasting can sound intimidating. For some people it conjures up images of days without food, sipping on water, as your stomach growls at you in anger. While there are certainly challenges to intermittent fasting, it’s important not to confuse intermittent fasting with starvation. So, let’s take a look at the basics and benefits of intermittent fasting, so you can see if it’s right for you.
The Basics of Intermittent Fasting
First of all, what is intermittent fasting? Intermittent fasting is essentially time-restricted eating. It involves planning a window of time into your day where you will eat normally, and then including an extended period of time with low to no food. There are a variety of ways to break up the schedule, but most of them consist of 16-48 hours of fasting.
Here are a few of the different fasting models:
Alternate Day Fasting - Usually involves 24 hours of unrestricted eating, followed by 24 hours of fasting or calorie restriction, limiting intake to about 500 calories.
Eat Stop Eat - Fasting for 24 hours at regular intervals throughout the week. For instance, the 5:2 model involves normal eating for 5 days per week, then 2 days of calorie restriction between 500-600 calories.
Feeding Window - Involves a set period of time every day for eating. The 16:8 restricts your meal times to 8 hours within the day, and then includes fasting for the remaining 16 hours. This can also be done as a 14:10 fast, which allows 2 more extra hours for eating. As an example, for 14:10 your meal window could start at 8 am, and would then end at 6 pm.
The most common fasting model tends to be the feeding window model. It doesn’t involve a full 24 hour fast, which makes it more manageable for your average person. Plus, it also makes it easier to include exercise in your daily schedule, since it’s difficult, and even dangerous at times to exercise when fasting for an extended period of time.
5 Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Now that we know the basics, let’s take a look at the benefits of intermittent fasting. After all, why would someone want to do this to themselves?
For Weight Loss - This is the most popular reason that people tend to try intermittent fasting. Studies have suggested that intermittent fasting can cause weight loss of 3-8% in anywhere from 3-24 weeks. By limiting your meal window, it can help reduce your total caloric intake thus making it easier to maintain the caloric deficit necessary to lose weight. You just have to make sure you’re not binging during your meal window, and eating more calories than you can burn.
Reduced Insulin Resistance - Insulin resistance is associated with the development of type 2 diabetes. When your body becomes insulin resistant, it becomes difficult to manage and utilize your blood sugar. Studies in rats and humans have suggested that intermittent fasting may help improve insulin sensitivity, and reduce blood sugar levels.
Heart Health - There is still need for more evidence in human studies, but there is some evidence that intermittent fasting can improve or reduce the risk factors for heart disease. That includes reduced LDL, improved blood pressure, and reduction of inflammatory markers.
Boosting of Cellular Repair - Studies suggest that when the body is in a fasted state, a process called autophagy occurs. This involves the cellular breakdown and removal of dysfunctional proteins that can build up over time. It’s believed that increased autophagy may help protect against diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Boosts Brain Health - In addition to reducing oxidative stress, intermittent fasting has also been shown to support brain health by increasing the levels of a hormone called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF plays an important role in promoting learning and developing new neural connections.
Should You Try Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting appears to have some pretty impressive benefits, especially as it relates to weight loss and calorie restriction. However, if you’re feeling motivated to try it out for yourself, it’s important to remember a few things.
First of all, remember that there is still limited research that’s been specifically conducted in humans, and a majority of the studies have been conducted on rats. Secondly, intermittent fasting is not for everyone and there can be negative side effects. For instance, some people experience headaches, constipation, and dehydration. For that reason, it’s especially important to stay hydrated while following an intermittent fasting diet.
One of the primary challenges that people often run into with intermittent fasting is balancing it out with their exercise schedule. Remember that exercise is a key part of healthy weight loss and health maintenance. But, if your calories are restricted or you’re in a fasted state, it’s going to be difficult and even dangerous to do strenuous exercises. While exercising your body relies on glycogen stores, which are low following a fast. If glycogen stores are low, the body can also break down protein which can result in muscle loss, thus negating all your hard work.
If you’re looking for a way to balance your diet, and meal schedules in a way that also sets you up for peak physical performance, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional.
Demco Fitness gym offers fitness classes in Seattle, and personalized training sessions. We’ll help you develop a fitness plan that’s balanced with your diet and schedule so you can get the most of your time and effort.