How often do you forget to eat breakfast and maybe even lunch? What you might not know is that in doing this, you are inadvertently intermittently fasting. Perhaps you have heard that skipping meals leads to weight gain. However, when done right and regularly, intermittent fasting can result in increased energy and lasting fat loss. But, it must be done right.
Intermittent fasting occurs when you allow yourself to eat only during a limited window rather than eating 3 or more regular meals throughout the day. For example, a person doing intermittent fasting may only eat between 12 pm and 8 pm, or in more strict fasting plans, only every other day. The idea behind it is that the time and frequency of eating is even more important for health and weight loss than the number of calories you take in.
Throughout history, humanity has always been on some kind of intermittent fast. As food supplies came and went, the body responded by building muscle and fatty tissue during a time of plenty and utilizing the stores for energy during the lean times. Fasting for periods allows for the elimination of waste left by dead and damaged cells. This is thought to delay the signs of aging.
A closer look at the benefits of intermittent fasting
- Insulin stability -Fasting benefits our health in several ways. First, it can help to stabilize insulin and leptin sensitivity and even boost mitochondrial energy efficiency. You may be aware that sugar is a source of energy for your body; however, it can also prove quite damaging to your system as consuming it promotes insulin resistance. This resistance can pave the way for chronic health conditions, such as heart disease and cancer.
- Fat for fuel – Intermittent fasting helps your body shift from using glucose as a primary fuel source to using fat. This means our fat stores — particularly triglyceride fats — are broken down by the body and used for energy. This shift from sugar-burning to fat-burning metabolism has been scientifically proven to lower your risk of chronic disease.
- Cholesterol-lowering – Next, intermittent fasting can lead to a dramatic reduction in cholesterol, with studies confirming that the decrease in total cholesterol from fasting can be as high as 20 percent. Added to this beneficial reduction in total cholesterol is a healthy reconfiguring of good (HDL) and bad (LDL) cholesterol. Research indicates that after eight weeks of alternate-day intermittent fasting, LDL levels are reduced by 25 percent, with a further beneficial decrease in smaller, denser LDL particles. And while LDL levels decrease, the healthy HDL cholesterol levels remain the same, meaning that you gain a much healthier LDL to HDL ratio. That’s great news for your cardiovascular health.
- Inflammation reduction –Intermittent fasting is also responsible for significant decreases in inflammation. One study investigated the effect of fasting on an important inflammatory marker, NLRP3, finding that fasting was directly connected to a reduction in the levels of this marker. Intermittent fasting also fights inflammation by decreasing the accumulation of oxidative free radicals in your body’s cells, thus preventing oxidative damage to cellular proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids.
- Brain health -Intermittent fasting can even be good for your brain. One study examined the effect of intermittent fasting on motor coordination skills, protein and DNA damage in the brain. The study found that fasting was associated with improved motor coordination and learning response and decreased oxidative stress on the brain.
Types of intermittent fasts
There are six popular ways to intermittently fast. If you choose to try fasting, it is important to find the program that works best for you.
- 16/8 Method – This type of fasting involves fasting daily for 14-16 hours and eating only within an 8-10 hour window. During the eating window, it is common to fit in two or three meals. This fasting method can actually be accomplished by simply not eating anything after dinner and skipping breakfast – something that you have probably done without knowing before. If you are used to eating in the morning, this method may take a bit to get used to. For those who normally skip breakfast, however, it is quite easy to adhere to.
- 5/2 Method – This fasting method involves eating normally for five days of the week and limiting calorie intake to 500 calories (women) and 600 calories (men) for the remaining two days. On the two fasting days, it is best to consume two small and healthy meals.
- Alternate Day Fasting – With alternate day fasting, you fast one day and eat the next. A common variation good for beginners is to eat small, 500 calorie meals on fasting days. This fast is meant for the short term only.
- The Warrior Diet – When following this fasting protocol, you eat small amounts of raw vegetables and fruits during the day and a huge meal at night. You fast all day and eat lots of whole and unprocessed foods within a four-hour eating window.
- Spontaneous Meal Skipping – Following a structured fasting plan is not necessary to reap some fasting benefits. You can simply skip meals from time to time, like when you are not hungry or even when you are too busy to cook. Keep in mind that it is not necessary to eat every few hours, You will not go into starvation mode or lose muscle mass. The human body is supremely equipped to handle long periods of famine. If you are not hungry one day, just skip breakfast and focus on a healthy lunch and dinner.
A few important reminders
No matter which fasting protocol you embrace, it is essential to remember a few crucial things.
- Eat healthy- When you eat during an intermittent fast, be sure to consume plenty of whole, unprocessed foods. Good choices include high fiber foods like beans, fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
- Drink fluids – Consume plenty of freshwater along with herbal tea, bone broth, and other healthy, low sugar beverages.
- Exercise – Exercise is important and can accelerate fat-burn through intermittent fasting, but if you are new to fasting, start slow and don’t overdo it on fasting days. A moderate walk may be the best form of exercise on fasting days.
- Check with your physician – Before beginning an intermittent fasting program, be sure to check with your physician.
- Some people should not fast – Keep in mind that intermittent fasting is not for everyone. Children under 18, those with diabetes, and pregnant or lactating women should not fast.
Happy fasting and fat burning,