There is so much talk about how intermittent fasting can help you lose weight. But is it true? Are there any health dangers to intermittent fasting? With all the information out there, one can find it difficult to find answers to basic questions on exactly what is intermittent fasting, how does intermittent fasting work, and is intermittent fasting healthy?
In this article I give you an overview of what intermittent fasting is and how it works. I also list out the key health benefits of intermittent fasting and provide you with the most popular methods to intermittent fast and my top 10 tips to make intermittent fasting work for you.
So if you’re ready to get answers on this popular topic, read on!
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Below is an overview of what intermittent fasting is:
What is intermittent fasting? According to the International Food Information Council Foundation, intermittent fasting is defined as a diet that cycles between times of fasting and eating. Unlike other eating philosophies, intermittent fasting does not prescribe what to eat; rather, it is focused on when to eat. For most who adopt this eating plan, the goal is to reduce your meal frequency.
How does Intermittent Fasting Work?
Here are some key elements of how and why intermittent fasting works:
- Lowers fat-storing hormones – Insulin levels. To understand how intermittent fasting leads to fat loss, it is important to understand how insulin works in your body to store fat.
- Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas and its main purpose is to lower the levels of sugar in your blood.
- Insulin will convert any extra sugar into fat. It is also important to note that insulin will block fat-burning hormones.
- Many physicians have indicated that in the presence of insulin your body will not burn fat.
- Since insulin gets triggered even when you eat the smallest amount of food, fasting for a prolonged period of time is a key method to lowering insulin levels in your body, therefore allowing you to burn fat. This is the main reason why intermittent fasting works so well in helping people to lose weight.
- Increases fat-burning hormones – Growth hormone levels. While lowering the levels of insulin, intermittent fasting will also increase the levels of fat-burning hormones in your body.
- One of the fat-burning hormones that will be triggered with fasting is the growth hormone (HGH) which is a main fat-burning hormone.
- Growth hormone (HGH) will help you burn fat, build lean body mass, and it’s also anti-aging.
- Another key element of growth hormone (HGH) is that it protects you against muscle loss.
- Recent studies found that during a 24 hour fasting period, growth hormone (HGH) increased an average of 1,300% in women, and 2,000% in men. That’s a pretty good reason to try intermittent fasting if you ask me!
Key Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting?
Below are some of the key health benefits of intermittent fasting:
- Weight loss. One of the immediate benefits you will gain from intermittent fasting is rapid weight loss. As I previously described, intermittent fasting will help your body increase your fat burning hormone (HGH) and decrease your fat-storing hormone (insulin). Intermittent fasting will also increase your metabolism, helping you burn more calories.
- Live longer. A recent study shows that intermittent fasting robustly increases life span. The article by Professor Mark Mattson, Ph.D. provides evidence that intermittent fasting, combined with regular exercise, results in improved mental and physical performance, increased disease resistance, and a longer healthier life span.
- Remove waste from your body. Researchers have found that when you fast and exercise, your body activates fat burning and something called autophagy. Priya Khorana, PhD defines autophagy as the body’s way of cleaning out damaged cells, in order to regenerate newer, healthier cells. In an article from Healthline.com, Dr. Luiza Petre explains that the purpose of autophagy is to remove debris and self-regulate back to optimal smooth function. It is a mechanism through which the body can remove the dysfunctional cells and recycle parts of them toward cellular repair and cleaning. In layman’s terms, prolonged periods of fasting can literally help you regenerate your cells to newer better functioning cells.
- Lose belly fat. As I described in previous sections of this article, insulin is a fat-storing hormone. It’s also the hormone responsible for belly fat. Intermittent fasting reduces the levels of insulin in your body and at the same time increases the levels of the most powerful fat-burning hormone, the growth factor hormone (HGH). The longer the fasting window, the more powerful the fat burning will be. In this video, Dr. Berg describes the effects of intermittent fasting on belly fat and provides a number of eating cycles you can use to start intermittent fasting.
- Reverse diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 34 million American adults have diabetes, and approximately 90 percent of them have type 2 diabetes. Dr. Jason Fung recently published a report demonstrating the therapeutic use of intermittent fasting for people with type 2 diabetes as an alternative to insulin. The subjects in the report fasted for 24 hours 3 to 4 days per week over a period of several months. The report shows that following the intermittent fasting regimen, all 3 men were able to discontinue their insulin.
Popular Methods of Intermittent Fasting?
While there are popular fasting/eating cycles, it is important to adopt a cycle that best fits your personal needs. Ideally, it is important to keep your meals to 1 to 3 meals per day. You should also try to maintain a balanced, nutrient-rich eating plan that will keep you from snacking until your next eating window.
Here are some popular methods that you can use to start intermittent fasting:
- The 16/8 method. This method involves fasting every day for 16 hours and restricting your daily eating window to 8 hours. For example, you could eat from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM and fast from 4:00 PM to 8:00 AM the next morning. It is still important to consolidate your meals to 1 to 3 meals during your eating window and avoid snacking.
- The 5:2 diet. This method is quite popular and involves eating normally 5 days of the week and restricting your calories to 500-600 for 2 days of the week. You can choose any day of the week for your fasting days. This is a good approach for those individuals who tend to get hungry during the fasting period because this method will allow them to schedule alternate eating/fasting cycles.
- Eat stop Eat. This method involves fasting for 24 hours once or twice per week. Water, coffee, and sugar-free beverages are allowed during the fasting period, but no solid food is permitted during your fasting period. This method was developed by Brad Pilon in his book titled Eat Stop Eat: The Shocking Truth That Makes Weight Loss Simple Again.
- Overnight Fasting. This may be the simplest approach and it involves fasting for 12 hour periods every day. For example, if you stop eating after 8:00 PM you would resume eating the next morning at 8:00 AM. Keep in mind, it is still important to try to only have 1 to 3 meals during your eating window.
Top 10 Tips To Make Intermittent Fasting Work?
Here are the top 10 tips to help you make intermittent fasting work for you:
- Get enough potassium. When you’re fasting it is important to replenish your electrolytes, especially potassium. To ensure that you are getting enough potassium, you should consider green juices or a good potassium supplement. I take Dr. Berg’s Electrolyte Powder, which provides you the right balance of electrolytes including potassium.
- Don’t overeat. When you break your fast, make sure you don’t overeat or eat the wrong types of food. Instead, eat plenty of nutritious plant-based whole foods. Some of my favorite foods include sautéed kale, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, salads, fermented foods like sauerkraut, cooked lentils or beans, quinoa, bulgur, buckwheat, yogurt.
- Food quality. While it’s tempting to grab a burger, fries, pizza or other fast foods when you break your fast, it is very important to reach for some of the healthier alternatives listed above. Maybe you could try your hand at a new recipe and discover new flavors.
- Get plenty of sleep. Your body does a lot of repair at night while you’re sleeping, which is why it is very important to get plenty of good quality sleep every night. A significant amount of weight loss takes place during the night time while you’re sleeping. That’s why it’s important to get plenty of good quality sleep.
- Walking and relaxation. It is also important to reduce your stress levels and adopt some habits that will help you unwind and relax. My favorite thing to do after a busy day, is to take long walks in my neighborhood for about 30 minutes to an hour.
- Consistency and patience. It has been shown that intermittent fasting works and provides great health benefits, but it may take some time for you to see the results. You may also find that you have to adjust your eating and fasting windows or change the types of food you’re eating, but with patience and consistency you will see results!
- Drink plenty of water. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water every day. If you get hungry, reach for a glass of water instead of food. You’ll be amazed at how much of a difference that makes and how the hunger eventually goes away.
- Keep yourself busy and find hobbies. This will make your days more interesting when you’re fasting.
- Chew gum. From my own personal experience, I found that chewing gum helped me get through the hunger easier. This may work for you too. If so, make sure you pick a sugar free gum. The artificial sweetener may generate an insulin response but in my experience, it didn’t slow down my fasting results.
- Reward yourself. Intermittent fasting requires some level of effort until you get used to it. I rewarded myself every time I reached a milestone. It’s also nice to take the time to pamper yourself through this journey.
Frequently Asked Questions with Intermittent Fasting.
Below are some answers to frequently asked questions with intermittent fasting:
- Will I be hungry when I’m fasting?
Yes, there are times when you will feel hungry during your fasting period. For me, the first day of fasting is where I feel the hungriest, and the second day gets much easier to get through. I would recommend drinking water or tea when hunger strikes. If you’re able to push passed it, the hunger will go away quickly.
- How can I avoid eating too much when breaking my fast?
Eat slowly and take the time to chew your food and savor every bit. Make sure you prepare plenty of healthy food options ahead of time so that you are not tempted to grab unhealthy foods when you break your fast.
- Will I maintain my weight loss if I stop intermittent fasting?
Yes, I was personally able to maintain my 30-pound weight loss. My advice is to continue practicing some sort of intermittent fasting to maintain your weight loss and to get the many health benefits that intermittent fasting provides beyond weight loss.
- Can I still exercise when I’m fasting?
Yes, absolutely. Exercising during intermittent fasting will not only speed up your weight loss it will also help you with relaxation and keeping a positive state of mind. I would recommend light exercise such as walking while you’re fasting.
- What if I don’t feel well?
If you feel weak or fatigued, it is important to eat. You should carefully listen to your body and have food if you’re not feeling well.
- Isn’t breakfast the most important meal of the day?
This is debatable. While some people have to have breakfast, others are perfectly fine having their first meal later in the day. With intermittent fasting, you can pick your eating window according to your eating preference. So if you want to have breakfast, you can- you just adjust your eating window accordingly. For example, if you picked the 16/8 method and have breakfast at 7:00 AM then your eating window would be from 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM and you would stop eating after 3:00 PM until 7:00 AM the next morning. The nice thing about intermittent fasting is that you can adjust your eating cycles to best fit your needs.
- Will fasting cause muscle loss?
Absolutely not. As we explain in previous sections, intermittent fasting releases growth hormone (HGH) which helps you burn fat while retaining your muscle.
- Will fasting slow down my metabolism?
Absolutely not. In fact, studies have shown, that short-term fasting actually increases your metabolic rate, which in turn helps you burn more calories.
- What exactly happens in your body when you fast?
This depends on how long you’ve been fasting. Your body will go through different changes as you fast for longer periods of time. Here is a great article, by Paige Jarreau, PhD, that describes what happens in your body as enter different periods of fasting.
In a nutshell, the main premise of intermittent fasting is that you are spacing out the time between your meals to make them less frequent. There are many meal cycle options that you can choose from to find the one that best works for you.
While the focus of intermittent fasting is on how frequently you eat and not what you eat, I had much better results when I picked healthy food options when breaking my fast.
I hope that this article helped you get answers on intermittent fasting. If you have more questions or comments, we would love to hear your thoughts, challenges, or experience. Feel free to leave us a note in the comment section below!