What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent Fasting 101 - The Ultimate Beginner's Guide

Intermittent fasting is taking the world by storm and becoming one of the most popular health and fitness trends.

People are using it to lose weight, improve health and simplify their healthy lifestyle.

Studies show that it can have powerful effects on your body and mood, concentration, and may even help you live longer .

To give you an idea of what is involved we have put together a bit of a beginner's guide to intermittent fasting.

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is a term for an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting (not eating) and eating.

It does not say anything about the types foods you should eat, but rather when you should eat what you choose to eat.

In this respect, it is not a "diet" per say. It is more accurately described as a pattern of eating.

A couple of more commonly used type of intermittent fasting methods involve daily 16 HR fasts, or fasting for 24 HRS, twice per week.

As a race we have actually been fasting throughout evolution. Sometimes it was done because food was not available (uni students often still suffer this method today :) ), and it has also been a part of major religions, including Islam, Christianity and Buddhism.

When you think about it, our hunter-gatherer ancestors didn't have sustenance available at the drop of a hat.

Thusly our bodies evolved to be able to function without food for extended periods of time.

If anything, fasting from time to time is more natural than constantly eating planned meals each day.

How to Do Intermittent Fasting

All of them involve splitting the day or week into eating and fasting. During the fasting, you eat either very little or nothing at all.

These are the most popular methods:

  • The 16/8 Method: Also called the Leangains protocol, it involves skipping breakfast and restricting your daily eating period to 8 hours, for example from 1 pm to 9 pm. Then you "fast" for 16 hours in between.
  • Eat-Stop-Eat: This involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week, for example by not eating from dinner one day until dinner the next day.
  • The 5:2 Diet: On two non-consecutive days of the week, only eat 500-600 calories. Eat normally the other 5 days.

By making you eat fewer calories, all of these methods should make you lose weight as long as you don't compensate by eating much more during the eating periods. This can be the real challenge.

However as with any eating plan, consistency and sticking to the prescribed plan

The 16/8 method to be the simplest, most sustainable and easiest to stick to. It is also the most popular.

How Intermittent Fasting Affects Your Cells and Hormones

When you fast, several things happen in your body on the cellular level.

For example, your body changes hormone levels to make stored body fat more accessible.

Your cells also initiate important repair processes, and change the expression of genes.

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.
  • 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.
  • Gene expression: There are changes in the function of genes related to longevity and protection against disease.
Intermittent Fasting Is a Very Powerful Weight Loss Tool

Weight loss is the most common reason that people try intermittent fasting (with the exception of religious beliefs which are a world wide reason for fasting)

By making you eat fewer meals, intermittent fasting can lead to an automatic reduction in the calories which you consume.

Additionally, intermittent fasting changes hormone levels to facilitate weight loss.

In addition to lower insulin and increased growth hormone levels, it increases release of the fat burning hormone noradrenaline.

Because of these changes in hormones, short-term fasting can increase your metabolic rate by 3.6-14% in some cases.

By helping you eat less and helping you burn more , intermittent fasting assists in weight loss by changing both sides of the calorie equation.

Safety and Side Effects

Hunger is the main side effect of intermittent fasting.

You may also feel weak and that your brain isn't performing as well as you're used to.

This may only be temporary, as it can take some time for your body to adapt to the new meal schedule.

If you have a medical condition, then you should consult with your doctor before trying intermittent fasting.

This is particularly important if you:

  • Have diabetes.
  • Have problems with blood sugar regulation.
  • Have low blood pressure.
  • Take medications.
  • Are underweight.
  • Have a history of eating disorders.
  • Are a female who is trying to conceive.
  • Are a female with a history of amenorrhea.
  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding.
All that being said, intermittent fasting does have an outstanding safety profile. There is nothing "dangerous" about not eating for a while if you are healthy and well nourished overall.
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