Why Intermittent Fasting Works
Intermittent fasting has been around for a long time but has recently gained traction as an effective solution to weight loss. Let’s take a look at what it is and how it works.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
In its most basic sense, intermittent fasting simply means alternating between periods of eating and periods of fasting. It differs from other diets in that instead of focusing on what types of foods you consume, intermittent fasting instead emphasises the timing of your various meals.
Science suggests that intermittent fasting could speed up your weight loss and make it easier to gain lean muscle through exercise. Fasting has also been shown to reduce oxidative damage and inflammation in your body.
Let’s take a look at how to practice intermittent fasting.
Types of Intermittent Fasting
There are many different ways to practice intermittent fasting:
- The 16/8 Method: With the 16/8 method, you fast for 16 hours each day and eat during the other 8 hours. Typically, this requires skipping one meal. For example, many people begin fasting after dinner and resume eating in the late morning. However, you can choose whatever hours for fasting that suit your lifestyle. This is the most popular method for intermittent fasting as it is considering the easiest to stick to.
- The Eat/Fast/Eat Method: This method instructs you to fast every few days, and eat normally on the days in between.
- Alternating Days: This method is similar to the Eat/Fast/Eat Method, except that it requires more fast days. With this method, you fast every second day and eat normally on the days in between.
- The 5/2 Method: With the 5/2 Method, you restrict your calories for two days each week, and eat normally on the other five.
- The Warrior Diet: This method is similar to the 16/8 Method. However, with the Warrior Diet, you fast for 20 hours each day and eat during the other 4.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
One of the reasons that intermittent fasting has become a popular method for losing weight is because it affects your body on a cellular level and makes significant changes to the way your body processes operate.
The main reason that intermittent fasting works is that it majorly increases your body’s metabolic rate. Your metabolism is what allows your body to break down the food that you eat and turn it into energy. The higher your metabolism, the more quickly and easily you can burn calories. Intermittent fasting can increase your metabolic rate by 3-14%.
Studies show that this increase in metabolism makes intermittent fasting far more effective for weight loss than daily calorie restriction.
Increasing Human Growth Hormone
As it turns out, the Human Growth Hormone, or HGH, is one of the most significant players when it comes to losing weight, gaining muscle, and performing well in your fitness routines. If you’re interested in trying out intermittent fasting, you’ll be happy to hear that studies have indicated that intermittent fasting may increase your body’s production of the Human Growth Hormone to as much as five times your baseline level.
These increased HGH levels can majorly amplify the number of calories that you’re able to burn through normal dieting and exercise, making the pounds melt off significantly faster than they would through other diets.
The Human Growth Hormone has other benefits as well. A study of older men found that lower HGH levels correlated with a decrease in lean muscle. This suggests that higher levels of HGH could allow your body to build lean muscle more quickly and effectively.
The study also found a correlation between low HGH levels and a decrease in skin viscosity and elasticity. This means that having higher HGH levels could mean healthier skin.
Normally, your body’s cells are hard at work processing the food that you’ve eaten during your last meal. However, during fasting, your cells don’t have anything to process. This induces your cells to begin a process called neuronal autophagy.
In a nutshell, autophagy is when your body cleans house; your cells digest and remove old proteins that they’ve been building up, cleansing your body and repairing cells. Studies indicate that autophagy reduces inflammation and the risk of:
- neurodegenerative disorders
- inflammatory issues
- insulin resistance
How does autophagy help you lose weight? Well, in addition to recycling old cells, your body also targets and consumes fat cells during autophagy. Once you’ve been fasting for 12 or more hours, your body starts to run out of energy; at this point, your cells, already in recycling mode, begin burning up fat stores to keep functioning. This means that during the last few hours of your fast, all of your body’s energy is coming from breaking down fat.
Amplifying Insulin Sensitivity
Most people know that insulin levels are critical when it comes to health conditions such as diabetes. However, insulin is also an important factor in weight management. Typically, lower insulin levels mean that it is easier for your body to access its stored fat. Therefore, lower insulin levels make it easier to burn fat when your cells begin the autophagy process.
During intermittent fasting, your body’s insulin sensitivity increases significantly. This means that your body can operate with lower insulin levels, making it easier for you to burn up your fat stores.
Changing Gene Function
In addition to increasing levels of the Human Growth Hormone, other cellular changes occur during intermittent fasting. For example, studies suggest that fasting could increase your body’s production of sirtuins: signalling proteins that help regulate your metabolism. These proteins play an important role in metabolising food and burning fat.
Tips for Fasting
If you find yourself struggling with hunger during your fasting hours, you may need to choose your final meal more carefully before your fasting window begins. Be sure to include good amounts of protein and fibre before you begin fasting, so you feel full longer. These foods are broken down by your body more slowly, so the energy they provide will last longer. It is also important to stay hydrated during your fasting hours. If you feel hungry, have a glass of water!
As discussed above, intermittent fasting allows your body to enter autophagy and burn up your fat stores. You can boost this process by exercising regularly. If you feel too tired or hungry to exercise during your fasting periods, save the workouts for a time after you’ve eaten. Your workout will help burn the calories you’ve consumed, which will begin the autophagy process sooner and burn more overall fat.
Finally, while one of the appeals of fasting is that it doesn’t regulate what you eat, it is still important that you maintain a healthy diet during your non-fasting hours. If you eat an excessive amount of calories or primarily eat foods that aren’t good for you, fasting won’t do much to help you. No matter what diet you choose, eating a good balance of clean, non-processed foods is vital to maintaining a healthy body.