What is Intermittent Fasting and Who Should Do It?
What is Intermittent Fasting and Who Should Do It?
What Is It?
Intermittent fasting is a nutritional and health strategy that divides the day into periods when you eat and those when you do not eat. Unlike traditional fasting it does not require that you deprive yourself of food day after day. What it does require is that you strategically make adjustments to your eating times to promote a whole host of health benefits, including rapid fat loss.
So how long do you fast on such a plan? The majority of intermittent fasters do so for between 16-32 hours. Keep in mind, however, that this includes the hours when you sleeping.
People who are on a 16 hour fast may do this daily as part of their lifestyle, having an eight-hour window when they take in all of their nutrients. Others may fast just once a week for a longer period of time, perhaps 32 hours.
The most popular form of intermittent fasting is known as the 16-8 Diet. This partitions the day into sixteen hours of not eating and eight hours of eating. For many people their non-eating period starts at 7pm and runs through until 11am the following day. Of course, 7-8 of those hours are taken up with sleeping.
Why Do Intermittent Fasting?
For a lot of people, the idea of fasting sounds strange. We’ve been raised on the need to eat every few hours. Skipping meals was the last thing we were meant to do – especially if we wanted to control our weight and stop losing muscle tissue!
So why do it?
Consider the reasons.
Intermittent Fasting Burns Fat
Every time you eat you take a certain amount of sugar into your body – even if you’re trying not to. That sugar is going to be transported directly to your liver. Once there, it gets converted to glycogen.
When your glycogen levels are full, all of the extra sugar that you consume will be stored as body fat. A typical meal will provide you with the energy for about 8 hours of your day. After that, there is no glycogen left and the body will have to use stored body fat to fuel your energy needs.
When you practice intermittent fasting, your body will exhaust its glycogen stores. It will then make use of your stored fat reserves to provide your daily energy needs.
Intermittent Fasting Detoxifies
The vast majority of foods that we put into our bodies contain things that are not good for us. They’ve been robbed of their beneficial vitamins, minerals and fiber only to be pumped with pesticides, hormones and genetic modifications. As a result, our bodies have become filled with toxins.
This toxin overload means that we can’t digest our food properly. This is compounded when we don’t take in enough water, when we et our food too quickly, don’t chew our food thoroughly and don’t consume the foods that produce toxic fighting enzymes in the gut.
As a result of all of this, even when we do eat nutrient rich foods, we probably won’t be able to absorb them.
According to Norman W. Walker D.Sc., Ph D in his book Colon Health: The Key to a Vibrant Life “the elimination of undigested food and other waste products is equally as important as the proper digestion and assimilation of food. Infirmity and sickness, at any age, is the direct result of loading up the body with food, which contains no vitality, and at the same time allowing the intestine to remain loaded with waste matter. “
Here are just three examples of the damage that is being done:
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)
PCBs are synthetic compounds that are used in insulating materials and coolants. As a result of either waste dumping or air pollution, PCBs get into our food chains. They enter our water -ways and settle on our crops.
The US National Toxicology Program have concluded that PCBs are reasonably likely to cause cancer in humans. They also cause severe acne, rashes and eye irritation.
Bisphenol A (BPA)
BPA is a carbon based synthetic compound that is used in many plastic products, such as water bottle and food containers. When it enters the human body, BPA acts an imitator of the female hormone estrogen. It has been linked to heart disease, diabetes and liver disease. BPA is especially harmful to infants and young children, as it affects brain and hormonal development.
Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)
BHT is a synthetic compound that is added to foods and chemicals to prevent oxidation and enhance the color and flavor. It is also used in jet fuels, embalming fluids and petrol products. BHT has been linked to liver and kidney damage, an impaired immune system, behavioral abnormalities and cancer.
A key objective of detoxifying is to rid your body of toxins. Doing so will provide you with a huge energy boost, massively increase the productivity of your digestive system and help you to finally lose body fat.
Intermittent fasting is like giving your body a mini detox every single day.
It Makes You Healthy
Intermittent fasting has a remarkable curative ability. It will provide the means to cleanse and clear out your system, in the process removing the causes of a whole host of diseases from the body. And, unlike the medications which physicians typically dole out, it does all of this without posing harmful side effects. How can fasting do what medical science is unable to?
The healing secret of fasting is its ability to de-stress the body. Fasting gives your body a chance to take a break and catch its breath. After all, more than 70% of your daily energy expenditure goes to activities like digestion and detoxification. The more we eat, the more we put pressure on the body to continue on this treadmill. By jumping off the treadmill, we give the body the chance to more effectively get rid of toxins.
Fasting gives the body the opportunity to do a self-management assessment. It identifies areas of damage and eliminates them in favor of new, healthier cells.
It Promotes Longevity
Scientists have conducted a number of studies with animals (mice and monkeys, among others) which show a clear link between fasting and living longer. It all has to do with the hormone insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1). Fasting results in lower levels of IGF-1. IGF-1 happens to play a large part in the host of diseases associated with aging.
It Control Blood Sugar
Insulin signals your body to store energy so it can be used later. Every time we eat we release insulin. When you practice intermittent fasting, however, you receive an insulin spike after eating, but then, because you have a large gap before your next meal, there is no insulin activity going on in the body at all. This encourages the body to burn fat, while also maintaining the body’s natural sensitivity to insulin.
It Makes You Smarter
There is promising research indicating that fasting may help to protect against such brain diseases as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease. This research has only been done on mice to date. In a 2012 study, conducted by the US National Institute of Aging, fasted mice were shown to more easily remember their way around a maze than fed mice. When their brains were scanned, it was revealed that the fasted mice had more new brain cell growth. There is now enough promising research on mice to merit human research.
The Science Behind Intermittent Fasting
Imagine that your last meal was at 7:00pm. You get up at 9:00 am the following morning. After a glass of water, you head for the gym. You’ve been fasting for 11 hours, so your body is beginning to deplete its glycogen stores that have been stored in your liver and muscles as a result of last night’s dinner.
When you begin working out, your body’s need for energy sky rockets. Very quickly you deplete the stored glycogen. Now your body is going to go directly to its back-up fuel source – your stored body fat. That fat-burning state will exist right through until your next meal. People who work out in a non-fasted state, however, seldom exhaust their glycogen stores sufficiently to make any inroads into their fat reserves. As a result, they will struggle, despite working just as hard, to lose fat.
There is some very exciting medical research that shows that the benefits of Intermittent Fasting go well beyond its ability to remove fat from the body. Much of this evidence at this stage comes from animal studies because human lifespans are so much longer, requiring much longer studies. However, the more this area of research grows, the more long-term information about the results in human subjects should be available.
A 2013 study out of Salk’s Regulatory Biology Laboratory involved feeding a study group of mice for just 8 out of 24 hours as opposed to a control group who were fed more constantly. The group who fasted for 16 hours stayed lean and did not develop health problems, despite being fed a high fat, high calorie diet. Unlike the control group, they did suffer from high blood sugar or chronic inflammation. They also had increased endurance.
The conclusion reached by the researchers was that “time-restricted feeding is a non-pharmacological strategy against obesity and associated diseases.”
Intermittent Fasting and Aging
The University of Southern California’s Longevity Institute has conducted research indicating that Intermittent Fasting lowers the secretion of IGF-1, which plays a role in aging. In addition, fasting was shown to trigger other DNA repair genes. Their conclusion was the Intermittent Fasting puts the body in repair mode and can help to stave off the effects of aging.
Intermittent Fasting VS Calorie Restriction
A study out of the University of Illinois led by Krista Varady compared the effects of Intermittent Fasting with caloric restriction. In contrast to caloric restriction, Intermittent Fasting was seen to have a beneficial effect on Type-2 Diabetes, and to reduce cancer rates due to its ability to reduce cell proliferation. In addition, Intermittent Fasting resulted in a higher rate of fat loss than calories restriction.
Intermittent Fasting and Muscle
A study led by Mark Hartman way back in 1992 showed that Intermittent Fasting has the effect of increasing the body’s production of growth hormone. This helps to preserve lean muscle tissue. The study also showed that Intermittent Fasting reduced oxidative stress as well as improving brain health and cognitive ability. In addition, fasting was seen to promote the maintenance of the hormone insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), helping muscle cells to build proteins for growth and repair.
The research into the benefits of Intermittent Fasting is still in it’s infancy. Despite that, studies like the ones just mentioned make it clear that the health benefits are real and substantial. As more human trials are conducted, the evidence will only become more compelling.
Intermittent Fasting and Belly Fat
Belly fat is both unsightly and unhealthy. In order to get rid of it, we need to free the fatty acids from our fat cells in a process known as lipolysis. It can then be transported through the bloodstream to our cells to be burned as energy.
Four to five hours after eating, our levels of the hormone glucagon increase. Glucagon cleans up all of the carbohydrate and protein that you’ve eaten. It also triggers the release of hormone-sensitive lipase. Lipase, in turn, triggers the release of fat from our fat cells. This allows for the switch over to fat as the primary fuel for providing energy to our muscle cells.
As we continue the fast, then, stored belly fat is being turned into energy simply in order to maintain our daily functions. When we exercise, the rate of belly fat burn is ramped up.
When we are constantly eating, however, there is no need for our body to release any glucagon. That’s because the very act of eating causes the pancreas to pump out insulin. Insulin does not promote the use of fat to provide energy. In addition, any glucose that comes into our system and that is not used as energy, can be converted into fat.
The bottom line is that fasting is a superior way to promote loss of belly fat because it triggers your body to switch from using glucose to fat as it primary source of energy.
Who Should Do Intermittent Fasting?
Having thoroughly researched the benefits and the scientific basis for intermittent fasting, we can now answer the question of who should do it.
If you are a person who wants to lose body fat naturally over a sustained period of time, you should consider intermittent fasting.
If you are a person who wants to combat the effects of aging, you also should consider intermittent fasting.
If you are a person who is interesting in improving cognitive ability while also preserving lean muscle tissue, you should definitely consider intermittent fasting.
In short, if you are a human being who is interested in improving your overall health and well-being, then intermittent fasting is for you!
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