Intermittent fasting is currently one of the world’s most popular health and fitness trends. People from all backgrounds, all over the world are using it to lose weight, improve their physical and mental health and simplify their lifestyles. Many studies have shown that it can have powerful positive effects on your body and may even help you live longer.
What is intermittent fasting?
Rather than a diet, intermittent fasting is a modified pattern of eating. It’s a method of scheduling your meals so that you get the most out of them each day without restricting the types of food you eat. It’s simple enough that you can start without much difficulty, but impactful enough that it will actually make a difference. Intermittent fasting doesn’t change what you eat, it changes when you eat.
Intermittent fasting can be a great way to get lean without going on a restrictive diet or cutting your calories. In fact, most of the time you’ll try to keep your calories the same when you begin intermittent fasting – there’s no significant changes to the amount of food consumed. Additionally, intermittent fasting is a great way to keep lean muscle mass on while reducing fat.
How does intermittent fasting work?
Your body is in the “fed” state when it is digesting and absorbing food. Typically, the fed state starts when you start eating, and lasts for three to five hours as your body digests and absorbs the food consumed. In the fed state, it’s very hard for the body to burn fat because your insulin levels are higher.
After this stage, your body goes into the “post–absorptive” state – where your body isn’t actively processing a meal. The post–absorptive state lasts until 8 to 12 hours after your last meal, which is when you enter the “fasted state”. It’s easier for your body to burn fat cells in the fasted state because your insulin levels are lower.
Because we don’t enter the fasted state until 12 hours after our last meal, it’s rare that our bodies enter stage. Fasting puts your body in a fat burning state that you rarely make it to with a normal eating schedule – this is one of the reasons why many people who start intermittent fasting will lose fat cells without changing their diet, the quantity of food consumed, or how often they exercise.
The health benefits of intermittent fasting
- Intermittent fasting makes your day simpler
- It can help add years to your life
- It may reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular-related illnesses by supporting healthy cholesterol and blood pressure
- Intermittent fasting is much simpler and more straightforward than dieting
- It’s a great way to naturally increase your energy levels
- It improves your overall mental clarity and focus
- It helps to regulate your blood sugar and insulin levels, and reduce inflammation
- It increases your resting metabolic rate
Intermittent fasting methods
There are a number of ways of doing intermittent fasting – all of which involve separating the day or week into eating and fasting periods. Some of these methods include:
The 16/8 method: Also called the Leangains protocol, this method involves skipping breakfast and restricting your eating period each day to an 8 hour window, then fasting for 16 hours in between.
Eat-Stop-Eat: 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: Consuming only 500–600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week, but eat normally the other 5 days.
When reducing your calorie intake, all of these methods can assist in fat loss (providing you don’t overcompensate by eating much more than usual during the eating periods).
While intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone, the benefits and positive impacts are staggering and widely reported. It’s always recommended to listen to your body and identify the regimen that works best for you.
*If you are diabetic, hypoglycemic, have any issues with blood sugar regulation, are pregnant or breast-feeding, or have a history of disordered eating, intermittent fasting may not be for you. You should talk to your doctor before making changes to your eating schedule.