What is Intermittent Fasting?
For thousands of years, the practice of fasting has been used to improve weight management and overall health. Fasting, in general, has been shown to improve many causes of disease, reduce oxidative stress, and preserve learning and memory functioning. Intermittent fasting, also known as the 2:5 diet or IF, is known to be one of the most common and beneficial techniques. Today, the amount of research that has been done on intermittent fasting continues to grow and implies that the resulting health benefits are worth the shot.
There are many strict diet plans that cause a lot of stress, deprivation, and obsession over calorie counts. While these types of diets may work for some, it may not be the ticket for those who dislike the regularity of macro tracking. That is where a plan like IF comes in to play. IF allows you to focus on the time that you eat food rather than the amount. While there are some people that suggest going without food for 24 hours once or twice a week, the recommended fasting window is typically anywhere from 12-16 hours a day, which leaves 8-10 hours for food consumption.
You may be wondering, what makes Intermittent Fasting so beneficial? There are many factors of this practice that can benefit a person who is seeking not only weight loss results, but also a variety of health advantages.
Intermittent Fasting Benefits
It Fights Disease.
Fasting lowers insulin levels and other similar hormones that are linked to cancer and diabetes. Eating causes insulin levels to rise and stay at a higher level for a number of hours following a meal. By fasting, the body releases a smaller amount of insulin, which results in slower growth of harmful cells and the ability to fight these disease-causing hormones.
It Prevents and Manages Type 2 Diabetes.
Lower insulin levels mean that intermittent fasting is diabetic friendly. First of all, there have been many studies that show that intermittent fasting can be just as (or more) effective as cutting calories to lose weight. It also reduces inflammation, blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol, and insulin resistance. With that being said, the intermittent approach to fasting can help prevent the development of Type 2 diabetes.
It May Cause Significant Weight Loss.
IF has been known to cause a change in our blood levels within the growth hormone. Decreased secretion of the growth hormone can result in decreased lean body mass and decreased muscle mass, which leads to weight gain. However, an increase in our blood levels can cause the growth hormone to be high enough to burn unwanted fat and in turn, gain more muscle mass. Basically, temporarily going without food for a reasonable period of time can turn on certain fat-burning genes. That is not to mention that by eating in a shorter time period, you are more likely to eat fewer calories and volume of food overall.
It Can Boost Your Metabolism.
The higher growth hormones and the lower insulin levels mentioned earlier can result in an increase in metabolic rate by 3.6-14%. While there are many factors that can come into play when it comes to increasing metabolic rate, there are several lines of evidence that support that this type of eating pattern over a long period of time can cause a significant increase.
It Has the Same Effects of Physical Exercise.
Intermittent fasting can have some of the same effects of physical exercise without actually working out. According to a study by the National Institute of Aging, IF can help manage heart rate, resting heart rate, and blood pressure, similar to what you might see in trained athletes. For someone who is a regular exerciser, the combination of intermittent fasting and your normal workout routine may help your metabolism rev up even more than your sedentary peers.
It May Slow Down the Aging Process.
This specific type of fasting has been found to stimulate the body as it puts a very mild amount of stress on our internal organs. This level of stress is just enough to maintain and repair our body’s tissues, which leads to anti-aging effects. Because aging is the accumulation of damaged cells over time, research has shown that IF can increase the “cell constituent turnover,” or the clearance and recycling of damaged cells.
It Gets Your Body Into a Routine.
By training your body to eat at certain times during the day, your hunger will start to adjust accordingly. Such a routine will also help you recognize and appreciate real hunger versus emotional hunger. After practicing intermittent fasting for some time, the non-fasting periods can have a more calming effect and make you feel more relaxed around food, especially once your body senses that you are not within that eating window.
It’s a Long Term Plan.
Unlike many other trendy diet plans, IF wasn’t designed to make you feel deprived of food. By ditching the calorie counters and creating your own “eating window,” you can tailor your fasting schedule to meet your lifestyle needs. In addition, it helps keep the weight off over the long term. When combining intermittent fasting with a healthy diet, studies show that those who fast intermittently minimize weight regain after one year.
It Can Promote Better Sleep.
Circadian rhythm is often referred to as our natural body clock. It is also known that there are certain foods and evening habits that can mess with that internal clock, causing many sleepless nights and insomnia. A recent Harvard study has shown that fasting can reset our biological clock. When we get into the habit of eating later in the evening, it can make our bodies believe that this the time for food, not for sleep. By eating within a certain time frame, you are designating a time for meals and a time for bed.
It Makes Life Simple.
With intermittent fasting, you only have to plan for an eight-hour window of meal times. Where most of us are used to eating every 3-4 hours, IF makes the idea of eating a little more stress-free. Whether you work a 9-5 everyday, a stay-at-home mom, or you’re out on the run, rearranging your day around three square meals and two small snacks a day can be exhausting. By fasting intermittently, you always know when it’s time to eat and don’t have to think about food as much.
The best way to determine your window is to look at your daily schedule and see what times work best for you. If you begin your day with a wakeup call at 5:00 a.m., it might make sense for your eating window to be between 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. with a 9:00 p.m. bedtime. Maybe your morning is more relaxed and you are able to have your first meal after noon. This could mean that your schedule works best when eating between the hours of 12:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
It is also important to understand that Intermittent Fasting may not be the perfect diet for everyone. There are some people, especially women, who may find that practicing long periods without eating can interfere with their hormone levels. There are others who may need to eat every few hours throughout the entire day to regulate their blood sugar levels. That is why it’s very important to speak to your doctor before participating in any type of diet that requires a change within your normal routine.
Amanda Harris, Freelance Journalist
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