What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting describes an eating pattern in which a person cycles between fasting and eating in intermittent intervals. It is not a diet since it does not specify what foods to eat. It is more a way of life!
The most common and easiest method of fasting is one which many people do without realising. That is the 16/8 method, in which you fast for 16 hours of each day and eat within a window of 8 hours. If you skip breakfast chances are you are already following this intermittent fasting pattern.
If you’re on the fence about fasting because you believe breakfast shouldn’t be skipped just remember that our hunter-gatherer ancestors didn’t have access to food like we do today and could go days without eating. It is only in our more recent history where we have an abundance of food, that eating breakfast and 3 or more meals a day has become the social norm.
How to do Intermittent Fasting
There are several ways in which you can incorporate fasting into your lifestyle. These are the most popular ones:
- 16/8: This is also known as the ‘Leangains’ method which is the most common fasting pattern in which you would normally skip breakfast and have your first meal at lunch time. A common eating window is 12pm-8pm however you breakfast lovers can still eat in the morning, you would just need to push your dinner up into later afternoon. Think 8am-4pm, in fact there are many health benefits with having an early dinner and going to sleep on completely empty stomach.
- 24 hour fast: Also dubbed ‘Eat-Stop-Eat’ this fasting protocol involves fasting for 24 hours several times a week. You can have an early dinner one night and fast until dinner time the next day.
- OMAD: This is for the hardcore fasters out there and reaps the most health benefits long term. It is similar to the 24 hour fast where you eat only one big meal a day, every day. It is common however for people to do OMAD during the week, and open up their eating window on weekends.
Intermittent Fasting Effects on Hormones
Fasting causes changes within your body that positively impact your hormone production. To put it simply fasting changes your hormone levels to burn more fat and repair damaged cells. Here are some hormones that are impacted from fasting:
Insulin and Insulin Sensitivity: The hormone that allows your body to use sugar in the form of glucose from carbohydrates for energy. Insulin keeps your bloody sugar level from getting too high or too low. Eating sugar raises your blood sugar levels and so more insulin is produced to lower them back to base level. Think of insulin like a ‘key’ that unlocks your cells to allow sugar to enter the cell to be used for energy.
Eating a meal will spike your insulin levels, the more sugar the higher the spike and bigger the crash afterward. In today’s society with an overabundance of processed food and sugar, it is common to develop something known as Insulin Resistance. This is not a good thing to have as insulin struggles to open your cells to allow the sugar access. You are not getting the energy from the food you eat and so your body will produce more insulin to keep up.
More insulin in your body will lead to increased body fat storage and weight gain. In comes intermittent fasting. While fasting, your body’s blood sugar levels stabilise and Insulin sensitivity increases. This will allow fat loss to increase along with your metabolism.
Ghrelin: The hunger hormone. Grehlin is produced in your body in cycles when your stomach is empty. Your body will produce Ghrelin in intervals throughout the day to let you know when to eat. However Ghrelin is also produced when you eat. If you wake up and don’t feel hungry, your body has not produced Grehlin to signal your hunger and eating breakfast will cause Ghrelin production. Eating meals regularly throughout the day stimulates more production of Ghrelin which can cause overeating to occur that leads to weight gain.
Following an intermittent fasting protocol will lower your Ghrelin levels, making you feel less hungry and more satiated when you eat meals. This makes sticking to a calorie restricted diet much easier!
Human Growth Hormone (HGH): HGH is commonly known as the anti-aging hormone. It is responsible for cell regeneration and growth not just in muscle and bone but all human tissue including organs. Simply put the more you have, the healthier and younger you will feel and look.
HGH levels rise by as much 1300-2000% while fasting! That’s right up to 2000%!! This has a massive impact on your overall health and wellbeing.
Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss
The main reason why people start intermittent fasting is for its potential for fat loss. Eating less often lowers your body’s Grehlin production and therefore reduces a person’s appetite, making dieting much easier to sustain.
The effect on a person’s hormone output from fasting also allows for faster weight loss. It may increase your metabolism by between 3-14%.
Fasting is also great for reducing the harmful fat that can build up around organs. Have you seen those guys with skinny arms and legs but big pregnant looking bellies? That is the harmful fat built up around their organs.
This means with fasting you can reduce the size of your organs for anyone with a beer belly.
Keep in mind to successfully lose fat you still need to eat fewer calories, this does not allow you to lose weight while still eating harmful junky foods.
Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
The health benefits of intermittent fasting are quite substantial. It helps to lose harmful fat, control body weight, improves brain function and may help to live longer, with the increase in HGH.
Here I’ve listed the big health benefits of fasting:
- Weight Loss
- Improves Insulin Resistance
- Reduce Inflammation
- Better Heart Health
- Helps prevent cancer
- Improved brain function
Should I Do Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a great way to a better way of life, however there are some people who should not jump at the opportunity and should first consult with their doctor.
Here are some people who should avoid fasting:
- People with a history of eating disorders
- Underweight people
- Diabetics – Consult your doctor
- Have blood sugar problems – Consult your doctor
- Are on medications – Consult your doctor
- Female trying to conceive/is pregnant or breastfeeding
Whether you are overweight or just want to better your health intermittent fasting is a great method you can use to achieve your goals. With increased fat loss and growth hormone you will find you sleep deeper at night and wake feeling more restful.
There is an adjustment period to those of you not quite used to skipping meals, but don’t fret because it’s easier than you think and does not take long to get used to. And it generally takes a couple of weeks to start feeling the benefits.
Before you knock it, give a go and see how you feel!