Intermittent Fasting: A Beginner’s Guide to Better Health and Weight Loss

It’s every dietitian’s dream: imagine being able to eat whatever you want most days of the week, limiting your intake for one or two days at a time, while losing weight. Believe it or not, intermittent fasting doesn’t just help your waistline. Indeed, fasting helps stabilize blood sugar, reduce inflammation and keep your heart healthy. There are a wide variety of approaches to intermittent fasting, and numerous studies confirm the multitude of benefits for your overall health and well-being. Whether it’s fasting for a few hours a day or skipping meals for two days a week, intermittent fasting can be an easy way to improve your health and achieve your weight loss goals.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting, also known as cyclical fasting, has grown in popularity in recent years as more research emerges and uncovers new benefits of intermittent fasting. In a 2016 Cell Metabolism study titled “Fasting, Circadian Rhythms, and Time-Restricted Feeding in Healthy Lifespan,” the authors discuss how fasting allows humans to rely less on their glucose stores for energy and instead rely on their ketone bodies and fat stores. Therefore, intermittent and periodic fasting has benefits ranging from prevention to improved disease treatment. Even fasting-mimicking diets, which are not true fasts, can create beneficial changes similar to those caused by fasting.

However, intermittent fasting is not a new concept. It has been used for centuries in times when food was scarce, and it even plays a central role in many major religions. In fact, once a year, Muslims observe Ramadan, a month of dawn-to-dusk fasting. It is difficult to define intermittent fasting, because there is no one correct method to practice it. In fact, there are many variations of intermittent fasting used around the world. Each of them follows a different dietary pattern which is often strictly adhered to in order to achieve physical or even spiritual results.

How does it work?

Extensive research on the concept of intermittent fasting suggests that it works in two different ways to improve various facets of health. First, intermittent fasting leads to a decrease in oxidative stress on cells in the body. Second, the practice of fasting improves the body’s ability to manage stress at the cellular level. Intermittent fasting activates cellular stress-response pathways similar to very mild stressors, acting as mild boosters to your body’s stress response. As it happens on a regular basis, your body is slowly strengthened against cellular stress and is then less likely to age and develop disease.

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The most common types of intermittent fasting are:

– Alternate-day fasting: This involves eating only every other day. On fasting days, some eat nothing at all and others eat a very small amount, usually around 500 calories. On days without a calorie fast, we eat normally (but healthily!).

– The warrior diet: This diet consists of eating only fruits and vegetables during the day, then having a large meal in the evening.

– The 16/8 fast: For this method, you fast for 16 hours each day and limit your food to eight hours. Most often, this simply involves not eating anything after dinner and skipping breakfast the next morning.

Eat-Stop-Eat: Practice the “Eat-Stop-Eat” method by choosing one or two days of the week when you fast for 24 hours, then eat nothing from dinner that day until dinner the next day. The other days you should have normal calorie days.

– 5:2 diet: For five days of the week, you eat normally. During the remaining two fasting days, you should limit your caloric intake to 500-600 calories per day.

5 benefits of intermittent fasting

1. Promote Weight Loss

One of the main benefits of intermittent fasting is its ability to speed up fat burning and aid weight loss. In fact, many people prefer intermittent fasting to traditional diets because it doesn’t require you to meticulously measure your food and track calories and grams consumed.
Fasting leads to increased fat burning and rapid weight loss by forcing your body to use stored fat for fuel. When you eat, your body uses glucose (sugar) as its main source of energy and stores what’s left as glycogen in your muscles and liver.

If you don’t provide your body with a steady stream of glucose, it begins to break down glycogen to use as fuel. Once the glycogen is used up, the body looks for other sources of energy, such as fat cells, which it then breaks down to fuel the body.

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A 2015 study looked at the effects of one-day fasting on body composition and found that, on average, it reduced body weight by 7% and body fat by 5 kg. Full-day fasting produced similar results, but with a reduction in body weight of up to 9%. (4) The effect of an all-day fast on your precious muscle stores is less clear. Another study looking at the 16/8 method of intermittent fasting showed that it significantly reduced body fat while maintaining muscle mass and strength.

2. Improved Blood Sugar

When you eat, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose (sugar) in your bloodstream. A hormone called insulin is responsible for transporting glucose from the bloodstream to cells, where it can be used as energy. Insulin doesn’t always work effectively when you have diabetes, which can lead to high blood sugar levels associated with symptoms like fatigue, thirst, and frequent urination. Some studies have shown that intermittent fasting benefits blood sugar by keeping it well regulated and avoiding spikes and dips. In one study, participants with diabetes fasted an average of 16 hours a day for two weeks. Not only did intermittent fasting lead to weight loss and lower calorie intake, but it also helped to significantly lower blood sugar.

3. Keeps your heart healthy

One of the most impressive benefits of intermittent fasting is its favorable effect on heart health. Studies show that intermittent fasting improves your heart health by reducing certain risk factors for heart disease. In one study, fasting was shown to influence several components of heart health. It has been shown to increase good HDL cholesterol and lower bad LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

4. Reduction of inflammation

Inflammation is a normal immune response to injury. Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, can lead to chronic disease. Some research has even linked inflammation to conditions like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer. A study published in Nutrition Research followed 50 people observing Ramadan and showed that they had reduced levels of certain inflammatory markers during the Ramadan fast. Another 2015 study found that longer duration of overnight fasting was associated with lower markers of inflammation. In the journal Rejuvenation Research, alternate day fasting was found to reduce markers of oxidative stress.

5. Reduced Hunger

Leptin, also known as the satiety hormone, is a hormone produced by fat cells that helps signal that it’s time to stop eating. Your leptin levels decrease when you are hungry and increase when you feel full. Because leptin is produced in fat cells, overweight or obese people tend to have higher amounts of leptin circulating in the body. However, too much leptin in circulation can lead to leptin resistance, which makes it harder to effectively turn off hunger cues. Lower levels of leptin could translate to lower leptin resistance, decreased hunger, and potentially even greater weight loss.

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The best way to practice intermittent fasting

As described above, there are many types of fasts with different options that can fit any schedule or lifestyle. It’s best to experiment and find the one that works best for your individual needs.

For beginners, the easiest place to start is with the 16/8 method of intermittent fasting, a form of time-restricted eating. This usually involves not having an evening snack after dinner and not having breakfast the next morning. If you don’t eat anything between 8 p.m. and 12 p.m. the next day, for example, you’ve already fasted for 16 hours.

Remember that intermittent fasting should be viewed as a lifestyle change rather than a diet. Unlike traditional diets, there’s no need to count points or calories or log foods in a food diary every night.

To reap the maximum benefits of intermittent fasting, be sure to fill your diet with healthy, whole foods on the days you eat, to get as many nutrients into your day as possible. Also, always listen to your body. If you feel weak or tired when you go a whole day without eating, try increasing your intake a bit and having a light meal or snack. You can also try one of the other intermittent fasting methods and find what works for you.

* The information and services available on pressesante.com in no way replace the consultation of competent health professionals. [HighProtein-Foods.com]

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