If you’ve been around the nutrition industry for some time now, you may have come across a type of nutritional set-up referred to as intermittent fasting. More and more people are starting to jump onto this bandwagon, seeing for themselves what it’s all about.
Benefits of intermittent fasting range from increased insulin sensitivity, improved weight loss results, reduced signs of aging, and improved heart health as well – just to name a few.
But is this fact, or fiction? Are you being led astray? Everyone knows that there are many diet plans out there that promise amazing results but don’t really deliver on those promises. Is this just another following in those foot steps?
Let’s look closer at what intermittent fasting is, the research behind the benefits it has to offer, and the ways in which you can go about intermittent fasting as well.
What Is Intermittent Fasting
First let’s go over what this approach entails. Intermittent fasting is, as the name suggests, a diet approach where you will be fasting for a certain period of time during the day and eating for a certain set length of time. You fast intermittently, setting up the diet in one of many different ways, which we will go over momentarily.
Intermittent fasting tends to appeal to those who dislike feeling restricted on their diet plan due to having to eat such small meals all the time or to those who just can’t be bothered to eat.
If you’re someone who finds you have to constantly remind yourself to eat, this could very likely be a great plan for you. Now you don’t have to worry about stopping every few hours to get your meal in.
There are also a number of health benefits that go along with intermittent fasting, which draws many people to this approach as well. Let’s take a closer look at what some of these benefits are.
When looking at the reasons why you should use intermittent fasting, you’ll see that they are quite varied and span across health based reasons along with aesthetic/body weight based reasons, coupled in with some lifestyle factors as well. This makes this diet approach appealing to just about everyone, which is another good reason for going on the plan.
· Increased release of human growth hormone
Growth hormone is a very powerful hormone that not only helps to increase the rate in which new cells are being formed and replacing old ones, but also helps to improve muscle mass development and may help with increasing your overall levels of fat burning as well.
Research indicates that when using an intermittent fasting protocol, levels of growth hormone can dramatically increase.
· Better insulin management
Controlling insulin is one of the most important things you must do to help regulate your body weight. When insulin is rising and falling, this is going to lead to an increased chance of storing excess glucose you consume in the body where fat is stored, therefore, increasing your risk of weight gain and obesity.
Those who have superior insulin management tend to be leaner and also tend to do a better job of shuttling the carbohydrates they’re consuming towards lean muscle mass tissue. This can then help promote the growth of lean muscle mass, making it even easier to sustain a goal body weight.
Finally, those who have good insulin sensitivity, which intermittent fasting tends to promote, will also be at a lower risk for suffering from diabetes, or if they already have diabetes, may be able to manage their symptoms better. This said, if you do currently have diabetes, be sure that you do speak to your doctor before attempting any type of intermittent fasting protocol.
· Improved cellular repair
An interesting benefit of intermittent fasting is improved cellular repair. This form of nutritional plan may actually help you reduce the signs of aging thanks to a speeding up of cell turnover and repair that takes place while fasting.
For those who are trying to fight the hands of time, intermittent fasting holds promising results.
· Changes to gene expression
Another way that intermittent fasting can improve your health is by making actual changes to your overall gene expressions. This approach may cause your body to actually change how it’s being programmed, which can then help to protect against disease and enhance your overall longevity.
If you are someone who has a family history of cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, or otherwise, you may want to consider intermittent fasting as a viable option to help prevent these conditions.
· Improved resting metabolic rate
Your metabolic rate is going to be responsible for how many calories you’re burning up on a day to day basis. The faster your metabolic rate is, the faster you’ll burn those calories and go on to lose body fat. The good news is that intermittent fasting may be able to help give you an edge.
Research suggests that short-term fasting like this may boost your metabolic rate by 3.6 to 14%, helping you burn fat faster. So not only will this diet make it easier to stick to a reduced calorie intake, but for every given calorie intake, while using the approach, you may be able to experience a greater overall calorie deficit, thus enhancing your results.
If you’re already taking other steps to increase your resting metabolic rate such as eating more protein in your diet and engaging in a regular strength training program, you may really be at an advantage as far as maintaining a lean body composition.
· Reduced levels of inflammation
Chronically elevated levels of inflammation are at the heart of just about every disease these days and sadly, most of us are only experiencing a rise as time goes on.
The good news is that intermittent fasting may help you reduce your overall level of inflammation, lowering your risk factor for a wide variety of diseases.
While short term inflammation is good and may help us overcome acute injuries and illness, when it’s long term, this breaks down the body and leads to tissue related problems that can impact us on a systemic level in some cases.
· Enhanced heart health
We’ve already spoken about how intermittent fasting can reduce the signs of inflammation and therefore reduce your risk of a variety of diseases and conditions. Within this is heart disease. Intermittent fasting has shown promising results for helping to lower the overall levels of LDL cholesterol in the body, blood triglycerides, and those inflammatory markers.
If you are suffering from heart disease, this is definitely one diet plan you will want to consider. This said, remember that you will still need to be choosing healthy foods on your diet plan – foods rich in fiber, low in saturated fat, and low in sugar in order to see optimal results.
· Reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease
Once again, we know that the lowered levels of inflammation can help protect you against developing Alzheimer’s disease, but it turns out that intermittent fasting may also offer extra protection.
It appears to help increase the level of brain hormone called BDNF, which is a hormone that assists with the development of new nerve cells in the body as well as help to protect against the development of this devastating brain condition.
· Improved focus
Another big benefit many people state they experience when using intermittent fasting protocols is an improved level of focus. They tend to find they can concentrate better at tasks they are doing and are not as distracted so easily.
This may be in part thanks to the endorphins that are flowing through the body during the fast, helping keep you mentally alert. This is one big reason why many people choose the fasting window and place that fast during the workday. In doing so, they may actually notice an improvement in their overall work performance.
· Decreased hunger
You may think that fasting would increase your hunger significantly. After all, right now if you go 4 or 5 hours without a meal, you are definitely starting to feel your stomach rumble. If you were to go 12 hours without food, wouldn’t that be like torture?
It turns out, for most people, once that initial adaptation process is complete, this isn’t the case. Many notice with such good appetite suppression they actually need to be told to break the fast.
This is again due to the fact that you’re going to have powerful endorphins running through the body that help to suppress appetite and in addition to that, you’ll maintain very stable blood sugar levels once your body switches over to using fat as a primary fuel source.
Some people may notice that in the very beginning, they do find that hunger is coming into play during the day, but if they are able to push through it and get through those initial few weeks, this hunger subsides and they experience that great appetite suppression that makes it much easier to stick with the diet overall.
So as you can see, there are a great many benefits to be had from this fasting protocol. Whichever method you choose, you can see some, if not all of these benefits taking place in your own life.
Ways Of Using Intermittent Fasting
So now that you know more about the benefits of intermittent fasting, let’s talk more closely about how you can implement this in your program plan.
Every Other Day Fasting
The first way to use intermittent fasting is using an every other day approach. This is a very popular method of setting up the diet for those who find that they have no issues with hunger while fasting.
Using this approach, you will go one full 24 hour period without eating and then after that, implement a full day of eating after. So essentially, you are eating for about 50% of the time.
For weight loss purposes, you can imagine how beneficial this can be. If you don’t like feeling like you’re heavily restricted on your diet, using fasting in this manner can essentially allow you to eat double the number of calories on your eating days as you would on a standard diet approach and still see good weight loss results.
Using An Eating Window
The next way in which you can set up your fasting protocol is through using an eating window. With this type of fasting, you’ll basically be giving yourself 8-10 hours to eat, depending on how long you want to fast for. This is a better approach for those who don’t want to fast for a full day, and who prefer to enjoy larger meals while still staying in their calorie allotment for the day.
Usually you’ll set it up so that you begin fasting before going to bed in the evening (fasting starting around 10pm) and then you’ll fast until lunch or just after the next day.
If doing a 10 hour eating window, you’d fast from 10pm the night before until noon the next day, while if doing an 8 hour window, you’d push back the time to break the fast to 2pm instead. Some may even choose to do a 6 hour eating window, breaking the fast at 4pm when the workday is done. You can set it up however you like and in a manner that works best with your schedule.
The advantages to this is that you can fast all throughout the busy workday, so you won’t have to worry about stopping to eat and most people will find, get far more accomplished.
Some people may even choose to extend the fast to 22 hours, allowing just a two hour window to eat their daily calories in. This is an approach called the ‘Warrior diet’ and is one of the hardest approaches to sustain but can be good for those who really dislike being bothered to eat.
Finally, the last way that you can set up an intermittent fasting diet is with occasional fasting. For those who don’t want to do full blown fasting, this is essentially just fasting for certain periods of time, whenever you feel like it. It may be once a week, once a month, or more often than that.
Another approach is the 5:2 approach, where you will nearly fast for two days of the week, consuming around 600 calories on those two days and then on the other five days of the week, you’ll eat as normal.
You’ll still receive some of the health benefits that fasting has to offer by doing this and it can be a good way to manage your calorie intake if you’ve had a few too many days of indulging. By fasting for a day or so, you’ll help to create a steep calorie deficit that can wipe out a surplus you’ve been running for the last few days.
So there you have the details you need to know about intermittent fasting. As you can see, there are many ways to structure this approach and what’s most important is finding a way that works for you.
Do keep in mind that some people dive into intermittent fasting and notice great results and have no problem sticking with it. For others, it doesn’t go quite the same. Be patient with yourself if this is the approach you choose to use and remember that it can take some time for your body to adjust.
If after a few weeks you are still not seeing your body adapt though, you may be better off looking at another plan to improve your health and weight loss results. Remember that the best plan is always the plan you will stick with.
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