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Why Intermittent Fasting Works

Why Intermittent Fasting Works

Health crazes may come and go, fad diets will rise and fall, but the basics of weight loss will never change.

Fasting, even for a short period of time may sound alarming to those who haven't had a chance to see the research. However, avoiding glucose intake for even twelve short hours can provide a plethora of benefits. Many of us who have been in the 'all important breakfast' club might be more hesitant to risk going into "starvation mode" or dropping our blood sugar levels. However, understanding the science behind fasting and the chemical processes that take place can go a long way towards understanding the incredible impact that intermittent fasting (IF) has in our lives. 

Why Intermittent Fasting Works

Intermittent fasting works by removing the body's usual energy allotment (calories) and forcing it to resort to stored energy (fat). Going without eating for 10-16 hours will prompt the body to enter a different metabolism state and release fatty acids called ketones into the bloodstream. Anabolism, the metabolism state in which fats are stored and protected, will switch into catabolism, where they are broken down and fed to the body through the blood. This allows for some much-needed energy and nutrition that the body isn't receiving elsewhere. Contrary to popular belief, 'starvation mode' will not kick in and slow your metabolism during a fasting period. In fact, it's the weight loss process that will slowly drop your metabolism over time. Your lowering body weight will require fewer maintenance calories, requiring it to shift down.

After a minimum of 14 to 24 hours without food, your body will enter a period of autophagy. Meaning 'self-cannibalism' in Latin, this term details the often messy process of removing old, dead, and diseased cells and recycling them for other uses. This can improve weight loss by staggering percentages. Autophagy is created slowly, stimulated through intermittent fasting and low-carbohydrate diets that induce ketosis (such as the Keto diet). When the body's nutrition intake is carefully monitored and restrained to an eating window, extreme amounts of healthy fat loss is initiated.

How to Fast Intermittently

Intermittent fasting can be accomplished in several ways, easily adapted to various schedules or personal preferences. Scientific studies have concluded that weekly weight loss can measure anywhere from 0.65 to 1.65 pounds, with higher results for different circumstances. It isn't uncommon to lose as much as ten pounds or more per month.

  • A common regimen includes going 16 hours without food, with an 8-hour eating window (16:8). This can be lengthened or shortened depending on the tolerance of the individual. Some people prefer to stretch their diets to 18:6, 20:4, and sometimes even one meal a day (OMAD).
  • Setting your window preferences should come with a few caveats. It is recommended by many to skip breakfast or eat it later, around 10 AM, with a final meal around 6 PM. You should abstain from eating at least 3-4 hours before sleeping to prevent digestion backup or bloating. Ensure that the window you set will be sustainable for the long-term.
  • Plan to consume no calories while outside of your eating window. If you do so, your body will switch metabolic states and reset the fasting period. Water, tea, black coffee, and lemon water are all acceptable choices. You will need to consume more liquid than usual while fasting, so plan accordingly.
  • When coming out of a fast, you will need to prepare your body for the incoming spike of glucose. Failing to do so can cause headaches, bloating, and increase your chances for some illnesses. Drink some lemon water or take some apple cider vinegar with water to prepare your stomach acids. It's a good idea to eat greens like cucumbers or broccoli when returning to eating, waiting about 15 minutes after to consume the real meal.
  • Consistency is key. Like any diet, starting and stopping will only hinder the weight loss process and reduce the change of entering autophagy.

For more detailed instructions in creating a fasting plan, talk to your doctor about intermittent fasting and your personal health goals.

What Intermittent Fasting Can Do

Besides just helping with weight loss, intermittent fasting has been proven in a multitude of studies not only to decrease insulin sensitivity and improve muscle mass retention but to reverse the effects of aging. Maintaining a diet using intermittent fasting can:

  • Boost cellular repair and human growth hormone, allowing you to live longer and healthier. 
  • Increase metabolic rates by as much as 14% while fasting. 
  • Drastically reduce your risk for chronic diseases such as IBS, diabetes, and some cancers. 
  • Target persistent belly fat, removing between 4-7% percent after 3-24 weeks of intermittent fasting.

When combined with regular exercise, a healthful food plan, and a focus on long-term sustainability, intermittent fasting is one of the most beneficial eating regimes available.

Things to Consider

Intermittent fasting is a beneficial and harmless process that works to optimize your body for peak weight loss potential. However, people in dealing with certain physical conditions should talk with their doctor before fasting to prevent long-term side effects or damage. 

  • Children under the age of 18 are still undergoing massive growth changes and require significant nutrition to maintain overall health. Overweight individuals should seek alternative diet plans such as CICO (calories in, calories out). 
  • While intermittent fasting helps to reduce insulin sensitivity, individuals with diabetes should ask their doctor for a detailed fasting plan that considers their specific needs. 
  • Women may experience changes to their fertility and menstruation cycle on prolonged fasting plans. Fasting while pregnant or breastfeeding can spawn several health issues or create great discomfort, and may even require immediate medical attention.

Healthy adults with no history of medical concerns are perfect candidates for intermittent fasting schedules, which can greatly increase the quality of life and boost self-confidence. An intermittent fasting journey should be considered more as a lifestyle change than a diet plan, bringing your dreams closer one pound at a time.


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