Intermittent fasting (IF) is a pattern of eating which is scheduled between periods of fasting and eating. First things first, it is not a diet, tribe. IF doesn’t change what you eat, it changes when you eat. There are different ways involved in doing the same, viz., daily intermittent fasting, weekly intermittent fasting and alternate day intermittent fasting.
IF has become the world’s top lifestyle trends in the past few years, and there is a reason for it. As a matter of fact, there are 10. Find out for yourself:
IF promotes a drop in your weight in the form of fat loss. When you don’t give your body a steady stream of glucose, it begins breaking down the glycogen to use as fuel. After the glycogen has been depleted, your body seeks out alternative sources of energy to help power your body. Fuel stores from your body fat opens up to provide energy and this is how you burn fat, thus ensuring a healthy weight loss.
Intermittent fasting increases neuronal stress resistance through multiple mechanisms, including bolstering mitochondrial function and stimulating autophagy (see point 6), neurotrophic-factor production (Neurotrophic factors (NTFs) are a family of biomolecules that support the growth and survival of neurons.), antioxidant defenses, and DNA repair. As a result, it helps enhance cognitive function and protect your brain against changes in memory and learning function. Moreover, it can decrease the risks of stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.
When you eat, much of your food is broken down into glucose, raising blood sugar levels, thus raising insulin levels. It is accepted that glucose toxicity is involved in the worsening of insulin resistance (IR) by affecting the secretion of β-cells. IF allows your body a chance to stabilize the insulin levels, which gives your pancreas a rest from producing insulin.
This pattern of eating also increases the levels of Adiponectin, a fat derived hormone, which has proven beneficial in protecting from heart problems like atherosclerosis as well as IR.
Moreover, intermittent fasting results in calorie restriction which is thought to impair energy metabolism in cancer cells, thus inhibiting their growth and preventing the spread of cancer.
There are two main ways through which intermittent fasting can improve gut health-
Firstly by giving rest to your gut from the taxing work of digesting and absorbing food. Secondly, fasting benefits our good gut bacteria because of circadian rhythm- our internal body clock. Continuously grazing until right before bed adds up to the digestion and processing of food. Such a large eating window often takes us out of sync with our circadian rhythm (body clock) and disrupts our gut microflora.
Benefits of IF do not only result from reduction in calories but also from the beneficial hormonal changes like reduction in insulin levels and increase in the counter regulatory hormones- nor-adrenaline, cortisol and growth hormone. These are known as counter regulatory hormones because they tend to raise our blood glucose levels when the body is not getting it from the food, making it available for energy purposes. Growth hormone is associated with anti-aging properties and research has found that deficiency of the same leads to higher levels of body fat, lower lean body mass (sarcopenia) and decreased bone mass (osteopenia).
IF stimulates autophagy which in Greek means ‘self-eating’- auto (self) and phagein (eating). It is a process, activated by glucagon (a hormone produced in the absence of insulin), in which our body gets rid of broken down, old cell parts. Basically, there is replacement of old parts of the cell. Autophagy along with increase in growth hormone can really give your bodies a complete renovation and a kick start to healing.
Many of us have concerns about loss of muscle mass during fasting. And the answer is a straight up, NO. Muscle gain/loss is mostly a function of exercise and ensuring adequate protein intake and fat loss is all about your diet. While IF your body switches metabolism to burning more fat. This makes sense, since protein is functional tissue and there is no point to burning useful tissue while fasting when there is plenty of fat around. As long as your energy needs are being met either through carbohydrates or fat, you will not ‘burn’ muscle during fasting instead you preserve it because the body does not store food energy as fat and then burn muscle for energy purposes.
Inflammation is a normal immune response to any injury or irritant. It can also be a result of increased oxidative stress in the body. Fasting intermittently has shown to reduce the oxidative stress markers and thereby reduce inflammation. Because it reduces inflammation, IF would also be expected to be beneficial in rheumatoid arthritis, and indeed, there is evidence supporting its use in patients with arthritis.
Leptin, known as ‘satiety hormone’, is produced by fat cells and higher amounts are mostly found in overweight and obese people. Too much leptin floating around can cause leptin resistance, which makes it harder for it to effectively turn off hunger cues. Intermittent fasting lowers leptin resistance, normalizes your hunger hormone and results in less hunger and potentially even more weight loss.
Intermittent fasting enable us to tolerate or overcome challenges and then restore homeostasis. Repeated exposure to fasting periods results in lasting antioxidant defenses and an adaptive response. Moreover, autophagy can also show improved function and robust resistance to a broad range of potentially damaging insults, thus increasing longevity.
On another note, Jesus Christ also supported fasting and resting as powerful tools for healing. So who’re you going to trust- Jesus Christ or Col. Sanders?
Do note, your bio individuality should be considered before choosing an intermittent fasting plan because it does not work the same way for everyone. Reaching out to a qualified Nutritionist would definitely be a good idea so that you do it correctly.
You can reach out to ThriveFNC for help, our experts would help you with a well personalized plan considering your current health status and unique requirements.