Intermittent fasting is currently one of the world’s most popular health and fitness trends. Does it live up to the hype?
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of non-eating and eating. Whilst it focuses on when you should eat as opposed to which foods you should eat, combining intermittent fasting with a healthy diet can yield impressive results.
Every time you eat, your food gets digested into a sugar molecule called glucose and this glucose enters your bloodstream. Being the clever things that they are, our bodies detect this rise in blood glucose levels and in response stimulate the pancreas to secrete a hormone called insulin. Once released into the bloodstream, insulin works to shuttle the glucose into the cells of the body, where it is used as an energy source. Essentially, insulin is pumping calories into your cells for immediate use.
But what if there is more glucose than your cells can handle? In this case, the insulin helps the glucose get converted into either glycogen - a long term storage form of glucose - or into fatty acids, where it is then circulated to other parts of the body and stored as fat. Given that the body can only store around 2000 calories worth of excess glucose as glycogen at any one time, it is easy to see why it doesn’t take long for those love handles to develop.
If you are eating from the moment you wake up until when you go to bed, you are causing a regular influx of glucose into your bloodstream and causing your body to continuously release insulin, thereby increasing the chances of any unused energy being stored as fat.
With intermittent fasting, you end up eating fewer meals in a day, ideally with no snacking in between, reducing your insulin spikes and ultimately reducing fat storage. But it is important to note, that eating fewer meals does not equate to consuming fewer calories. Your body still needs adequate fuelling, but it is the timing of this fuelling that makes all the difference. With intermittent fasting you can still consume your daily amount of healthy calories but in fewer sittings- cycling between periods of eating and fasting.
One study from the journal Nutrition Reviews looked at the effects of intermittent fasting, including alternate-day fasting — a method that involves switching between days eating and fasting. Eat one day, don’t eat the next. They found that alternate-day fasting over a period of 3–12 weeks reduced body weight by up to 7% and decreased body fat by up to 12 pounds (5.5 kg).
For those who are new to the concept, the idea of going a whole 24-hours without food might seem too drastic. But we only need look to examples in the animal kingdom to see that this method of eating tends to be the rule rather than the exception, with many mammals such as lions employing a “feast and famine” cycle. However, for those wishing to consume something each day, the 16:8 eating method may prove more manageable.
With the 16:8 eating method you fast for 16-hours per day and then do all your eating within an 8-hour window. For best results it is recommended to limit your eating to two meals a day, perhaps having your first meal at midday or later and closing the eating window by 8pm. In the beginning, you may wish to start with 3 meals which you can spread out over the course of 8-hours.
In order for this eating method to work effectively and for you to see the results, there needs to be no snacking during your fasting window to prevent spikes in your insulin. Numerous studies have shown intermittent fasting to be effective in reducing weight, including a recent 2019 study from the journal Nutrients which found that it also appears to help with diabetes, hypertension and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
So does that mean you can eat what you want for your meals as long as you do it within an 8-hour time frame? Not if you want to see those health and fat burning results.
We’ve already seen that insulin is released in response to glucose entering the blood after digestion. The more sugar rich a meal is, the more insulin will be released and the more chances of unused sugar energy being converted to fat. Plus sugars wreak havoc on the immune system. This is why many people who follow intermittent fasting also combine it with a keto diet, which requires a big reduction and limiting of the amount of carbohydrates eaten.
Some changes that occur in your body when you fast are:
An increase in the levels of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) - increasing as much as 5x. This has benefits for fat loss, muscle gain and anti-ageing.
Insulin sensitivity improves and levels of insulin drop dramatically, making stored body fat more accessible for burning.
Autophagy happens. This is when your cells start repairing themselves. In autophagy your cells digest and remove old, defective proteins that build up inside cells.
Anti-aging. Fasting can initiate changes in the function of genes related to longevity and boost protection against disease.
Many intermittent fasters on the keto diet get great results by cutting out starchy and processed carbs and increasing their intakes of leafy greens and healthy fats like avocados, seeds, and low carb nuts. Even though they contain more calories, they can help keep insulin levels low and allow you to go for longer between meals. Our Turmeric Keto Seed Crackers, Wheat-Free Bread Rolls, Low-carb Mozzarella & Basil Pizza, and Salmon & Red Onion Tart are great low-carb, keto-friendly alternatives.
It would also be beneficial to incorporate of a moderate amount of protein (not too much, think Mediterranean diet rather than Atkins) and a large amount of vegetables - especially leafy greens is key. These help flush toxins out of your system.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor or healthcare provider before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.