When people hear the word “fasting” they often think of a disgruntled individual who is weak to the bone due to the lack of food intake. Many people don’t believe that intermittent fasting is good for you. However, with some of the recent research into intermittent fasting and with so many fitness experts speaking out about the benefits, we have to ask ourselves, “is intermittent fasting good for you?”.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is not necessarily a diet. Rather it is a style or pattern of eating. With intermittent fasting, you only eat during specific times in the day. This type of fasting is not all too concerned about what foods you will eat during the day but rather when you will be eating them.
There are a few different ways to go about intermittent fasting. Some methods involve eating during 8-hour window in the late afternoon every day while other involve practicing fasting for only specific days in the week.
What is the theory behind it?
Ultimately, humans have been practicing intermittent fasting since the caveman times. Back in those primitive days, the typical diet routine and lifestyle couldn’t be any more different from how we live today. Back in the day, primitive man was part of small hunter and gatherer tribes. Typically when men and women woke up, they would spend their day scavenging and hunting for food. Perhaps they would eat small figs and fruit lightly throughout the day but they would only really get to feast at the end of the day after they had successfully hunted down an animal.
As a result, primitive man naturally fasted throughout the day and then consumed the bulk of his food at the very end of the day. These people naturally practiced fasting and essentially we are all hardwired to live this sort of lifestyle. We are evolutionarily equipped to conserve energy for hours on end before rebooting with one large meal.
Based on how our bodies are built and how we have evolved as a species, intermittent fasting is good for you. However, keep in mind that primitive man still did not have the luxury of being able to pick the best times to eat during the day, or have much choice in what he was going to eat every day. Primitive man potentially would go a few days before getting a full meal.
This being said, it is best not to follow the ways of our ancient ancestors literally. After all with today’s many conveniences, we have the opportunity to choose exactly when we want to eat and what we want to eat. By using the same eating patterns and principals that our ancient ancestors did, we can systematically use intermittent fasting to lose body fat and build muscle.
The benefits of intermittent fasting
Since we now understand that intermittent fasting is a practice as old as man himself, what are some of the actual benefits of intermittent fasting?
1. Intermittent fasting can help you lose weight and belly fat
Intermittent fasting is an extremely effective way to lose weight because if you follow the program correctly you will be eating less frequently. Even if you gorge yourself on the few meals you do actually consume through intermittent fasting, you will most likely lose weight. By gorge, I mean eating your typical breakfast lunch and dinner all at one time over the course of an hour which is pretty hard to do if you ask me no matter how hungry you are.
Eating this way in turn completely changes your metabolism. Your insulin increases whenever you eat but when you stop eating for long periods of time, your levels of insulin goes down, thus promoting fat burning.
When you fast, norepinephrine is triggered which breaks down your fat cells and uses them for energy.
Growth hormone will increase when you stop eating for a considerable amount of time. This allows for sizable muscle gain.
Intermittent fasting not only reduces your caloric intake but it also speeds up your metabolism. This makes for the perfect physical state for burning ample amounts of weight. The best part is, most of the weight loss comes from fat and not muscle making intermittent fasting a prime way to workout for any bodybuilder in the cutting stage.
2. Intermittent fasting can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes
Obesity and diabetes continue to be major problems in the United States. The main reason why its such a growing epidemic is because of the number of foods on the market with added sugar. High blood sugar levels caused by excessive eating of these unhealthy foods is the primary reason behind type 2 diabetes.
Because intermittent fasting is known to reduce insulin levels, in turn, helps to lower blood sugar levels. By lowering blood sugar level, you put yourself at much lower risk of actually getting diabetes.
In today’s world where diabetes and, heart disease, and obesity are a growing concern, intermittent fasting is a fantastic way to fight all of the above.
3. Freedom to eat as you please
Intermittent fasting focuses more on when to eat rather than what to eat. After you eat a large meal within your window of binging time, your body is forced to use all the nutrients in that meal to last you many hours after. By doing so, your body must break down pretty much any nutrients that you throw at it in order keep your body functioning properly leading up to your next meal. This means that very few fats, carbs, and other nutrients that contribute to weight gain are actually reserved in your body rather they are burned off as fuel.
Jimmy Kimmel, an active user of the diet claims that on the days where he is in fasting mode he might eat few foods but moderately healthy foods. On the days in which he is not fasting he would claim to eat pizza and other similar food.
The focus should be more on caloric intake rather than keeping the nutritional intake to an exact science.
4. Intermittent fasting makes your life easier
It’s important to note that by just eating in one specific window of the day instead of three or four meals throughout the day, your life becomes much more simplistic. Although you might not think about it, making the choice of what you might eat for three individual meals every day can be much more tiresome than you might expect.
5. Great for travel
Intermittent fasting is absolutely fantastic for traveling. If you have a busy schedule and cant spare any time in-between flights to grab a bite to eat, through intermittent fasting, you don’t necessarily need to get a bite to eat in between flights to begin with.
If you have a 12-hour flight to Europe, no problem. Just fast the entire flight in order to spare yourself from the subpar airplane food.
The next plan to eat twice as much food as normally would and then recover from there.
Not only is finding food you would want to eat difficult but finding healthy food to eat is just as challenging when you are on the go. Intermittent fasting provides a perfect solution for anyone facing this problem.
6. Boost energy
Have you ever eaten a large meal such as thanksgiving dinner and then felt completely exhausted? After cleaning up the dishes, and loosening up your belt, you might feel as though you need to take a nap. This phenomenon often happens after you eat a large meal. It can occur however after each of three consecutive medium sized meals like breakfast, lunch, and dinner just to a slightly lesser extent. As a result, you might feel as though you are swimming through a bit of a haze throughout the day.
One benefit of intermittent fasting is the energy boost. Most people that practice intermittent fasting claim that they experience raised energy levels compared to when they were eating three meals a day. This is likely due to the fact that one large meal can give you enough energy to carry you through many hours, and even a full day with ample amounts of energy.
7. Improved digestion
When you eat three or four meals throughout the day, your digestive system is forced to work a lot harder than it needs to. By eating constantly throughout the day and only giving your stomach the night off to process what it had consumed during the day, you put yourself at a much greater risk of slowed digestion and in turn constipation.
Eating only once in a while allows for your digestive system to process the food intake more gradually over time. Once your body adapts, your digestive system will actually slow down its process allowing you consume food bit by bit in order to conserve energy.
Before you start…
Keep in mind that intermittent fasting certainly is not for everyone. There are many benefits to intermittent fasting when it is done properly, however, everyone’s bodies and situations are different. Provided here are a few of the reasons why fasting can backfire for some people
You may become overly dependent on coffee- I did say that people who intermittent fast often times have higher energy levels. This can be true for the time after your meal, however, waking up in the morning is different. No matter how you cut it, skipping breakfast can lead you groggy and tired no matter what type of eating schedule you are on.
Often times when people intermittent fast they rely on coffee give them that extra boost. To make up for the lack of food intake in the morning, it can take a bit more caffeine than you are used to in order to get you through the morning. As a result, some people become overdependent on coffee and find it much more difficult to function without it.
For some people, food becomes a consuming obsession. Not eating for many hours on end can mess with your head a little bit if you aren’t yet adapted to the fasting. Some people simply can’t stop thinking about what they are going to eat for their next meal no matter how hard they might try to distract themselves from the thought.
Intermittent fasting is also not recommended for people who have eating disorders for obvious reasons. If you have bulimia or once had bulimia, do not try intermittent fasting. If you have anorexia or once had anorexia most certainly do not try intermittent fasting.
With intermittent fasting, you also have the potential to overeat. If you wait say 12 hours before your next meal you might be craving food. You may begin to plan an absolute feast for yourself. Ultimately when the time comes you might begin to eat and then overdo it a bit. Overeating to an extreme extent can be harmful for you. An overload of food into your system in a short period of time can result in indigestion, stomach cramps, and constipation. That being said, when its time to actually eat, pace yourself. Don’t eat a days worth of food at once. If you have a five-hour window to eat, then maybe eat a little bit in the first your, a bit more in the second or third hour and then the rest of your food at the fifth.
Is it right for you?
There are always pros and cons that come with any diet plan. It’s completely up to you to decide what you want to do with your eating schedule. Intermittent fasting is a completely safe way to live, however, it is best if you contact a doctor before starting just to be safe.
Once you get the go-ahead, it will take your body some time to get used to the changeup. After the first week or so, your body will adapt and it will become routine.