How Intermittent Fasting Works And What Are Its Benefits

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Many people believe that eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the right time is critical to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. But, it doesn’t mean that you can’t modify this eating plan to help you reap more health benefits. Consider breaking the habit of eating in the morning, afternoon, and at night by implementing intermittent fasting in your daily diet.

Intermittent Fasting: An Overview

As its name implies, intermittent fasting is an eating pattern wherein you cycle between fasting and eating periods. At first, it may sound like the traditional eating habit of consuming the three standard meals in the morning, afternoon, and night. But, intermittent fasting requires practitioners to have longer fasting periods than eating hours.

Also, note that intermittent fasting doesn’t restrict you with the foods you want to eat. So, you can still eat pizza or ice cream, but you need to follow certain guidelines to make the most out of this eating pattern.

One limitation to adhere to is your recommended daily calorie intake. For example, you need to consume 2,000 calories per day to maintain your weight. Consuming over 2,000 calories within your eating time will still make your intermittent fasting efforts ineffective.

Note that the extra calories consumed might become stored fat. Failure to convert those fat cells into energy may result in excess body fat, especially around the waist. Moreover, you still need to watch what you eat. Avoid fattening foods, like sugar-rich desserts, especially if you’re living a sedentary lifestyle. Sugar, in particular, will go to the pancreas. Here, the organ secretes insulin, which is a hormone that returns the sugar into cells, like those in the liver and muscles.

If you follow a regular exercise routine, the body should have more energy to keep up with the physical activity, thanks to the energy provided by the sugar. Again, if the body doesn’t get rid of this excess energy (which is the sugar), your system converts them into fat.

Therefore, always remember that intermittent fasting isn’t a “magic pill” that’ll make you achieve a lean body physique. You still need to follow specific guidelines to make this eating pattern work in your favor.

How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?

Know that several intermittent fasting methods exist, such as:

  • The 16:8 Method

Practitioners fast for 16 hours and eat within an eight-hour window in this intermittent fasting technique. For example, you fast between 8 pm to 12 pm, then, eat between 12 pm to 8 pm.

  • The 24-Hour Fast

As the name implies, intermittent fasting practitioners fast for 24 hours. But, this fasting window only occurs once or twice a week.

  • The 5:2 Diet

In this method, you would eat normally for five days a week. As for the other two days, you only consume about 500 to 600 calories.

  • The Warrior Diet

Be wary as the warrior diet should only be for intermittent fasting veterans. Don’t attempt to adopt this technique if you’re new to intermittent fasting because of its extreme procedures.

This eating plan involves following a low-calorie diet. An example meal would be a few servings of raw fruit and vegetables. Moreover, the eating window is only about four hours. Thus, you need to fast for 20 hours before you can grab a bite to eat.

Note that the rate at which you achieve positive results from intermittent fasting depends on the chosen technique. It’s because this eating plan happens in three stages, which are:

  • The Hypoglycemic Stage

First, the body starts to use its glucose or sugar reserves in the muscles and liver. As the blood sugar levels drop, the body experiences adverse reactions, like dizziness, drowsiness, and loss of balance.

Next, the body will try to avoid this state by attempting to produce additional glucose. But, if the glycogen, which is a substance deposited to tissues to store carbohydrates, is lacking, the body will, then, secrete other hormones, attempting to increase energy levels.

  • The Ketogenic State

The body achieves ketosis, a state in which the body has exhausted its glucose reserves. So, it turns to other potential energy sources, such as fat.

  • The Adapting Stage

In this final stage of intermittent fasting, the body adapts to the changes made. Hormone levels will regulate over time, and the benefits will start to manifest.

The Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting

Many benefits await intermittent fasting practitioners, provided you don’t stray from a healthy diet. Some of these healthy advantages include:

  • Weight Loss

Weight loss is, perhaps, the primary reason for many people to start intermittent fasting. Since you’re going to eat within a reduced timeframe, you tend to eat fewer calories than usual.

Intermittent fasting may even lead to significant weight loss if paired with regular exercise. Remember that the body achieves ketosis through this eating plan. Hence, you can gain more energy to accomplish high-intensity training (HIIT) while burning extra fat in the process.

Moreover, intermittent fasting doesn’t target a specific part of the body to convert fat into energy. Hence, you’ll find the fat loss to be relatively equal throughout your system. It also means that you may have a higher chance of eliminating stubborn belly fat through intermittent fasting than doing 100 crunches every day.

  • Appetite Management

At first, it might be challenging to stay loyal to an intermittent fasting method. Not eating anything for an extended period can be taxing on the body and mind.

Note that intermittent fasting may come with some adverse effects at the beginning. Some of these side effects include:

  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Lack of concentration
  • Nausea

Stick with the eating plan, and your body will adapt to the habit over time. You won’t find yourself getting too hungry as before. Moreover, hunger symptoms should begin to disappear after a few days.

In turn, you can suppress hunger pangs successfully, leaving you to continue with the intermittent fasting habit for as long as you want. Still, if you find yourself giving in to the temptation of eating during a fasting period, here are some quick tips to help you in that regard.

  • Drink lots of water
  • Meditate
  • Chew gum
  • Stay away from looking at food pictures
  • Go to sleep
  • Reduced Insulin And Glucose Levels

An intermittent fasting eating plan may also help regulate insulin and glucose levels.

Remember that the body breaks down carbohydrates, like sugary desserts, into glucose. Your system will, then, try to convert the glucose into additional energy, allowing you to last longer during high-intensity exercise sessions.

But, if you don’t burn this excess glucose, the body converts the substance into fat. In turn, insulin levels drop, causing cells to release more glucose into the body, making you gain more fat and weight.

With intermittent fasting, the body will be in a regular state of ketosis. Hence, the body won’t have enough time to store excess fat, reducing insulin and glucose levels in the process.

Note that if the body has high amounts of insulin, you might be at risk of insulin resistance. This disorder makes the liver ignore or resist the signals that insulin is trying to release. The body will try to combat this ailment by releasing more insulin into your system, making the pancreas work harder than usual. Over time, the pancreas becomes worn out, which can lead to organ failure.

Moreover, insulin resistance might also become the precursor of type 2 diabetes. It’s because the body tends to store more glucose than necessary, creating opportunities for other health issues, like heart disease and stroke, to take place.

  • Stimulates Autophagy

Autophagy comes from the Greek words auto (self) and phagein (to eat). Therefore, the term means to eat oneself. It might sound gruesome, but note that autophagy is an intermittent fasting state wherein the body eliminates unnecessary substances that may otherwise require extra energy to maintain.

Intermittent fasting stimulates autophagy to clear old cellular parts, such as broken-down proteins. This process happens because the body becomes deprived of nutrition during the fasting stages. Your system may think that it can’t sustain old cell parts, causing them to remove them.

In turn, the eating plan stimulates the development of new and better cellular components, causing the body to undergo a complete renovation from within.

In other words, intermittent fasting may help you create a better and healthier you from within, thanks to autophagy.

  • Reduced Inflammation

Inflammation is the body’s defensive function that aids in the healing process. If your system detects an intruder, it responds by inflaming the affected area so as not to increase the risk of infections.

But, too much inflammation can also be dangerous. Some long-term health concerns associated with inflammation include:

  • Asthma
  • Tuberculosis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sinusitis
  • Active hepatitis

Following a strict intermittent fasting habit may help lower inflammation as it reduces the oxidative stress in cells. As a bonus, the eating habit might be an effective solution to reducing inflammation caused by insulin resistance.

Key Takeaway

Ensure that you talk with a nutritionist or doctor before you begin any intermittent fasting method. Starting the eating plan without a proper strategy may lead to complications and, perhaps, even failure. But, if you do intermittent fasting correctly, you can reap several benefits, like reduced inflammation, reduced risk of insulin resistance, and increased weight loss.