We all know what fasting is – it is the method of not eating for certain periods, so as a result, you eat less overall. But in intermittent fasting, you actually do not have to eat less; just eat only during particular times of the day. In other words, you follow an eating pattern in which you alternate periods of eating and not eating, but for predetermined times. There are several ways of doing intermittent fasting. One method is to fast 1-2 full days of the week (24 hours each) and have nothing but water on those days. This method is harder on some individuals than others, and takes much longer to get used to. I try and follow a slightly simpler routine where I stop eating after dinner (10pm), and ‘fast’ until 2pm the next day. During the fasting period, I have unlimited water, green or black tea (without sugar or milk), black coffee, or broth [in my case, veggie broth]. Often, when people attempt fasting, they feel lightheaded or nauseous… this is not (as most think) due to low blood sugar, but actually low blood sodium! Thus, the broth option. Then, at 2pm, I have a light ‘breakfast’, a few hours later, a ‘lunch’, and dinner at our normal time, around 8-9pm. So, I still get three meals a day, just bunched closer together.
By now you might be asking yourself, “But, how does this lead to fat loss??”
- After your dinner and before you break your fast around the afternoon, your body gets a chance to do things it needs to, instead of putting energy into (breakfast) digestion (and the subsequent insulin spike). Contrary to popular belief, fasting this way, leads to a rise in your body’s metabolism which in turn demands more stored body reserves – your fat! Fasting, over time, lowers your ‘basal’ insulin level (via less insulin spikes). Studies have linked high insulin levels with obesity. Those of you that have ever had to take insulin will agree… with extra insulin, comes weight gain!
- As I mentioned before, the very act of eating only at certain times and having your breakfast and lunch closer together itself reduces your hunger and therefore, you will most likely end up eating less overall (without feeling more hungry or that you’ve deprived yourself of a meal)!
Our bodies naturally seek a state of homeostasis. During fasting, energies can be spent towards cellular repair and rebalancing hormonal levels to make stored body fat more accessible. The primary mechanism is that of a drop in blood insulin level. With that drop comes an increase in the metabolism of intracellular lipids. In addition, there are changes to several genes related to longevity and protection against disease.
In addition, several studies have shown that intermittent fasting can enhance the body’s resistance to oxidative stress and reduce inflammation.
- Intermittent fasting vs daily calorie restriction for type 2 diabetes prevention: a review of human findings.
- Intermittent fasting during Ramadan attenuates proinflammatory cytokines and immune cells in healthy subjects
- Alternate day calorie restriction improves clinical findings and reduces markers of oxidative stress and inflammation in overweight adults with moderate asthma.