Intermittent fasting (IF) is currently one of the world’s greatest weight loss trends. It is not only used for weight loss but also used as a means to improve health and simplify life. There are several studies that show that intermittent fasting has a positive and powerful effect on your body and brain. Some studies claim that it can even help you live longer.
What is Intermittent Fasting (IF)?
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that involves periods of fasting and eating. With IF the focus is not on what to eat like other diets but on when to eat. There are several different types of intermittent fasting. These types are developed based on time or days spent eating and fasting. Below are the different ways to practice IF –
- The 16/8 method – In this type, you split 24 hours into eating and fasting hours. It involves skipping breakfast and limiting the eating hours to 8hrs, like 1-9pm and then you fast the rest of the 16 hours. This is also known as the Lean gains protocol.
- Eat-Stop-Eat – This technique is fasting for 24hrs/1day, once or twice a week. For example, you can start fasting from previous day dinner to today’s dinner.
- The 5:2 Diet – This method suggests that you eat only 500-500 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week and eat normally rest of the 5 days.
The fasting period on IF implies that you either eat very little or nothing. All the above-mentioned techniques of intermittent fasting are designed to cause weight loss. However, the eating period you should be mindful of eating the right amount and not eating more than required.
The Effect of IF on Cells and Hormones
Fasting or depriving your body of food for longer periods can cause a change in the cell and molecular level. This primarily because the body makes stored fat more accessible by adjusting the hormone levels. Below are a few basic changes that occur in your body while fasting –
- Human Growth Hormone (HGH) – the growth hormone tend to hit the roof which benefits for fat loss and muscle gain
- Insulin – Levels of Insulin tend to drop dramatically which makes stored body fat more accessible
- Cellular repair – Fasting propagates autophagy, where cells digest and remove old and dysfunctional proteins that build up inside cells
- Gene Expression – The functions of the genes related to longevity protection against diseases experiences changes
Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting (IF)
Many studies performed on both animals and humans have resulted in positive benefits for body and brain. Here are a few health benefits of IF –
- Weight Loss – Intermittent fasting is a good way to lose belly fat without the pressure of restricting what you eat or consciously restricting calories
- Healthy Heart – Intermittent fasting may lead to a decrease of bad cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood sugar and insulin resistance. All of them pose a risk factor for heart disease
- Healthy Brain – Intermittent fasting increases the brain hormone BDNF which may enable the growth of new nerve cells. IF can also prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
- Anti-aging – Intermittent fasting is known to increase life span in rats. Studies show that rats lived 36%–83% longer when fasted.
Safety and Side Effects of Intermittent Fasting
The primary side effect of IF is hunger, which can cause you to feel weak, tired and your brain may not perform as it used to. However, this is only temporary, until your adapts to the new meal pattern.
In case you have any medical condition, it is best to consult a doctor before trying intermittent fasting.
Nonetheless, IF has a great safety profile and there is nothing dangerous about fasting for short periods if you’re healthy and well-nourished overall.