What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting or IF has a huge buzz around it at the moment, and it has for a while. It is used for weight loss as well as health gain and also as a way to make food and eating easier.
IF is a process of cycling through phases of eating and phases of fasting, usually sticking with a set protocol of when to eat. It is a method that does NOT tell you what you should eat but more when you should eat.
Because there are no restrictions placed on what you eat, it’s a plan that can be combined with other diets, whether you choose to eat vegan, vegetarian, keto, or any other way.
What are the benefits?
- Weight loss – due to overall calorie reduction.
- Reduction in insulin and insulin resistance. Lower level of insulin within the body enables stored fat to be more easily accessible and therefore more likely to be used as an energy source. This can have positive effects on metabolism and lowers the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes (by reducing insulin resistance).
- Reduction of inflammation markers has been shown in several studies – this is a key driver in many chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
- Intermittent fasting may assist with heart health by reducing LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood sugar and insulin resistance.
- Brain health: Intermittent fasting increases certain brain hormones that may aid the growth of new nerve cells.
- Fasting can alter the function of genes related to longevity and protection against disease. Although not enough long term research has been conducted, intermittent fasting has been seen to extend lifespan in rats. Studies showed that fasted rats lived 36–83% longer!
- Increase in Human Growth Hormone (HGH). Fasting increases the level of HGH within the body, this assists with fat loss and maintenance of lean mass (bone and muscle).
- Cells are better enabled to initiate repair. Cell autophagy is also thought to be increased; cell autophagy is when cells remove useless/old/dysfunctional components from within the cell. Benefits from this process include; providing energy and building blocks for other cells that require repair, prompts regeneration (anti-ageing), and assists with removing toxic proteins (potentially beneficial in cases of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease).
- It’s cheap, in fact, it may even save you money (if it means you eat less than usual – on the 24 fast and the restricted calorie protocols this is more likely). There are no expensive books to buy or subscriptions to sign up to.
Types of intermittent fasting?
24 hour fast that can be undertaken as a one-off to force you back on track or as a regular thing, be it twice weekly, weekly, fortnightly or perhaps just once a month.
5:2 – Fasting normally for 5 days a week and reducing calories to 500kcal on 2 non-consecutive days (variations include 6:1, 4:3 – otherwise known as alternate day)
Time-restricted eating/Eating windows – eating within a strict time window each day, for example, 16:8 where for 16 hours a day (sleep time included) you don’t eat at all (consume only zero-calorie beverages) and consume your entire daily calories within an 8-hour window. Variations of this include different time bands – the 14:10 is very popular however it can be as strict as a 1-hour eating window!
Have you tried any intermittent fasting protocols? How was it?
As always, you should contact a doctor before making any dramatic lifestyle/nutrition changes as well as if you notice any adverse effects from a particular protocol.