Intermittent fasting is a rare ‘fad diet’ that is actually effective and actually founded on some science. While the idea of going without food for short periods might seem like it would be dangerous or extreme, the reality is actually that it’s more in-keeping with the way we would have eaten in the wild and it’s much more effective at helping us lose weight and strengthen our bodies’ most important systems.
Read on to find out what the health benefits of IF are and precisely how it works.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
First of all, what exactly is IF? IF simply means that you’re going to fast for short periods and then eat normally… intermittently.
The way you break this down though can vary greatly depending on who you ask and what works for you. One of the most popular forms of intermittent fasting for example is what’s known as the ‘fast diet’ or the ‘5:2 diet’. Here, you are simply going to fast for two days of the week and eat normally for the remaining five.
Note though that ‘fast’ doesn’t mean that you’re completely eliminating all food and all calories from your diet. Rather, you will normally aim for a low target which will be something like 500-600 calories a day. You might also make the effort to avoid carbs during this time.
Intermittent fasting appeals to many people because it helps them to lose weight. On the face of it, IF provides a very simple and easy-to-follow structure/set of rules that will allow you to more easily burn more calories than you eat.
Other versions mean that you fast for half the day. Some people will not eat from the morning through until the afternoon, while others will fast from the afternoon until the next day. This extends the amount of time that you are fasting during sleep as well.
When you use intermittent fasting, you will automatically be cutting your overall calories for the day or the week. Without needing to count calories or do any complex math, you will know with certainty that you are consuming much less which will automatically lead to weight loss.
At the same time, many people find that this is a diet they can more easily fit into their daily routines without having to make huge changes to their lifestyles.
Because you can choose when you are going to fast, that means you can decide to eat less during the times that work for you.
There are other, less obvious benefits here too though. For one, when you fast, that means your body will be low on blood sugar for certain times. By accomplishing this, you will then force your system to turn to fat stores which means you’ll be more likely to get rid of belly fat.
One of the best examples of this working is in what is known as ‘fasted cardio’. Fasted cardio simply means performing cardiovascular exercise while in a fasted state having not eaten. We perform fasted cardio whenever we workout first thing in the morning before we have eaten and studies show that this forces the body to burn more fat because there is nowhere else to get the energy.
The Other Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
As mentioned at the start of this post though, this is not just a fad diet designed to help you lose
weight quickly at the expense of your health. Rather, this is actually a diet that’s very good for your body and that mimics the way we would have eaten in the wild.
Today, we are used to eating at regular intervals and having three meals a day. Back in the wild though, we would have only been able to eat when the resources were available. That means that we would have gone for long stints without food as we foraged for berries or tracked animals through the wild. Then, only once we had found food, would we then be able to consume it in large quantities.
This then actually causes a number of beneficial adaptations in the body. For starters, it helps us better regulate our appetite. When blood sugar is low, our body produces more ketones from the triglycerides stored in the liver. By doing this, you supply the body with an alternate energy source and reduce your food cravings.
Moreover though, the less sugar you have in your blood, the more efficient your body needs to be at using that sugar. In other words, if you go long periods without having much useable energy, then the body will make sure to be ready by producing more mitochondria and increasing their energy efficiency. At the same time, insulin sensitivity will increase.
All of this means that your body will become more effective at using the sugar that enters the body when you do eat and that in turn means you’ll feel much more energetic, you’ll need to consume less sugar and you’ll have less ‘leftover’ sugar to be stored as fat.
It’s important not to underestimate the huge impact that mitochondrial efficiency has on the way you feel. Many people believe that the reason children are so much more energetic than adults is simply that they have a higher quantity and quality of mitochondria!
This has another benefit too: it means that your body will use energy in a more efficient way with fewer by-products. This is important because one of the chief by-products you will face otherwise is oxygen. Oxygen is highly reactive and damaging to cells and can potentially cause damage to the cell walls (resulting in some of the visible signs of ageing) and even damage to the DNA.
The more efficient your mitochondria then, the less damaging oxygen will be in the body and this can very often actually extend your lifespan. For this reason, a low calorie diet has actually been shown to drastically increase the lifespan of mice in controlled experiments. As such, many people have tried to emulate this and live on life-extended ‘calorie restricted’ diets. Invariably, these individuals end up suffering with many of the signs of malnutrition including brittle bones, low energy and poor immune systems.
Using intermittent fasting though allows you to strengthen and fortify your mitochondria while at the same time giving yourself all the nutrition and energy you need in the long term. Think of it like a ‘gym session’ for your body’s energy systems.
With all that in mind then, intermittent fasting is the perfect way to:
- Reduce overall calories without disrupting your lifestyle
- Increase your energy levels
- Reduce the effects of free radicals
- Extend your lifespan
- Lose weight and get rid of belly fat