Intermittent fasting is defined as an eating style where you eat within a specific time period. It doesn’t specify which foods you should eat but rather when you should eat them. It’s not considered a diet but more described as an eating pattern. Common methods of intermittent fasting involve a daily 16 hour fast or fasting for 24 hours twice per week.
Fasting has been a practice throughout human evolution. Ancient hunter gatherers didn’t have supermarkets, refrigerators or food available year round. Sometimes they couldn’t find anything to eat. As a result humans evolved to be able to function without food for extended periods of time. Fasting from time to time is more natural than always eating 3-4 meals per day.
There are several different ways of doing intermittent fasting-during fasting periods you can eat either very little or nothing.
1. The 16/8 method: also called the Leangains protocol, it involves skipping breakfast and restricting your daily eating period to 8 hours such as 1-9pm. Then you fast for 16 hours in between.
2. Eat-Stop-Eat: This involves fasting for 24 hours once or twice a week, by not eating from dinner one day until dinner the next day.
3. The 5:2 diet: This method you consume only 500-600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week but eat normally the other 5 days.
By reducing your calorie intake all of these methods should cause weight loss.
The 16/8 method seems to be the simplest, most sustainable and easiest to stick to. Eating healthy is simple, but it can be incredibly hard to maintain. One obstacle is all the work required to plan for and cook healthy meals, for this reason fasting is very popular among the life hacking crowd, as it improves your health while simplifying your life at the same time.
There are several health benefits of intermittent fasting:
- Weight loss: intermittent fasting can help you lose weight and belly fat without having to consciously restrict calories.
- Insulin resistance: can reduce insulin resistance, lowering blood sugar by 3-6% and fasting insulin levels by 20-31% which should protect against type 2 diabetes.
- Inflammation: some studies show reduction in markers of inflammation a key driver of many chronic diseases. It enhances the body’s resistance to oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is one of the steps towards aging and disease. Fasting triggers a metabolic pathway called autophagy which remains waste material from cells.
- Heart health: intermittent fasting may reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood sugar and insulin resistance. All factors for heart disease.
- Brain health: increases the brain hormone BDNF and may aid the growth of new nerve cells. It may also protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
- Anti-aging: studies have shown fasting can extend life spans in rats-studies showed that fasted rats lived 36-83% longer.
So as you can see intermittent fasting does have some research behind it and has proven health and weight loss benefits. It helps you eat fewer calories while boosting metabolism slightly which makes for a very effective tool to lose weight and belly fat.