Fasting has been around for eons, since ancient times. It’s a time and tested regime and a safe and healthy way to help with weight loss. In addition, research shows that it improves concentration, can assist with longevity, prevents cognition deficits n old age, prevents insulin resistance, and other benefits with health and well-being. Fasting is an ancient healing tradition and in our modern world of easy, convenience foods, coupled with an obesity epidemic, it now, more than ever, time to seriously consider intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting to help lose weight is a way of eating that involves a structured program. Let’s specifically look at how intermittent fasting can help you lose weight, and more importantly, keep it off, while maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Have you ever asked yourself the questions, ‘Why do I eat three meals every day?’ ‘How much food do I actually need to survive?’ ‘What if I didn’t eat for a day?’ ‘When should I eat?’ These are all important questions on the journey to understanding what intermittent fasting is. The great thing is that it takes no equipment, no costly diet plan or regimes, no miracle potions or promises, but just a disciplined mindset and purpose to lose weight.
All foods, no matter what it is, will increase insulin levels in your body, and the key to resistance prevention is periodic reduction of insulin levels. But how do you do this if you’re eating ‘all the time’ and not allowing your body and digestive system a rest? The answer is the complete voluntary abstinence of food, in other words, fasting.
Intermittent fasting is a voluntary exercise, a pattern of food consumption which alternates between periods of fasting, with consumption of only water, tea, or other non-food fluid. As an example, you could alternate between fasting for a 24-hour period, and then return to your eating period of 24 hours. When you consider that while you’re sleeping, your body is already in a fasting mode, by skipping breakfast, and adding an extra 6-8, or more hours on top of that, to fast is achievable.
So what’s happening to your body when it fasting from foods? It’s producing more insulin, and more insulin in your body helps to have increased insulin sensitivity, which means… you lose more fat. Bingo! By skipping breakfast, you’re extending the period of your body’s insulin sensitivity. Your body is on a fat loss mode for longer, hence you lose more weight.
By causing your body to fast longer, you’re producing and increasing growth hormone levels, which is what your body does naturally when trying to lose weight. Growth hormone promotes weight loss, and growth hormone levels are at their peak when intermittent fasting is involved, which means your body turns into a fat fighting machine and you lose more weight.
Won’t I Feel Hungry?
Like anything new that’s started, and which requires willpower, ie. an exercise program, studying, dieting, etc, intermittent fasting can be uncomfortable in the beginning, but its all about planning ahead. Fasting is a normal process which the body is involved in which allows for burning of excess body fat. Remember, that body fat is food energy that is stored. When you don’t eat, your body will simply consume it own fat reserves for energy, without any detrimental health consequences. That’s why, for most people, their first meal of the day is ‘break-fast’.
When you think about it, your body is constantly in two states, either eating (insulin high), or fasting (insulin low). As we eat, the food is ingested and converted into energy, to be used immediately, and some of this energy, from food, is stored for later use. As discussed earlier, insulin is the hormone involved in the storage of food energy; it rises when we eat, helping to store excess energy in two ways.
Sugars, called glycogen, are stored in the Liver, but obviously with limited storage space, and once that storage space is maximized, the liver starts to turn the excess glucose (sugar) into fat, which is stored in the Liver, ie. fatty liver. Can you start to see what happens next? Based on this physiological process in our body and Liver, there is no limit to the amount of fat created. Therefore, we have glycogen, with its limited storage space and which we utilize for energy and body fat, which has unlimited storage space, as most fat is deposited throughout the body.
With intermittent fasting, this process is reversed; insulin levels fall, which signals the body to start burning stored energy, because there is no more food coming into your body. Blood glucose levels fall, so your body has no choice but to rely on its glucose reserves out of storage, and begin to burn for energy.
Glycogen, with its limited storage space, is the most easily accessible energy source, broken down into glucose molecules to provide energy, and provide more than enough energy to fuel and power the body for 24-36 hours; after this, the body starts to break down its fat reserves for energy. Therefore, if eating and fasting are balanced, there is no weight gain. By now, you can start to understand the impact of eating non-stop on our bodies; if we start eating in the morning, until we go to bed, we’re spending most of our time consuming food and in the fed state, and only one thing can happen, over time… weight gain. That’s because we haven’t allowed our bodies any time to burn food energy.
Feast or Famine?
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating and to lose weight, we specifically need to increase the amount of time that our bodies are burning food energy. This is the concept of intermittent fasting.
Fasting will allow the body to use its stored energy. When you fast, human growth hormone levels go up and insulin levels go down. Your body’s cells also change the expression of genes and initiate important cellular repair processes.
Intermittent fasting is not something that everyone can try at one stage or another. It’s a simple strategy that can improve your health and assist in losing weight.
Intermittent fasting may be great for some, and not others., so the only way to find out is to try it out.
If you feel good when fasting and find it to be a sustainable way of eating, it can be a very powerful tool to lose weight and improve your health.
In my next post, I will specifically be explaining the different strategies to intermittent fasting and how you can fit it into your fitness and weight loss regime.