Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is a powerful approach that facilitates weight loss and helps reduce your risk of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. A large and growing body of medical research supports the use of intermittent fasting, showing it has a wide range of benefits.
Weight loss is the most common reason for people to try intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting can help you lose weight and belly fat, without having to consciously restrict calories.
By making you eat fewer meals, intermittent fasting can lead to an automatic reduction in calorie intake.
Intermittent fasting can fast-track your weight loss goals by busting stubborn fat, reducing calories, and rewiring your metabolism for better performance.
A 2014 review study found that this eating pattern can cause 3–8% weight loss over 3–24 weeks, which is a significant amount, compared to most weight loss studies.
According to the same study, people also lost 4–7% of their waist circumference, indicating a significant loss of harmful, stubborn belly fat or visceral fat that is packed deep around your abdominal organs.
During a period of six months, people on an intermittent fasting diet were able to shed four to seven percent of their visceral fat.
Another study showed that intermittent fasting causes less muscle loss than the more standard method of continuous calorie restriction.
However, keep in mind that the main reason for its success with intermittent fasting is that it helps you eat fewer calories overall. If you binge during your eating periods, you may not lose any weight at all.
Studies show that intermittent fasting also accelerates weight loss. In a 2015 review pooling 40 different studies, participants shed on average 10 pounds in a 10-week period. Another study found that obese adults following an “alternate day” intermittent fasting schedule (eating 25 percent of their daily calories on one day, and eating normally the following day) lost up to 13 pounds over 8 weeks.
When you’re in the fasted state your body can burn fat that has been inaccessible during the fed state.
Because we don’t enter the fasted state until 12 hours after our last meal, it’s rare that our bodies are in this fat burning state. This is one of the reasons why many people who start intermittent fasting will lose fat without changing what they eat, how much they eat, or how often they exercise. Fasting puts your body in a fat burning state that you rarely make it to during a normal eating schedule.
How It Affects Your Cells and Hormones
When you fast, several things happen in your body on the cellular and molecular level.
For example, your body adjusts hormone levels to make stored body fat more accessible. Your cells also initiate important repair processes and change the expression of genes.
Here are some changes that occur in your body when you fast:
Cellular repair: When fasted, your cells initiate cellular repair processes. This includes autophagy, where cells digest and remove old and dysfunctional proteins that build up inside cells. The list goes on and on. But how can one simple practice possibly do all this? Autophagy is what happens in the body when cells clean house and the weak ones die off. This makes room for the regeneration of new, healthier cells and tissues, which affects longevity and helps reverse diseases of all kinds. It’s even been shown to play a role in decreasing inflammation and improving immunity. In other words, fasting gives your body a break from digesting and allows it to focus on other things.
• Human Growth Hormone (HGH): The levels of growth hormone skyrocket, increasing as much as 5-fold. This has benefits for fat loss and muscle gain, to name a few.
• Insulin: Insulin sensitivity improves and levels of insulin drop dramatically. Lower insulin levels make stored body fat more accessible.
• Gene expression: There are changes in the function of genes related to longevity and protection against disease.
These changes in hormone levels, cell function and gene expression are responsible for the health benefits of intermittent fasting.
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. In addition to lowering insulin and increasing growth hormone levels, it increases the release of the fat burning hormone norepinephrine (noradrenaline). Because of these changes in hormones, short-term fasting may increase your metabolic rate by 3.6–14%.
It Simplifies Your Life
Keep it Simple
When you adopt an intermittent fasting lifestyle, well it just makes your life much easier!
The reason most diets fail isn’t because we switch to the wrong foods, it’s because we don’t actually follow the diet over the long term. It’s not a nutrition problem, it’s a behavior change problem.
Before I practiced intermittent fasting, I obsessed about waking up early to cook breakfast, prep 6 meals a day, etc. Now that I intermittent fast, my life is a lot more simple. I eat one or two major meals a day, I don’t obsess about what I eat and still make consistent progress to improve my health every day. Simplifying my life in this way has freed up more time and energy to focus on what really matters to me.
Eating healthy is simple, but it can be incredibly hard to maintain. One of the main obstacles is all the work required to plan for and cook healthy meals. Intermittent fasting can make things easier, as you don’t need to plan, cook or clean up after as many meals as before.
Health and simplicity go hand and hand. The healthiest foods are often the simplest, like a banana or a piece of lean chicken breast. These basic foods are some of the healthiest you can eat, and being healthy should be simple. 2-3 large healthy meals per day are much easier to manage than 6 normal-sized meals and snacks.
Intermittent fasting improves your health while simplifying your life at the same time.
Other Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
- Reduces inflammation: Lowering inflammation is key to losing weight, boosting longevity, and reducing your risk of major illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and cancer. Intermittent fasting decreases oxidative stress and inflammation across the board. Some studies show reductions in markers of inflammation, such as adiponectin, leptin, and brain-derived neurotrophic factor.
- Lowers insulin levels: Intermittent fasting acts on insulin in two ways. First, it boosts your adiponectin levels, which helps restore insulin sensitivity to prevent weight gain and diabetes. Second, fasting decreases your fasting insulin levels. Lowered insulin is the cue your body needs to make the switch to burning stored fat instead of glucose. Intermittent fasting can reduce insulin resistance, lowering blood sugar by 3–6% and fasting insulin levels by 20–31%, which should protect against type 2 diabetes.
- Heart health: Intermittent fasting may reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood sugar and insulin resistance — all risk factors for heart disease Studies show that intermittent fasting can improve numerous risk factors for heart disease such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglycerides and inflammatory markers.
- Cancer: Animal studies suggest that intermittent fasting may prevent cancer.
- Brain health: Intermittent fasting increases the brain hormone BDNF and may aid the growth of new nerve cells. It may also protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
- Anti-aging: Intermittent fasting can extend lifespan in rats. Studies showed that fasted rats lived 36–83% longer.