What Can Intermittent Fasting Do For You?
Science has discovered many health benefits associated with fasting, and since we obviously can’t fast indefinitely, intermittent fasting offers many of the perks of fasting while still allowing for normal everyday function. So what is intermittent fasting and what are these “perks”?
Intermittent fasting can mean many things, but one popular method is the “16:8 Fast” which basically means that we would fast for 16 hours per day and only eat within an 8 hour period each day. The 16 hours of fasting includes the time we sleep, so if you sleep for 8 hours then the only additional time of fasting would be 4 hours in the morning and 4 hours before bed. A more stringent version of this type of fast is the 20:4 version, where all your daily eating would be in a 4 hour window. These are examples of shorter fasts that act within a 24 hour period, however, there are also longer fasts that act within a week rather than a day (such as the 5:2 Fast in which you fast for two days out of every week). There are many types of fasts available, with many different purposes, talk to your naturopathic doctor or nutritionist to explore the right one for you.
In terms of perks, the most obvious benefit is weight loss. Or more specifically, fat loss. When you restrict calories in an attempt to lose weight, your body tries to adapt to the decreased intake of food by inhibiting fat loss. After all, your body views your fat stores as essential for survival. Intermittent fasting is a way to restrict your caloric intake in a way that makes it difficult for your body to adapt and so losing fat becomes easier.
In addition to weight/fat loss, intermittent fasting has a significant effect on various hormones in the body. Fasting increases growth hormone and the amount of norepinephrine in the body. The effect of this is an increase in our metabolic rate, which is an increase in the amount of energy our bodies use in a given unit of time. This increase in metabolic rate increases the breakdown and use of fat for energy, which translates to more fat loss. So not only can intermittent fasting reduce our intake of calories, but it also increases the amount of calories our body’s use.
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Increased fasting times means a decrease in the amount of insulin your body requires and so your body produces less. This decrease has been shown to increase our body’s sensitivity to insulin, or in other words, less insulin means less insulin resistance. Having a healthy sensitivity to insulin reduces the risk of Type 2 Diabetes.
It has also been discovered that intermittent fasting aids our bodies in dealing with oxidative stress, which has the effect of reducing inflammation. This is very significant since inflammation is associated with several chronic ailments. Along similar lines, fasting helps our cells “detox,” or in other words, helps to expedite the removal of damaged proteins that tend to build up in our cells over time. This may reduce our susceptibility to diseases such as cancer or Alzheimer’s.
Overall, there are many benefits to fasting intermittently. Aside from weight loss and reducing the risk of many common diseases, intermittent fasting ultimately gives us power and control over our own health trajectory, which may be the biggest benefit of all!