Intermittent fasting is an umbrella term that loosely describes several different formats of restricting food intake for various periods with the intent of gaining certain health benefits. Evidence of its effectiveness is mounting which has generated interest both from those seeking weight loss and those in search of relief from various gastrointestinal issues.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
While fasting has been around for centuries and intermittent fasting goes all the way back to 1915, the most popular versions of the practice have emerged into popularity since 2012.
The most prevalent forms of intermittent fasting today are:
Alternate Day fasting undertakes a feast-fast rhythm of one day on – one day off. This means that on “feast” days, you can eat almost whatever you wish, though healthy foods do make the process better. On fast days, you are allowed 25% of your normal daily energy needs.
Periodic fasting (or whole day fasting) is the practice of fasting for more than one day. The best known version of periodic fasting is the 5:2 diet developed by British doctor and medical pundit for BBC news, Michael Mosley in 2012. Participants may eat whatever they wish five days each week. But on the sixth and seventh days, you must fast at no more than 25% of your normal daily energy needs.
Time-restricted fasting is done by eating every day but only during certain (restricted) hours. This format of fasting is believed to heighten the power of the circadian rhythm and is considered the ‘entry level’ for intermittent fasting. The highly popular intermittent fasting 16/8 program is a form of time-restricted fasting because you eat for eight hours a day and fast the other 16.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
When you are eating, your body handles the food (and calories and fat grams and sugars) by breaking it down into energy. Any energy that cannot be immediately used is stored as fat.
But when you fast, you give your body an opportunity it never has on a traditional American “three meals” dietary regimen. Fasting actually drains the glucose reserve from your liver, forcing your body to commence burning fat instead. This process takes around twelve hours to invoke, so unless you have a daily period of fasting for over twelve hours, your liver is never free of glucose and never launched into its most proficient fat-burning mode.
Natural fluctuations in the genes, hormones, and metabolism occur at various times throughout the day. Coordinating your food intake with your body’s normal rhythms brings greater health and higher protection against common illnesses. So focus attention not just on what you eat but when.
More research is needed into why intermittent fasting works, but some of the benefits already observed today include:
- Intermittent fasting prompts your body to adjust hormone levels that make body fat more accessible for burning as energy.
- With intermittent fasting, insulin sensitivity is greatly improved, and insulin levels are dramatically reduced in the body, an additional factor that makes body fat easier to burn.
- Intermittent fasting has also been shown to catalyze cell repair including autophagy, a process by which cells purge old, broken proteins that have built up in the cell.
- Studies have also shown improvements to gene expression related to longevity and protection against diseases.
There is a lot to think about – we understand. If you have questions about intermittent fasting or any of the conditions discussed here, connecting with a doctor in a discrete setting has never been easier.
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