Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is now considered to have similar benefits as caloric restriction (CR)and fasting. Extensive research has been done to determine the effects of calorie restriction on health and longevity. Caloric restriction and fasting are thought to contribute to wellness, longevity, weight loss, diabetes control, beneficial blood lipids, decreased inflammatory markers, arthritis, and possibly even lowered incidence of deathly illnesses like cancer. Caloric restriction is backed up by the great weight of science, along with a wide range of resources based on decades of practical experience.
What Is Intemittent Fasting?
Even though the effects of Intermittent Fasting (IF) are not as well documented as in caloric restriction, its proponents claim that short-term intermittent fasting is a more enjoyable way to achieving similar health and longevity benefits. Therefore we suspect that intermittent fasting will rapidly become more popular than calorie restriction as soon as it accumulates a little more research than presently exists. Especially because reducing calories too much only causes a weight loss plateau which results in a lowered metabolism and even possibly a gain in weight! Intermittent fasting is definitely a much easier approach for anyone whose eating habits interact with those of other people, or who is already fairly set in his ways with good dietary habits.
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a pattern of eating that alternates between periods of fasting and non-fasting. A specific form of IF is alternate day fasting (ADF), which is composed of a 24-hour fast followed by a 24-hour non-fasting period. Intermittent Fasting as described in Brad Pilon’s Eat Stop Eat weight loss method consists of one or two periods of 24-hours of fasting weekly. It is therefore a smaller and more manageable jump than leaping straight into ADF or calorie restriction.
Research suggests that animals age slower and live longer when they consume fewer calories. The research is showing that this effect can be achieved either by eating less each day or by fasting on intermittent days. Fasting for too long causes metabolic slowdown since our body strives to conserve its caloric reserves so it can survive longer without food. This is called the starvation mode. This is why so many low-calorie or low-fat, or low carbohydrate diets fail. They cause the metabolism to slow down and so make it harder to continue to lose weight.
Brad Pilon, author of the Eat Stop Eat, has found a way to use short term fasting to actually help the weight loss process without disrupting the metabolic rate. Being in a fasted state for short periods of time does not decrease your metabolism. Even people who fasted every other day for a period of 22 days did not show any decrease in their resting metabolic rate. Studies have also shown no change in the metabolic rate of people who skipped breakfast or people who ate two meals a day compared to seven meals per day. Even in the complete absence of food for three days, your metabolism remains unchanged. So much for needing to eat every three hours!
Intermittent Fasting and Fat Loss
Can you lose fat while on intermittent fasting? Here are some results from experiments about the effects of intermittent fasting related to fat loss:
Decreased blood glucose levels:
During the entire 24 fast, blood sugar slowly lowers itself, but remains at normal non-hypoglycemic levels. Additionally, by fasting for 2 days out of 7 during a week, you automatically reduce your sugar intake by about 30% and consequently reduce your glucose levels.
Decreased insulin levels & increased insulin sensitivity:
Increased insulin levels help the body store the energy in food as glycogen and fat. Twenty four hours of fasting has been shown to drastically reduce insulin levels. Insulin causes you to store extra water, so when insulin is low, you also tend to lose water.
Increased lipolysis and fat oxidation:
High sugar levels create more insulin release, which blocks growth hormones (GH). When GH are blocked we cannot burn body fat. Research shows that we burn most fat after fasting for 18 hours, with the effect leveling off after 30 hours.
Increased nor epinephrine and epinephrine levels:
Fasting increases the amounts of both of nor epinephrine and epinephrine, which are responsible for the feeling of being alert and awake. These hormones trigger the release of glucose and fat burning.
Increased Glucagon levels:
Glucagon is one of the dominant hormones in the fasted state that causes fat burning. Its primary role is to keep our blood sugar levels steady.
Increased growth hormone levels:
Short-term fasting can increase growth hormone levels by nearly six fold. Hollywood celebrities are taking growth hormones because it helps them burn fat, build muscle, and supposedly keep them young because of their ‘anti-aging’ effects. Brad Pilon says that if you want large increases in the amount of growth hormone released in your body, all you have to do is fast! Fasting triggers the “growth hormone response” and this response is what prevents us from losing muscle while we fast keeping our metabolism elevated.
Other Benefits of Intermittent Fasting:
Besides the positive cognitive benefits, such as improved focus and mental clarity, fasting can help with many medical conditions. Fasting is one of the fastest ways to increase elimination of wastes and enhance the healing processes of the body. It has been used with success in clinical research on people who suffer from asthma, and has been shown to lower inflammation, one of the major factors for aging. Short-term fasting can help improve immune function by lowering the blood sugar levels, particularly during the first twenty-four to forty-eight hours of an acute infectious illness. Biochemist Marc Hellerstein believes intermittent fasting can also achieve the same ends of delaying or preventing cancer and other degenerative diseases.