Utilizing and burning stored body fat to produce energy throughout your day can aid in a more productive lifestyle, but it can also benefit your overall health and wellness. How can you convince your body to pull from its own stored fat, though? How can you get out of your daily slump?
Yes, fasting is an old tradition that seems to be making its comeback in today’s weight-loss trends; however, there is significant research showing us that science may support a smart and safe version of abstaining from food. Instead of purely starving the body, recent studies show that planned calorie restriction triggers a complex series of intricate events, including activation of cellular stress response elements, improved regulation on the cellular level, modification of apoptosis, and positive alteration in hormonal balance. Intermittent fasting is not only more acceptable to the body, but it also prevents some of the adverse effects of chronic calorie restriction, especially malnutrition
Intermittent fasting is a term used to describe a variety of eating patterns in which no or few calories are consumed for time periods that can range from 12 hours to several days, on a recurring basis. Most research states the point of negative energy balance at which liver glycogen stores are depleted and fatty acids are mobilized is typically beyond 12 hours after food intake ends. This is why so many will recommend a 18:6 hour ratio, with 18 hours being fasting and 6 being calorie intake hours.
While simply living the 18:6 hour ratio may work well, you can take it a step further and follow the eTRP (early time-restricted feeding) schedule with your meals. This plan includes eating early in the day to be in alignment with circadian rhythms in metabolism. A recent study followed pre-diabetic men during their 18:6 ratio of intermittent fasting, in which dinner always fell before 3:00pm. While weight loss was achieved, eTRF also improved insulin sensitivity, β cell responsiveness, blood pressure, oxidative stress, and appetite.
Throughout a fast, your body initiates important cellular repair processes and changes hormone levels to make stored body fat more accessible. Blood levels of insulin drop significantly, which signals fat burning. Muscles grow and the blood levels of growth hormone can increase as much as 5-fold. The body is believed to be able to fight off illness faster and work toward cell repair, which leads to a longer life. There is an increase in the growth of new nerve cells, which should have numerous benefits for brain function (including preventing Alzheimers and Parkinson’s). The hours spent fasting provide the body needed time for cells to remove waste products.
The enhanced hormone functioning that takes place during an intermittent fast triggers weight loss. Short-term fasting increases your metabolic rate by 3.6-14%, helping you burn even more calories, which aids in a quick weight loss. But the key is balance, and you must understand that any weight that is shed can be easily gained if you you do not follow through with lifestyle changes.
Something to note is that not only does weight loss occur, but intermittent fasting helps to diminish the belly fat that is linked to a multitude of health dangers.
Intermittent fasting has also been shown to improve numerous risk factors, including:
- blood pressure
- total and LDL cholesterol
- blood triglycerides
- inflammatory markers
- blood sugar levels
(It has been noted that intermittent fasting may lead to decreased risk of cancer.)
Transitioning into the fasting period can be done gently:
- Stop eating at night at a specific time – such as 7pm, at least 2-3 hours before bedtime.
- Wait a full 12 hours to break your fast. (the majority of the time was spent sleeping.)
- You’ve had 2-4 hours of non-eating before bed and maybe 1 or less hours when you arise
- Once you make it a habit, extend your fasting period until you hit the best balance that works for you. (18 hours shows the greatest researched benefits.)
Remember that if you are sick or feeling off in any way, listen to your body and give yourself some slack on the day’s fasting goals.
Examples of functional effects and major cellular and molecular responses of various organ systems to intermittent fasting.
Profiles of circulating glucose and ketone levels over 48 hours in individuals with a typical American eating pattern or two different IF eating patterns. (a) In individuals who consume three meals plus snacks every day the metabolic switch is never ‘flipped’ and their ketone levels remain very low, and the area under the curve for glucose levels is high compared to individuals on an IF eating pattern. (b) In this example, the person fasted completely on the first day and then at three separate meals on the subsequent day. On the fasting day ketones are progressively elevated and glucose levels remain low, whereas on the eating day ketones remain low and glucose levels are elevated during and for several hours following meal consumption. (c) In this example the person consumes all of their food within a 6-hour time window every day. Thus, the metabolic switch is flipped on following 12 hours of fasting and remains on for approximately six hours each day, until food is consumed after approximately 18 hours of fasting.