Top Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting & How to Make it Work for You
You’ve probably heard the saying, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” In recent years, the practice of skipping breakfast has become a trend in the weight loss and health communities. Many people have found that practicing intermittent fasting has helped them feel more energized, achieve fat loss, and stabilize their hormone levels throughout the day.
However, there’s a bit more to it than just simply skipping breakfast. Let’s break down what intermittent fasting is, its benefits, and how to implement it into your lifestyle.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting isn’t a type of diet, it’s just a different eating schedule. Your body is always in one of two states, fed or fasted. When we’re fed, our bodies are actively digesting food and fueling our movements. During this state, burning fat is a challenge since we already have readily available fuel from the foods we eat during the day.
In a fasted state, our insulin levels are lower and our bodies are able to pull from our fat stores for energy. A fasted state is achieved only 8-12 hours after our body has finished digesting. People rarely enter the fasted state throughout the day, and many eat small meals all day long. This causes spikes in our insulin levels which, in turn, can hinder fat loss. Note: Fat loss is different from weight loss. Weight loss can be accomplished simply by eating at a caloric deficit.
For those who practice intermittent fasting, they follow an eating schedule that fits their lifestyle, but typically it’s a 16/8 hour eating window. That means for the 16 hours of fasting, you aren’t eating any foods, creamers, or sweeteners/artificial sweeteners. Only water, black coffee or tea is allowed to keep your body in the fasted state.
There are more benefits to intermittent fasting than fat loss and research has shown there are benefits for your overall health as well.
Key Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
There has been much research on the benefits of regular short-term fasting on our metabolism, hormone balances, and overall health. Some major benefits of intermittent fasting include:
Fat Loss Benefits:
- Encourages the body to burn fat while maintaining muscle mass
- Does not lower your body’s basal metabolic rate long-term
- Improved hormone balance
- Increased norepinephrine and epinephrine levels, which increases fat breakdown
- Increased glucagon levels
- Increased lipolysis and fat oxidation
- Decreased blood glucose levels
- Decreased insulin levels
Overall Health Benefits:
- Reduces the risk of coronary problems
- Reduces insulin resistance
How to Start Intermittent Fasting
Fasting for short periods of time on a regular basis helps people eat fewer calories and helps regulate hormones related to weight management. Here are a few eating protocols to choose from:
- The 16/8 Protocol: Begin your fast after dinner, then skip breakfast. Break your fast 16 hours after your dinner the night before allowing you to begin an 8-hour eating window. Do this daily for the best results.
- Example of a fasting window: 8:00 pm – 12:00 pm (noon). Then begin an eating window from 12:00 pm – 8:00 pm.
- Eat-Stop-Eat: Do one or two 24-hour fasts each week. Example: not eating from dinner one day until dinner the next day.
- The 5:2 Diet: Only eat 500-600 calories on two days of the week, then eat your normal calorie intake the other 5 days.
If these options seem like too much of a challenge, try starting with a shorter fast and gradually extend it as you go. Many find that after just a few days of this, it won’t be as much of a challenge to fast. It’s very important, however, that you still eat enough calories in your 8-hour eating window and aren’t creating too much of a deficit in order to lose weight.
Who Should Try Intermittent Fasting?
It’s always best to be safe and speak with your healthcare provider before making any major lifestyle changes. Intermittent fasting can be beneficial for many; however, it probably isn’t best for pregnant or breastfeeding women.
- Intermittent fasting is simply an eating schedule that allows your body to reset while you’re fasting, making it easier to burn fat and time your meals within a shorter eating window.
- Our bodies are either in a fasted or fed state. Being in a fed state (digesting foods) all day long makes it hard for our bodies to achieve fat loss.
- There are many benefits to intermittent fasting including increased energy levels, accelerated fat breakdown, improved hormone balance, and heart health.
- Make sure to choose the right eating schedule; you can make your eating/fasting windows flexible to fit your lifestyle.
- Begin with shorter fasting windows and gradually extend them. Avoid fasting over 48 hours straight on a regular basis. Most people follow the 16/8 hour eating protocol.
- While fasting, make sure to stay hydrated with plenty of water. Coffee/tea is allowed as long as there are no added creamers, sweeteners/artificial sweeteners that can affect your fasted state.
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