You may have heard about this relatively new diet trend called intermittent fasting and want to know more about it. There is a growing number of fitness buffs who are trying it out since it reportedly is able to induce weight loss without sacrificing muscle mass. This fits the goals of fitness-oriented people who are looking for a better way to lose weight and be healthier.
So how does intermittent fasting really work? To answer that let’s first understand what is intermittent fasting.
What is intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting works by setting aside certain days and times in a week when you will not eat anything or will eat a smaller volume of calories. The goal is to switch the body to its “survival mode” so that it will not depend on an intake of food to survive. Rather, your body will try to tap into your body’s fat storage to sustain life.
The idea is to copy the way prehistoric human beings must have survived. This was a time when food was hard to come by and was only obtained through hunting and gathering, and when agriculture wasn’t practised yet. They only ate when food was available, which is a sharp contrast to the present situation, when food is accessible rather easily.
There are three main methods of intermittent fasting, which are the following:
- 5:2 – A person on this eating pattern will consume 500 to 600 calories per day for two non-consecutive days within a week. For the other five days, the eater may consume a normal amount of food.
- Eat-stop-eat – Being on this diet means no eating for 24 hours once or twice a week.
- LeanGains Protocol – Also dubbed as the 16/8 diet, a person using this method will skip breakfast, or in some cases dinner, and will only consume food within eight consecutive hours before embarking on a 16-hour fasting period.
A small caveat
This article is meant for people who wish to try intermittent fasting to lose weight. There are, of course, several other health benefits of intermittent fasting and those who of you who wish to go on this regimen for reasons other than weight loss can read up further on the subject.
Also, for intermittent fasting to work as expected, the dieter must not overcompensate by binge eating after the fasting period is completed.
Now that you have understood what is intermittent fasting, let us see the specific ways in which it benefits your health.
5 ways intermittent fasting help you lose weight fast
1. Your insulin sensitivity is restored
An essential benefit of intermittent fasting is that it restores your body’s insulin sensitivity. This means that your body will be able to produce less insulin because there is less food to digest. It also means that your body will recognise that there is less need to produce insulin, forcing it to resort to using stored fat as an energy source instead. Since the stored fat is being “burned up” for energy, you will wind up with less and less fat over time. This is also why you shouldn’t binge eat after your fasting period is completed.
2. Intermittent fasting increases Human Growth Hormone (HGH)
With intermittent fasting, you may find that your HGH levels will increase, which has good implications in terms of increasing muscle mass and reducing fat. The HGH has been linked to the increase of muscle mass in adult humans, so you pack on more muscle while your fat stores are being burned for energy. The end result is that you look leaner and more muscular.
3. It increases autophagy
During autophagy, your cells will start to use up those aging and dysfunctional proteins within each cell. In the process, cells are repaired. Muscle cells will improve in health as the “bad” proteins will be “eaten up” by your cells, And, since this occurs in tandem with the burning of fat stores and increase of HGH, it indirectly contributes to an improvement of your health through loss of surplus weight.
4. You lose less muscle mass despite dieting
Although many calorie restriction diets induce loss of muscle mass as well, intermittent fasting reportedly limits such a thing to a minimum. This may be why some bodybuilders get attracted to intermittent fasting when they want to lose body fat. As HGH levels go up, body fat is burned (as was stated earlier in point 2 above). The increase in HGH encourages muscle growth (even though there is some loss of previous muscle mass).
5. It motivates you to switch to a healthier plant-based diet
One of the side benefits of the intermittent fasting diet is that it encourages a switch to eating more plant-based food and helps avoid unhealthy snacking. This means the person on the diet will be consuming food rich in vitamins and minerals, and which are made up of complex carbohydrates and some protein. This contributes to weight loss because your body thinks it is still consuming the same volume of food, but the fiber in the plant-based diet is just taking up more room while providing less calories. So, you feel full and satisfied per meal without consuming fatty, sugary, oily, and nutritionally empty foods [like processed or junk foods].
If you are having difficulty keeping off surplus weight, intermittent fasting may be the way to go. As discussed above, it is not just about calorie restriction, but also encourages a switch to healthier food choices. Since the diet will involve calorie restriction, it is wise to seek a doctor’s opinion before you go on this diet. Hopefully, this path will lead you to lose weight sustainably and safely so that you will become slimmer and healthier in the long run.
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