Your Guide to Intermittent FastingPopular on CamTrader
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Whether it’s after the holidays or you’ve just been less mindful about what you’ve been eating lately, you might have come to realize that you’ve tacked on some unwanted weight. We’ve all been there, facing the prospect of a restrictive diet plan and wishing there was a better way to cut calories.
Luckily, many have found intermittent fasting to be the best solution, since it offers the ability to restrict and reduce calories without having to tightly control what they eat at all times.
Intermittent fasting has gained wide popularity for its effectiveness and flexibility. It might also be one of the simplest lifestyle changes that you can do for yourself to promote long term weight-loss. It’s used by celebrities and body-builders alike, and the only real lifestyle change that it requires is strict adherence to an eating schedule.
These intermittent fasting schedules all boil down to alternating periods of fasting and eating. Eating within a specific window of time helps you to be mindful about what you put in your body. At the same time, fasting gives the body time to repair itself between meals.
Scheduled and well-considered intermittent fasting helps with weight loss, long-term improvements to metabolic health, and a strengthened immune system.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Fasting, scheduled or otherwise, has been a part of human life for thousands of years, and our bodies are well-adapted to experiencing periods of time without eating.
In some cases, fasting was a necessity during times of hunger. There are also times that we fast naturally, in response to feeling sick or stressed. Additionally, fasting has also been practiced for various religious purposes all around the world, including Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Mormonism, and Buddhism.
The contemporary trend of intermittent fasting is meant as a way to lose weight and improve one’s overall health. You do this by adhering to an eating pattern that designates times to eat, sometimes known as feast days, and times to fast. These patterns split the day or the week into eating times and fasting times.
How Does Fasting Work?
There are two main factors that affect how time-restricted feeding and intermittent fasting can make you healthier.
The first factor is the calorie restriction that results from the limited eating times. Those who practice intermittent fasting are more likely to restrict calories and eat less within the time restrictions. This is what makes intermittent fasting an energy restriction diet. Many prefer this use of an eating pattern to dieting, which normally requires individuals to eat each of their meals using pared-down portions and counting calories.
The second component of time-restricted feeding’s health benefits has to do with the circadian rhythm and hormone balancing. When you eat, you send your body through its metabolic cycle, which determines where it gets its energy as well as how much energy it stores. This balancing relies on the fasting part of the metabolic cycle, which allows for cellular repair, efficient use of hormones, and many of the other benefits that fasting has to offer.
How Fasting Effects the Body
When we have not eaten for a while, our bodies undergo a few processes to help us repair our health. These include hormonal balancing, as well as repairing our cells and genes.
1) The Fed State, also known as the absorptive or post-prandial state
During the fed state, you have just eaten. That means your gastro-intestinal tract is full and your body is fueled up. This lasts for about four hours after eating.
Your body will first use the food you just ate as its energy. In this case, it is using the glucose from those foods to power your body.
This is also when body fat storage is active, meaning that the body is busy storing away the excess energy that it doesn’t need at the moment.
2) The Fasted State, also known as the postabsorptive state
When your body is fasting, it no longer has the food that you eat to get its energy from. That means that it’s going to start burning body fat to get the energy that it needs.
The early fasted state begins a few hours after eating, and it lasts for about 12-18 hours. In this time, your body is no longer storing fat. Instead, it begins to use its stored glucose as energy.
As this state ends, the body transitions through its fuel options, such as fat, lactate, and alanine.
3) The Starvation State
Contrary to popular belief, there are few known short-term downsides to the starvation state, when fasting periods are limited to 48 hours or fewer. Entering the starvation state is sometimes referred to as “flipping the metabolic switch.” After 12-36 hours of continuous fasting, the body will have depleted its glucose reserves in the liver.
This causes the body to use other resources as fuel, including free fatty acids. The mobilization of fatty acids helps to preserve muscle mass and function. This, as a result, improves overall body composition to enhance performance and slow aging.
This process affects many parts of the body connected with the metabolic pathways, including the cardiovascular system and blood pressure, as well as the hormone system and insulin sensitivity.
It also allows for autophagy, which is part of the process of cell cleanup and repair. Generally, autophagy is a response to physical stress, making metabolic states like brief starvation or ketosis a great way to reach autophagy, particularly when these diets are paired with exercise.
The Different Intermittent Fasting Schedules
Since intermittent fasting is better characterized as an eating routine than an actual dietary change, the emphasis is on the schedule. One of the best things about intermittent fasting is its ability to put the metabolism on a regular schedule. The regularity of the schedule not only helps to form a habit that can lead to consistent weight loss, but it also means better consistent health throughout your body. This comes through in benefits such as increased insulin sensitivity and anti-aging .
Each intermittent fasting schedule represents a way of splitting a normal day or week into periods of fasting times and eating times. Most fasting schedules can be classified as either time-restricted feeding or periodic fasting.
Time-restricted feeding refers to designating a window of time each day for eating. For many, this kind of fasting is nothing new, since the majority of people have a long fast every night when they sleep.
Periodic fasting normally refers to designating a fasting day a couple of times a week, and usually refers to 24-hour fasts.
Whether you’re doing time-restricted eating, or periodic fast days with full days of fasting, it’s important to choose which times or which days of the week you intend to fast and stick to them. This doesn’t mean that you can’t amend the schedule if you find that the current schedule isn’t working out for you.
Nonetheless, once you strike on a manageable schedule, it’s best to keep going with it. This is because, the more often you change your diet, the more likely you are to drop out of a potentially strenuous lifestyle change. Building a habit such as intermittent fasting requires consistency.