What's the deal with intermittent fasting?
The word fasting can raise a number of negative connotations; hunger, charity fasts at school, not eating and did I mention hunger?
However one of the latest trends to sweep the health industry is encouraging just that; intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting sees you go through periods of eating and periods of fasting. There are a number of benefits associated with the method. And as it has now become a regular occurrence within the Thriva office we wanted to take a deeper look into it.
To begin with nearly every resource states that intermittent fasting isn’t changing what you eat, it’s changing when you eat. And that this is an important shift in your mindset and approach that will help with its success.
Intermittent fasting sees you managing your body’s fed and fasted state to enable your fed state to be more efficient and thus see a number of benefits.
Fed refers to when you have eaten and your body is digesting and processing what you have just fuelled it with. A fed state can last for between 3-5 hours, depending on a number of factors - your metabolic rate and what you’ve just eaten for example.
While in your fed state, your body isn’t burning fat as your insulin levels are high. When this starts to wear off your body looks to your stored fat for energy, this process can take up to 12 hours after your last meal to kick in.
So with the above being a typical eating schedule the body isn't getting the chance to burn its stored fat as its “fed” state is being topped up all day long.
A fasted state speeds up that process - as there isn’t a source of energy being supplied, your insulin levels decrease and turns to the stored fat already within your body for energy.
Ketosis occurs when your body’s glucose and insulin levels are low and you produce ketones as an energy source. Benefits include; weight loss, lower blood sugar levels, mental focus and increased insulin resistance to name a few. You can also achieve a ketosis state by following a ketogenic diet.
Besides burning fat and thus losing weight there are some other benefits:
Assists with muscle gain - when fasting you are increasing your insulin sensitivity, and so when you do eat it is broken down more efficiently. You’re also increasing the secretion of the growth hormone when fasting and so coupled with increased insulin sensitivity your body is better prepared for muscle growth.
Longevity - there are studies that show intermittent fasting on alternate days can increase your lifespan. By fasting, your body is stimulated to maintain and repair tissues, along with increasing cellular defences. This, supposedly results in anti-aging benefits and the decreased likelihood of developing a disease.
Simplicity - as the concept is quite simple and doesn’t need anything other than willpower, it can save you time (and money) this may be more of a superficial benefit but for someone who is always looking to gain 15 minutes back here and there it could be an important one.
There are a number of ways in which you can implement intermittent fasting into your life. Being able to choose the method that suits you best if another factor that makes this trend appealing. Some methods include:
16/8 Method - eat within an 8 hour period, fast for the remaining 16 hours
24 Hour Method - fast for 24 hours (for example 8pm - 8pm) this can be done as many times in a week as you would like
Alternate Day Fasting - fasting every other day, while eating normally on non-fast days
One thing is for sure, it is clear how intermittent fasting has become so popular, and the science behind it supports its appeal.
With fans such as Tim Ferris and Hugh Jackman, coupled with the simplicity of doing it perhaps it is worth those few hours of hunger (and willpower) to reap the rewards.