Diets often prescribe what to eat and what not to eat. Also, it’s gist is to load up on fruits and vegetables and avoid sugary, salty, and fatty foods. Maintaining a plant-based diet coupled with exercise can lead to weight loss. However, with intermittent fasting, it’s more of the timing. It tells you when to eat and when to refrain from it.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a cycle of eating and fasting that allows your body to flip the so-called ‘metabolic switch,’ in which it uses up stored protein and fats so it can be converted to energy before replenishing them again with food.
Intermittent fasting methods synchronize meals with the circadian rhythm–eating during the day and fasting at night. This compels the body to refrain from food for a minimum of 12 hours, which can be extended up to 16, 24, or 36 hours.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Significant body processes occur when you undergo intermittent fasting. Within 12 hours of fasting, cells become activated and undergo repair and renewal. Growth hormones also increase metabolism and promote muscle gain while stimulating genes to protect you from diseases. You can click here for an in-depth discussion of how the five stages of intermittent fasting benefit your body. Hence, intermittent fasting functions to restore numerous body processes, which goes beyond a fitness regimen as it can become an aspect of a healthy lifestyle and longevity.
Along with that, here are more benefits that intermittent fasting brings:
The primary purpose of intermittent fasting is weight loss. IF lowers calorie intake and curbs appetite. Fasting also triggers hormones that facilitate weight loss and lowers insulin levels to increase body fat breakdown into energy.
Fasting for 3-24 weeks can result in higher metabolic rates and significant weight reduction. The reason for this is because the body undergoes ketosis, where it burns fats rather than carbohydrates. Thus, leading to weight loss and a leaner body.
Some studies suggest that intermittent fasting decreases the hunger hormone, ghrelin, and increases the satiety hormone, leptin, making a person feel full despite abstaining from food.
Fasting can also help sustain weight management efforts and prevent the so-called ‘plateau phenomenon,’ which is when diet takers tend to regain lost weight over time. Fasting inhibits weight regain hormones as it leads the body to lose rather than gain weight for more extended periods.
Manage Metabolic Syndrome
When a person is eating, the pancreas releases insulin into the bloodstream and instructs the body to convert energy into fat. In the absence of food, insulin levels begin to drop, inhibiting the fat-storing process and creating a domino effect on other body processes.
Decreased insulin lowers metabolic syndrome risks, which is the catch-all phrase for diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol levels, and insulin resistance. With lower insulin levels, blood pressure and cholesterol levels are normalized to prevent cardiovascular disease.
Reduce Inflammation and Symptoms Of Inflammatory Diseases
Refraining from food for some time activates ketones, which reduce inflammation in cells. In this regard, the fasting cycle also reduces symptoms and conditions associated with inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis, asthma, multiple sclerosis, and stroke.
A 2018 Baltimore study also showed reduced symptoms in patients with multiple sclerosis in as little as two months.
Generates New Nerve Cells and BDNF
Since it activates ketones, intermittent fasting is also good for the brain, which leads to increased growth of new nerve cells. IF also increases brain hormone levels, which is known as a brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), reducing the chances of depression and mentally related problems.
A case report shows that fasting daily significantly reduces Alzheimer’s disease symptoms in 9 out of 10 human patients. Animal studies also show IF’s potential in managing other neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease.
Potential For Cancer Management
This diet plan also shows the capacity to improve cancer treatment. According to Dr. Mattson, one of the proponents of IF, cancer cells use glucose as their food source. With the absence of glucose due to fasting, cancer cells weaken and die with chemotherapy drugs or radiation.
Some studies also show that it prevents cancer tumors’ growth and may decrease the recurrence of breast cancer.
Fasting compels cells to undergo autophagy–a waste removal process that involves breaking down dysfunctional proteins and using amino acids to generate new cells.
Cell repair and renewal is beneficial to the body as it acts as an anti-aging process and as protection from numerous diseases, leading to a longer and healthier life.
Cycling between periods of eating and fasting can bring several benefits to an individual. It works as an effective weight loss regimen as it limits calorie intake. Intermittent fasting also makes the metabolic system more effective by converting fat and protein into energy. As metabolic processes improve, insulin levels drop, followed by a decrease in blood pressure, cholesterol level, and heart disease risk.
Fasting works for the body and the brain as well. It aids in the formation of new nerve cells and the creation of the BDNF hormone to help promote mental clarity and sharpness. Improved brain function from intermittent fasts may also prevent Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s disease in the future. Studies also support the capacity of intermittent fasting in reducing inflammation and in managing symptoms of various inflammatory diseases.
The meal plan also shows promise in managing cancer treatment. Fasting eliminates the food source of cancer cells so anti-cancer drugs and radiation therapy become more effective. Intermittent fasting also promotes cell regeneration by triggering cells into dispelling wastes and creating new proteins for the body to use.
Intermittent fasting allows our bodies to undergo cell repair, growth, and renewal necessary in maintaining health and longevity. However, fasting is only half of the cycle. Replenishment is essential in completing the renewal process. To reap the myriad benefits of fasting, feast days should feature healthy eating as well. A balanced meal nourishes newly formed cells and sustains repaired tissues, improving their capacity to withstand stress.
Thus, it’s still essential to pay attention to what you eat when you break your fast. There’s truth in the saying ‘you are what you eat,’ and this should reflect in meal choices that’ll help you sustain the benefits of weight loss, improved metabolism, and brain and heart health gained through intermittent fasting.