What is Intermittent Fasting?
Everyone is familiar with the term fasting and it is a common practice in a lot of cultures and communities including Islam, Christianity and Hinduism amongst many others.
However, Intermittent fasting is a little different. The objective is to reduce your eating window by skipping breakfast and having an early dinner if at all. So if you skip breakfast, have lunch at 12pm, dinner at 6pm and don’t eat until the next midday. You would be have been fasting for 18 hours which sounds a lot but as you would normally sleep for an average of 8 hours, you’re only really fasting for 10 hours a day.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Having a small window for eating has a massive effect on how much you are actually able to inject vastly reducing your calorie and carbs intake. Not eating for long periods of time also give your body time to use the energy it has and focus it on healing your body because its not so busy digesting the food you’re constantly eating. It was only recently I noticed that after I have a meal, I tend to feel cold and a colleague told me that it was because my body has redirect its energy from keeping me warm to digesting my meal. So this makes perfect sense. When were’re eating, we’re taking energy away from our body performing other vital roles such as healing so the more we eat the more health problems we tend to develop.
How has it changed my life?
I wouldn’t say I rigidly practice intermittent fasting, however I have a more flexible approach.
I skip breakfast bar my morning coffee. I was never a big fan of breakfast, but being constantly bombarded with pressures to have breakfast and how it allegedly helps with weightless, I used to force myself to have breakfast a few times a week. I now know that the pressure to have breakfast in the morning started as a marketing ploy from the cereal companies and has become a cultural practice. Strictly speaking, having sugar and milk in my coffee does break the intermittent fasting rules but I’m not overly fussed about following the rules.
I have an early dinner. As often as I can, I will have an early dinner. If I have a late lunch, then I won’t have dinner. However, working shifts does stop me from being able to have a rigid dining routine but I’m not one for rigid practices.
I only have 2 meals a day. Having only 2 meals reduces my calorie and carbs intake immensely, especially if I don’t have any snacks. This helps to maintain my weight even if I’m not losing any weight.
Eat a variety of foods. I hate eating the same foods often. We are not designed to survive eating the same foods every day. Our bodies need so many different nutrients to keep us healthy, eating the same things that only have certain nutrients and not others will result in malnutrition. We may not realise but different nutrients help our body to heal different parts so if you don’t get all the nutrients, you may not feel ill but you would have noticed small effects like your hair, skin, teeth are not 100% healthy, you digestive system might be playing up, you get cramp, feel tired, your joints hurt etc. These are all symptoms of malnutrition.
I don’t obsess over losing weight. I’m not very big and as much as I’d like to loose a bit of weight, I’m not overly fussed. I know that my weight is the result of my eating habits plus my physical activities. So if I want to lose weight, then I need to fall in to a natural eating and physical routine that helps me achieve that weight. I’m making conscious efforts to eat better foods, and add more activities to my daily routing so that I will naturally get to my ideal weight with a daily routine that suits me. forcing myself to eat certain things or do certain things may help me achieve my goals in the short term but I will not be able to maintain it so will eventually go back to my ‘normal’ weight.
I Eat less carbs. I’m not a lover of bread, cakes or soft drinks. But I do love the occasional sandwich or Victoria sponge so my carbs intake is never very high anyway but if I had a bad eating day, I do tend to try not to have much the next day to keep my average carbs intake low.
Here are some extra information I found on the internet regarding Intermittent fasting you may want to check before starting intermittent fast especially if you have any health problems. References below.
Here are some changes that occur in your body when you fast:
- Human Growth Hormone (HGH): The levels of growth hormone skyrocket, increasing as much as 5-fold. This has benefits for fat loss and muscle gain, to name a few (4, 5, 6, 7).
- Insulin: Insulin sensitivity improves and levels of insulin drop dramatically. Lower insulin levels make stored body fat more accessible (8).
- Cellular repair: When fasted, your cells initiate cellular repair processes. This includes autophagy, where cells digest and remove old and dysfunctional proteins that build up inside cells (9, 10)
- Gene expression: There are changes in the function of genes related to longevity and protection against disease (11, 12).
These changes in hormone levels, cell function and gene expression are responsible for the health benefits of intermittent fasting.
Here are the main health benefits of intermittent fasting:
- Weight loss: As mentioned above, intermittent fasting can help you lose weight and belly fat, without having to consciously restrict calories (1, 13).
- Insulin resistance: Intermittent fasting can reduce insulin resistance, lowering blood sugar by 3–6% and fasting insulin levels by 20–31%, which should protect against type 2 diabetes (1).
- Inflammation: Some studies show reductions in markers of inflammation, a key driver of many chronic diseases (17, 18, 19).
- Heart health: Intermittent fasting may reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood sugar and insulin resistance — all risk factors for heart disease (1, 20, 21).
- Cancer: Animal studies suggest that intermittent fasting may prevent cancer (22, 23, 24, 25).
- Brain health: Intermittent fasting increases the brain hormone BDNF and may aid the growth of new nerve cells. It may also protect against Alzheimer’s disease (26, 27, 28, 29).
- Anti-aging: Intermittent fasting can extend lifespan in rats. Studies showed that fasted rats lived 36–83% longer (30, 31).
Keep in mind that research is still in its early stages. Many of the studies were small, short-term or conducted in animals. Many questions have yet to be answered in higher quality human studies (32).
Seek Medical advice if the following apply:
Have problems with blood sugar regulation.
Have low blood pressure.
Have a history of eating disorders.
Are a woman who is trying to conceive.
Are a woman with a history of amenorrhea.
Are pregnant or breastfeeding.
All that being said, intermittent fasting has an outstanding safety profile. There is nothing dangerous about not eating for a while if you’re healthy and well-nourished overall.