Losing weight sucks! Or rather, the processes involved in losing weight suck, which is why so many people struggle with their weight on a daily basis. Obesity rates are through the roof and life expectancies are on the decline. Make no mistake about it, the reasons for our declining health and expanding waistlines are predominantly down to the fact that we’re moving less and eating more of the wrong foods. Not only are we eating more however, but we also happen to be eating more at the wrong times. Meal timing and frequency can influence how we look, and how healthy we are. This is why more and more people are experimenting with intermittent fasting, and are subsequently seeing fantastic results in the process. But exactly what is intermittent fasting and why is it so beneficial for us? Be sure to read on as all will soon become clear as we look at several key benefits associated with intermittent fasting.
What is intermittent fasting?
Before we dive into the good stuff and look at the benefits of Intermittent Fasting, IF for short, we must first look at exactly what the process entails. Intermittent Fasting is primarily utilized by individuals looking to lose weight. The good thing about it is that it can be used by people looking to maintain weight as well. For example, people looking to drop upwards of 100 pounds have enjoyed great success with IF, while bodybuilders prepping for a contest, who perhaps only need to drop 1 or 2 pounds of body fat, also see great results with an intermittent fasting diet protocol. But what the heck is it? Well, basically, with IF, the idea is that you alternate between periods of fasting, and periods of feasting. Believe it or not, every single day, each and every one of you carries out an intermittent fasting protocol when you go to bed, and when you wake up and eat your first meal of the day. Breakfast is called ‘Break-FAST’ for that very reason, because you are literally breaking your fast. The great thing about IF is that there are different ways of doing it. For example, some people will alternate between spells of 8 – 16 hours without eating, and will have a small eating window, typically in the evening, when they eat their meals. Some people will alternate between days of eating, so on one day they will eat normally, and on fasting days they will consume very, very low calories, I.E a max of 500. If you’ve heard of the 5:2 diet, that in itself is a form of Intermittent Fasting. The premise behind that diet is that, for 5 days of the week, you eat regular, fairly healthy, balanced, normal meals and consume normal amounts of calories. For the remaining 2 days however, you take in around 500 – 700 calories.
What are the benefits of intermittent fasting?
We’ve looked at the basics of what Intermittent Fasting is, now let’s find out why it’s so darn good for us? Here are several key benefits of IF:
A lot of people, when talking about the benefits of IF, talk about weight loss. Weight loss however, is not an accurate representation because weight loss could include water loss, and the loss of lean muscle mass along with fat. As 99.9% of the time, people trying to lose weight want to lose body fat, we feel it’s important to be clear on how your weight is lost on intermittent fasting. When you fast, you literally trick your body into thinking it is starving, your body panics and looks for an emergency source of energy. Remember, inside your body there are countless physiological and metabolic processes being carried out every single second, and in order to perform each one, your body needs energy in some form or another. Without calories from food or drink, the body looks for an emergency source of fuel, which it gets from your body fat. Ironically, the reason why we store fat is because the body is stockpiling it for use at a later date, in the same vain that those with open fires stockpile wood in the summer to be used to keep you warm in the winter. By skipping meals and fasting, you force your body to look elsewhere for energy, which it gets from stored body fat. This means that you can enjoy slow and sustained releases of energy throughout the day as your body burns off your fat stores and converts them into fuel.
Another reason why IF is considered so beneficial for the human body, is due to the fact that, by fasting, you can basically alter your body’s hormone levels, allowing you to utilize them in a more productive manner. Intermittent Fasting has been found to increase HGH (Human Growth Hormone) levels, which assists with the growth of lean muscle tissue, and with the burning of stored body fat. IF also reduces insulin levels, which again, enhances the body’s fat-burning capabilities. It has also been proven to help improve cellular health and repair, assisting with the removal of waste products and by-products from within our cells.
Over the years, there have been numerous studies carried out regarding IF, with many of the findings pointing to the fact that IF has been proven to increase a person’s metabolism. You see, by switching between periods of feast and famine, the metabolism can, in a way, be trained to utilize energy more efficiently. Eventually it becomes stimulated and has been found to increase by as much as 14%. This means that by IF, you will actually burn fat more efficiently, and you’ll have more energy in the process. It is however, worth noting that long-term fasting has been found to slightly reduce a person’s metabolic rate, but short-term, IF enhances it a great deal. This is very important for people looking to maintain lean muscle mass, because it means that your body eats its way through stored body fat, without tapping into lean muscle mass reserves. This is why a lot of bodybuilders that are cutting down and prepping for a show, will implement IF diet protocols as part of their contest prep.
Enhanced Immune Function
In terms of health and well-being, the human immune system is, by far, the most important tool to have at our disposal. Our immune systems function by protecting our bodies against illness and disease. It does this by basically sending out white blood cells to intercept and destroy germs, pathogens, and bacteria that may have entered our bodies, that could cause us harm. The stronger the immune system, the healthier the person. Needless to say, we would all have incredibly strong immune systems in an ideal world, as that would mean that we stay fit and healthy. What does the immune system have to do with Intermittent fasting? Well, over the years, scientists and medical experts have found that IF helps the body to synthesize new white blood cells. By alternating between spells of feast and fast, you can purge your body of damaged, or ineffective cells making up the immune system, and replace them with brand new, fit, healthy, and vibrant ones. Think of it as taking old, out-of-shape, beat up soldiers that are past their prime, and replacing them with fit, healthy, special ops soldiers in the prime of their lives.
Intermittent Fasting Promotes Cardiovascular Health
Currently, cardiovascular disease is the biggest killer on the face of the earth. What’s even more frustrating, is the fact that cardiovascular disease can be avoided by making healthy lifestyle choices. When it comes to cardiovascular disease, there are a wide variety of risk factors that can contribute towards this potentially fatal affliction. For example, unhealthily high levels of LDL cholesterol, which is known as bad cholesterol, can contribute. Low levels of HDL cholesterol, which is a good cholesterol, can also contribute as HDL reduces LDL. Hypertension (high blood pressure) and high levels of blood triglycerides, are also risk-factors for cardiovascular disease, which could go on to cause strokes or heart attacks, which could potentially be fatal. Scientific studies looking into the beneficial effects of Intermittent Fasting however, have found that IF shows great promise regarding the prevention of cardiovascular disease, for a number of reasons. IF appears to reduce blood pressure, it reduces LDL cholesterol, it helps increase HDL cholesterol, it helps regulate hormones, and it helps stabilize blood glucose levels. All of these risk factors play a role in cardiovascular disease in one way or another, so it’s easy to see why health and medical experts are so excited about intermittent fasting.
Intermittent Fasting Helps Prevent You From Breaking Your Diet
Okay, be honest, how many of you have, while dieting in the past, had a craving for junk food and have gone ahead and cheated on your diet? The problem with diets is that there is often nothing to look forward to, which can take a real toll on your emotional health. With IF however, although you are hungry when fasting, you always have something to look forward to. The idea is not to stuff your face with junk in your eating windows, but at the same time, you don’t need to eat steamed cod and broccoli for every meal either. IF means that, if you do get a craving for dessert after your meal, as long as you’re careful, you can indulge your cravings and still lose heaps of weight in the process. By having something to look forward to you are far less-likely to cheat on your diet, so IF is a great way to stay on track.