Intermittent fasting has gained extreme popularity in recent years. I will explain the top 5 scientific based benefits of intermittent fasting and why you should give it a try as well.
For those who have never heard of intermittent fasting before let me explain it in short.
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern where you cycle between periods of eating and fasting. It doesn’t have anything to do with the types of food you eat but rather when you should eat them.
As humans we actually already fast everyday, while we sleep. If you would extend this fast a little longer, you would already be intermittent fasting. You can do this by skipping your breakfast in the morning, eating your first meal at noon and your last at 8 pm. This way you are fasting 16 hours and restricting your eating time to 8 hours. This is also the most popular method of intermittent fasting and is known as the 16/8 method.
No food is allowed during the fasting period, but you can drink water, coffee, tea and other non-caloric beverages. If you want to try intermittent fasting to gain more energy I highly recommend to skip caffeine as I explained before in my video about how to have more energy.
Why should we fast?
As humans we actually have been fasting for thousands of years. Most of the time we did it out of necessity because food wasn’t simply available 24/7. You also see other methods of fasting in religions like Christianity, Islam and Buddhism. Instinctively we also fast when we are sick. So there is nothing unnatural about fasting, and as humans, our body’s can handle the extended periods of not eating.
When we don’t eat for a longer period of time all kinds of processes in the body change. Now let me tell you about 5 changes in the body that will benefit your overall health.
1. Improved fat burning
Right now in 2020, 72 percent of men and 63 percent of women are overweight or obese. Obesity isn’t just a cosmetic concern. It is a medical problem that increases your risk of other diseases and health problems, such as such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.
Intermittent fasting can help people to avoid or overcome obesity.
The number 1 reason why intermittent fasting helps you to lose weight and fat is because of the reduction of caloric intake. This of course is only the case if you don’t compensate by eating much more in the eating periods.
According to a review from 2014, intermittent fasting reduces the body weight by 3 to 8 percent over a period of 3 to 24 weeks.
People also experienced a 4–7% reduction in waist girth, indicating that they lost fat around the belly.
Intermittent fasting may produce weight loss at a rate of approximately a (0.25–0.75 kg) per week.
These results indicate that intermittent fasting can be a useful weight loss tool.
Also, intermittent fasting enhances hormone function to lose weight. Lower insulin levels, higher growth hormone levels and increased amounts of norepinephrine all increase the breakdown of body fat. Short term fasting increases the metabolic rate by 3.6 to 14 percent, which helps to burn even more calories.
2. Reduction of risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases
Weight loss is just one benefit of IF. Recent animal studies have shown a decrease in risk of cancer or a decrease in cancer growth rates. The reasons for this decrease is due to
- balanced nutrition intake,
- increased production of tumor killing cells,
- stem cells triggered to regenerate the immune system
- and decreased blood glucose production.
A study of mice showed that a bimonthly fasting-mimicking diet reduces the frequency of cancer. Results were similar in a pilot trial by the same scientists with 19 humans; it showed decreased risk factors for cancer.
Cardiovascular diseases are a serious problem in the modern world. According to the World Health Organization data, 17.9 million people die every year due to cardiovascular diseases, which is about one third of all deaths.
The use of an IF diet has a beneficial effect on lowering blood pressure. This has been documented in animal studies, and later, the effectiveness of the diet was confirmed in humans.
3. Delayed aging process and increased lifespan
Intermittent fasting also helps to slow down the aging process. When your body doesn’t get any nutrition, it uses residuals to stay alive. This removes waste from your body. This process is also called autophagy.
One study showed that relatively short term fasting (24-48 hours) induced profound neural autophagy.
4. Improved cognition / memory
Intermittent fasting improves various metabolic features known to be important for brain health.
Studies have shown fasting causes positive neuro chemical changes to occur in the brains of test subjects, which lead to an improvement of cognitive function and resistance to stress.
These studies also showed fasting reduced inflammation in the brain and increased neurotrophic factors such as the production and growth of neurons, which help with learning and memory.
Most of the time, our body uses carbohydrates for energy. When we don’t eat for a longer period of time, our body runs out of carbohydrates to use as fuel, and breaks down fat for energy instead. Fat is broken down into chemicals called ketones in order to create energy. Ketones is a more efficient fuel source for the brain.
That’s why people who practice intermittent fasting often recall feeling more awake, alert and mentally sharper.
5. Increased energy levels.
Eating several times throughout the day means that our body goes through cycles of breaking down carbohydrates and turning them into blood sugar. This is eventually used for energy, or stored in cells for later. After your blood sugars are consumed or stored, it drops together with your energy levels. That’s when you probably feel hungry again. Normally we would then eat and the whole process would start over again.
The constant up and down cycle of blood sugar throughout the day stresses our metabolism and results in overall lower energy levels and mental performance.
As I mentioned before, your body will use fat instead of carbohydrates as an energy source. When using fat for energy, it is sent to the liver for processing before it can be used for energy. This happens, unlike using carbohydrates, very steadily and consistently with no ups and downs meaning we have more energy, have better concentration, and feel better overall.