Intermittent Fasting: Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent Fasting: Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting has gained popularity since people started a healthy approach to weight loss and results in improved cardio-metabolic risk factors. it is essential to be well informed about this diet before practicing it and to avoid certain errors thanks to some personalized tips adapted to different persons.

However, there are few things to consider. As the positive effects of this have not yet been sufficiently evaluated with enough clinical trials to draw a better conclusion. A large and growing body of research suggests that timing for fasting is critical. Such as fasting times in the morning, or afternoon, or at evening dinner.


What is intermittent fasting or intermittent energy

“Intermittent fasting, also known as intermittent energy restriction, is any of various meal timing schedules that cycle between voluntary fasting and non-fasting over a given period.” According to Wikipedia.

Intermittent fasting (IF) is a diet based on the principles of calorie restriction that alternates between fasting and eating food on a regular schedule. It is a proven way to lose weight and stay healthy with other positive health benefits.

According to many studies it helps with diabetics, keeps cholesterol under control, reduce oxidative stress, improve digestion, helps with insulin resistance, lowers blood pressure, and even can improve overall health. That’s a lot of benefits!

Fasting is not a new trend we are seeing now. This practice is engraved in the history of humanity and still relevant today. Fasting practice is found in various religions. But the new trends in different forms in the nutrition sector, such as intermittent fasting, water fasting or therapeutic fasting. However, the growing popularity of fasting is not just a fad and is increasingly based on extensive scientific literature.


How intermittent fasting works

So, we know that intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that alternates between periods of fasting, any flexible fasting times and eating. this diet is directly linked to the biological rhythms in the body. It does not specify which foods should be eaten, but rather when they should be eaten, and this time frame between food intake and the time of day of fasting seems to be a key factor.

Many methods for managing internal clocks have been uncovered, and researchers are increasingly evaluating the important impact of their disruption on health. Specifically, practically all of the body’s processes are governed by the circadian rhythm, or 24-hour cycle. As a result, disturbances in this rhythm can affect sleep as well as metabolism, cardiovascular system function, immune system function, and so on.

The circadian clock works as an internal timing system in the body and organs to maintain homeostasis in response to the environmental change. The body’s attempt to maintain and regulate physiological constants including temperature, blood flow, and blood pressure at levels that do not differ from normal is known as homeostasis.

Although food has been shown to affect clocks in peripheral tissues, it has remained unclear how a lack of food affects the clock’s functioning and, in turn, the body. Fasting affects the circadian clock and fasting-induced cellular responses, that combined lead to fasting-specific temporal gene regulation, according to the researchers. Fasting appears to affect skeletal muscle twice as much as it does the liver.


The benefits of intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting isn’t something new. In prehistoric times, before humans learned to farm, we were hunters and gatherers. In those times people evolved to survive, and thrive, for long periods of time without eating. They had to spend a lot of time and energy hunting game and gathering nuts and berries. So, the popularity of intermittent fasting over the past few years is not without reason.

Let’s look at why it was easier to maintain a healthy weight without looking for a specific tip fifty years ago such as hours of fasting, day of fasting, first meal and other methods we follow now. There were no computers, smartphones and fewer TV shows, people stopped to eat and practiced much more outdoor activity and therefore more physical exercise.

Now, television, Social Media, Internet, and other increasingly time-consuming entertainment have become available 24/7. We are staying awake longer, and the tendency to be sedentary and snack-munching is increasing both during the day and at night. So extra calories and less activity can mean a higher risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other illnesses.

Fortunately, recent scientific studies show that intermittent fasting can help reverse these trends as it reverse the insulin resistance. Currently, several experts highlight the health benefits of fasting on the brain and body, and the results of these studies reveal that fasting would have an impact on obesity, metabolic diseases or type 2 diabetes and would protect against the side effects of chemotherapy.


Calorie restriction improves health without altering the circadian clock

Studies on time-restricted eating on the daily periodic oscillations of metabolites and genes in the muscles and metabolites in the blood show that time-restricted feeding, which is calorie restriction, doesn’t influence the central muscle clock and opens the door to more research into how these observed changes improve health.

When it comes to metabolic health, both what is eaten, and when the food is eaten is important. Reducing time window between the first meal and the last meal in a day is shown to be a effective way to lose weight and fight obesity. Complete calorie restriction over time, which is also known as intermittent fasting, has also been shown to improve health even before weight loss begins.

This is however still poorly understood. Thus, scientists have studied the body’s first adaptations to a time-restricted diet. This study is the first to examine metabolite oscillations in skeletal muscle and blood, as well as gene expression in skeletal muscle following time-restricted feeding. The researchers observed that the rhythm of skeletal muscle core clock genes is unchanged by intermittent fasting, suggesting that the differences are more attributable to diet than to inherent rhythms.

Their study identified a number of key changes in muscle genetic activity, as well as muscle fat and protein content, which could explain the positive impact of time-restricted eating. By focusing on the short-term and early effects of intermittent fasting, the goal was to decouple the signals that govern health from those associated with weight loss. It is an important step in avoiding mistakes and understanding how intermittent fasting can improve metabolic health.

The altered rhythmicity of metabolite and gene expression caused by intermittent fasting may be responsible for the positive health impact. Because Intermittent Fasting did not alter the central muscle clock. This can help reducing obesity.


growth hormone production

Growth hormone is a polypeptide hormone secreted by growth hormone cells in the anterior part of the pituitary gland. This gland is called endocrine gland located at the base of the skull, below the hypothalamus. They release growth hormones called somatotropin and somatotropin. Both of these stimulates the growth and reproduction of cells in humans and other vertebrates, would increase considerably under the effect of fasting.

There are studies that shows that fasting leads to a major increase in growth hormone levels. After just 3 days of fasting, growth hormone levels can increase dramatically. However, continuous fasting is not sustainable in the long term. Intermittent fasting is a more popular dietary approach that limits eating to brief periods.

It can help reduce body fat, which directly affects growth hormone production. Also it can keep insulin levels low for most of the day because insulin is released when you eat. Research suggests that insulin spikes can disrupt natural growth hormone production. Thus, intermittent fasting can help optimize growth hormone levels in two main ways.


Intermittent fasting helps weight loss

Several studies show that intermittent fasting acts on fat storage making it superior to conventional diets using calorie restriction. It can help with weight loss and promotes health.

There are many methods to lose weight. You have to find out what will work best for you. Intermittent fasting works better for most people and it is also a very healthy way to lose weight.


How to lose weight with intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting, also known as the 16:8 diet or the 5:2 diet, is in all trend now. This new trend is well-documented and promises non-yo-yo weight loss as well as lasting changes in metabolism and resulting health benefits. But keep in mind that intermittent fasting is not suitable for long-term weight regulation as shown by several studies. There was a research on this matter that found that all calorie restricted diets and healthy balanced diets can work same in reducing body weight and unwanted belly and liver fats.


How long does it take to lose weight

Changes in body weight distribution in study participants were accurately determined using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The researchers explain that The excellent thing is that even a minor diet success can result in significant health benefits. Regardless of the dietary regimen utilized, those who lose just 5% of their body weight lose roughly 20% of hazardous visceral fat and more than a 1/3 of fat in the liver. The researchers also found no difference between the two dieting methods with respect to the other metabolic values analyzed or the biomarkers and gene activities studied.

Well, it does not confirm firmly what people claim about intermittent fasting. But it also shows intermittent fasting is better than conventional fasting or other calorie restrictions.

It appears to some humans that being extremely disciplined during two days is simpler than monitoring calories and limiting eating every day. However, in order to keep the new body weight, you must convert to a balanced diet on a regular basis, adhering to dietary guidelines based on age, gender, history, activity, and health status.

So, we can say that it is not primarily the dietary method that counts. Deciding on a method and then to follow it is more important. The same evidence is also suggested in current studies comparing low-carb and low-fat diets, such as, carbohydrate reduction versus fat reduction while having a balanced diet.


When to do intermittent fasting

There are many different types of fasts such as water fasting, eating few intermittent okay foods and off course not eating or drinking at all etc. There are ways to do intermittent fasting too, but they are all based on choosing right eating window, the times to eat and fast.


Intermittent fasting windows

You can create a window to eat and fast tor rest of the day. For example, it is possible to eat for only for a period of 8 hours each day and fast for the rest. Or choose to eat only one meal a day 2 days a week.

Thus, to practice intermittent fasting, it is important to consult a health professional, your doctors, or a dieticians-nutritionists before starting anything and avoid any contraindication. Once a general practitioner gives the green light on the possibility of practicing fasting, it is possible to choose a daily approach, which limits the daily food to a six to eight hours period each day.


Common approaches

There’s a 16/8 approach, where you eat for 8 hours and fast for the rest.

Another approach, known as the 5:2 approach, is to eat regularly 5 days a week. During the other 2 days, you must limit yourself to a meal of 500 to 600 calories and good hydration (water as a priority).

Longer periods without food, such as fasting periods of 24, 36, 48, and 72 hours, are not necessarily better depending on health status and can be dangerous. Going too long without eating can actually encourage the body to start storing fat in response to starvation.


How long does it takes to get used to intermittent fasting?

There are several different ways to practice intermittent fasting, which makes it possible to adapt it to each lifestyle and each patient. These methods all involve dividing the day or week into periods of eating and fasting.

Research shows that it can take two to four weeks for the body to get used to intermittent fasting. Practitioners may therefore find themselves feeling hungry and having some mood swings as the body adjusts to the new routine.

But, as several experts confirm in their studies, research subjects who go through the adaptation period tend to stick to the plan, because they notice that they feel better. Intermittent fasting then becomes a personal practice that adapts for each person and can be continued over the long term, as long as no signs of deficiencies in important vitamins and nutrients or other health problems arise or are related.


What does the results show

Physiologically, calorie restriction in animals has been shown to increase lifespan and improve tolerance to various metabolic stresses in the body such as oxidative stress. Although the evidence for calorie restriction in animal studies is strong, there is less compelling evidence in human studies.

Proponents of this diet believe that the stress of intermittent fasting enhances feelings of hunger, and induces an immune response that repairs cells and produces positive metabolic changes as reduced triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, blood pressure, weight, fat mass, blood sugar, as highlighted in a study published in 2015 in the journal The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.


What are the concerns regarding this

An understandable concern with this diet is that followers will overeat on non-fasting days to make up for the calories lost while fasting. However, studies have not shown this to be true compared to other weight loss methods.


Findings

A meta-analysis of 40 studies, published in 2015 in the journal Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology revealed that intermittent fasting was effective for weight loss over 10 weeks. There was great variability across the studies, varying in size from 4 to 334 participants, and follow-up from 2 to 104 weeks. Importantly, different study designs and intermittent fasting methods were used and participant characteristics differed (thin, overweight, obese). Half of the studies were controlled trials comparing the fasting group to a control group with continuous calorie restriction or usual lifestyle, the other half examining an intermittent fasting alone group.

The findings of the study show that dropout rates ranged from 0 to 65%. When comparing dropout rates between fasting and continuous calorie restriction groups, no significant differences were found. Overall, the review did not find that intermittent fasting had a low quit rate and therefore was not necessarily easier to follow than other weight loss approaches.


Which Intermittent fasting method is the best

The most popular methods that are studied regularly are mainly, 16/8 fasting, 24 hour fasting and 5:2 diet. By reducing calorie intake and with a healthy lifestyle, all of these methods can lead to weight loss.

The 16/8 method generally consists of skipping breakfast and limiting the daily meal period to 8 hours, for example from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Then, fasting takes place for 16 hours in between.

24-hour fasting involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week, such as not eating from dinner one day until dinner the next.

The 5:2 diet is a method of limiting meals to 500 or 700 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week, and eating normally on the other 5 days.

However, many practitioners find the 16/8 method to be the simplest, most durable, and easiest to follow. The ideal is to talk about it with health professionals (doctors, nutritionists, etc.) in order to best adapt the type of fast to the lifestyle and obligations.


What to eat when practicing intermittent fasting

intermittent fasting diets do not require specific menus. However, by adhering to good dietary principles, it is best to consume and avoid certain types of foods.

Generally, the foods recommended during intermittent fasting are similar to the Mediterranean diet (olive oil, fruit, raw vegetable salads, lean meats, fatty fish, etc.), which is particularly rich in antioxidants, polyphenols, omega 3, and fiber.

The main principles for following an intermittent fasting diet are to consume minimally processed foods most of the time, eat lean proteins, large amounts of vegetables and fruits, carbohydrates and healthy fats such as olive oil, etc.

Eating lean protein makes you feel full longer than eating other foods and helps maintain or build muscle mass. Sources of lean and healthy protein are primarily chicken breast, plain Greek yogurt, beans, peas, lentils, fish, shellfish, tofu, and tempeh.


How to practice 16:8 intermittent fasting?

Many questions arise when a person wants to practice intermittent fasting. Disrupting diet habits can have many physical and psychological impacts. For this reason, it is important to be advised by a health professional to set up the best typical program.

Depending on lifestyle, health history and professional constraints, it will be possible to adapt intermittent fasting in the best conditions.

The 16-hour intermittent fasting or 16/8 method seems to be close to a lifestyle of a large number of people in urban and active environments. A common 16/8 fasting schedule skips breakfast. Another way of the 8-hour daily meal time slot generally takes place between 12 p.m. and 8 p.m. or between 1 p.m. and 9 p.m. The goal is for the fast to respect the 16 hours of caloric restriction.



Why 16 hours of fasting work?

This works because 16/8 intermittent fasting involves only eating for an 8-hour window and fasting for the remaining 16 hours. This type of fasting is known to help promote weight loss and improve blood sugar levels, brain function and longevity. It requires having a healthy diet during the meal period and consuming calorie-free beverages such as unsweetened water, tea and coffee.


When you shouldn’t follow the intermittent fasting

Keep in mind that intermittent fasting is not for everyone. You must first consult a health professional.

Some people should avoid trying intermittent fasting, such as children and teens under 18, pregnant or breastfeeding women, people with diabetes or blood sugar issues, and those with a history of eating disorders.

It is vital to keep in mind that intermittent fasting can have different effects on different people, making it essential to speak with a doctor in order to monitor general health regularly.


Can you drink coffee during intermittent fasting

The health benefits of coffee are numerous, but this popular drink can also cause some problems depending on the amount, lifestyle and type of diet. Black coffee will not break the fast and can help with an energy boost.

However, drinking moderate amounts of very low or zero calorie beverages during a fasting window is unlikely to significantly compromise intermittent fasting.

Overall, drinking black coffee in moderation will not disrupt intermittent fasting, only if consumed black, without any added ingredients, and preferably before mid-afternoon.

In addition to adequate hydration provided by mineral water throughout the day, the active compounds in coffee can be allies for well-being just like tea.


Intermittent fasting for athletes

Intermittent fasting is widely famous as a weight loss trend. Because of this attention, it’s important to find out what intermittent fasting for athletes may mean to their health or muscle mass. Their bodies need a different intake of important nutrients, so it’s vital for scientists to understand how intermittent fasting can affect exercise performance.

Before the benefits of intermittent fasting for athletes can receive proper attention, it is necessary to understand why they might choose this diet, and further study. Current research emphasizes that intermittent fasting has notable benefits for athletes, but they should be careful when dieting.

According to current studies, not eating before high-intensity exercise, such as sprints, will likely also reduce training performance and, in turn, hamper performance in competition. It is also noticed that an intermittent fasting plan for athletes can hinder or limit their overall protein intake. In events where athletes compete while lacking in nutrients, physical performance will suffer. Accordingly, athletes are recommended to carefully plan their diet to maximize performance.

The importance of carbohydrate intake for athletes training for competition is an issue. In most intermittent fasting regimens, dieters cut out carbohydrate-rich foods to reduce their calorie intake on fasting days. Carbohydrates are important in an athlete’s diet, however, as they are broken down into energy to be burned during training and competitive performance, providing a real energy boost when needed.


Conclusion

There is good scientific evidence to suggest that intermittent fasting, along with a healthy diet and lifestyle, can be a particularly effective approach to weight loss, especially for people at risk for diabetes.

However, people with advanced diabetes or taking diabetes medications, people with a history of eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, and pregnant or breastfeeding women should not attempt to practice the intermittent fasting, except under the close supervision of a doctor who can monitor them.

Finally, the ways to use the scientific data of intermittent fasting for better health are mainly: avoid sugars and refined cereals, prefer more whole grains, raw salads, etc., let the body burn fats between meals, consume healthy fats such as olive oil, etc., do not snack on snacks, be active and practice daily physical exercise, build muscle tone and mass.

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