By Ryan Abdullah
Have you ever heard of intermittent fasting? Could you ever imagine that not eating breakfast could bring you untold health benefits? Well, chances are you never came across intermittent fasting. Trust me, I guarantee you are missing out if you are unaware of it. By the end of this article, I am certain you will understand what intermittent fasting is and why it is so popular.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting, (also called periodic fasting PF) is a type of eating pattern used by professionals and beginners all over the world to reduce fat percentage, increase growth hormone concentration in the body and simply spend less time cooking. Contrary to popular belief, intermittent fasting is not a diet but is just an efficient way to allocate timings (windows) to feed your body.
The intermittent fasting methods we will discuss involve the fasting of food and not water. There are many different ways you can actually perform intermittent fasting; these include: fasting for a full day (24 hours) once or twice per week and then eating as you would normally do on the other days, (if you are fasting for a full day twice a week, make sure you do not fast on consecutive days) fasting on daily basis for 14-16 hours, leaving an eating window of 8 – 10 hours or even fasting 20 hours per day and eating one big meal after the fasting period. These methods will allow you to achieve great health benefits that will be outlined later on. It is recommended for both convenience and performance reasons to train just before the eating window thus breaking your fast immediately after your workout.
Before introducing you to PF’s benefits, I would like to make sure that the right people are carrying out PF in the correct way, to eliminate health complications. Under these programs of intermittent fasting, water can be drunk at all times and I strongly recommend you to drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration and fatigue. I do not recommend intermittent fasting if you have or had issues concerning blood sugar management such as diabetes, Cushing’s disease and hypoglycemia. Intermittent fasting does unfortunately cause some people to get fatigued especially if they are new to it. I therefore recommend you not to endure with intermittent fasting every day to prevent you from getting tired, underperforming when training and reducing your muscle growth. I also do not recommend enduring intermittent fasting if you are over the age of 50 or if your body is still developing physically (children and teenagers) to prevent any potential growth side effects.
Advantages of Intermittent Fasting
Now moving on to the advantages, one of PF’s best advantages is the fact that you will dramatically boost fat burning throughout your body. This is because when you eat food, your body spends a couple of hours changing the food into simpler nutritional units such as amino acids and simple sugars. Therefore when you are in a normal eating schedule, your body will actually use the food you ate throughout the day or the past hours to provide itself with energy and other required nutrients and vitamins.
However, if you are in a fasted state, your body will not have the option to use food as an energy source and will be forced to use the fat storage around your body (including stubborn visceral fat) to provide your muscles and other parts of your body with the required energy. This will lead to a drop in your body fat percentage.
Another great advantage of PF is that your body’s sensitivity to insulin will increase radically after a period of fasting. This effect is attained due to the depletion of your glycogen storage. (Glycogen is produced in the body after the consumption of starch and is stored throughout the body and especially in the liver to provide energy to your body.) Your glycogen storage often gets depleted (emptied) as you sleep and is replenished after a meal. Nevertheless, as you are fasting, your glycogen storage will not fill up until you take your next meal and, as you will be fasting for at least 14 hours, your body will then efficiently manage glycogen storage and will reduce food being converted to fat.
Yes, it is not a myth; PF does significantly improve growth hormone production and concentration in the body. Although we are not entirely sure how, studies based in the USA have concluded that growth hormone production can increase up to 2000% in men when in a fasted state. If you combine the increased insulin sensitivity and increase in growth hormones, you practically create a fat loosing muscle-building machine.
Intermittent fasting is really worth it, especially because it reduces risks of breast, colorectal and prostate cancer. This is due to low levels of IGF-1 (somatomedin C). IGF-1 is produced in the liver and is an insulin related growth factor. High levels of IGF-1 have been proved to stimulate cancers and other diseases.
Intermittent fasting has been proved to reduce systolic blood pressure by 10% and due to the fact that you do not have to cook as often, it makes a fantastic travel strategy especially if you are constantly travelling for long periods of time.
Intermittent fasting has been proven to slow down ageing, increase the body’s capacity to resist stress and reduce triglyceride levels due to improved cellular stress response that is built as you are in a fasted state.
Intermittent fasting as you have seen has many advantages although as you could have imagined, it is not reasonable to perform intermittent fasting everyday as it can be quite stressful on the body and can, as already mentioned, cause fatigue and reduce motivation. Intermittent fasting has different results on everyone; some people love it and experience great benefits whilst other people say the benefits do not always outweigh the negatives, but this depends on your body and genetics. As a conclusion, it is worth trying intermittent fasting and seeing how it goes.