What is intermittent fasting?Intermittent fasting is an umbrella term that covers various meal timing schedules. It means you're restricting your eating to a specific period each day. Intermittent fasting can be as simple as not eating anything after dinner and skipping breakfast the following day.
The most popular intermittent fasting methods include:
- The 16/8 plan, where you don't eat for 16 hours of the day and eat during the other eight hours.
- 5:2 intermittent fasting, where you eat 500–600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week but eat normally the other five days.
- One meal a day (OMAD), where you have one meal that brings you to your daily calorie needs.
Fasting every other day can reduce the risk of diabetes and obesity.One study found that fasting every other day helped prevent obesity and reduced the risk of developing diabetes in obese rats. The rodents were healthier overall, with lower blood sugar levels and less fat build-up in the liver and muscle tissue.
In human studies, similar results have been observed. People who fasted every other day for 22 days had a significant improvement in their insulin sensitivity, which reduces their risk of type 2 diabetes. Additionally, they significantly decreased their body weight without losing lean muscle mass—a significant finding because many people on diets tend to lose some muscle along with body fat.
When it comes to intermittent fasting, there are two main types: daily time-restricted feeding and alternate-day modified fasting. In daily time-restricted feeding (TRF), you limit yourself from eating during certain hours of the day (usually 8–12 hours). With alternate-day modified fasting (ADMF), you consume only one small meal or about 20% of your total calories for a particular day (usually 500–600). It's important to note that ADMF does not involve starving yourself on fasting days: instead, you need to eat enough food so that your body doesn't go into starvation mode, in which it might actually begin storing fat instead of burning it off!
Intermittent fasting increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).
Intermittent fasting has been shown to increase the brain's level of BDNF, a protein that protects the brain and helps maintain brain cells. The positive effects of BDNF on the brain are significant in the aging process. It's also found at lower levels in people who have depression and Alzheimer's disease.
Studies show that IF can increase BDNF by 50 to 400 percent. This is excellent news for your brain! A higher level of BDNF may protect it against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS), stroke, and even traumatic brain injuries such as concussions.
Fasting stimulates anti-aging hormones.
One of the key benefits of fasting is stimulating the production and release of Human Growth Hormone (HGH). This hormone is secreted by the pituitary gland in your brain.
HGH helps to regulate our metabolism, heart function, muscle growth, fat distribution, and more. Higher levels of HGH have been linked with anti-aging benefits such as increased lean muscle mass, improved skin thickness and elasticity, better exercise performance, and even weight loss! As you age, your HGH levels start to drop rapidly around the age of 30-40.
Scientific research shows that both fasting and exercise can help to increase growth hormone levels. One study showed that after a 24-hour fast combined with an intense workout session, there was a 2000% increase in GH levels! Many intermittent fasters who also exercise regularly report even more noticeable health improvements when combining both habits.
Intermittent fasting targets belly fat.
If you're obese or have a chronic disease, it may not be wise to start intermittent fasting without talking to your doctor. When the body metabolizes fat for energy, it produces ketones, which are toxic at high levels. People with diabetes and pregnant women are especially susceptible to dangers related to high ketone levels. If you are underweight or have eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, you should also avoid intermittent fasting.
That said, it's easy to see why so many people have started intermittent fasting! It's been linked with weight loss, increased insulin sensitivity, lower blood pressure, and improved cardiovascular health.
Intermittent Fasting Targets Belly Fat
Belly fat tends to be more than just a cosmetic concern—it can also indicate metabolic dysfunction. In addition to the usual suspects like a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy diet, other factors that contribute to belly fat include:
- Hormonal stress
- Cortisol imbalance
Intermittent fasting can help your body, including reducing your risk for many common diseases.There are many health benefits to intermittent fasting, including:
- Helping you lose weight and belly fat
- Reducing insulin resistance, lowering blood sugar levels, and improving type 2 diabetes
- Lowering triglyceride levels
- Reducing inflammation and oxidative stress in your body
There's really not much to it, you don't need to buy anything (actually less), you don't need to go anywhere, or wear anything special. It comes down to self-discipline and scheduling, so maybe give it a go!