Intermittent fasting has been gaining in popularity in recent years as a way to promote weight loss and improve overall health. Due to its popularity, you may be wondering – is this a gimmick or trend? The answer is: no. Intermittent fasting is rooted in science, and it works. Let me explain.
Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating that involves alternating periods of fasting with periods of eating. There are several approaches to intermittent fasting, but all involve restricting food intake for a certain period of time. One of the most common forms of intermittent fasting is the 16/8 method, which involves fasting for 16 hours and eating during an 8-hour window. You can start with a smaller fasting period and work your way up. For example, if you are used to snacking or eating several small meals, I recommend beginning with 12 hours and working up to 14 hours, before getting to 16 hours. And if 16 becomes easy for you, it’s perfectly fine to go to 17 or 18 as well. Do what works for you.
There are several health benefits of intermittent fasting, including the following:
During periods of fasting, the body goes into a state of ketosis, where it starts to use stored fat for energy instead of glucose from food.
Most people, especially if eating a ‘typical’ American diet, experience numerous glucose spikes throughout the day. When you consume too much glucose, your body may convert it into fat and store it in your adipose tissue – or the fat around your belly – leading to weight gain. Consuming too much glucose on a regular basis can increase your risk of developing health problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Intermittent fasting is one way to prevent glucose spikes, however you also need to maintain a diet that supports glucose regulation, while providing your body with the vitamins and nutrients it needs for good health. The best approach is to consume glucose in moderation as part of a balanced diet, and to exercise regularly to help your body utilize glucose efficiently.
Intermittent fasting is a dietary approach that involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting. One of the ways it contributes to ketosis, a metabolic state where the body utilizes fat for energy instead of carbohydrates, is through its influence on insulin levels. When you fast, especially for extended periods, insulin levels drop, leading to a decrease in blood sugar levels. As a result, the body goes into a scarcity or scared state and starts breaking down stored glycogen in the liver into glucose to maintain energy levels. Once these glycogen reserves are depleted, the body turns to an alternative energy source: fat. This prompts the liver to produce molecules called ketones from the breakdown of fatty acids. These ketones then become a primary fuel source for the body, inducing a state of ketosis. By consistently entering ketosis during intermittent fasting, individuals can experience enhanced fat burning, reduced appetite, and improved weight loss outcomes. Although ketosis occurs at different times in different people, it generally starts after 13-15 hours of not eating carbohydrates (or eating nothing but water. This is why we encourage more than 16 hour fasts (like 20 hour fasts) so that we can get you into ketosis for a longer amount of time. Which leads us to another process: autophagy.
Intermittent fasting has been linked to a fascinating cellular process known as autophagy, which translates to “self-eating” in Greek. During periods of fasting, when the body isn’t receiving a constant influx of nutrients, cells activate autophagy as a survival mechanism. This process involves the removal and recycling of damaged or dysfunctional cellular components, such as proteins and organelles, to generate energy and maintain cellular health. By promoting autophagy, intermittent fasting helps rid the body of these worn-out components and supports cellular rejuvenation. This can have numerous health benefits, including improved immune function, reduced inflammation, and potentially even a decreased risk of certain chronic diseases. While more research is needed to fully understand the extent of its effects, the connection between intermittent fasting and autophagy highlights the intricate ways in which our bodies adapt and optimize their functions in response to changes in nutrient availability.
I highly recommend intermittent fasting for most patients. Forget what your mother told you about breakfast being the most important meal of the day. Did you know that this slogan, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” was a marketing slogan for breakfast cereal? Modern diets have our bodies on glucose overload. Fasting periods allow for recovery and help prevent excess glucose from being stored, which can lead to weight problems, fatty liver disease and other health concerns. Can’t live without your breakfast? Go ahead and try skipping dinner.
Just give your body a fasting period to recover however it works best for you.