What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern where you cycle between periods of eating and not eating. It’s not a diet that says “eat this, not that”, but rather you don’t eat any food for a certain length of time – usually 16-24 hours.
There are a number of different types of intermittent fasting (highlighted below), but they all serve the same purpose—to allow your body time without food to spend more of its energy on internal healing and repair—something that cannot happen when you’re constantly in a fed state.
Who is Intermittent Fasting For?
Based on the numerous benefits you’re about to discover, intermittent fasting is really meant for anyone who is serious about improving their health and perhaps losing weight without overhauling their diet.
Technically, you don’t need to change anything about your diet to benefit from intermittent fasting, which makes it very appealing to many people.
Intermittent fasting is also for those who want that extra edge to burning fat while maintaining their muscle (shouldn’t we all?).
It’s completely safe to do and provides enormous benefits so it’s really just a matter of committing to it, trying it out, and seeing if it’s something you want to do regularly.
What Are Some of Its Benefits?
There are literally dozens of benefits! If you’re wondering how to do intermittent fasting to get the most bang for your buck, check out some of these incredible benefits – all backed by science:
#1 Increased Life Expectancy
Studies on animals are being done by Dr. Mark Mattson and colleagues at the National Institute on Aging. The findings from these studies suggest that animals age slower and live longer when they consume fewer calories. The research is showing that this effect can be achieved by eating less each day, or by fasting on intermittent days.
#2 Improved Hormone Profile
When fasted, we get significant reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels, as well as a drastic increase in human growth hormone. These all favorable for losing weight, maintaining muscle, and reducing our risk of insulin resistance, diabetes and heart disease.
#3 Faster Weight Loss
Most people want to know how to do intermittent fasting because they’ve heard it’s a safe and effective way for losing weight. And they would be correct.
Many studies have shown that both overweight and obese subjects burn more fat and lose weight with intermittent fasting.
Here are a number of other documented benefits of intermittent fasting:
- Maintenance of skeletal muscle mass
- Decreased blood glucose levels
- Decreased insulin levels and increased insulin sensitivity
- Increased lipolysis (breakdown of fats) and fat oxidation
- Increased uncoupling protein-3 mRNA(important for the production of energy inside the cell)
- Increased norepinephrine and epinephrine levels, which increases fat breakdown
- Increased glucagon levels, which breaks down fat
- Increased growth hormone levels, which preserves muscle mass
Why is It Effective?
A 2014 review of the literature showed intermittent fasting’s powers come from its impact on adaptive cellular responses that reduce oxidative damage and inflammation, optimize energy metabolism, and improve cellular production.
The review showed that in rodents, intermittent fasting was able to protect against diabetes, cancers, heart disease and neurodegeneration, while in humans it helps reduce obesity, hypertension, asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis.
An earlier study conducted in 2005 published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistryrevealed that the beneficial effects of intermittent fasting result from at least two mechanisms: reduced oxidative damage and increased cellular stress resistance.
Basically, that means that it helps your body deal with stress, which includes being able to better cope with fasting (which is a form of stress) itself.
Fasting also triggers the process of autophagy, which breaks down and recycles dysfunctional proteins and cellular debris.
This is similar to taking out the trash and cleaning up around the house – a process you’d hope would be taking place in your body on a frequent basis.
Hopefully, this gives you a better understanding of how intermittent works its magic inside your body.
Is Intermittent Fasting Safe for Women?
Ah, I’ve saved the best for last.
This is the biggest area of controversy when it comes to how to do intermittent fasting.
Those who caution women against intermittent fasting state that studies show that it negatively impacts fertility. And that’s true.
Unfortunately, what most of these people fail to realize is that ALL of these studies use “alternate day” fasting protocols where women are literally eating nothing every other day!
No wonder their hormones get messed up and have fertility issues.
Remember, I’m advising a 1 day fast– once per week – which is much, much safer and I’ve yet to see any negative effects in the thousands of women that I’ve helped with intermittent fasting.
There is some research that looked at the effect of short-term fasting on the menstrual cycle of women.
These research studies found that despite the metabolic changes that occur during fasting, even fasts as long as 72 hours do not seem to have an effect on the menstrual cycle of normal cycling women.
Interestingly, even longer fasts have been shown to have little impact on the menstrual cycle of normal weight women.
There is research, however, to suggest that longer fasts (72 hours) can affect the menstrual cycle of exceptionally lean women (body fat levels well below 20%).
Overall, there’s a lot of research (even some of the “alternate day” studies) that show intermittent fasting to be safe, healthy, and effective at burning fat in women of all shapes and sizes.
But again, we’re not going crazy with this and only fasting for no longer than 24 hours.
Nonetheless, for woman my advice would be to inch yourself into it so that you’re fasting for 8-10 hours at a time (starting with your last meal the night before). Then gradually increase that length of time as you see fit and follow a few other points.
- Don’t fast on consecutive days
- Don’t go longer than 12 or 13 hours when fasting (in the beginning)
- Don’t fast when you’re menstruating
- During your non-fasting hours, eat like a woman according to your shifting hormonal needs. (This is critical. As your hormone needs change during the month, so do your nutritional needs)
- Do not do strenuous exercise on Fast Days.
- And if your symptoms get worse, or if you start experiencing new symptoms, stop intermittent fasting right away.
- You can do this. The science of your body is on your side!