Intermittent fasting: how it works and health benefits
Intermittent fasting is, simply put, cycling between periods when you eat and periods when you fast. It is currently a very popular method for losing weight and improving health.
But fasting is nothing new. In fact, intermittent fasting is an ancient health secret. It is ancient because it has been done throughout the history of mankind. And it is secret because until recently this custom has been practically forgotten, especially with regard to health.
However, many people are rediscovering this dietary intervention. Since 2010 the number of searches online for “intermittent fasting” has increased by about 10,000 percent, and most of this increase has occurred in recent years.
Done correctly, fasting has the potential to deliver important health benefits: weight loss, correction of type 2 diabetes, and much more. Plus, it can save you time and money.
The goal of this beginner’s guide is to help you learn everything you need to know about intermittent fasting so that you can start putting it into practice.
What is intermittent fasting?
Is fasting the same as starvation, or starving?
No, fasting differs from starvation in one crucial respect: control. Starvation is the involuntary lack of food for a long period of time, which can lead to serious suffering or even death. It is neither intended nor controlled.
Fasting, on the other hand, is voluntarily postponing food intake for religious, health, or other reasons. It is carried out by people who are not underweight and therefore have enough stored fat to live on it. Intermittent fasting, if done the right way, shouldn’t cause suffering, and it definitely doesn’t cause death.
You have easy access to food, but you decide not to eat. The fast can be of any length, from a few hours to days or — with medical supervision — up to a week or more. It is possible to start fast at any time, and you can also stop it whenever you want. A fast can be started or ended for any or no reason.
The fasting period does not have a standard duration, as it is simply not eating. Anytime you don’t eat, you are fasting. For example, you can fast between dinner and breakfast the next day, an interval of approximately 12-14 hours. In this sense, fasting can be considered part of everyday life.]
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It is perhaps the oldest and most effective nutritional intervention imaginable.
Let’s look at the term “breakfast.” It is made up of the Latin prefix des-, which means reverse action or “exit from,” plus the verb “fast”, which means to abstain from eating. Every day, the first time we eat something, we break the fast, we break. Rather than hinting at some kind of cruel and unusual punishment, the language implicitly confirms that fasting should be done daily, even for a short period.
Intermittent fasting, then, is nothing strange or peculiar, but part of everyday life. It is perhaps the oldest and most effective nutritional intervention imaginable. But for some reason, we have forgotten its formidable effectiveness and ignored its therapeutic possibilities.
Learning to fast correctly gives us the option of putting it into practice or not.
Lose weight with intermittent fasting
Basically, fasting allows the body to use stored energy; for example, burning excess body fat.
It is important to know that this is normal and that humans have evolved to be able to fast for short periods – hours or days – without suffering adverse health effects. eleven body fat is just stored food energy. If you don’t eat, the body will simply “eat” its own fat for energy.
Life is a matter of balance. The good and bad; yin and yang. The same can be said about eating and fasting. Fasting is just the opposite side of eating. If you are not eating, you are fasting. Is that how it works:
Eating takes in more food energy than we can use immediately. Part of this energy has to be stored to be used later. Insulin is the main hormone involved in storing food energy.
Insulin increases when we eat, helping us store excess energy in two different ways. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose (sugar) units, which can then be joined into long chains, called glycogen, which are then stored in the liver or muscles.
However, storage space is limited, and once it is full, the liver begins to convert excess glucose into fat. This process is called de novo lipogenesis (which literally means “creating fat again”).
Some of the newly created fat is stored in the liver, but most of it is transferred to other fat stores in the body. Although this is a more complex process, the amount of fat that can be created is limitless.
So there are two complementary dietary energy storage systems in the body. One is very easy to access but has limited storage capacity (glycogen), and the other is more difficult to access, but has unlimited storage capacity (body fat).
The process works in reverse when we don’t eat (intermittent fasting). The level of insulin drops, signaling the body to start burning stored energy since it does not receive more from food. Blood glucose drops, and the body has to extract glucose from the store to burn it for energy.
Glycogen is the most easily accessible source of energy. It breaks down into glucose molecules to provide energy for other cells. In this way, enough energy can be supplied to the body for 24-36 hours. Afterward, the body begins to break down fat to use for energy.
So the body can only be in two states: in absorption state (high insulin) and fasting (low insulin). Either we are storing food energy or we are burning it. It’s one thing or another. If there is a balance between eating and fasting, there is no net weight gain.
If we start eating as soon as we get up and do not stop until we go to sleep, we spend most of our time in the absorbed state. Over time, we will get fat, because we have not left any time for the body to burn the stored energy.
To restore balance or lose weight, we only need to increase the interval in which we spend burning stored food energy. That is intermittent fasting.
Basically, fasting allows the body to use stored energy. After all, that’s what it’s for. What you have to understand is that there is nothing wrong: this is how the body is designed. It is what dogs, cats, lions, and bears do, and also what humans do.
If you eat consistently, every three hours, as is often recommended, the body will simply use the energy from the food that comes in. You may not need to burn a lot of body fat, if at all. It will just store it. The body saves it for when there is nothing to eat.
If this happens it is because you lack balance. You lack intermittent fasting.
Health benefits of intermittent fasting
The most obvious benefit of fasting is weight loss. However, it has multiple benefits, many of which were well known in ancient times.
Periods of fasting were often referred to as “cleanses,” “detoxes,” or “cleanses,” but the idea is the same: abstain from food for a specified period of time, usually for health reasons. People thought that this period of abstinence from food would cleanse the body’s systems of toxins and rejuvenate them. And they seem to have been more right than they thought.
Some of the known physical benefits of intermittent fasting are: twenty
- Weight loss and body
- Increased fat burning
- Greater fat burning
- Decreased levels of insulin and blood sugar
- Possible correction of type 2 diabetes
- Possible to improve alertness and concentration
- Possible increase in energy
- Possible increase in growth hormone, at least in the short term
- Possible decrease in blood cholesterol (link in English)
- Possible lengthening of life
- Possible activation of cell cleansing by stimulating autophagy
- Possible reduction of inflammation
In addition, fasting offers many unique benefits that typical diets do not have.
While dieting complicates life, fasting could simplify it; while diets are expensive, fasting is free; While diets take time away, fasting saves it; while the diets are limited in relation to the availability, fasting can be done anywhere. And, as we talked about before, fasting is a method that can be very powerful in reducing insulin and body weight.
Short fasts (less than 24 hours)
Fasting provides quite a bit of flexibility. You can fast for as long as you like, but fasts that last longer than a couple of days may require medical supervision. Here are some popular fasting regimens. Shorter fasts are usually done more frequently.
This form of intermittent fasting involves fasting, daily, for 16 hours. This is also sometimes called the 8-hour feeding window, or the 8-hour feeding window. All meals are eaten for a period of 8 hours, fasting for the remaining 16 hours. It is usually done daily, or almost daily.
For example, you can eat all meals between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Typically this means skipping breakfast, although some people prefer to skip dinner instead. It is usually eaten two or three times during this 8-hour interval.
It is a 4-hour feeding interval and a 20 hour fast. For example, you can eat between 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. each day and fast for the remaining 20 hours. This usually involves eating one or two small meals during this time interval.
Long fasts (24 or more hours)
This entails fasting from dinner to dinner (or from lunch to lunch). You eat dinner the first day, skip breakfast and lunch the next day, and go back to dinner the second day. This means that you eat daily, but only once during that day. It is normally done two or three times a week.
Fasting 5: 2
This is the version of intermittent fasting that has the most scientific support, as most studies on intermittent fasting have used similar practices. Dr. Michael Mosley popularized this variant in his book The Fast Diet.
It involves eating normally for 5 days and fasting for 2 days. However, during fasting days you are allowed to eat 500 calories. These calories can be consumed at any time, whether spread throughout the day or in a single meal.
Fasting on alternate days
Another approach similar to 5: 2 fasting is to have “fast” days in which you consume 500 calories, but instead of doing it just twice a week, you do it on a yes and no on a day.
You fast for a whole day. For example, if you eat dinner on the first day, you fast for the entire second day and don’t eat again until breakfast on the third day. This is normally a 36 hour fast. This could provide further weight loss benefits, and could prevent the temptation to eat too much on the second day.
The first rule to keep in mind before doing longer fasts is to check with your doctor to make sure that you are not at any risk of suffering any complications. Usually, for fasts that last longer than 48 hours, we recommend taking a multivitamin to avoid micronutrient deficiencies. The world record for fasting is 382 days (which we don’t recommend!), So there is no doubt that a 7-14 day fast is possible.
We advise against fasting for more than 14 days, due to the high risk of refeeding syndrome. This is a change in fluids and minerals that may occur when food is reintroduced after a prolonged fast.