Fasting is nothing new to humans since we know it's been practiced by many long-lived cultures for centuries.
Our bodies actually innately understand and respond to fasting and people are waking up to its incredible benefits for longevity and healing.
However, one of the newer realisations about fasting is how it can be used intermittently as a general lifestyle principle.
Intermittent fasting can be very powerful for not only reducing inflammation in the body, recycling cells and boosting energy, but also it is very effective as a tool for weight loss and sustainable weight management.
In his book, "The Obesity Code" Dr. Jason Fung explains why the root cause of obesity is the overproduction of insulin in the body. Intermittent Fasting is one of the best ways to manage this problem because it breaks the cycle of insulin resistance, which is one of the biggest keys in finding your perfect body weight for good.
The best part of all is that intermittent fasting can be intertwined quite easily into your current lifestyle without disrupting your normal routine.
Here we focus specifically on the benefits of intermittent fasting as a weight loss tool, with additional wonderful benefits, if you choose to embrace it as part of your self care routine.
What Is Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is a method of cycling your eating and fasting within a 24 hour clock.
We naturally 'fast' when we are asleep, however intermittent fasting involves extending the fasting window into the daily hours so that the body spends even more time in this 'fasted' state to receive a variety of health benefits.
A common method of intermittent fasting is the 16:8 method, which involves fasting for 16 hours and compressing the food consumption window into only 8 hours. For example: Eat between 10am & 6pm and Fast between 6pm & 10am.
Of course, you can experiment with different windows of time to suit your lifestyle and weight loss goals, however the basic premise of intermittent fasting remains the same - the health benefits really activate and kick into overdrive when you're in the 'fasted' state!
Now, let's take a look at some of the main benefits of intermittent fasting as a weight loss or weight management protocol.
1. Reduces Belly Fat
One of the most compelling reasons to try intermittent fasting is because of its ability to reduce belly fat relatively quickly.
Intermittent fasting has been shown to stimulate weight loss because it reduces insulin, making it easy for your body to tap directly into your fat stores for energy.
Not only that, any type of fasting kicks up Human Growth Hormone (HGH), helping your body to utilise fat as a fuel source and promoting muscle growth.
Belly fat can be a precursor to a number of dangerous health conditions, such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, so taking measures to reduce it is important.
Intermittent fasting also reduces inflammation and lowers blood sugar, which is often one of the many health complaints and common diseases.
2. Easier to Manage
Whilst intermittent fasting is mostly practiced for a different purpose, it is generally a lot easier to manage than a prolonged or extended fast. The main reason for this is because it simply involves reducing your eating or consumption 'window' within any given 24 hour period, rather than avoiding food altogether.
In other words, unlike an extended fast where you abstain from food completely, an intermittent fast just reduces the number of hours in which you're allowed to eat on any given day.
When you take into account a normal 6-8 hours of sleep where the body is already fasting, it's quite simple to add the extra few hours required either before you go to bed or when you wake up to get the benefits of intermittent fasting.
To achieve this simply requires making a conscious decision to either "eat breakfast later" or to "eat dinner earlier" (or a combination of both) on the days when you choose to intermittently fast.
The main premise behind intermittent fasting is that by giving your body more time without food, you deplete insulin levels in the body, thereby causing the liver to release "ketones" or stored fat as fuel.
Not only that, when you practice intermittent fasting you boost your body's metabolic flexibility, meaning it becomes much more efficient at burning "sugar" (the body's normal primary fuel source) over the longer term.
These two factors are the main secrets as to why intermittent fasting is such a powerful weight loss and weight management tool, particularly when it is combined with a healthy, whole food diet and moderate exercise routine.
3. More Sustainable
As already highlighted, the great thing about intermittent fasting is that you don't have to go an entire day without food, which makes it easy to accomplish and more sustainable over time.
Most people struggle with just the thought of skipping one meal, let alone going without food for an entire day or two or three. However with intermittent fasting, you still get to eat your favourite food - you just need to do it within your consumption window.
The best way to gradually introduce intermittent fasting, is to start by eating dinner 1 hour earlier and your breakfast 1 hour later the next day. This will automatically add 2 hours to your fasting window on top of your night's sleep.
And whilst this doesn't sound like much, there are benefits to be gained because your body will be encouraged to begin using fat as fuel, which is where the weight loss benefits start to kick in.
Optimally, many fasting experts suggest that 16 hours of fasting is the pinnacle when it comes to weight loss benefits. However it is also widely acknowledged that any extension to your normal fasting window over and above what your body is currently used to, will still be beneficial even if it takes you some time to work up to the optimal level.
Intermittent Fasting is sustainable also because you tend to notice results relatively quickly. These include, improvements to your sleep patterns, digestive function, concentration levels and even changes to your body composition.
When you notice these benefits, you'll be encouraged to make intermittent fasting an ongoing part of your self care routine, even if you decide to practice it for just 2 or 3 days per week.
4. Better Food Choices
One of the other major benefits of intermittent fasting is that it can help to rewire your tastebuds and correct unhealthy eating habits.
When your body is in a 'fasted' state it undergoes a process known as "autophagy", whereby your cells begin to recycle themselves and clean up damaged proteins.
When this occurs, your cellular nutrient absorption greatly improves, meaning you will begin to crave less of the foods that made you store fat in the first place.
Additionally, your body and tastebuds will naturally adapt to eating less food / consuming less calories, because it will be more satiated and nourished. This is one of the major long term benefits that can cause you to maintain a healthy weight even if you go for periods of time where you're no longer intermittent fasting.
5. No Side-Effects
With many diets, particularly those that involve calorie restriction, there are concerns that muscle mass will be depleted or metabolic rate will be slowed.
However, many studies have proven that when it comes to Intermittent Fasting, the opposite is true.
Interestingly, intermittent fasting actually boosts metabolic rate, because your body is is not locked into the same routine for days, weeks, months and years on end i.e. 3 square meals, at the same time each day, on repeat.
Remember, with intermittent fasting you actually train your body to become more metabolically flexible, meaning it becomes very adept at switching between sugar and fat for fuel. When you eat and glucose is in the blood stream, your body will burn sugar and store fat. When you're in our fasting window and glucose is absent, your body will tap into your fat stores.
In other words, intermittent fasting breaks the mould when it comes to dieting, because it is more about metabolic training than it is about reducing calories or substituting different types of foods. In fact, even if you eat the same amount of calories per day but inside a compressed eating window, you will receive weight loss benefits.
What To Eat & Drink To Aid Your Fast
To get the maximum weight loss benefits from intermittent fasting, it's important to eat a wholesome diet with minimal processed food. Eat a variety of seasonal fresh produce and prepare your own meals whenever you can.
It's a good idea to break your fast with foods that are light on your digestive system, such as smoothies, yogurt and fresh fruits before moving onto the heavier more concentrated foods as you move through the day.
Some of the best foods to have on hand during your eating window include raw macadamia nuts, almonds, bananas and raw dates for snacks. At meal time, be sure to include plenty of leafy greens, raw salads and/or steamed vegetables with your main meal whenever you can. Be sure to include good fats such as avocados and extra virgin olive oil into your meal preparations often as well.
When you rise, start your day with lemon water with a sprinkle of sea salt or just drink a half litre of clean filtered water before doing some light stretching or exercise. Feel free to drink organic black coffee or herbal tea also as this will not break your fast, and coffee in particular, suppresses the hunger hormone known as Ghrelin, which will help you to extend your fasting window for longer until it's time to eat your first meal.
The Main Take Away
Intermittent Fasting is a powerful tool for weight loss and healthy weight management because it trains your body to burn fat as fuel.
Unfortunately, most people struggle with their weight because they are constantly in a 'fed' state, meaning that they are insulin resistant, which is the root cause of obesity and weight gain in general.
Intermittent fasting creates a new paradigm because it builds metabolic flexibility which allows your body to become efficient at utilising stored fat as a fuel source.
If you want to manage your weight effectively over the long term, consider adopting intermittent fasting into your self care routine. Not only will you notice a significant difference to your concentration, sleep patterns and energy levels, you'll also see how beneficial it can be as a weight management tool as part of your healthy lifestyle.
You can learn more about intermittent fasting in our blog: Intermittent Fasting: Health Benefits and How-To’s.
Tolman Self Care.