The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

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Intermittent fasting is different from dieting (which we DON’T recommend), since it does not control the food a dieting person would eat.

Instead, it sets a pattern of eating that helps people control their caloric intake without depriving themselves.

There are many strategies for intermittent fasting (IF), but why should you consider any of them?

Usually, fasts range from about 14 to 36 hours. Between fasting periods, you can eat anything you like (within reason). During fasting periods, you eat little or no calories at all.

Not eating? That sounds awful, huh?

Here’s a rundown of the advantages and techniques to decide for yourself…

Looking to speed up fat loss, boost digestive health, and improve brain function? Download the FREE Beginner’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting.

 

Why Do It?

The ultimate goal of intermittent fasting is not only to lose weight, but to target and reduce body fat specifically.

Fasting expert James Clear reports that the benefits of intermittent fasting include being “stronger, leaner, and more explosive.” However, people also adopt intermittent fasting for a variety of health reasons, including:

Lookin’ Hot

  • Speeds fat loss
  • Increases lean muscle mass
  • Builds strength

It’s Easier

  • Fewer meals to cook and prepare
  • Fewer rules: the number of meals you eat and calories you consume is irrelevant
  • IF is more about when you eat, not what you eat (depending on the strategy; see below), so there are fewer rules, meal plans, and (hopefully) feelings of failure

It Lengthens Lifespan

  • Boosts digestive health
  • Reduces LDL cholesterol levels
  • Improves body’s responsiveness to insulin, which better regulates blood sugar, leading to fewer cravings, mood swings, and drops in energy
  • Caloric restriction, in general, is surprisingly good for health. Fasting—which is not starvation, an important distinction—has also been shown to reduce the risk of cancer, and significantly lengthen lifespan

Kate_MorinStudies have also shown that decreasing calorie consumption by 30 to 40 percent (regardless of how it’s done) can extend life span by a third or more.
Kate Morin of  DailyBurn

It Improves Cognitive Function

  • Psychologically, intermittent fasting potentially reduces feelings of deprivation or restriction (which ultimately cause us to quit, or binge)
  • Because the body isn’t slowed down with digestion, IF increases focus and concentration. Anthony Mychal calls it, ‘”an ejaculation of creativity.”

Anthony_MychalAfter you get over the whiny, “Wahh I’m hungry, I can’t function,” phase, morning fasting is awesome. You’re alert. You’re energetic. You’re ready to get shit done.
Anthony Mychal

How It Works

Intermittent fasting works because it allows your body to enter a “fasted” state regularly. In this state, your body experiences low insulin levels, burning fat at a faster rate. Our bodies enter this fat-burning “fasting” phase about every 12 hours.

 

What Intermittent Fasting Is Not

IF is not a binge-purge cycle. It’s important to use fasting periods for cleansing and fat loss, and eating periods for refueling with high-quality foods.
Nia_ShanksToo many people use intermittent fasting as an excuse to gorge themselves or eat a ton of junk food. If you’re an individual who can’t help but overeat after a fast, then IF most likely isn’t for you.
Nia Shanks

The Different Strategies

There are many different approaches to intermittent fasting. Different techniques involve longer fasts, done once or twice a week, or more regular fasts, which are shorter, but performed daily. No one approach is better than another. It’s important to find which strategy works best for your own body.

 

Brad_PilonThe whole point of adopting intermittent fasting is to create a convenient and easy way to reduce calories.  I don’t care what method you’re using — if you notice something isn’t feeling right — stop and take a break.
Brad Pilon, Fasting – You’re Doing It Wrong

Daily

Fast begins at 10 p.m. at night and lasts until  2 p.m. the next afternoon.

The Leangains Method involves eight hours of eating and 16 hours of fasting. Coffee, tea, and sugar-free drinks are allowed during the fast.

Strategic post-workout meals and rest day nutrition are paramount (making this approach a little rule-heavy, but convincingly effective).

The BulletProof Method is similar to Leangains, but is a few hours longer, and allows for some delicious butter coffee in the morning.

The breakdown looks like this: 8 a.m.: Drink Bulletproof Coffee. 2:00 p.m.: Break the fast with foods from the Bulletproof Diet. 8:00 p.m.: Eat your last meal before beginning the fast.

24-Hour Fast, Weekly

Brad Pilon’s Eat Stop Eat approach uses a weekly 24-hour fast to reduce overall calorie intake, which he claims speeds fat loss, without limiting what you’re able to eat.

This period of 24 hours of fasting once a week, starts from lunchtime on one day to lunchtime on the next, so fasters can still consume food on every day of the calendar week.

Every-Other-Day

This plan alternates 24 hours of eating followed by 24 hours of fasting.

The Alternate-Day Diet approach switches between one “down” day (where you consume only 400-500 calories) followed by a normal eating day (return to your regular ~2,000 calorie diet).

Important factors:

Ensure that you eat large meals during the times you can eat so that your body gets enough fuel to function during the fasting periods.

Eat nutrient-dense foods so that you get adequate vitamins and minerals in your diet.

Avoid processed, nutrient-devoid foods such as simple carbohydrates to avoid adding calories that don’t deliver nourishment.

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It’s Not For Everyone

Again, it’s important to listen to your body. Intermittent fasting is different for every individual—so although IF has a number of benefits, it also has some drawbacks to consider.

  • If you have any medical conditions, special dietary requirements, or chronic diseases, it’s best to consult a doctor to determine whether you can meet all your dietary needs with IF.
  • When people first transition to intermittent fasting, they often feel sluggish or have low energy, taking that mid-afternoon slump to another level.
  • Some people struggle with not eating for extended periods of time, resulting in headaches, fatigue, mood swings, or anxiety. (Note: most people do experience some of these symptoms at first as the body adjusts to new meal patterns…but if they persist, it’s a red flag.)
  • Long periods of calorie restriction could lead to binge eating. Especially for those with a history of eating disorders, the IF eating pattern could be especially disruptive.
  • Regular intermittent fasting has been shown to cause decreased performance in serious athletes, often in those who are not consuming enough calories to sustain their performance.

The Bottom Line

Intermittent fasting is an interesting tool with great potential health benefits. If you’re looking to try IF, remember to tailor a program to your body’s needs.
And most importantly, don’t use it as an excuse to eat crap. Eat delicious, nourishing foods during non-fasting periods, and you’re sure to see the benefits.

 

Have you tried IF? Let us know your experience and any advice in the comments below!
Sources: Anthony MychalJames ClearDaily BurnNerd Fitness, Shape Your Energy, Lifehacker

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