This article was updated on August 7, 2021.
Most people associate fasting with quick weight loss. It’s true, when done correctly, not eating for issued periods of time contributes to a speedy decrease in one’s waistline but the benefits are much more kaleidoscopic than people know. However, research shows that the benefits of intermittent fasting are numerous.
What happens when we fast
When we fast intermittently, our bodies release a hormone called ghrelin. Although the little agent is primarily released by the stomach, it stimulates a psychological desire in mammals to work harder.
In a study published by the Journal of Endocrinology, it was determined that intermittent fasting encouraged the recruited participants to exercise more regularly by reason of increased amounts of ghrelin in their system in addition to lowering their body mass indexes.
When you commit to an extended period without food, your body begins a cellular repair process in order to make fat cells more readily available. Human growth hormone levels integral to the formation of muscles and the burning of fat also increase in our blood, our insulin levels drop, and gene expressions advantageously linked to longevity and our immune system become more active. The regimen’s confirmed effect on blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglycerides, and inflammatory markers concurrently confirm it to reduce our risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
All of this to say swimsuit season isn’t the only time when you should contemplate fasting. As previously covered by Ladders, there isn’t a one size fits all diet. There are, however, judicious ways to take advantage of what we know about our body and how it functions thus far.
A fad backed by science
If you’re like me, it might occur to you that the very thing that crowns intermittent fasting as a dietary staple, simultaneously condemns it as a bourgeoisie novelty; namely, the long list of famous people that love prattling on about how little they eat day to day.
Both Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, two actors that are almost just as renown for their decorated screen careers as they are for looking considerably younger than they are, revealed that they both adhere to intermittent fasting (IF).
Their regimen specifically has them abstain from solid foods for sixteen hours a day and limits their morning intake to beverages. Both credit this dietary condition for their sustained energy though there are many different ways to starve the cat, as it were.
The 16:8 fast might be the diet’s most popular incarnation. This form of fasting allows its votaries to eat during an eight-hour window and then abstain from food for the remaining 16 hours.
There are no restrictions on what you can eat during your allotted time frame and you can establish the frame at any point that you deem to be more conducive to your particular schedule.
The 5:2 fast is a bit more calculated because it’s premised by insulin production specifically. Followers eat whatever they want, whenever they want for five days out of the week and then limit calorie consumption to 500-600 on the remaining two days. This metabolic pattern has been proven to improve insulin sensitivity.
Lastly, we have alternate day fasting. The name sort of speaks for itself. Participants fast every alternate day and limit their calorie intake on the days wherein they eat.
This form of IF is particularly helpful for eliminating body fat. Healthline reports, “Short-term fasting actually increases your metabolic rate by 3.6-14%, helping you burn even more calories. In other words, intermittent fasting works on both sides of the calorie equation. It boosts your metabolic rate (increases calories out) and reduces the amount of food you eat (reduces calories in).”
Just as there are several rifts and ways to modify each of the core versions of IF above, there are also certain stipulations that must be in place before committing to any of them.
Because the regimen fundamentally augments the function of genes, cells, and hormones, it’s important that you ensure that a healthy lifestyle attends any drastic changes to your anatomy.
Fasting initiates a process medical professionals call autophagy. During autophagy, our bodies consume damaged cells and proteins in order to create new healthy, stronger ones.
The mechanisms that animate this incredible physiological recycling process are actually a bit sinister, given it functions the best when you convince your body that it’s under extreme stress.
Think about it like a kingdom under siege. If the king is alerted to an opposing army approaching, he’ll increase defense protocols.
Maybe he’ll install a moat. All of the elderly and weak soldiers will be dismissed and replaced with young strong soldiers to man the front lines. Similarly, autophagy begins when we trick our body into thinking that trying times are ahead.
When we don’t eat for a longer period of time than we are accustomed to, our body figures something must be wrong circumstantially. Maybe there’s famine or a drought that we’ll need to be extra strong to endure. The result of this deception is a temple geared against illnesses such as cancer, infections, insulin resistance, neurodegenerative diseases, and the aging process.
In one study on fasting’s relationship to aging that used rodent models, the rats that fasted every other day lived 83% longer than those that did not.
“Given the known benefits for metabolism and all sorts of health markers, it makes sense that intermittent fasting could help you live a longer and healthier life,” adds nutrition and wellness reporter Kris Gunnars, BSc.