Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating, rather than typical diets that restrict calories or certain macronutrients.
Simply put, it’s an eating habit that emphasizes on when to eat, instead of what to eat.
Typically, people fast with a common goal in mind – to lose weight. However, science has proven there are many other benefits one can reap from intermittent fasting such as lowering the risks of type 2 diabetes and improving brain health.
To understand the science behind intermittent fasting, you need to understand how our body stores and uses sugar under normal circumstances, and how excess sugars can make us fat.
The carbohydrates we consume daily are broken down into glucose – our primary energy source. The glucose in our body is what helps us walk, lift weights, and keeps our vital organs functioning. Sugar that our body doesn’t use instantly will be stored as glycogen in the liver. If there is an excess of sugar, they will be converted into fat and stored in adipose tissues.
This conversion is done with the help of insulin, a hormone released by the pancreas. Without insulin, our blood sugar levels can get too high or too low. There are many dangers to having blood sugar that is too high or too low.
The problem with our daily high-carb, highly processed diet is that it contains too much sugar. The National Council on Strength and Fitness states that in the American diet, the two most common carbohydrate sources are high-fructose corn syrup and sucrose. These sugars spike insulin levels, making it raise quickly. If not used up, they will be converted into fat just as quick.
When we are fasting, insulin levels fall and triggers the body to start burning through all this stored energy. For as long as we don’t eat, we will be in a caloric deficit, meaning that we burn more calories than we consume. This is the fundamental knowledge for weight loss.
In addition to being in a caloric deficit, intermittent fasting creates a better environment for fat-burning. The pituitary gland releases human growth hormone (HGH), a stress hormone that counters the effect of insulin by breaking down glycogen.
HGH in increased levels signals the body to use fat reserves as an energy source. This preserves your muscle tissues and glycogen storage. This fat breakdown releases glycerol and free fatty acids, which are then metabolized to produce energy.
How Intermittent Fasting Does Not Cause Cravings
Many popular diets end up in a situation when their followers go through cyclical weight gain and loss over time. This “yo-yo” effect is due to restrictive and unsustainable diets. When you restrict calories from your diet, your body’s natural response would be to crave for more sugar.
Unfortunately, many people submit to this craving. The dieter sets foot on his old habits, and the emotional baggage that comes with failing a diet may cause him to eat more than he initially intended, causing him to gain weight. This cycle repeats itself until the dieter gives up.
Fortunately for intermittent fasters, these cravings do not come by frequently. A study has shown that even restricting calories for 24 hours is not going to trigger appetite hormones to kick in, like that of a person going through hyperphagia (excessive desire for food).
Why You Should Consider It
The most common way of intermittent fasting is fasting within a daily window, meaning that you’ll eat for an 8-hour window and fast for 16 hours. Alternately, there are many ways to do intermittent fasting, and that’s the great thing about it. You have the ability to craft your meal times according to your schedule and your body’s needs, without compromising any of the nutritional needs you’re used to having.
In the long run, those going through intermittent fasting find it an enjoyable and attainable approach to weight loss, helping them stick to it longer.
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