Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
If you pay attention to the health and fitness world, you have probably heard one of the new buzzwords: intermittent fasting. There are a ton of benefits of adding intermittent fasting into your weekly routine. I first heard about fasting about 2 months ago. It sounded interesting but unpleasant, so while I wanted the benefits, I was too scared to give it a try. It wasn’t until I heard about intermittent fasting from a second person that I started to seriously consider it. I have now been fasting a few days per week for a little over a month and will share my experience with you.
How long to fast
You can fast for any length of time and see some benefit. I would generally recommend 15 to 16 hour fast, especially for beginners. You can easily accomplish this by eating dinner between 8 and 9 pm the night before and skipping breakfast the next day. You won’t have any problems getting hungry during the night due to dinner then you will spend 8 hours sleeping, which makes fasting a pretty easy experience. The only tough part is from when you wake up until noon. Surprisingly I have almost always had an easy time fasting, I just don’t get hungry. Even at noon or 1 pm when I break my fast I still am not hungry. For many people, eating breakfast actually triggers hunger, so skipping breakfast actually makes hunger easier.
The benefits of fasting
- Weight loss – By skipping a meal you will consume fewer calories which will allow you to lose weight.
- Fat Burning – In addition to consuming fewer calories, intermittent fast leads to significantly higher fat burning than just the calories you cut out. Eating food, especially carbs and sugar, increases your insulin. In the presence of high insulin your body cannot transform fat into energy to burn because your body knows that you have energy from food. Fasting for 16 hours leads to a low level of insulin which allows the body to easily use fat as a source of energy. Since you haven’t eaten anything for more than 8 hours, all of the energy you use while fasting comes directly from fat.
- Increase HGH – Fasting triggers the release of the Human Growth Hormone (HGH). This hormone is responsible for converting fat into energy as well as putting muscle on. It also has anti-aging benefits.
- Ketosis – If you are already eating a fairly low carb diet, intermittent fasting will put you into ketosis. Ketosis is a processes by which your body turns fat into glucose. Your brain requires glucose to function properly, so if you haven’t eaten any carbs for an extended period of time then you will need to create your own glucose to survive.
- Body Cleanse – While fasting, your body will look for any source of food and energy it can find. The first source of calories it can find is dead cells, debris and mutated cells. Your body knows that these are less necessary for your survival than healthy cells, so it uses them for energy. Mutating cells are what causes cancer, so intermittent fasting can reduce your chance of getting cancer.
- Insulin – Lower your insulin level and increase your insulin sensitivity. Insulin resistance makes weight loss very difficult and leads to many diseases.
- Improve athletic performance – Training in the fasted state forces your body to manage energy more efficiently. The more often you train while fasting the better your body will be at managing energy. When competing be sure to eat, which will give you an advantage over the competition.
- Lower ghrelin – Ghrelin is a hunger hormone, decreasing it will make dieting easier.
- Lower your triglycerides.
- Reduce inflammation and damage from free radicals.
If you are feeling even a little sick, you should not fast. A few weeks ago I was starting to feel a cold coming on and had planned a fast. I decided to keep up the fast even while chugging Dayquil and trying to avoid a cold. I felt awful the entire time and wish I hadn’t tried to fast. My other advice is that you adopt the paleo diet before you try to fast. I have a friend who tried intermittent fasting on a normal American diet and she had a lot of issues. I have always had an easy time fasting because I eat a peleo diet and have low insulin.
Yesterday I decided to go for a 24 hour fast for the first time ever. I ate at 8:30 the night before and had nothing to eat the entire day. I thought it would be very painful but it was ok. I felt a little bit of hunger a few times but nothing I couldn’t handle. To break my fast I decided to have a feast. I ate a filet mignon and huge snow crab legs. I dipped the crab leg meat in ghee (aka clarified butter) and it was delicious.
All in all the 24 hour fast went well. I exercised for an hour and a half while fasting for 24 hours. I did 20 minutes of abs, 30 minutes of lifting for the legs and 40 minutes of cardio. I thought I might pass out but I was ok. Theoretically this will make me more athletic.