Intermittent Fasting has become a widely popular way of eating due to the many health related benefits that come from it. There are many different fasting protocols from which you can choose based on what fits your personal goals and overall lifestyle. If you are thinking about starting a fasting protocol, you may be wondering about the benefits of fasting, what you can expect, and if it is right for you.
Popular Fasting Methods
5/2 Fasting: This eating pattern allows you to eat normally 5 days of the week, without any restrictions, followed by 2 days a week of fasting. The beauty of this approach is you can customize your fasting days to what works for you. 5/2 Fasting can be modified where, on your fasting days, you are able to consume 20-25% of your daily energy needs. This psychological benefit has been shown as a positive way to keep retention [to your fast] but will not have the same metabolic effects as if you were following the normal 5/2 fast . Another option, although extreme, is to fast on 2 consecutive days for a total of 48 hours. While not recommended for individuals new to fasting, research has shown that it can be extremely beneficial for muscle sparing due to the large increase in growth hormone during this time.
16/8 Fasting: Made popular by weight loss and fitness expert Martin Berkan, this approach includes a 16 hour fast, followed by an 8 hour feeding window. For some, this is naturally happening when you skip breakfast; think eating healthy from 12:00 pm to 8:00 pm. This type of fast is ideal for beginners since it can, easily, be incorporated into your lifestyle routine.
18/6 Fasting: The 2nd approach – after you have tried the 16/8 fast – involves an 18 hour fast, followed by a 6 hour feeding window. With an automatic reduction in calories – you do have the time to incorporate 2 healthy meals and snacks – this type of intermittent fasting has been shown to boost metabolism, increase energy, and manage blood glucose levels. This is a great alternative if you are a person on the go since it requires less meal and snack prep, and is easy to maintain once the body adjusts.
Eat Stop Eat: This type of Intermittent Fasting is when you fast for 24 hours, then eat normally for 2-7 days before your next fast. Here is an example: If you start your fast at 8:00 am on a Thursday, you can have 1 meal before, then fast until 8:00 am the following day (Friday) when you can pick up with your next meal.
Alternate Day Fasting: This particular fast means you will eat every other day and fast on your non eating days. If you fast on a Monday, then you would eat normal on Tuesday, followed by fasting on Wednesday, and repeating the pattern. A modified approach is to eat approximately 500 calories on your fasting days, and then resume your normal eating on non-fasting days.
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What to Expect From Fasting
As you just learned, Intermittent Fasting means alternating between periods of eating with periods of consuming nothing at all (with the exception of some modifications). Let’s take a peek at some of the intermittent fasting expectations that you may experience as you go along your fasting journey.
- Change In Hormones and Cells: Human Growth Hormone (“HGH”), which is responsible for things such as body composition, metabolism, growth, and cellular repair, increases tremendously when you fast due in part to a decrease in insulin levels, allowing easier access to stored body fat. From a cellular level, a process called “autophagy” takes place, wiping clean any old and defective proteins that have built up and stored in your cell.
- Reduce Insulin Resistance: Extended periods without food allow our cells time to resensitize to insulin. This is why individuals with insulin sensitivity have shown great success and improvements when alternating between a fasting protocol and caloric restriction. During a fast, there is more ability for your body to go into fat burning mode since insulin levels are dropping low for this to occur.
- Reduce Inflammation: Results from a study conducted on 50 healthy volunteers (60% female; 40% male) who fasted for Ramadan showed the effects fasting has on reducing inflammation in the body. With markers being tested 1 week before the start, at the end of the 3rd, and then 1 month at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, it not only showed a decrease in body fat but a decrease in circulating leukocyte levels (i.e. which counteract disease & infection) and suppression of proinflammatory cytokine expressions (i.e. which control the inflammatory response to an injury in the body.)
- Cellular Repair: Beyond weight loss, intermittent fasting works on the cellular level; essentially, it brings out unchanged, adaptive cellular responses that are integrated within and between organs to do things such as suppress inflammation, improve the body’s regulation of glucose, and increase its resistance to stress. When you are fasting, your cells can activate pathways to improve your body’s natural defenses against metabolic and oxidative stress, as well as fix or discard damaged molecules.
- Increase in Brain Function: Alternate Day Fasting, combined with an overall reduction in daily caloric intake, has been associated with overall improved cognition. Although these studies were conducted on animals, short-term clinical trials in older adults, too, with mild cognitive impairment, showed enhancement in verbal memory. All of these benefits were due in part to reversing the effects of metabolic conditions such as obesity and diabetes, as well as decreasing neuroinflammation within the body.
- Reduce Oxidative Stress: One study conducted took 10 individuals who had a Body Mass Index (“BMI”) greater than 30 and had them adhere to a (modified) Alternate Day Fasting protocol for 8 weeks. With most of the subjects complying to the protocol guidelines, results showed an 8% reduction from initial body weight, improvement in pulmonary function reducing their asthma-like symptoms, and oxidative stress and inflammation markers declined tremendously with a change in diet.
- Skin Health: Your skin is the first line of defense for the body, and can be greatly impacted by internal and external factors such as age & oxidative stress, environment/pollution, too much sun, bacteria, viruses, genetics, lifestyle, diet, etc. In one 2017 study, structure and function of skin anatomy was observed on rats who fasted/had a significant caloric restriction for 6 months. The results showed a dramatic improvement in the oxidative dermis – which contains thick & thin collagen fibers of the skin- compared to that of the epidermis.
- Deeper Sleep: A one week study of non-obese individuals, who participated in a short term (1 week) fasting schedule, showed improvement in both the quality and soundness of sleep, as well as an increase in energy, mental clarity, and concentration throughout the day!
Enhance Fasting Results with Metabolic Fitness
Metabolic fitness is the connection between the flow of energy in the body to the information within the body, including the information coming from individual cells. When this synergy is happening, things such as reduced inflammation, better sleep, clearer skin, weight maintenance, improved cognition, more endurance, increased sex drive, etc. are in check. On the other hand, when the flow of energy is not being directed correctly, this is when you may begin to experience the onset of various metabolic diseases. These can be linked to issues such as fatigue, anxiety, depression, brain disease, heart disease, chronic pain, insulin resistance, obesity, etc.
One of the ways you can get metabolically fit is through an Intermittent Fasting protocol. When your body is in a fasted state, “tasks” such as autophagy, stem cell proliferation, and senescent cell breakdown are able to happen. When your body is in a constant feed state, emphasis goes directly to digestion. Since the digestive process takes a few hours, if you are eating 3 meals and 2 snacks a day, your body is in a continuous feed/digestive state, and is never given a chance to repair & reset. If you can give your body more time to do such tasks (as mentioned prior), you can dramatically improve your metabolic fitness.
If you are interested in learning more, we designed our metabolic fitness plan to include both a coach and Citravarin (a first of its kind fasting support supplement) to help people do exactly that!
While there are so many benefits you can expect from a fasting protocol, it is important to make sure that it is the right fit for you, your lifestyle and, of course, your health & wellness goals. If you are still unsure if fasting is the best option for you, consult with your healthcare provider to discuss more!
1. 11 Ways to Boost Human Growth Hormone Naturally
2. Intermittent fasting vs daily calorie restriction for type 2 diabetes prevention: a review of human findings
3. Intermittent Fasting: Surprising Update
4. Intermittent fasting during Ramadan attenuates proinflammatory cytokines and immune cells in healthy subjects
5. Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Health, Aging, and Disease
6. Alternate day calorie restriction improves clinical findings and reduces markers of oxidative stress and inflammation in overweight adults with moderate asthma
7. Fasting and Its Impact on Skin Anatomy, Physiology, and Physiopathology: A Comprehensive Review of the Literature
8. Effects of short-term modified fasting on sleep patterns and daytime vigilance in non-obese subjects: results of a pilot study