A growing pool of studies shows that the benefits of intermittent fasting, which is a popular eating style in the health industry, go well beyond weight loss (that one has already achieved the status of an undeniable fact).
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern in which you alternate between eating and fasting periods. Most of the time you will fast a certain number of hours (usually 16) and burn off all planned calories during a certain subsequent number of hours or choose one or more of two days per week to fast for 24 hours.
If this method is used wisely, you can experience accelerated fat loss and some amazing health benefits, all of which are detailed in the article below.
1. Fasting promotes sustained weight loss
This is the main reason people include a controlled pattern of fasting in their diet. Research shows that short-term fasting can increase your metabolism by 4 to 14%, allowing you to burn more calories every day.
In addition, it stimulates greater breakdown of body fat by promoting lower levels of insulin and higher levels of growth hormone and norepinephrine, which results in more fat being used to fuel the organism’s activities.
It should take a few weeks for your body to go into this increased fat burning mode. However, once it does, the intensity of your cravings for junk food and sugar will most likely decrease, helping you maintain a healthier diet. And since it causes far less muscle loss than continuous calorie reduction, it is the safest way to reduce body fat in athletes.
2. Fasting improves insulin sensitivity
Insulin resistance is a key contributor to diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, making it a major global health problem. That being said, intermittent fasting is an incredible tool for improving insulin and leptin sensitivity, which means that your cells are more effective at absorbing glucose from the blood.
Many scientific reports agree that intermittent fasting can help reduce blood sugar levels and glucose variability, while significantly increasing insulin sensitivity in people with diabetes or pre-diabetes. Some experts even believe that fasting is one of the most powerful natural insulin sensitizers known to man, and there is a good reason for it.
Insulin resistance is a condition in which the body makes insulin but cannot use it effectively, resulting in fat build-up in tissues that are not designed to store fat and unwanted glucose build-up in the blood.
When you fast, your body has no choice but to burn fat from its fat stores in order to get the fuel it needs for your cells to function normally. This leads to a significant reduction in the size of the lipid droplets in muscle and liver cells, making these cells more responsive to insulin.
3. Fasting will help you establish healthier eating habits
Ghrelin, the hunger hormone, is produced by the stomach, small intestine, pancreas, and brain. The most important tasks of ghrelin in the organism are to stimulate appetite, increase food intake and promote fat storage. Basically, this hormone tells our body when it is time to eat.
However, people with disturbed eating habits suffer from an unbalanced production of this vital hormone. If you overeat or overeat over a long period of time, you lose the ability to distinguish between being really hungry and eating habitually.
In this situation, fasting can be used to restore ghrelin function and help you limit your caloric intake, provided you plan your meals and their calorie count.
And if you only focus on eating when you are actually hungry, you are less likely to overeat and emotional eating is easier to avoid. While restricting your calorie intake will make you hungrier, if you fast for 48 hours or more, your body will adapt to the changes and naturally lower ghrelin levels, resulting in decreased hunger.
Additionally, having ghrelin present in the body through fasting is an effective way to increase your growth hormone levels. To get the most out of this peak, exercise on an empty stomach just before the end of your fasting period.
4. Fasting improves brain function
Studies have shown that fasting can optimize your brain health in more than one way.
First of all, it promotes an important cellular process called autophagy, or cell cleansing, which helps cells get rid of all of their waste, which is mostly made up of damaged molecules. In this way, your body detoxifies, repairs and regenerates itself, thus enabling optimal function of all tissues.
Second, fasting can increase levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), one of the most important neurotrophins for stimulating and controlling neurogenesis, by up to 40%. BDNF is critical in preventing existing brain cell death, inducing the growth of new neurons and synapses, and improving cognitive function.
Increased BDNF signaling has also been shown to improve cardiovascular health and blood sugar regulation. In turn, low BDNF levels are linked to poor neural development, Alzheimer’s disease, neurotransmitter dysfunction, psychiatric disorders such as clinical depression and schizophrenia, and accelerated aging.
Note, however, that achieving elevated BDNF levels through long-term fasting will require constant effort.
5. Fasting reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease
By reducing the risk of diabetes or reversing a pre-diabetic condition, fasting also promotes heart health. However, regular fasting also improves the way your body metabolizes cholesterol, which leads to a decrease in bad cholesterol levels and an increase in good cholesterol levels in the body.
Several studies also show that the levels of triglycerides and glucose in the blood are significantly reduced during a fast. And, according to the results of a report presented recently at the American College of Cardiology conference in New Orleans, people who fast regularly report a 58% lower risk of coronary disease than people who never fast.