Everything You Need to Know About Intermittent Fasting
Welcome to intermittent fasting 101.
November 20, 2020
One of our warriors asked about this diet, so we put together this guide that has everything you need to know about intermittent fasting.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a dieting pattern that cycles between periods of eating and not eating.
This diet does not focus on what to eat, but rather when to eat.
If you're wondering where intermittent fasting came from, it dates back to when humans were hunter-gatherers. Before there were supermarkets and refrigerators, our ancestors would sometimes go days on end without eating. As a result, humans are naturally evolved to be able to go for long periods of time without food.
Who Should Try Fasting?
Anyone. While this is diet is most popular among people who are trying to lose weight, anyone can try it. For some people this way of eating feels more natural than eating 3-5 meals throughout the day.
These Are The 3 Most Popular Intermittent Fasting Methods:
There are several different ways to follow an intermittent fasting diet. They all involve separating the day or week into periods of eating and not eating. Here are three examples:
- The 16/8 method: This intermittent fasting method is also known as Leangains protocol. You skip breakfast and restrict your daily eating schedule to 8 hours. After that, you fast for 16 hours. Example: you eat from 12 pm-8 pm and then fast until noon the following day.
- Eat-Stop-Eat: When you follow this method you fast for a full 24 hours one or two times per week. Example: you eat dinner at 7 pm one day and don't eat again until dinner the next day.
- The 5:2 diet: To follow this method you eat 500–600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week. For the other five days, you eat normally. Example: you eat 500-600 calories on Mondays and Thursdays and eat as you typically would for the rest of the weekdays.
These diets help with weight loss efforts because they reduce the number of calories you consume. However, it's important to note that over-compensating by over-eating during the eating periods may hinder weight loss.
How Intermittent Fasting Affects Your Hormones and Cells
Not eating for extended periods causes changes at both the cellular and molecular level.
Here are some ways your body will react to this kind of diet:
- Increase of Human Growth Hormone (HGH): When you fast your HGH levels rise, skyrocketing by as much as 5 times what they usually are. This helps accelerate fat loss and muscle gain.
- Insulin drops: Insulin levels lower dramatically when you fast. The less insulin in your body, the more accessible stored body fat becomes for your body to burn.
- Cellular repair takes place: When you're fasting your body starts repairing certain kinds of cells. One cellular repair process includes autophagy: when cells digest and discard older, dysfunctional proteins that accumulate inside your cells.
- Change in gene expression: There are changes in the function of genes related to longevity and protection against disease.
Fasting: A Powerful Tool for Weight Loss
Weight loss is the most common reason why people experiment with intermittent fasting. Here's a brief review of why:
- Intermittent fasting helps you eat fewer meals and that automatically results in a reduction of calorie intake (which helps prevent weight gain and encourages more fat burning).
- In addition to increasing growth hormone levels and lowing insulin levels, fasting also increases the presence of norepinephrine (noradrenaline), a fat-burning hormone.
- Due to these changes in your body, short-term fasting can increase your metabolic rate anywhere between 3.6% and 14%.
Scientific Studies on Intermittent Fasting and Weight Loss
A study done in 2014 found that following this diet can result in 3-8% weight loss over a period of three to 24 weeks. This is a significant percentage of weight loss compared to most diets.
According to that same study, people who fasted lost 4-7% of their waist circumference. This indicates that fasting helps burn belly fat that accumulates around your organs.
Another study found that intermittent fasting does not result in as much muscle loss as other diets. This is because constant calorie restriction can cause your body to burn muscle rather than fat (like this diet naturally encourages the body to do).
Additional Health Benefits of Fasting
Intermittent fasting comes with the following added benefits:
- Natural Weight Loss: As mentioned above, fasting can help with weight loss and burning belly fat without needing to keep track of calories.
- Diabetes Prevention: Because intermittent fasting reduces levels of insulin it also lowers blood sugar which can help protect against type 2 diabetes.
- Reduce Inflammation: One of the main causes of chronic diseases is inflammation. Some studies have shown that following a fasting diet helps to reduce inflammation in key areas.
- Heart health: Studies have found that intermittent fasting may help maintain and a healthy heart. Not eating for periods can lower “bad” blood triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, blood sugar, inflammatory markers, and other factors related to heart disease.
- Brain health: There's a brain hormone called BDNF that helps with generating new brain cells. Intermittent fasting has been shown to increase BDNF. Studies have also suggested that having more BDNF can protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
- Anti-aging: Rats live longer when they fast. Studies have shown that fasted rats lived 36–83% longer. Although humans are not rats, we are animals too and may benefit from a longer life if we practice intermittent fasting as well.
Research on intermittent fasting is still growing so there are still many questions left unanswered. But for now, these are the main health benefits of intermittent fasting.
Can Anyone Try Intermittent Fasting?
Just like with everything in life, intermittent fasting is not for everyone.
If you are currently underweight or have a history of eating disorders, it is best to consult a doctor or health professional first.
If you are pregnant or wanting to get pregnant, now may not be the best time for you to try fasting (we will touch on this more in a moment).
While fasting has positive effects for some, it can have negative impacts on others. If you do try this diet out, be sure to listen to your body.
Women and Intermittent Fasting
Some studies have shown that fasting can negatively impact women.
Though these studies were done with rats and not humans, they found that some female rats that fasted showed signs of emaciation and masculinization or had complications with infertility and missing cycles.
Your menstrual cycle may change if you follow a fasting diet. For this reason, it's a good idea to pay close attention to how your body reacts to fasting.
If infertility runs in your family or if you are trying to get pregnant or are pregnant, intermittent fasting may not be the best diet for you to follow.
Ease Into Intermittent Fasting and Stop If You Experience Amenorrhea
It's best to slowly ease into this diet so that you can see how your body adapts. If you stop getting your period you may want to stop fasting or consult a health professional.
The Side Effects and Safety of Fasting
Intermittent fasting is a very safe diet to follow. There are no negatives to pausing your calorie intake for periods of time if you are well-nourished and healthy overall.
With that said, the two main side effects of fasting are:
- Hunger. Being hungry is the most common side effect of IF. However, your body will learn to adjust over time.
- Brain fog. When you first begin fasting you may find it hard to think as clearly as you normally do. This is because your body and brain are adjusting to your new food routine. Give it a week or so and your clear thinking will return.
If you have any medical conditions it's important to consult your doctor before trying this diet. This includes people who:
- Have low blood pressure.
- Have diabetes.
- Have struggled with regulating blood sugar.
- Take medication(s).
- Have a history of eating disorders.
- Are underweight.
- Are a woman who is trying to get pregnant.
- Are a woman with a history of not getting their period.
- Are breastfeeding or pregnant.
Frequently Asked Fasting Questions:
Here are some of the most asked questions around intermittent fasting, answered.
Can I Drink Liquids While I'm Fasting?
Yes! You can drink water, coffee, tea, and other non-caloric beverages. Not adding sugar to your coffee is recommended, but a dash of milk or cream is likely okay.
If you're a coffee-lover, having a cup when you feel hungry can help curb your hunger.
But Isn’t It Bad to Skip Breakfast?
No. If you make sure to fuel your body with healthy foods during your eating cycle, skipping breakfast is totally okay.
If I'm Fasting, Can I Take Supplements?
Yes, you can. But keep in mind that most supplements are most effective when taken with food.
Can I Fast and Workout?
Yes. Working out while fasting is safe. Some studies have shown that working out on an empty stomach can help accelerate fat loss.
Will I Lose Muscle Mass When I Fast?
Any weight-loss method can cause a loss of muscle - that's why it's important to life weights and workout routinely. One study showed that intermittent fasting results in less muscle loss than other calorie restricting diets.
Will Fasting Slow My Metabolism Down?
No, it will likely do the opposite. This study showed that short-term IF boosts your metabolism. With that said, you should not fast longer than three days as that amount of time can cause your metabolic rate to slow down.
How Should I Start Intermittent Fasting?
Chances are you've already done intermittent fasting at some point in your life. For instance, perhaps you skipped dinner one day and had a late lunch the next day. If you'd like to try out fasting you can start just like this - by skipping one meal in the morning or night.
Many people find the 16/8 method the easiest way to fast. We recommend trying that out first and seeing how you feel. If that feels doable for you, then you can move onto more advanced fasts like 24-hour fasts one or two days a week (eat-stop-eat) or eating 500-600 calories for one to two days a week (5:2 diet).
In Conclusion, Doing What Feels Best For YOUR Body Is Right
There is no one size fits all diet. In the end, dieting is about finding what feels good for your body.
Some people naturally don't feel hungry in the morning or at night so these diets feel natural to them. If you try the intermittent fasting and find it's not for you, that's okay! There are plenty of other eating routines to try.
One important concept to remember: for intermittent fasting to work, the food you consume during the eating cycles should be balanced and healthy. If you end up binging on unhealthy foods, you may end up gaining weight. The key is listening to your body and bringing awareness to your eating habits.
All Your Warriors Are Here to Support You
If you have any further questions about intermittent fasting, feel free to ask them in our group chat. We're all here to support each other in finding what diet works best for our bodies. It's a journey.
If you're not a warrior yet, we'd love to have you join the community.