Should You Consider Intermittent Fasting?

Posted by: Divided Academy  

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Have you tried one diet after the next, only to be disappointed and frustrated by the end of it? You give up, throw your hands in the air, and wonder why dieting is so difficult? Well, to be completely honest, if it were easy, would we really be having the obesity epidemic we are seeing here in the United States today? Listen, everyone is different and a diet that works for me might not work for you and vice versa – we’re all unique. A common denominator you find in diets, though, is a caloric deficit. However, with more and more research coming out, it might be worth giving a certain diet a shot. And that diet is intermittent fasting.

The Intermittent Fasting Movement

Look at the diets that are out on the market these days. Don’t eat carbs. Don’t eat fat. Don’t eat this or that. It just sounds stupid, right? That’s because it is. You’re not going to be able to adhere to a diet that doesn’t fit your lifestyle. That’s where the benefits of intermittent fasting can come into play.

There are two major intermittent fasting (or “IF” as they call it) methods. The first method and most common is the 16:8 model. This model has you fasting for 16 hours and then gives you an eight-hour feeding window. The 24-hour model, as you would assume, has you fasting for a full 24-hours without any caloric intake at all. The latter is a little extreme for beginners and you really should never need to go that drastic if you correctly follow the 16:8 model.

Why are so many people jumping on the intermittent fasting bandwagon? It’s simple to follow and understand. While you still need to consume healthy and nutrient-dense foods and meals while using IF, you do have the flexibility to play a little with foods you would generally consider “off limits.”

Now, this whole fasting “thing” might sound a little odd and foreign to you. As in, why the heck would you not eat anything for 16 hours straight? I mean, after all, won’t you lose all of your muscle mass and turn catabolic? Nope. Research has debunked that theory. But here’s the cool thing about your fasting window – you can use it to your advantage and make your fast extremely simple to adhere to and follow.

When you sleep at night, you are essentially “fasting.” You are going seven or more hours without any type of caloric intake. Here’s what’s even better. If you sleep for eight hours every night, you’re already using up half of your fasting window. That makes it seem much more realistic and easier to follow, no? So, most people will either have their feeding/eating window from 12-8pm or from 1-9pm. Then from the end of those times, they begin their fast.

Many people love intermittent fasting due to the fact that they DON’T need to eat anything from the time they wake up until the early afternoon. This allows them to be extremely productive. Then during their feeding window, they can have anywhere from one or more meals depending on what they prefer. Meal frequency in the grand scheme of things does not mean anything so whether you consume two meals a day or seven, it makes no difference.

So, what do you do when you’re fasting? Anything you want that has nothing to do with food or calorie consumption. You can go workout. You can go to work. You can literally do whatever you want. If you get thirsty, you can consume water or any other zero-calorie beverage of your choice. Many people love to use black coffee throughout the morning which many say helps reduce their appetite and holds them over until they are able to break their fast.

Some say intermittent fasting can be difficult and that they have terrible cravings throughout their fasting window. This can be normal for some depending on how your body has been programmed. If you are used to eating breakfast and then a mid-morning snack, your body is going to be asking you where the heck it is. Don’t worry. This period will pass and after a few days you will be fine and those feelings will disappear. The best thing you can do when you feel the cravings is to drink a glass of water or pour yourself a nice cup of black coffee. The caffeine will do you some good as well.

The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Now for the part you’ve probably been waiting for… the benefits. Researchers have been examining intermittent fasting for some time now and their results have shown some amazing findings. Here’s what you can expect from utilizing intermittent fasting.


     1. Improve Brain Functioning

Those who use intermittent fasting have found that thanks to their ability to generate new nerve cells in the brain, they can improve their cognition and overall brain function[1].
 

     2. Weight Loss

The whole point of utilizing a diet is to manage your weight, right? For many, their goal is to lose weight and body fat. By following an intermittent fasting plan, you can increase your metabolism. That boost in metabolism can improve by as much as 3.6-14%[2]. Additionally, such a diet has the ability to help you preserve your hard-earned lean muscle mass[3].
 

     3. Manage Blood Sugar Levels

When you are unable to properly manage your blood sugar levels, it can lead you down the road towards diabetes as well as fat gain. Yet, when you follow an intermittent fasting lifestyle, you can actually reduce your fasting insulin levels by as much as 31% and be able to decrease your blood sugar by 3-6%[4].
 

References:

1. Lee, J., et al. (2000). Dietary restriction increases the number of newly generated neural cells, and induces BDNF expression, in the dentate gyrus of rats. Journal of Molecular Neuroscience. 15(2), 99-108.
2. Mansell, P. I., et al. (1990). Enhanced thermogenic response to epinephrine after 48-r starvation in humans. American Journal of Physiology. 258(1 Pt 2), R87-93.
3. Varady, K. A. (2011). Intermittent versus daily calorie restriction: which diet regimen is more effective for weight loss? Obesity Reviews. 12(7), e593-601.
4. Barnosky, A. R., et al. (2014). Intermittent fasting vs daily calorie restriction for type 2 diabetes prevention: a review of human findings. Translational Research. 164(4), 302-311.