What Is Intermittent Fasting, How Does It Work, What Are The Benefits, And What is Autophagy?
We all want to be healthy. No surprise there. It’s also clear to most of us that what we eat and how much makes a difference in our health. But did you know that WHEN you eat is significant, too? This isn’t news if you’ve already head of intermittent fasting. However, you can take delayed eating one step farther.
Here are a few benefits of regular intermittent fasting:
- Burns fat
- Produces your own natural HGH
- Reduces inflammation
- Your body reaches ketosis
- Increase mental clarity
- Improves sleep
- Reduces risk of chronic disease
- Improves brain function
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is the practice of planning out the timing of your meals so that they provide the biggest benefit for your body. This makes it an eating pattern, not a diet. The central idea is that by controlling the amount of time your digestive system spends in a “fed” state instead of a “fasted” state, you can maximize your metabolism’s potential and improve its efficiency for burning calories.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
After a meal, the body enters a post-absorptive state where it burns fewer calories than average because it’s working through the glucose from the food you just ate. This typically lasts for about four hours Afterwards, you enter a 12-hour fasted state where cells burn their stored fat for energy instead of glucose, which can lead to weight loss.
Because most people eat their meals close together, the body never has a chance to enter this optimized calorie-burning state. That’s where intermittent fasting comes in. These delayed-eating plans are designed to maximize your time in a fasted state so that your metabolism is primed for better weight management. The scope of these fasts can range considerably, from refraining from eating until noon each day to restricting your calorie counts for several days a week.
The Benefits of Fasting
Intermittent fasting is a smart way to lose stubborn belly fat, as it doesn’t require you to change your entire approach to food. Likewise, fasting plans are simple to stick to, don’t mandate special cooking strategies, and can help you build up lean muscle mass quickly, especially when paired with exercise.
Beyond weight loss, there are lots of reasons to consider an intermittent fast for your health. Some of the most significant benefits include the following:
- Increase in HGH: Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is a hormone made in the pituitary gland that that leads to low levels of body fat and lean muscle mass. Initial research shows that fasting on a regular basis can boost the amounts your body makes, leading to improvements in your physique.
- Anti-aging Properties: Studies show that restricting your caloric intake through fasting helps keep your brain and body young. The practice increases neurogenesis (neuron production) to improve brain plasticity and lower your oxidative markers.
- Reduces Inflammation: Chronic inflammation is a trigger for dozens of lifestyle diseases like strokes and heart problems, but intermittent fasting seems to keep inflammation in check by triggering your cells to break it down before it begins to build up.
- Burns Fat Efficiently: Switching your body over from burning glucose to body fat puts it in ketosis, which is a high-metabolism state that leads to rapid weight loss. Research shows that weekly fasting can trigger weight loss up to 8 percent and waist shrinkage of up to 7 percent, meaning that fasting is especially useful for losing belly fat.
- Reduces Risk of Chronic Disease: Scientific evidence shows that cutting your daily caloric intake by a third can extend your lifespan by over a decade, and intermittent fasting is a practically painless way to start cutting down your levels.
Five Top Intermittent Fasting Methods to Try
There’s more than one way to try intermittent fasting, meaning that you can choose the plan that makes sense for you. Below are some of the most common options today.
- 16/8 Method (Lean Gains)
The Lean Gains method is a popular way to dive into intermittent fasting. You simply eat as usual for eight hours a day while fasting for the following sixteen. Flexibility with the timing is allowed, but most people prefer to eat from about 1 pm through 8 pm and then fast through the night and morning. Generally, this plan is followed daily for best results.
- Alternate Day Intermittent Fasting (Up Day Down Day)
Another straightforward fasting method to try is Up Day, Down Day; a plan that lets you alternate every other day between a standard diet and approximately a fifth of your preferred caloric intake. That’s usually close to 2,000 calories and 400 calories. Up Day Down Day is a smart strategy for weight loss, and it can be followed until you hit your goal weight. But be careful! It’s common to overeat on “up” days and negate the effects.
- The Warrior Diet
For those that want physical results from fasting quickly, the Warrior Diet is a winning strategy. It combines a 20 hour fast with a four-hour window for eating (always in the evening) to maximize the body’s sympathetic nerve responses for more fast-twitch muscle production and a higher metabolic rate of fat burning. When paired with big workouts, this fasting strategy is impressive.
- 5:2 Diet
If you don’t want to think about fasting for most days of the week, the 5:2 Diet makes a lot of sense. You will eat like normal for five days and then cut down to 500 calories for two non-consecutive ones. Many people prefer this method because it gives them the freedom to eat their meals at a regular time, which makes it ideal for those who don’t want fasting to mess with their social life.
- Weekly Intermittent Fasting (Eat-Stop-Eat)
Similar to the 5:2 diet, Weekly Intermittent Fasting takes it to another level by requiring you to forgo food entirely for two nonconsecutive days of the week (zero-calorie drinks like coffee and tea are permitted). You can repeat the plan every week or just one week a month if you prefer a less extreme experience. If 24 hours feels too long to go without food, feel free to work your way up by experimenting with shorter times, or by fueling up on fibrous, raw vegetables.
What's better than intermittent fasting? Dry Fasting
These five strategies for intermittent fasting can make a difference for your health, but there’s an even better way to achieve the benefits: dry fasting. As the name implies, dry fasting means going on a fast without consuming foods OR liquids.
But isn’t water essential for…life? Why would you consider going without it? In short, following a dry fast helps to accelerate the restorative effects of a standard fast, which include reducing inflammation, revving up your metabolism, and triggering autophagy- the physiological process that your body uses to deconstruct old cells and recycle their components for new ones.
Dry fasting is more effective than regular because it withholds the water that inflammation and bacteria need to exist. Without adequate hydration, diseases and pathogens inside your body begin to die out, essentially acting as a cleansing of your system. You won’t become all that dehydrated during a dry fast because your body will start to produce its own water through your cells: up to one liter a day.
When you follow a short dry fast, you reset your immune system by activating stem cells to renew damaged sections. Best of all, it doesn’t take long to start experiencing the benefits. One day of dry fasting provides the same benefits as three days of regular fasting.
To be clear, dry fasting is an advanced form of intermittent fast that shouldn’t be considered if you don’t already have fasting experience. But before you write dry fasting off as too fringe for you, keep in mind that millions of Muslims follow a dry fast for the daylight hours of the month of Ramadan each year.
How to Follow an Intermittent Dry Fast
Careful preparation is required to follow a healthy intermittent dry fast. In the hours before you begin, drink adequate amounts of water and consume both salt and vegetables to boost your mineral levels.
For the fast itself, the safest strategy to follow is the 16/8 Method. In the morning following a night spent dry fasting, you can replenish your electrolyte reserves without breaking the fasted state by drinking a small glass of warm water with rock salt dissolved in it. Throughout the rest of the fasting period, abstain from food and drinks of all forms, and consider avoiding strenuous exercise and high heat conditions like a sauna.
Intermittent Fasting for Health
Modifying your eating times has surprising impacts on your overall health. Consider experimenting with intermittent fasting (and an occasional dry fast), and you’ll reap the rewards for your health long into the future. So long as you listen to your body and are willing to change your plans if necessary, living in a temporary fasted state provides impressive benefits for your health.