One of the latest ideas that has been floating around the the health and fitness-sphere these days is the concept of Intermittent Fasting, often referred to as IF. While not exactly the same as traditional dieting, IF is a method of controlled intake of food throughout the day, which claims to offer a host of health benefits and optimization of body composition.
The primary concept of IF is a longer than normal period of daily fasting, followed by more regular eating. For example, perhaps the easiest form of IF to follow is one where the individual eats their last meal at 8pm, skips any sort of breakfast, and doesn’t eat again until noon, which is effectively a 16 hour daily fast.
Others subscribe to a more extreme version, whereby they don’t eat for 24 hours or so. In other words, a day of normal eating, followed by an entire day of fasting. For many, it’s much easier to stick to the much more moderate form of 16 hour fasts.
In fact, for someone like me and for many others, the 16-hour fast is something you don’t even think about. Personally, I rarely eat breakfast anyways, and so this form of IF already falls right in line with my normal schedule, plus I receive the purported benefits of intermittent fasting:
- Increased fat loss: to begin with, employing intermittent fasting will allow someone’s body to enter into the fasted state, which typically occurs about 12 hours after the most recent meal. Since most people don’t go this long before eating their next meal, the body doesn’t typically go into its natural thermogenesis (fat-burning) mode on a regular basis. However, by following intermittent fasting, your body goes into this state by happenstance, based just on the timing.
- Enhanced insulin sensitivity: now this is where things get really interesting. The working theory is that by following intermittent fasting, one is able to essentially reset/recalibrate their body’s sensitivity to insulin. For those that don’t know, insulin is the primary regulatory hormone in the human body. Without delving too far into the geeky rabbit hole, all you really need to know is that increased insulin sensitivity helps to lose fast and gain muscle from the food you eat. Essentially, it makes your body more efficient when it comes to processing what you put into it. The reason this works is because insulin sensitivity is higher when glycogen levels are depleted; and since glycogen levels are lower during a fasted state…well, I think you know where I’m going with this.
- Increased health benefits: beyond just the aesthetic benefits of IF, there are also reports that conclude intermittent fasting can actually increase the health of an individual and amazing, perhaps contribute to one’s longevity. Now, I’m sure nothing is yet conclusive, but it is encouraging to hear that there is some correlation to IF and increased lifespan, at least in a research environment. I wouldn’t go so far as to say this is definite just yet, but personally, that’s just icing on the cake.
All in all, intermittent fasting just fits in with my lifestyle. I tend to be on the run from the moment I wake up, and subsequently I rarely eat breakfast. Now, with all the information about IF out there that indicates it’s actually helping me to become a sexy beast (yeah baby), consider me all-in.
Of course, like anything else, it’s not a silver bullet. It’s not a replacement for proper nutrition, regular exercise and restful sleep. That will always remain true. But, it’s just one more bullet in my chamber. If you’re interested in learning more, there’s plenty of resources out there on the topic. I think I’ve learned the most from the site Leangains, which is run by Martin Berkhan who is one of the guys who really popularized IF. Check it out!