Intermittent Fasting – A Powerful Tool!

To eat is a necessity but to eat intelligently is an art.

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Intermittent fasting is also known as intermittent energy restriction. The term intermittent fasting is an umbrella term for various meal timing schedules that move between voluntary fasting and non-fasting over a given time period.  There are several different intermittent fasting methods, all of which split the day or week into eating periods and fasting periods.

As a habitual intermittent faster, the main benefits of this practice for me are as follows:

  • greater focus and mental clarity,
  • more physical energy,
  • less body fat,
  • healthy cravings for more nourishing, natural and less processed food.

“I fast for greater physical and mental efficiency”

“Note to self – When I eat crap, I feel like crap”

Research shows that the actual timing of your meals can have a profound effect on your waistline and your overall health.

Fasting doesn’t work just by helping you eat less. It works because it triggers some very powerful processes in the body.

“When it comes to fat loss, fasting beats dieting hands down”

One of the ways fasting helps you to lose weight is by reducing the amount of insulin circulating in your bloodstream.

Insulin is an important hormone; It works together with glucagon to keep your blood – sugar levels in balance when you eat. It also prevents the breakdown of your body’s reserves of fat.

Regularly eating throughout the day will keep your insulin level high and prevent your body from tapping into your fat reserves. However, When you fast, this allows your insulin level to drop and puts your body into fat burning mode.

Fasting is also more effective for weight loss than dieting because when you attempt to lose weight adopting a traditional diet, your body’s natural response is to rebel. Your body rebels because as far as it can tell, you’re facing some kind of threat to your food supply. Your body then responds by boosting ghrelin, a hormone that makes you feel hungry and lowers leptin, which tells you when you have eaten enough. In other words dieting can make you feel quite ravenous.

When dieting, in order to conserve energy, your body reduces its metabolic rate, or the number of calories it expends to keep you going. This means that while you are trying to eat less, your body adapts and starts requiring less, undoing all your hard work.

Fasting, however is different. Fasting allows you to draw on your stored fat so that your body does not react as though it is facing starvation when your food intake drops. Instead, you burn through the fat you have accumulated in your body and avoid the downsides that normal diets promote.

“The benefits of fasting go far beyond weight loss”

For the vast majority of people, the mere fact of weight loss is enough to persuade and encourage them to fast, however there are many other extensive benefits and reasons to fast, such as:

  • Reduction in insulin levels – Excess insulin levels are linked to the development of type 2 diabetes. The reduction of blood levels of insulin also facilitate fat burning.
  • Increase in human growth hormone – The blood levels of growth hormone may increase as much as 5-fold. Higher levels of this hormone facilitate fat burning and muscle gain and have a number of other benefits.
  • Cellular repair – The body induces important cellular repair processes, such as removing waste material from cells.
  • Gene expression – There can be beneficial changes in several genes and molecules related to longevity and protection against diseases.

“The bottom line is that when you fast, insulin levels drop and human growth hormone increases. Your cells also initiate important cellular repair processes and change which genes they express”

  • Reduces oxidative stress and inflammation in the body – Oxidative stress is one of the contributing factors to aging and many chronic diseases. It involves unstable molecules called free radicals, which react to other important molecules ( like protein and DNA) and damages them. Studies show that intermittent fasting can reduce oxidative damage and inflammation in the body. This should have benefits against aging and the development of numerous diseases.
  • Improves heart health – Heart disease is currently the world’s biggest killer. Intermittent fasting has been shown to improve numerous different risk factors, including blood pressure, total and LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers and blood sugar levels.
  • May help prevent cancer – Cancer is characterised by uncontrolled growth of cells. Fasting has been shown to have several beneficial effects on metabolism that may lead to reduced risk of cancer.
  • May improve brain health – Intermittent fasting may increase the growth of new neurons and protect the brain from damage.
  • May expand lifespan – Given the known benefits for metabolism and all sorts of health markers, it makes sense that intermittent fasting could help us to live a longer and healthier life.

How To Get Started – “Intermittent fasting”  is a catch all term and it’s applied to a lot of eating styles.

One of the most popular types of intermittent fasting relies on what is referred to as an “Eating Window”. This means that food is eaten only during a set number of hours. People often refer to these windows in terms of ratios, with the numbers of fasting hours usually placed first. So 16:8 means 16 hours of fasting and 8 of eating, whereas a 19:5 means a 19 hour fast followed by a 5 hour eating window.

“OMAD” is an acronym for “One Meal A Day” and  another type of intermittent fasting. Although this regime sounds extreme, this single meal can be eaten over a couple of hours.

Shorter eating windows like OMAD or 19:5 actually have greater benefits than longer ones. Research shows that fat burning accelerates significantly after 18 to 24 hours of fasting.

Eating windows aren’t the only way to fast. There’s also the “Up And Down Day” approach. “Up Days” are the days you eat, and “Down Days” are the days that you don’t eat.

People also use ratios to refer to these eating patterns, so 5:2 means five days of eating and two days of fasting.

Some people eat nothing at all on their down days. Others find it easier to have one small meal, usually up to 500 calories.

If you decide to opt for the “Up And Down Day” approach, then you should eat as much as you need to, on your unrestricted days. The variation between the up days and down days can help prevent your body from adapting to undereating, meaning that you’ll continue to lose weight in the long run.

There are a few things to avoid if you want to fast “clean.”

People in the fasting community often describe a fast that follows all the rules as a “clean” fast. This term doesn’t mean that only water may pass your lips during your fasting period, but it does narrow your choices. It means that while you are fasting, you need to avoid all sweetened and food like flavours, even if they are zero calories. This is because your body experiences an insulin response to certain tastes even if they are unaccompanied by actual calories.

A study in 2008 showed that just the taste of a sweetened solution in your mouth can significantly raise your insulin levels.

Therefore, all diet sodas, gum, flavoured water, fruit flavoured teas, and anything with a sweet or food like taste are ruled out.

Still water, sparkling water, black coffee and plain tea are some of the very few things that can be consumed while maintaining a fast.

It is important to stay hydrated while fasting but don’t undermine your fast by triggering your insulin response – when in doubt, leave it out!

 To reap the greatest rewards, change your fasting style from time to time.

Changing your fasting pattern from time to time can help to drag you out of the homeostasis to which your body is inclined.

Homeostasis refers to your body’s natural tendency to maintain stability and balance.

By mixing up your fasting pattern, you stop your body from settling into any one rhythm.

There are 3 main ways to do this:

  • Try switching your approach completely. If you’ve spent a month or two trying a 16:8 fasting regime, then perhaps try changing it to an up and down day regime.
  • Try changing the length of your eating window. For instance, you could try 19.5 on some days and One Meal A Day on others! What matters here is keeping your body “on its toes”.
  • Try adopting a hybrid approach whereby you fast on some days and don’t restrict your fasting on other days, and then also make use of eating windows.

“Fasting can help you to start eating healthily.”

Intermittent fasting is a powerful tool. It’s flexible, relatively simple, and helps you to lose weight and live longer.

However, although fasting can help you to reduce your weight and improve your health, it cannot defy the laws of nature. If you overeat during your eating window then you’ll put on weight.

Fasting shouldn’t be the only change you make to your lifestyle. What you eat, and how much you eat are also very important.

Studies have found that fasting helps to reduce levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, and increases the rates of leptin, the hormone that makes you feel satisfied.

In addition to reducing hunger, many people find that fasting actually changes their preferences in food.

Intermittent fasting will help you to develop cravings for the foods that are more nourishing and beneficial to your body as opposed to unhealthy and ultra- processed foods.

The timing of your meals can have a profound effect on your body, helping you to lose weight, improve your overall health – and maybe even live longer. In order to make the most of fasting, alter your eating patterns from time to time, and make sure you’re nourishing your body with healthy, satisfying foods. If you get very hungry during a fast, set a timer for 30 mins and don’t eat until it rings; at that point, you should be able to tell whether you’re truly ravenous or you just had to deal with some passing hunger pangs. I hope you have found this both inspiring and informative and would love to hear your thoughts.

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19 thoughts on “Intermittent Fasting – A Powerful Tool!”

  1. I feel so much better and fresher. My BMI is now within normal limits and I literally feel the proverbial ten years younger. Sharper of mind and fitter in body. I can’t comment in detail about the claims, I just know, how easy it is to control my weight now, and how fitter my mind and body is.

  2. barbara scheck

    Hmmmm I’ve heard of the benefits of intermittent fasting but never had it explained as fully and as simply as this.

    I will definitely try the 16:8 hours option. I find it difficult to fast for a whole day so the flexibility it provides is perfect for me.

    Thanks a lot Antonia. Here’s to an additional lifestyle change, thanks to you!

  3. Thanks Antonia, very inspiring! Have tried 16:8 before and found it very helpful to control cravings. It was a good reminder to start it again 🙂

  4. I was previously struggeling with frequent uintentional weight loss due to absorption issues and tried all sorts of methods to heal my body. I did try this type of fast as well and I am a believer of fasts as such. Our bodies need regular maintanance for sure, just like our souls do. One thing I learnt though is that fasts and healthy food choices will work for us only if we look after our emotional health, too.
    Lovely and very detailed article Antonia. Thank you

  5. This explanation is streets ahead of anything else I’ve read! Compelling as well as understandable!

    Now where’s my alarm clock..!

  6. I haven’t tried fasting as such myself, but it’s something I’ve been meaning to try. I’ve followed a dieting book before called the 8 week blood sugar diet, written by Dr Moseley (Of BBC dieting and food related programmes) which like this article was very informative as well as including the recipes.
    Once you’ve completed the 8 week diet…the follow on recipe book supports the 5:2 method of fasting. I know a couple of close friends who have tried this method and found it very successful.

  7. Brilliant article! Very well explained.
    I have been doing intermittent fasting for 4 years now. The body is fitter, the heart nice and open, the mind sharper. Yoga, Meditation and Intermittent fasting the best combination so far towards health and joy.
    Sometimes in between I enjoy few weeks of “freestyle” healthy diet as I love my Italian cooking so much, and sharing food, mixing fusion of vegetarian West African, Asian and South American influences. A pure balance is the key. Happy intermittent fasting everyone!

  8. Great article! I like way you explained the topic in an understandable way.
    I usually stop reading when it gets too technical but you made it very appealing…It might be the right time to give it a go.
    Thank you Antonia.

  9. This article has come at the right time because I feel confident I can use the tips to introduce intermittent fasting into my self-care routine.

  10. My diet is pretty bad right now. It is not the type of food (generally healthy and always homemade) but, both the amount and the timing. When I have tried fasting before (with a modest increase in my exercise levels) it has worked BIG TIME! At 19st right now I know my BMI is running a ‘bit’ hot but, last year I lost 30 lbs in 12 weeks doing with the 16:8. Another great post my guardian angle Antonia and a timely reminder for me! I will let you know how I get on having another crack x

  11. Daniel Geller

    As ever, really insightful and helpful. You seem like an expert on so many issues. This article contains tips that can really make a difference to your well-being, as always with your articles.

  12. Davinder Kaur

    Thanks Antonia for this well written, easily followed article. Good explanation of the whole process. I’ve been doing intermittent fasting since last October and now realise what changes I need to make. A good reminder. Thanks for all your support.

  13. Natalie Moore

    A very interesting, insightful and informative article, I have done intermittent fasting before to lose weight but never really known the ins and outs of it other than it’s good for you and helps one lose weight. After this read it makes so much more sense, intermittent fasting shouldn’t be a way of losing weight but a way of life to maintain a healthy lifestyle! When I last participated in intermittent fasting my hair and nails grew, my skin glowed, I had more energy, i lost weight so thanks for the reminder Antonia back to intermittent fasting and healthy living I go!

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