Ugh, 16:8, Eat-Stop-Eat, 5:2, Crescendo Fasting, blah, blah, blah. What does it all mean? Lemme break it down for you. Intermittent Fasting seems to be all the rage on social media today, with everyone from famous fitness trainers to celebrities claiming it’s a life changer. Even though this way of eating seems trendy, it’s been around for millions of years. The human body was designed to enter into fasted states on a regular basis and to burn stored body fat for energy. Let’s look more in-depth below.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
It can be argued that Intermittent Fasting is not a diet, but rather, an eating pattern that involves entering into a fasted state in scheduled intervals. In a 16:8 fast, you consume all of your food for the day within an 8-hour eating window. For the other 16 hours, you fast and enjoy a slew of benefits from being in this fasted state.
Most people opt for a 10AM until 6PM or 12PM until 8PM eating window for their Intermittent Fasting lifestyle, but the eating window can easily be adjusted to your schedule. There are some people that can handle a 4 or 6-hour eating window, arguably increasing the effects of the fasted state (although I do not recommend trying such a short eating window when you are first starting out, and maybe never for some people). Others fast for 24-hour periods at a time, which is called Eat-Stop-Eat. When 24-hour fasts are done two days per week, with normal eating the other five days, this is considered a 5:2 fast.
Crescendo Fasting is when you fast on non-consecutive days. For example, you would follow the 16:8 fasting schedule, but only on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. This type of fasting is recommended for women with thyroid issues or those with blood sugar imbalances. Crescendo Fasting works well with carb cycling to maximize the benefits.
Different fasting schedules work better for different people. It depends on your gender, health status, activity level, schedule, and fasting history. Unlike other eating styles, Intermittent Fasting isn’t as concerned with what you eat (although somewhat), but rather when you eat it.
As research into autophagy has expanded, it has become clear that it is not simply a response to starvation. It also contributes to a range of physiological functions, such as inhibiting cancer cells and aging, eliminating pathogens and cleaning the insides of cells.
– Yoshinori Ohsumi, 2016 Nobel Prize Winning Cell Biologist
What Happens in a Fasted State?
Humans have been fasting for millions of years. We weren’t always able to serve up meals on demand from the refrigerator or freezer. That’s why our body physiology functions so well in a fasted state. When we fast, we get significant benefits from reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels, as well as increases in Human Growth Hormone (HGH) and the homeostatic process of autophagy.
When we eat a meal, our body has glucose readily available to use for energy and leftover glucose is stored in the liver, muscle, and fat as glycogen. These glycogen stores are not depleted for approximately 10 hours (maybe shorter if we exercise). When these stores are finally depleted, the body is then forced to use stored fat for energy. For those who choose to workout in a fasted state before they break their fast, the same principle holds true.
Through fasting, our cells also become more sensitive to insulin. As your body becomes more sensitive to insulin, which is not produced while fasting, it will be able to clear sugar from the blood more efficiently. Studies have shown this can contribute to both fat loss and muscle creation due to HGH being elevated when insulin is low. In addition, sugar in the blood is pro-inflammatory, so by speeding up the removal of sugar from the blood through improved insulin sensitivity, there will be less inflammation throughout the body as well as reduced risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
If this sounds confusing, know that Intermittent Fasting is actually a relatively easy lifestyle change. But just like you wouldn’t jump off your couch and run 10 miles after not exercising for months, you need to ease into Intermittent Fasting if you’re a beginner. If you’d like help getting started, you can download my free 21 Day Intermittent Fasting Challenge here.