I’ve never really been a “breakfast” person – at least not during the week. Growing up, I never had an appetite in the mornings before school and even the thought would nauseate me depending on how early it was. About two years ago, I learned more about intermittent fasting, which is basically just an eating pattern where you go a certain length of time “fasting” before your set eating window. Since I was already practicing this in most regards for the majority of my life, this was mainly just to learn more about the benefits of it as it relates to my overall health goals. I’ve lost 15 pounds in the last year or so and a lot of it has to do with following this protocol.
According to Ancient-Code.com, in ancient Indy, Greece, and Egypt, they used intermittent fasting to both prevent and treat certain diseases. They also used it to gain strength since fasting releases nor-epinephrine, which is both a hormone and a brain transmitter mostly stored in the sympathetic nervous system but also in your adrenal tissue. Somewhat high levels of nor-epinephrine make you happy; really high levels make you euphoric. This is one of the reasons why fasting can make people feel more alert, focused, and energetic.
Below are some of the other benefits I’ve found through my research on this topic.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF INTERMITTENT FASTING?
- Fat loss & weight loss – eating all day doesn’t give your body the time needed to reset insulin levels. Why is it important to allow for this? Insulin is the hormone that basically requests your cells to release glucose for energy production. If you’re constantly snacking and “fed”, your insulin is constantly requesting more glucose even when you don’t need it, leading to higher blood glucose and excess sugar being stored as fat. To reset this cycle and lose body fat, we can release this stored glucose through intermittent fasts. Our bodies will begin to run out of glycogen stores after around 12 hours and will go to “fat-burning” mode. Since fat is slow-burning fuel, your energy supply is more balanced and your cravings will not be as severe, thus leading you to better food decisions as well.
- Reduced inflammation – numerous studies have shown that fasting reduces the activity of inflammatory-inducing gene pathways in the body and the number of inflammatory cytokines produced in the body. By reducing inflammation in the brain, your risk for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s is significantly reduced. In addition, you have better mental acuity and concentration so you feel better in general. Further information on how inflammation affects our bodies is below.
- Healing and repair – when we take the stress of digesting food off our body, it is able to use that energy to heal and repair our immune system, joints, brain cells, etc. The main hormone responsible for this is human growth hormone (HGH), which goes up significantly with the fasting length. This hormone helps to improve cellular healing and stimulates fat burning, lean muscle and bone development.
- Mindfulness and enlightenment – fasting can help elevate your level of consciousness since you’re learning to cut out emotional urges and cravings and tune in to what your body and mind are truly telling you. Fasting for brief periods of time allows you to understand what is true hunger and what you may be lacking in another aspect of life that you’re using food to either numb or fill that void with. In addition, breaking a fast can allow you to appreciate the food you’re choosing to consume, ultimately leading you to more nourishing food choices if you didn’t make those before.
WHAT IS THE PROTOCOL?
Below is a chart that Pique created that explains a few variations of IF and their associated schedules.
I don’t like rules. Nor do I think there is a “one size fits all” approach to health and wellness. Some critics may say that I am not “fasting” because I put creamer in my coffee since most IFers claim that you can only have water and black coffee while fasting. I say, live and let live.
I have lots of water and a cup or two of coffee (with creamer) until 12:00 p.m. If I’m hungry by 12:00 p.m., I’ll eat then… or wait until I am. My eating window is essentially from 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. and this is by following the 16:8 method. If I’m feeling off or like my body is telling me it needs nourishment, I’m not going to wait until 12:00 p.m. to give it what it needs and most likely, I’ll adjust accordingly to when my window ends that day. However, I can’t stress enough how important it is to understand the difference between what true hunger feels like vs. a craving, especially if you’re new to IF.
I’ve personally found a lot of success in this type of eating pattern but this will not be for everyone. Listen to your own body and understand what works for you at the stage of life you’re in. I’ll never skip brunch on the weekends just because I feel like I “have” to fast until 12 p.m. before I can have my first meal. I use this for the majority of my life but don’t let it define me or control my life.
DISCLAIMER: I will state that I strongly discourage this method of eating if you have a history of restrictive or disordered eating as it can be triggering for some. Although I feel like I’m stating the obvious, if you’re pregnant then I wouldn’t encourage this method either as you’re caring for two and need to ensure you and your baby are getting the proper nourishment needed to support happy and healthy growth.
I hope this helps! Let me know what you think in the comments below.