Intermittent fasting is a popular dietary concept that can provide important benefits for your long-term weight loss and health. Here are the top eight science-based benefits of intermittent fasting:
Intermittent Fasting is the Easiest Way to Restrict Calories
Do you want to incinerate your fat blubber and lose a ton of weight? No matter what it always comes down to how many calories you are taking into your body.
Intermittent fasting is the easiest nutrition tool that allows you to stay within your target calories (without endless hunger pangs) and even gives you some elbowroom to make mistakes.
Did you eat a little bit too much at the company party? It’s okay. Just pull back a little on your calories in your next meal. Did you have a full on birthday party with cakes, alcohol, chips and all sorts of tasty treats? IT’S also OKAY. Just take a 24-hour fast the following day.
In fact, some people use a strategic fast day to take advantage of the fat burning goodness cheating on your diet does for your body. They have caloric “wiggle room” within thier day to make up for any “extra” calories they may have taken in.
Intermittent Fasting helps to control your appetite
It’s well known that hunger isn’t only driven by physical needs but cognitive factors and social factors as weel. Oftentimes you’ll find yourself eating when you think you’re hungry, but it’s not when your body really needs food. In fact, your body has a tremendous capacity to store food and energy and work efficiently, and we can negatively affect that process by stuffing ourselves with food when it’s not needed or wanted.
You see, the way you eat has been and always will be controlled by you and your environment.
Most people have been told that eating breakfast first thing in the morning will “help burn fat” so what do we end up doing?
We eat first thing in the morning. What you may start noticing after a couple weeks of doing this is that you start to get hungry in the morning. You’ve trained your body to be hungry at that time.
We are also told by everyone from coaches to doctors to eat frequent meals a day to “stoke our metabolic fire.”
Seeking to comply, we end up eating every 2 to 3 hours each day; however, this is definitely not beneficial. There is no “metabolic fire.” There is no additional benefit to frequent eating.
And, while you can lose weight eating that way, there’s a pretty big downside to that kind of nutrition style: you are training your body to be hungry.
You see, if you eat every 2-3 hours, then—within just a few weeks—you’ll start to get hungry every 2-3 hours.
It has everything to do with a hormone called Ghrelin—also known as, “the Hunger Hormone.” Ghrelin is a hormone that precedes, predicts your mealtimes, induces hunger and is also secreted just by looking at your food before you eat it.
Ghrelin is produced in the hypothalamus, kidney and pituitary gland, but most of it is synthesized in and released by the stomach.
Your ghrelin secretion schedule largely follows your eating schedule, and it’s a fast responder, so even after a few days of going a new meal schedule your body will start to adapt to the eating changes.
Every time Ghrelin is secreted in your body it creates a hunger response.
The more times you delay your hunger response the more you train your body to handle the hunger inducing effects of Ghrelin.
This is nutritional freedom: You have the ability to re-train your body on exactly when to become hungry and when to be fully satisfied by consciously delaying your hunger response.
Nearly everyone who experiences intermittent fasting discovers the same thing: That when you fast you actually have more appetite control than in any other eating or diet style.
Intermittent Fasting Makes You More Productive
A lot of the trepidation that comes with approaching intermittent fasting is the myth that intermittent fasting will decrease your energy leaving you without enough brain power to go through the day.
Research shows that the exact opposite happens. As stated before, we train our bodies and minds in certain ways to adapt to our current eating styles. It really has nothing to do with what is happening to your brain but more about your natural response to what you think is happening to your brain.
One study found that healthy young adults who ate as little as 300 calories over a two day period experienced no decrease in brain tests and cognitive performance (including vigilance, choice reaction time, learning, memory and reasoning), activity, sleep and mood.
Other research has found that long term calorie restriction may improve memory in older populations.
The research is great and the foundation of any reason to make a change. But scientists can’t always quantify behavioral tendencies, and eating is a behavior that controls and influences how you spend your time during the day.
What most people don’t realize is that their lives are tied around food. There is no way to avoid it. With the old guard of “eating 5 meals a day” we have people who are frightened if they miss a meal or skip breakfast because “their metabolisms would slow down.”
This kind of thinking, along with a constant food advertisements, are what’s keeping us in a hungry state day in and day out. When you follow an intermittent fasting diet, you’ll find that you are no longer tied to the idea of having to eat all the time.
What you’ll find is that your best and most productive days are when you are in a fasted state because you don’t have to think about what to eat or how to cook it.
Intermittent Fasting Reduces Your Glucose/Sugar Levels
When trying to lose weight and burn fat, lowering your blood sugar is important to avoid pre-diabetes, diabetes, insulin resistance and most importantly becoming overweight.
The norm in the fitness community is that by eating 5 to 6 frequent meals a day you would regulate your blood sugar levels. This has proven to do the exact opposite.
Another reason why intermittent fasting works extremely well is because during a fast your blood sugar levels slowly lowers itself.
By fasting you could decrease your sugar input by anywhere from 15 to 30%. Thus this improves your ability to burn fat and improve your insulin sensitivity.
Intermittent Fasting Improves Fat Oxidation
Fat oxidization is a term used mostly in sports medicine. It refers to your body’s ability to use stored fats to produce energy—a process that normally happens during exercise.
When using intermittent fasting you are increasing your body’s ability to use your stored fat as energy. This means that when you are burning calories more of those calories will come directly from fat.
This phenomenon was first identified in research conducted on women who fast for Ramadan. The researchers found that all the women who participated in the study increased their fat oxidation levels after periods of religious fasting.
When you fast you give your body no other choice but to use your excess fat as energy.
Intermittent Fasting Eliminates Waste From The Body and Lower Inflammation
Perhaps the most important yet most overlooked benefit of intermittent fasting is its effect on reducing inflammation and waste from the body.
Short term fasting actually helps you eliminate waste in your body and can speed up the healing process by lowering your inflammation levels.
Metabolic inflammation is the inappropriate activation of your immune system, which can disrupt many of your body’s systems and can have severe effects on weight retention and weight gain. And this is important because nearly half of Americans have metabolic inflammation…without even knowing it.
An up-regulated inflammation system causes the release of even more cytokines, which activate a hormone-like compound called c-Jun Terminal Kinase (JNK) that can cause the cells to take in less blood sugar for energy. So more glucose remains in the blood and the cycle spirals onward: inefficient insulin function, inefficient carbohydrate conversion, increased glucose levels in the blood, increased fat production.
The April 2007 issue of Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism includes an article on the positive changes in inflammatory markers brought about by the intermittent fasting Muslims undergo during Ramadan.
As the authors put it in the introduction:
Intermittent fasting over a certain period of time is a feature of great religions all over the world and it is well known that nutritional habits, sleeping patterns and meal frequency have profound effects on maintaining human health.
It’s proven that intermittent fasting drastically improves your immune system and reduces your inflammation in the total body. This has a direct effect on keeping your body in an efficient fat burning environment.
Intermittent Fasting Helps Unleash the Power of Growth Hormone
While we preach that in order for you to lose weight you must take in fewer calories than you are burning, that’s only half the story.
In order to burn off your fat and keep it that way is to manage your hormones in a way that can benefit you best.
The biggest benefit you give to yourself when adopting an intermittent fasting lifestyle is the ability to stimulate your fat burning hormones in an optimal environment.
There are a couple hormones your body relies on to burn fat, increase metabolism and build muscle.
Let’s start with the most important one:
Growth hormone (GH) is a protein-based peptide hormone that is produced by your pituitary gland. It stimulates growth cell reproduction and regeneration in humans and other animals.
GH is research-proven to be the main fat-burning, anti-aging and muscle building-hormone your body produces—and therefore, it’s pretty obvious that the more growth hormone you can have, the better off you’ll be.
It’s proven that when you fast you increase growth hormone, which leads to increased fat loss and also slows down the aging process. In fact, research indicates that you can boost Growth Hormone production by up to 6 times more than average with short term fasting.
But if that’s not enough incentive, here are three more reasons why you (guys and gals alike) want more GH in your system.
Growth Hormone incinerates your fat and denies fat cells from ever forming human growth.
Hormone binds to cells that have receptors for it. It just so happens that fat cells have human growth hormone receptors, and growth hormone stimulates them to break down triglycerides and suppresses their ability to take up and accumulate circulating lipids.
What this means is that growth hormone denies the production of fat cells to occur in your body.
And as an added bonus you also experience a metabolic jolt as a result of the fewer fat cells being produced. Consider it a 1-2 punch that makes you leaner—and keeps you that way.
Growth hormone helps build muscle .
This is done through Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). This is a hormone that is secreted from the liver and other tissues in response to growth hormone. IFG-1 is a very powerful anabolic.
The more IGF-1 you have circulating in your body, the better your chances of building some fat burning muscle; by increasing your human growth hormone, GH research says you will also up your IGF-1 and the muscles start to build.
Growth Hormone makes you look younger
As if increasing fat burning and muscle building wasn’t enough, GH also improves your aging.
In 1990, ground breaking evidence and research on Human Growth Hormone by Daniel Rudman, M.D. shook the medical world (Published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine) with the announcement that 12 men, aged 61 to 81 had received human growth hormone treatment and had reversed up to the equivalent of 20 years of aging in only six months with human growth hormone injections.
Intermittent Fasting Helps You Never Feel Hungry Again
Another important hormone in the fat loss/muscle gain equation is something called Ghrelin As you’ve probably experienced before, the hardest part about “dieting” is the associated hunger, mood swings, and general irritability. Whether directly or indirectly, all of these undesirable traits are impacts by ghrelin.
We mentioned ghrelin earlier on and if you forgot here’s a reminder: Every time Ghrelin is secreted in your body it creates a hunger response. The more times you delay your hunger response you train your body to handle the hunger inducing effects of Ghrelin.
What you didn’t know is that increased production of Ghrelin means you increase more growth hormone in your body as well. Higher levels of circulating ghrelin have corresponded with increased release of growth hormone by the pituitary gland.
The more you are able to delay your hunger response and incorporate periods of short term fasting into your lifestyle the more growth hormone and ghrelin we’ll have pumping in our bodies.