What is intermittent fasting?

In today’s all-you-can-eat consumer culture, we’re eating too much and too frequently. Intermittent fasting is a fancy term for a natural and age-old way of being. The fact that this buzzword is all the hype says more about our habits than we might like to admit. So, what is intermittent fasting?

I first started intermittent fasting after watching a short BBC documentary called Eat, Fast, Live Longer. The documentary covered several eating habits that improve health and slow down the aging process. 

The idea behind intermittent fasting is that, by taking a break from eating and allowing our metabolisms the time to burn through all the fat and calories that we’ve been consuming regularly, our bodies can focus on other beneficial activities, such as cell reparation and regeneration.

Intermittent Fasting Methods

There’s no one way to fast. By trying different approaches, you’ll get a sense of what your body needs and what works best with your schedule. 

Quick Tip: Like most lifestyle approaches, intermittent fasting is not an exact science. It helps to observe the different physical results. A simple journal or log can help you determine which fasting approach works best for you.

Here are a few common methods for intermittent fasting. 

1. Alternate-day fasting

Might look like this. Start your fast around 8 p.m. on Monday and have it extend about 24 hours through most of Tuesday. On Wednesday evening, repeat this process. Though it might sound like a large chunk of time, much of it takes place while you sleep. 

The alternate-day method is straightforward, but it can be challenging to apply it in real life, depending on your daily activity. If you burn many calories during the workweek, you might feel too weak to sustain this approach.

2. Daily intermittent fasting

Also called daily time-restricted feeding, is my personal favorite because it quickly integrates with your schedule, and you’ll find that the hunger pains dissipate within days.

This method is simple: define a window of time every day during which you will fast. This window should last between 14–16 hours. If you start your fast in the evening, around 8 p.m., and end it by noon the next day, most of the fast takes place in your sleep.

If your schedule varies or is more active at night, this may not be the method for you.

3. Weekly intermittent fasting

Involves fasting for one full day a week, which adds up to four days a month. Studies on fasting indicate that this approach is just as beneficial to your health and, for many, it is easier to fit into their weekly schedules. 

Depending on your social plans, you could fast from 8 p.m. on Sunday until 8 p.m. on Monday. Alternatively, you could begin at noon on Sunday until noon on Monday.

Don’t fast; eat less and more slowly

Though technically not an intermittent fasting method, reducing portion size has a similar effect on your body. As mentioned earlier, our problem is that we tend to eat too much and too frequently. 

Intermittent fasting is useful because it reduces the time and energy spent on digestion. Smaller portion sizes have a similar effect and might be easier to implement, especially if you eat slowly, giving your body more time to notice when it’s full. 

How It Affects Your Cells and Hormones

Our bodies are incredible health-producing machines when given a chance. Intermittent fasting lets your body’s innate functions gain momentum and optimize systems. When our bodies focus almost exclusively on the digestive system, those harder-to-reach corners go unnoticed and collect dust.

At the cellular level, intermittent fasting accelerates cellular repair. For instance, within 24 hours of fasting, your body experiences autophagy, literally a self-devouring process. During autophagy, cells clean up old and often problematic proteins.

At the hormonal level, human growth hormone (HGH) dramatically increases while fasting. HGH is crucial to our health. It encourages muscle and bone development and regulates metabolism, sugar absorption, body fluids, and more. We really can’t get enough HGH, and fasting is an efficient way to increase these levels.

Why is intermittent fasting a great tool to lose weight?

For many people, intermittent fasting is more manageable than dieting and could easily be the best tool for losing weight. When you intentionally fast for a specified period, it becomes easier to avoid food. In comparison, dieting can be a constant battle, depending on what food options are within reach.

By fasting, you’re giving your body a much-needed break, allowing it to rapidly optimize nutrient absorption and improve your metabolism, among a myriad of other benefits. 

Though it might be hard to notice these improvements, your energy level will say it all. After a few weeks of consistent intermittent fasting, you may find that your energy and concentration skyrocket, which, in turn, improves work productivity, mood swings, sleep, and activity levels. 

Sounds too good to be true, right? It’s not.

Now that you’ve discovered the secret to weight loss, health, and aging, which intermittent fasting method will you try?

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