Intermittent fasting benefits many aspects of your health and wellness. There are however several approaches to intermittent fasting which can cause confusion over which is the best one for you.
If you're new to intermittent fasting I think the time-restricted eating method is a great and safe way to start. This post looks at how it works and the health benefits.
7 Intermittent Fasting Benefits + the Lowdown on Time-Restricted Eating
Time-restricted eating is a form of intermittent fasting where meals are consumed within a specific period of time. It typically consists of confining all your eating to at the very most, a 12-hour window, and fasting for the remainder of the day. Although a 12-hour window in theory is classed as overnight fasting, but it is still time-restricted if you think about it.
To experience intermittent fasting benefits, time-restricted eating I feel is by far the safest way to start. It also allows you to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner throughout the day.
I personally prefer to fast for a bit longer than 12 hours. But if you're new to time-restricted eating you could extend your fasting period to 14 or 16 hours as you feel ready to do so. And it's these 14/10 hours and 16/8 hours method that are classed as time-restricted eating.
Fasting should always be guided by your intuition. Listen to your body and align your time-restricted eating window with your goals and current health status.
When you start intermittent fasting you may feel hungry and low energy, so begin with “baby steps”. Just bring forward or push your breakfast out an hour or two at first. As time goes by and your body adjusts, it will become easier to extend your time-restricted eating window.
It's kind of like exercise. For those who are sedentary - it is painful and extremely difficult at first, and then once your body adapts it gets easy and even enjoyable.
Where to place your time-restricted eating window?
The ideal placement of your eating and fasting window will likely depend on a number of factors - your work schedule, your family commitments, your exercise routine, and again most importantly what feels best for your body. Research seems to suggest that an earlier eating window may be better.
Intermittent fasting benefits of an earlier eating window schedule - tend to be lower blood glucose levels during a 24 hour period, lower insulin levels, and an ideal cortisol pattern (with levels higher in the morning and lower at night), which better supports your natural circadian rhythms and adrenals.
The same research also shows that there was an increased expression of genes associated with healthy aging, longevity and autophagy (this is the body’s way of cleaning out damaged cells, in order to regenerate newer, healthier cells). Yes please!
Intermittent Fasting Benefits
Intermittent fasting benefits how you look, feel and function in many ways.
Here’s 7 health benefits to show that for relatively little effort and absolutely no cost intermittent fasting is worth doing.
1. Intermittent fasting promotes weight loss (read on to find out how...), but that's not all!
2. Fat burning
First up, fasting puts your body in a fat burning state that you rarely get to enter during a normal eating schedule.
Why? Because intermittent fasting is a strategy for exercising and strengthening the body’s ability to exist in the fasted state, burning fat instead of continually burning sugar (glucose).
When you eat, your body uses glucose (sugar) as its primary source of energy and stores whatever is left over as glycogen in your muscles and liver.
If you don’t give your body a steady stream of glucose, it begins breaking down the glycogen to use as fuel. After the glycogen has been depleted, your body seeks out alternative sources of energy, such as fat cells, which it then breaks down to help power your body.
A study that focuses on the 16/8 time restricted eating method (8 hour eating window) of intermittent fasting showed that it significantly reduced fat mass while retaining both muscle mass and strength. It's another reason why I recommend this style of intermittent fasting.
3. It regulates appetite and energy production
Secondly leptin, also known as the satiety hormone, is a hormone produced by your fat cells that helps signal when it’s time to stop eating. Your leptin levels drop when you’re hungry and increase when you’re feeling full.
Because leptin is produced in the fat cells, if you are storing excess fat you're likely to have higher amounts of leptin circulating in the body.
Too much leptin floating around can cause leptin resistance, which effectively makes it harder for it to turn off hunger cues. Lower levels of leptin can translate to less leptin resistance, less hunger and potentially even more weight loss.
4. It improves blood sugar levels
The benefits of intermittent fasting extend far beyond weight loss. It can also reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes because it improves the regulation of your blood sugar, increases your resistance to stress, and suppresses inflammation. Wow - that's something to be said for in a typically high stress, high inflammation world.
Even where weight loss doesn’t occur - so if you don’t need to shed excess fat, fasting can still improve your blood sugar levels. But it is crucial for you to maintain a healthy diet while you're fasting to avoid a blood sugar yo-yo effect.
This is another reason why I advocate time restricted eating for newbies as you don’t want to put the body under any unnecessary stress.
5. Reduced Inflammation
If you're concerned about inflammation then you will be pleased to know that a core intermittent fasting benefit is a reduction in inflammation. And specifically chronic inflammation, which unfortunately in today’s world is pretty widespread.
Basically, intermittent fasting cycles lasting less than 24 hours can reduce the number of pro-inflammatory monocytes in your blood. High levels of monocytes have been associated with some chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
Other studies show the effects of fasting on the body’s inflammatory immune cells (macrophages), and found that fasting may help to reduce that kind of inflammatory response. For example, it can lower gut inflammation to help improve inflammatory gut disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease and colitis.
6. Improved detoxification
Time-restricted eating gives your digestive system a longer rest from breaking down and absorbing food. This frees it up to focus on eliminating toxins that have built up in your cells.
The elimination of toxins from your digestive system is important because a build up of toxins in the intestinal tract can disrupt the fragile balance of your intestinal flora. And these microorganisms are vital to your digestive health and the protection of your immune system.
7. Promotes mindful eating habits
Do you ever reach for a bag of crisps or chocolate bar without even realizing what you’re doing? It’s called mindless eating, and most of us do it to some extent. But do it often enough, and it can cause you to fall out of sync with your body’s hunger cues.
If you have a tendency to emotionally eat, especially snacking outside mealtimes, time-restricted eating will force you to establish clear eating windows, and eliminate what’s likely to be an unhealthy contribution to your body.
More intermittent fasting tips for you
Drink plenty of water and non-caloric beverages (not artificially sweetened though) while fasting. Coffee and tea in the morning make fasting considerably more enjoyable.
Intermittent fasting isn’t an excuse to indulge in unhealthy food when you're eating. Always be mindful of your food choices - stick with whole natural foods with good nutrient density and avoid highly processed foods.
Ultimately fasting shouldn't be stressful or miserable. The right way to do time-restricted eating is to fast for as long as feels comfortable for you. You shouldn't have to force anything just because it's "supposed" to work. We are all different, and what works for one person doesn't always work for another.
Do comment below, if you've found this blog post helpful, or have any positive fasting experiences to share.
Hi, I'm an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, Pain & Stress Management Therapist, and Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner.
I help people elevate their mind and body health by addressing diet, nutrition and lifestyle symptoms. Let's work together to optimize how you feel and function.
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