This is a guest article by Max Lowery. Max is a personal trainer and online health coach, and the creator of 2 Meal Day.
Intermittent Fasting was the most popular ‘diet’ trend of 2017 and is now becoming one of the most successful weight loss strategies out there.
Intermittent Fasting (IF) is a general term for various eating patterns that involve fasting for short periods of time.
Unlike a typical weight-loss diet that restricts how much you can eat or what you can eat, it’s all about integrating periods of fasting into your day to reap the many proven benefits like burning stored body fat for energy, feeling less hungry and improving overall health.
So why should you give it a go? In this article, I want to highlight my top 10 reasons why you should try intermittent fasting.
1) Weight Loss
Intermittent fasting has proved to be an effective and sustainable weight loss strategy for a number of reasons.
Firstly, when you extend your overnight fast by a few extra hours, your body’s stored energy source (glycogen) becomes depleted. You are then forced to start using body fat for fuel via a process called ketosis.
Fat burning is just one of the many benefits of ketosis that improves overall health and makes it an effective tool for weight loss.
Secondly, it makes it easier to control calorie intake. Although people often feel like they eat more during their eating period, over all they often eat less.
For me, and many of my online clients, this is the reason it becomes a way of life rather than a short term, crash diet. You end up eating a bit less every day, but it feels like you are eating more! Game changer!
2) More Energy
Although this might sound counterintuitive, many of my clients report the feeling of a fasting “buzz”. You have an insane amount of mental clarity and energy which is sustained throughout the day, it doesn’t peak and trough. There are a few reasons for this.
As it turns out, digestion is pretty taxing on the body. Most people are familiar with that feeling of lethargy after a meal. Once you stop constantly digesting food all day you free up that energy for other purposes, like your day-to-day activities and job.
Fasting teaches your body to use body fat for fuel, and fat is a far more efficient and sustainable fuel source than the energy you get from food (carbohydrates).
Often the carbohydrates you consume will give you energy for four hours or so, which is why the mid-morning and mid-afternoon slump has become the social norm (it’s completely unnatural).
To put this into perspective, the average lean male has between 60,000-90,000 calories worth of energy disbursed throughout their body in the form of fat. That is a lot of energy!
There is also a hormone called norepinephrine which is released whilst you are fasting, which has been shown to have a direct and positive effect on mental alertness.
Having low levels of norepinephrine has been associated with depression, so the release of this hormone whilst you are fasting can also have positive effects on your mental health as well. (Study)
It makes you wonder, why are these things happen when you go without food? It all boils down to the fact we are still the same physiologically as we were when we were hunter gatherers.
Our bodies are clever, the last thing that your body wants to feel is tired and lethargic when there is no food around, so hormones are released to make you feel energized so you can catch your next meal!
3) Less Hungry
People are often very surprised to hear this, but it makes perfect sense when you sit down and think about it. When you reduce the frequency of your meals, you start to feel less hungry. Why is this?
Once you start using fat for fuel, your body will stop associating food with energy. Often, the mid-morning hunger comes only a few hours after you’ve had breakfast.
This isn’t real hunger (often your stomach may still be digestion your breakfast), this is your blood sugar beginning to crash after the carbohydrates you have eaten have been used to fuel your activities.
Your body then stimulates hunger hormones that encourage you to find more energy in the form of food.
Once you are in that fat burning state, this doesn’t happen. You will be tapping into the vast quantities of stored energy that your body holds on to.
Your hunger hormones normalise when you fast. You become more sensitive to the hormone Leptin, which is involved in making you feel full, so overall you feel less hungry. Additionally, ghrelin, levels normalise, which is the hormone involved in making you feel hungry.
The combination of these two processes mean that you begin to understand what hunger actually is. One of the biggest realisations that people have is that just because your stomach is empty, does NOT mean you are hungry.
We aren’t meant to have full stomachs, constantly digesting food all the time – this causes weight gain, impairs gut health and contributes to type 2 diabetes.
4) Reduced Blood Pressure
Many different studies have shown IF to be an effective method to reduce blood pressure, with one study saying that it was just as effective as blood pressure-lowering medicine!
5) Improved Insulin Sensitivity and Stable Blood Sugar
This is probably one of the most important health benefits of Intermittent Fasting. In case you don’t know, Insulin, along with glucagon, are hormones in charge of regulating your blood sugar levels.
Every food you eat will raise your blood sugar levels, with different foods having more or less of an effect – processed carbohydrates like white bread, crisps and biscuits seem to raise blood sugar the most, and healthy fats like avocados, nuts and dairy the least.
Every time your blood sugar levels rise, insulin is released to bring them back down. If you eat foods like white bread, white pasta, fizzy drinks and sweets that constantly skyrocket your blood sugar levels, you start to need more and more insulin to have the same effect.
Think of it like caffeine. When you first start drinking coffee, you only need one because you are very sensitive to the caffeine, but over time you start to need more and more to have the same effect. You could say you become caffeine resistant.
Intermittent Fasting makes you more Insulin sensitive, the opposite of being insulin resistant, as well as being very effective at decreasing visceral fat and triglycerides. (Study)
6) Reduced Oxidative Stress
Oxidative stress is essentially an imbalance between the production of free radicals (harmful molecules) and the ability of your body to counteract their harmful effects.
It is one of the processes that can accelerate ageing and contribute to chronic disease. Many studies have now shown that fasting reduces oxidative stress.
7) Potentially Anti-Ageing
Fasting switches on a process called autophagy which is the bodies innate cleansing, recycling and healing tool.
When you go through periods without eating, your body is forced to find energy from elsewhere, the first place it looks is damaged components and proteins within cells (which are a normal by-product of everyday life).
It then turns these damaged parts into a form of energy, cleaning the cell at the same time. In animals, this process has been shown to increase lifespan, by as much as 20% in rats.
This is a lot more difficult in humans because of long lifespans and a multitude of different variables, but there is a growing body of researchers who believe that fasting could be the key to slowing the ageing process.
8) It’s a More Natural Way of Eating
For me, Intermittent Fasting is a more in line with how we have evolved to eat.
In the last 30 years, food manufacturers have encouraged us to eat at every waking moment in the day. We are now truly afraid of going for more than a few hours without food. This is wreaking havoc on our physiology and psychology.
Intermittent Fasting gives you the tools to eat when you are hungry…This might sound so simple and obvious, but think about it, how many of us in the western world experience REAL hunger… not starvation, just real hunger?
We eat because the clock tells us to, or because “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”, or because you have to have lunch at this designated time.
We eat because we are bored, sad, happy, angry or tired. Very rarely are we listening to our body’s natural hunger signals.
On top of this, there is a lot of research going into how food affects us differently at different times of day.
It seems that we are designed to digest and utilise food within a fairly restricted time period, about 8 to 10 hours. Eating food outside of these hours means that our bodies are not primed to use the food we are eating – eating late at night seems to be particularly detrimental.
9) Improved Mind/Body Connection
Fasting gives you the tools to listen to your body better – a fundamental skill in the path to long term health and wellness.
Once you are cleared from the fog of digestion many systems in your body seem to optimise and become more sensitive, which gives you the understanding to know when a something is right or wrong for you.
This is one word that my 2 Meal Day online clients use to describe their fasting experience.
It’s empowering to not be a slave to food and the clock, it’s empowering being completely self-sufficient, no longer depending on caffeine, sugar or nicotine to get you through the day. It’s empowering to understand what your body needs when it needs it.
Empowerment is one of many reasons why Intermittent Fasting becomes a way of life, rather than a crash diet. Incorporating a positive lifestyle habit into a way of life is the key to success.
How to begin Intermittent Fasting the right way?
I designed the Your 2 Meal Day Intermittent Fasting Fat Loss Plan to be the simplest and most effective form of Intermittent Fasting and I believe it is.
The fully online plan includes 80 recipes tailored to your macronutrient and calorific needs, guides and information on the best ways to incorporate IF into your life and a video-based exercise program to go along side your fasting for improved results.
With unlimited email support from my 2 Meal Day team, you can get the results that you want and learn new skills to transform your health and fitness for the better!
Find out more about 2 Meal Day here.