So, what’s all the fuss buzzing around the Internet about the benefits of intermittent fasting?
Perhaps you even started it or maybe you have a family member or friend that’s interested in starting it.
Well, let me try to shed some light on this topic as best possible for me. I will try to explain everything you may need to know about the benefits of intermittent fasting.
The cool thing is, intermittent fasting is really easy to get started with. However, the caveat is there are some details that you need to pay attention to. I will dive into these details as well.
To start off with, let’s talk about what is intermittent fasting and why you shouldn’t overthink it. We’re going to explore the physical benefits, fat loss, muscle gain, cellular rejuvenation, mental and focus benefits, and much more.
Let’s Start with What is Intermittent Fasting.
Intermittent fasting isn’t a diet. Intermittent fasting is a meal timing plan.
Basically, what you’re doing is that you’re focusing on a specific period of time in which you are abstaining from food and calories. And then you have a set period of time in which you consolidate all of your food and calories.
You’re following a cycle where you are going for an extended period of time of not eating, fasting, leading into a period of time where you are eating.
One of the biggest problems that people make with fasting is to overthink it. They tend to complicate things, and it’s human nature for us to do that I suppose. So, simply put, intermittent fasting is just not eating for a set period of time and then consolidating your calories.
Yes, there are many intricacies in between, but for all intents and purposes, that’s the goal.
The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting.
There are some huge physical benefits of intermittent fasting, and that’s probably the main reason that people are attracted to intermittent fasting. Physical benefits include dramatic fat loss all while maintaining muscle. Also increasing muscle tone and increasing muscle density.
And there’s also some other general things like actually improving your vascular functions as well, that can improve your looks. It also helps with your skin resulting to enhancing your overall appearance.
There are other benefits, too, like your nails, your hair, all kinds of things, simply because of the nutrient uptake that occurs. All the physiological functions that occur mainly because of the release of what are known as catecholamines, adrenaline, norepinephrine, epinephrine and things like that allow your body to tap into fat stores and preserve muscle.
When you go on an extended period of time, it allows your body to start tapping into its fat reserves. The cool thing is that you have a lot of different hormone functions that are preventing you from burning up or losing muscle, so you get all the benefits of fat loss without losing your muscles.
Let’s also explore some of the mental benefits of intermittent fasting.
Whenever you’re on any kind of fasting protocol, you’re going on for an extended period of time without eating. When you go that extended period of time without eating, your brain goes into somewhat of a survival mode.
This may sound alarming, but it’s actually good because what ends up happening is that when your brain goes into survival mode, it gets hyper-focused. This causes it to preserve the energy for whatever the task is at hand.
So, instead of having all of these extra thoughts, you’re able to focus on what you really want to focus on. And in today’s society, it’s very difficult to find true focus. So, fasting is very powerful for that.
I also want to touch on the cellular rejuvenation side as one of the key benefits of intermittent fasting. What happens while you’re fasting is something that occurs in your body known as autophagy. Autophagy is the process where newer cells replace the old cells and it consolidates them into stronger, more powerful, efficient cells. This process makes your skin glow better, making you live longer, and improving all kinds of organ functions.
So, when you combine such benefits together, you can see why your friends and family might be buzzing on about intermittent fasting.
How Do You Start Your Fast?
I don’t literally mean how do you start fasting? That part’s pretty simple. You just stop eating and you’re fast has begun, but what you eat leading into a fast can make a big difference.
For example, if you eat something that’s higher in fiber is going to put you in a situation where you’re a little bit more satiated. I would recommend consuming a higher fiber meal prior to starting your fast. So, if you’re going to be fasting from, perhaps, 10 p.m. the night before, all the way through to maybe 2 pm or 4 p.m. the next day.
Before starting out at 10 p.m., you may want to have a little bit of fiber, maybe some psyllium husk, maybe some vegetables that have a little bit more fiber. What that’s going to do is to allow you to stay satiated for a longer period of time.
You will still get all the metabolic benefits. But as far as your hunger is concerned, you won’t get the stomach growls or hunger pangs. This will help you out significantly.
I would also recommend having a little bit of fats. Fats of course will get digested a little bit slower, but they’re also going to leak-free fatty acids into your bloodstream a little bit more, so you’re able to produce ketone bodies.
So, a little bit of fat, a little bit of fiber, a little bit of protein, really pretty simple. You don’t have to overthink this. A little bit of broccoli with some coconut oil might just be the perfect match for you.
How Long Should You Fast?
When you’re fasting, the benefit that you’re trying to achieve is usually dictated by how long your fast is. What I mean by that is that with shorter fasting times you will get somebody composition effects. But the longer that you fast you tap more into the cellular rejuvenation effects.
What I tend to recommend is to start off with a 16 hour fast. This is known as 16-8 fasting. What this means is you are fasting for 16 hours, and then you have an 8-hour eating window. Most of us aren’t awake for 24 hours straight so that eight-hour eating window doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to be eating the entire eight hours.
If you were to fast for 16 hours, you might be awake for 4 or 5 of the 8-hour eating window, which works out perfectly because it allows you to restrict your calories a little bit more and get more of a metabolic effect.
The 16 hours should be the bare minimum. You see after 16 hours, you start to have an exponential benefit every hour. So, 16 hours is where the benefits of intermittent fasting really start. If you’re fasting for less than 16 hours, you’re still getting a good benefit, but you’re not getting the same kind of intermittent fasting benefits that occur in the way of Autophagy and in the way of the cellular rejuvenation that starts at 16 hours.
I would recommend starting at 16 and working your way up to 18 or even 20 hours if it’s possible for you. 16 hours is actually very easy to do. An example of that would be to stop eating at 10 p.m. and then going to bed and then waking up and not eating until 2 p.m. That’s 16 hours!
That’s really not that bad. Then you go ahead and you just eat whatever you need to between 2 and say 8-10 pm again. You would really be in this perfect situation, this perfect set up of fasting and eating windows. And again, you don’t have to eat throughout the entire eight-hour eating window.
What Should You Consume in Intermittent Fasting?
Now let’s discuss what you can consume during your fast. This is very important because a lot of times, once you get started fasting, you’re going to get curious about different things.
You can consume black coffee. Don’t add a sweetener to it, and don’t add any creamer to it. Okay, Black coffee in and of itself is very, very powerful. And it actually has some effects on Autophagy, meaning it actually speeds up the process of your cells recycling each other.
A study was published on this some time ago in the journal called Cell Cycle. The study found that the polyphenols in coffee, whether it was decaf or caffeinated, actually encouraged cells to recycle and go through Autophagy much more so than those that didn’t have coffee.
Additionally, coffee does have some caffeine in it, and believe it or not, caffeine actually supports your fast. Caffeine not only helps boost fat loss, but it also supports Autophagy as well. It helps the cellular rejuvenation effects. So black coffee is great.
The issue is that once you add any sweetener to it, whether it’s artificial sweetener that doesn’t have calories or not, it can trigger an insulin response.
The other thing that you can consume is tea.
Go ahead and have tea. You’re totally fine to do so. You can have black tea or green tea, just no sweetener or creamer in it.
Many people wonder about bulletproof coffee or bulletproof tea where you’re adding the butter, the coconut oil to your coffee? Just keep that out of the equation to have a good fast. You shouldn’t have any calories coming in. It should just be basic tea or basic coffee.
Now diet sodas can be a little bit of a gray area. You can have diet sodas every once in a while, but the artificial sweeteners can still trigger an insulin spike. Such an insulin spike can screw up your fast just because it triggers a metabolic response.
If you’re going to have a diet soda, be sure to have something that is sweetened with stevia, so you’re at least getting a natural sweetener with zero calories versus bringing in something that’s completely artificial and going to trigger what’s called an excitotoxin response within your brain.
Water is obviously okay.
You can consume as much water as you want to unless you’re specifically doing a dry fast, which I will touch on later.
Additionally, I don’t think you should be consuming any bone broth or anything like that. Some people think that you should be consuming broth during an intermittent fast, but there are specific types of fasting that will allow that.
Then it comes down to like your pre-workouts and your BCAAs and things like that. I would not recommend consuming pre-workout during a fast. It is recommended to lean on coffee whenever possible.
How to Break the Fast.
This is where there are a lot of different methodologies.
Firstly, you can’t get into good shape, can’t look amazing, and feel amazing if you’re not taking care of your internal organs. My big recommendation for breaking a fast with some kind of bone broth.
When you break your fast with bone broth, it allows the collagen to help restore the gut. A lot of times when you’re fasting, you end up temporarily weakening the gut mucosal layer. This gut mucosal layer is what protects you from any kind of acid or any kind of damage in the gut.
Consuming some bone broth could make the gut actually absorb things better. You don’t need much, about 4-6 ounces will do. But I would highly recommend no matter the length of your fast, if you break your fast with some bone broth, it will help you out a lot.
Next, it’s so very important that you’re not combining fats with carbs. You don’t want to mix fats and carbs because what happens is that carbs cause an insulin spike. This insulin spike causes the cells to be very receptive to retrieve whatever you just consumed.
If you consume carbs, that triggers insulin which opens the cells. Then, if you’ve also consumed fat at the same time, the carbs go into those cells along with the fat. If you consume carbs by themselves, just the carbs go in. If you consume fat by itself, fat doesn’t even trigger an insulin response.
So, bad idea to combine fats with carbs. Either has carbs and protein or fats and protein, but not a mix of the two.
When Should You Work Out?
When should you work out to get the best benefits of intermittent fasting? When it comes down to your fasting period, should you work out when you’re fasting, or should you work out after you’ve broken your fast?
It’s perfectly acceptable to do either one, but if you want a little bit more of a physiological body composition effect you will want to train in while fasting.
Here’s a routine.
Start your fasting and then go to bed. After waking up, get your workout in the morning. Then, continue to fast the remainder of the day until it’s time to break the fast. So essentially, the workout happens in the middle of the fast, even though it is the first part of the full day of fasting.
A lot of people, however, like to workout at the end of their fast. This could also be considered to be very beneficial. But it’s rather hard to do if you work out at the end of your fast. Right before you break your fast, you are most likely to burn the most fat. But by then, simply because you’re already at the exhausted portion of your fast, your body is already burning fat.
The problem is you will see some performance decline at that point in time. If you work out earlier in the day, you still have a lot of strength and stamina from the food that you ate the night before, but you’re not going to be weak from the fast yet. You will get the benefit of being able to still work out hard without losing the effect of the fast.
Now, if you do decide to work out after you’ve eaten, you’ll probably find your strength is quite high. But one of the things that you should make sure you’re aware of is that you want to digest your food a little bit first. As soon as you break your fast, all the blood is going into your internal organs. It’s going to your stomach to help you digest.
This means that if you go work out, you’re detracting from that, you’re taking away the blood from the vital organs and sending it out to your extremities to workout. This means that you’re not absorbing the nutrients in the fashion that you could be if you worked out perhaps later.
Just remember you’re going to have great strength gains, but you’re not going to have as much in the way of body composition effects. So the body takes little bits of fat that are in the muscle and puts them into the bloodstream and burns them, and then the process repeats.
So fasting and working out is really a powerful way to kind of hack the system and get a bit more fat burning out of your fast.
Different Types of Fasting.
Now let’s discuss some of the common concerns about the different types of fasting to see how they differ from the benefits of intermittent fasting. It will also be going to assist you to determine which one is more right for your goals and needs.
So far, we have discussed most things about intermittent fasting only.
The second type of fasting is called prolonged fasting, and that’s any kind of fasting that’s bit longer. Usually, like 24 hours type fast, maybe 24 – 48 hours, less on the body composition benefits and more so just on the cellular rejuvenation benefits.
You will gain an exponential amount of mental benefits when you go in these longer fast. The longer you fast, the more your mental acuity sharpens. This means that you actually get sharper as you fast longer.
But the physiological body composition effects tend to start to diminish after 24 to 48 hours. So, no need to push it past 48 hours unless you’re doing it for any specific reason. Nevertheless, prolonged fasting is very good to do, perhaps once a month or once every quarter.
Moving onto more aggressive fasting now, another kind of fast you could do is termed a liquid fast. This is where you’re still consuming coffee. You’re still consuming bone broth. You’re could even be consuming bulletproof coffee.
It’s all the things that still have calories, but only as a liquid. Some people do drink soda and technically it is perhaps fine to do so, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The whole idea of a liquid fast is not about the metabolic benefit. It’s about giving your digestive system a break.
The final kind of fasting to discuss here is called dry fasting. This is where you don’t consume any food or water. You can see how this can be considered very extreme. You should only do dry fasting once every 3 to 6 months. What happens when you dry fast is you end up pulling hydrogen from your fat stores to make what’s called molecular water.
What that means in simple terms is that your body burns more fat because it has to take a portion of the available fat to make water. Yes, literally fat contains hydrogen, which means that the hydrogen in the fat combined with oxygen that you breathe to make what’s called molecular water.
As you could understand that dry fasting is very effective at burning fat. That being said, it’s not something you want to do more than once every 3 to 6 months.
Fasting: Men vs. Women.
Let’s also discuss whether there are any differences in the benefits of intermittent fasting between men and women. All in all, there are a lot of technical ‘science’ facts that are out there on the Internet.
In short, men and women are very similar when it comes down to how the metabolisms work with fasting. That being said, when it comes down to women fasting, the only thing that they need to be a little bit more aware of is going to be their reproductive system.
Their bodies are going to sending off hunger signals a lot more aggressively. It’s a little bit more reason to be cautious for a female to be fasting from a survival standpoint. This is so because they need to have extra reserves that are there to carry a child so their body might go into a little bit more of a fighting response.
if you’re a female reading this, it’s just something to be aware of. And even though the benefits of fasting don’t start until hour 16, you can still get some effects by fasting for a shorter amount of time. Perhaps you could start with 12 hours to start with and work your way up if you feel up to it.
Men of course, the fasting is pretty straightforward. You don’t have nearly as much of the complex reproductive system concerns as women do, so it’s simple enough to go ahead and jump into any fasting routine.
Now that you are all set to start getting the benefits of intermittent fasting, there are still a few common concerns left to discuss.
The first one that I want to address is that if you going to lose muscle? Many credible studies have already shown already that you will not lose muscle. You’re only going to burn fat. But if you were to go ahead and fast for perhaps 3-5 days, you might lose some muscle.
Another concern that comes up is will the metabolism slow down? Will it affect the thyroid?
Metabolism is kind of a tricky word. Metabolism slowing down is something that gets thrown around often. To explain in simple terms, your caloric needs are going to decrease if your calories decrease, but your caloric needs are not going to necessarily decrease if you go for a period of time fasting.
As long as your calories are where they need to be, you’re not going to slow your metabolism down. You will be totally fine.
But the question that comes up a lot more is what about the thyroid. A study published in the Journal of Technology found that during the fast during the time that you’re not eating, thyroid functions would stay the same. But the thyroid precursors would start to decrease.
Meaning that the production of the thyroid hormone would start to slow down. But the actual thyroid hormone itself didn’t slow down. It’s rather the process that created thyroid would start to slow down.
But the second that subjects ate, it came right back to normal levels. You see, what ends up happening is that when you’re not eating, your thyroid levels are going to slow down. But once you’re eating, your metabolism is going again.
It is safe to say that while you’re fasting, you might see a slowdown in your metabolism by the standards of your thyroid. But once you’re eating, it all balances back out. Another thing to note here is that the thyroid rejuvenates very quickly. So hypothetically, even if it did slow down, you’d be back up and running again like 10 to 14 days.
Another common concern is when to take your supplements. Well, some supplements break a fast while others don’t. As a rule of thumb, if the supplements you’re taking have carbs or has calories, it breaks a fast. If the supplement that you are taking is a soft gel-like it’s oil like a fish oil pill or similar will break a fast.
This has a caloric effect that’s no different than having oil like olive oil or coconut oil. It’s just a different kind of oil, suspending a fat-soluble vitamin. Be sure to consume those like your vitamin D and your fish oil after you’ve already eaten. That way, it won’t break your fast.
However, water-soluble vitamins like multivitamins, Vitamin C, and similar things like those are okay to take during your fasting period.
It is recommended though that you should still try to consolidate them during your eating window simply because it could be a bit harsh on your stomach.
Let’s end with this with concerns around alcohol. This one is a pretty interesting one. We have to look at how the body processes alcohol. When you consume a drink, it converts alcohol into toxic chemicals in your body.
We already know that alcohol can be hard on your body. What ends up happening is that such toxic chemicals jump ahead of all the other food inside your body. What that means is that your body still has to have a metabolic effect, and it’s going to prioritize alcohol over anything else.
But one thing that’s very important to know is that fat burning occurs from your liver. If you’re not having a functioning liver, if your liver is not doing well, you’re not going to burn fat very well. So, if you’re asking a lot of your liver to prioritize any toxic chemicals from the alcohol, then you’re slowing down the process of burning fat.
Alcohol will definitely break a fast. Recommended is that if you’re going to consume alcohol, you should do it after you’ve already absorbed some of your food.
I hope that I was able to present some useful facts on the benefits of intermittent fasting to deliver some solid perspective on what intermittent fasting is and what intermittent fasting is not.
You can even use intermittent fasting with keto, paleo, or being a vegan or whatever you want.
Best of luck on your fat loss journey.