Weight loss is something that a lot of people struggle with. In fact, according to a study, 45% of adults in the United States said they want to lose weight or get in shape. There are all kinds, shapes, and sizes of fad diets that get their time in the spotlight. The keto diet, Adkins, Whole30, paleo, South Beach diet, Weight Watchers, and many more have popped up in recent years with some boasting their benefits. However, many have tried these diets and failed. What is the biggest reason for failure? Sustainability. Many of these diets require such a massive life change and such strict eating rules that they set people up for failure.
While not a diet in the same way as Adkins is a diet, there is one change to your eating habits you can make that has shown success for many: intermittent fasting.
The concept of fasting isn’t new to the world, but in the last few years, it has become more mainstream thanks to the introduction of the concept of intermittent fasting. This style of fasting is more attainable for people and touts to offer more health benefits than straight-up fasting.
Let’s start with the basics. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, “Intermittent fasting is an eating plan that switches between fasting and eating on a regular schedule.” Rather than focusing on what you eat (as is done in the majority of diets), intermittent fasting focuses instead on when you eat.
On this fasting plan, you are only supposed to eat at specific times in the day and end your eating early enough to allow your body a solid fasting period through the night and into the next day.
Though the concept of fasting seems like you are starving yourself, many doctors and scientists have studied this eating habit extensively and found some great benefits.
When fasting, your body turns to your stored fat for energy. This lowers your insulin levels. The same Johns Hopkins Medicine article shares that “after hours without food, the body exhausts its sugar stores and starts burning fat.” Rather than simply running on the calories you’re consuming every day, intermittent fasting “[prolongs] the period when your body has burned through the calories consumed during your last meal and begins burning fat.”
As stated by the Mayo Clinic, “metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy.” Essentially, it is the rate that your body burns calories. For many people, that is a fixed rate. You often hear people talk about how they have a slow or fast metabolism.
However, you can change your metabolism and speed it up via fasting. Why should you care about speeding up your metabolism? Because a faster metabolism may be able to help you burn more calories.
The point of intermittent fasting isn’t to binge during the window that you’re cleared to eat. Instead, the point is to lower your overall calorie count by consuming less food overall. However, this requires being very mindful. It may be easy to fall into the trap of thinking because you didn’t eat for 16 hours, you can eat whatever you want for 8 hours. And that is definitely not the case. Don’t shove more food into your eating time window. Instead, eat normal amounts of food and you’ll find you end up eating less total calories.
It is the job of insulin to regulate your blood sugar and store excess glucose for energy. As shared by the Mayo Clinic, “after you eat, carbohydrates break down into glucose, a sugar that is the body’s primary source of energy. Glucose then enters the bloodstream. The pancreas responds by producing insulin, which allows glucose to enter the body’s cells to provide energy.” And when you are between meals and insulin levels are low, “the liver releases glycogen into the bloodstream in the form of glucose,” which keeps blood sugar levels more stable.
However, when your insulin levels are high, your body is unable to burn fat. Thus, when you fast, your insulin levels drop and you can burn fat.
Have you ever stopped to think about the work your digestive system does to keep things moving? It’s a hard job, and it’s no surprise that many people have issues with their digestion. If you are one such person, a good way to help those issues is to practice intermittent fasting. When you take a break from eating for 12-16 hours, your body also gets a break in its hard work of digesting. It then turns to breaking down your fat cells and boosting your immunity, which are both great things.
When fasting, your body switches seamlessly between burning carbs and burning fat to create a healthy balance. As mentioned above, this helps in lowering your insulin levels which is tied to better mental clarity.
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There is a lot more happening under the surface than people realize when it comes to fasting. Intermittent fasting is an approach to improving health that works for many. However, before adopting this plan into your life, make sure to speak with your doctor to determine if it is the right plan for you.
As with any dietary changes, be sure to check with your doctor before incorporating these suggestions into your own lifestyle. Information provided here is solely for educational purposes and not intended as medical advice.
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