What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IM) is one of the most popular, most effective dietary protocols you can find for weight loss. Following an intermittent fasting protocol can bring about a great many benefits, including:
- Improved digestion
- Improved gut health
- Reduced insulin resistance
- Protection against diabetes
- Reduction in oxidative stress and inflammation in the body
- Promoting improved cellular regeneration and repair processes
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Increased human growth hormone (HGH) and testosterone output
These all come as a result of changes in the body’s hormonal output, alongside its ability to fully rest its digestive processes for protracted periods of time. They will all likely come quite naturally to most people who simply change when they eat and when they fast, without having to worry too much about what- or how much- they are eating (though dietary content is, of course, important for long-term health and weight management.)
Anybody looking to make use of the above benefits should consider adopting an intermittent fasting protocol for their nutrient timing.
This being said, many people turn to intermittent fasting to aid with weight loss or body recomposition. Many of the benefits to be gained from following an intermittent fasting protocol have direct, positive impacts on both caloric intake and metabolic health.
IM can lead to improved metabolic health and accelerated weight loss
Unlike most ‘diets’, intermittent fasting won’t restrict what you eat, unless you choose to follow a protocol in conjunction with another diet plan, like a ketogenic, high protein, Mediterranean or calorie-controlled diet, for instance.
However, intermittent fasting needn’t be about changing what you eat, but rather following a very careful plan that manipulates when you eat.
Intermittent fasting requires you to follow a set pattern of eating in order to work. By better scheduling your nutrient intake, you will be able to make the most out of everything that goes into your body, whilst giving your body time to fast. This fast will rest the digestive system for extended periods of time, whilst simultaneously leading to the hormonal and metabolic changes that are beneficial for the loss of body fat.
Intermittent fasting can therefore be a good protocol for weight loss. The timing brings your body into a natural fat-burning state, whilst the slim window in which you can eat naturally caps the amount of calories you can take in, thus making the maintenance of a caloric deficit (crucial for weight loss) far easier.
The feeding cycle
The body transitions through a few states as the feeding cycle takes place. Each of these concerns us as each brings about and represents very different biochemical reactions and roles. Understanding them is very helpful in enabling weight loss.
The fed state
The fed state comes first, beginning at the outset of nutrient intake (as you eat a meal). It lasts from the beginning of the meal to about 3-5 hours after it is finished. This will be a thermogenic period in which your body is digesting food, breaking it down and absorbing nutrients. Insulin levels will spike as this energy is brought it, and glycogen levels and blood sugar levels will be raised.
The post-absorptive state
Following this, the body goes into the post-absorptive state. This can last until up to 12 hours after the body’s last intake of nutrients. The body will not be digesting food during the post-absorptive state, and insulin levels shouldn’t be too high, but glycogen levels will be raised.
This glycogen is the body’s preferred source of energy. It will be burned off in lieu of body fat, making it hard to lose weight during the post-absorptive state.
The fasted state
This is where the magic happens. The fasted state the foundation and basis of any intermittent fasting protocol. It will be the period in which all of the biological processes we need to gain the above benefits will take place. Insulin levels will be at their lowest, the body will produce more HGH and testosterone and will use body fat reserves as its main source of energy, making it very easy to lose weight in the fasted state.
The presence of increased HGH and testosterone will also make it easy to build muscle in the fasted state. This combines with the rapid fat loss above to make intermittent fasting perfect for those seeking body recomposition: burning fat and building muscle at the same time.
The fasted state typically begins about 12 hours after the last nutrient intake, so can only occur when nothing has been eaten for 12 hours. It will last until the fast is broken- the body’s next meal.
Losing weight can be hard. No matter how much you pack your diet with healthy food, and no matter how much exercise you undertake, burning body fat runs counter to the body’s survival instincts and is incredibly difficult to pull off.
This can be changed, however. Intermittent fasting will prime your body for weight loss: it will put you in a perfect position to burn through body fat whilst building muscle.