*Edit Feb. 12 2015: I added a list of studies supporting the benefits of IF at the end of the article, be sure to read further for more information.
Intermittent fasting can provide many important health benefits, including improving your insulin/leptin sensitivity, helping your body more effectively burn fat for fuel, increasing mental clarity and overall energy levels, and more.
For years I agonized over finding the diet, eating schedule, and workout routine that best suited my goals and lifestyle. It took up a ton of mental energy and time. However, it didn’t matter what I tried or how enthusiastic I was about a new plan of attack for my diet and fitness, sooner or later I would fall off track for various reasons, with much disappointment.
I tried the ‘six small meals a day’ plan, I tried a 100% whole-food diet, I blended, I chopped. I tried numerous workout plans as well, but nothing seemed to be truly resonating with my body. I found myself lethargic most of the day, sick of always planning my meals, and frustrated that with how much effort I was putting into planning my diet and workouts, I still wasn’t seeing or feeling the results I had hoped for.
But this all changed when I discovered intermittent fasting (IF). I had heard a few things here and there, but I’d never fully entertained the topic.
After reading about the incredible health benefits of IF, something finally clicked within my brain. Call it my intuition or my ‘aha!’ moment, but something was telling me that this new approach to eating and fitness was the one I had been waiting for.
Why So Many Struggle With Their Weight
The reason so many struggle with their weight (aside from eating processed foods that have been grossly altered from their natural state) is because they’re in continuous feast mode and rarely ever go without a meal.
As a result, their bodies have adapted to burning sugar as its primary fuel, which down-regulates the enzymes that utilize and burn stored fat. Fasting is an excellent way to “reboot” your metabolism so your body can start burning fat as its primary fuel, which will help you shed your unwanted fat stores.
Once your insulin resistance improves and you are normal weight you can start eating more frequently, as by then you will have reestablished your body’s ability to burn fat for fuel—that’s the key to sustained weight management.
The amount of research around fasting and particularly intermittent fasting is growing exponentially. Let’s explore what the research is saying.
How & Why Intermittent Fasting Works
One 2013 review found a broad range of therapeutic potential in intermittent fasting, even when total calorie intake per day did not change, or was only slightly reduced. Studies included in the review produced evidence that intermittent fasting may:
- Limit inflammation
- Improve circulating glucose and lipid levels
- Reduce blood pressure
- Improve metabolic efficiency and body composition, including significant reductions in body weight in obese individuals
- Reduce LDL and total cholesterol levels
- Help prevent type 2 diabetes, as well as slow its progression
- Reverse type 2 diabetes
- Improve pancreatic function
- Improve insulin levels and insulin sensitivity
- Reproduce some of the cardiovascular benefits associated with physical exercise
- Protect against cardiovascular disease
- Modulate levels of dangerous visceral fat