Intermittent Fasting: Give Your Body a Break

We all believe we sometimes need to hit the reset button. Well, your body is an agreeance with that sentiment. That’s why intermittent fasting has become the newest wellness trend. With new diets coming in and out of fashion, it is good to be skeptical of how well each diet trend works. Let’s take a closer look at intermittent fasting and see if all of the hype is deserved.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

fasting empty plate
During fasting, meals looks like this

Intermittent fasting is when you do not eat anything for 16 or more hours. Then you allow yourself a specific time window (for example, eight hours) where you can eat.

The amount of time you spend fasting and eating is known as “protocols” in the world of intermittent fasting. To learn more about these protocols, please read our article about the benefits of intermittent fasting for gut health.

There are many ways to set up your fasting and non-fasting time windows. The brilliance of this diet trend is that you can make it work around your schedule. Plus, you sleep through a good portion of the fast. At the end of the day, the idea behind this wellness craze is to give your body a substantial break from consuming any calories.

Why Do Intermittent Fasting?

Fasting was a common practice
among our ancestors

Intermittent fasting may seem like a new idea to many people looking for all-natural ways to improve our wellness. However, we’re just putting a label on something humans have been doing for centuries.

It’s common in many cultures to have extended periods of fasting for different holidays or religious reasons. Additionally, it’s typical in several societies to forgo breakfast or dinner, opting for just two large meals per day.

The idea of cutting back on calories is not an innovative concept, especially to those who are looking to lose weight. However, the benefits of lessening caloric intake and restricting calories altogether are completely different. Let’s take a closer look.

Difference Between Intermittent Fasting and Counting Calories

Don’t get us wrong; there are many benefits to cutting down on calories. However, even those who are watching what they eat are probably foraging throughout the day. Your body never gets a substantial break from decomposing solid food particles.

Research on intermittent fasting has shown,

“Intermittent fasting (IF; reduced meal frequency) and caloric restriction (CR) extend lifespan and increase resistance to age-related diseases in rodents and monkeys and improve the health of overweight humans. Both IF and CR enhance cardiovascular and brain functions and improve several risk factors for coronary artery disease and stroke including a reduction in blood pressure and increased insulin sensitivity [2].”

Science Direct

We’ve been trained to believe that we must feel full at all times. Instead of making the majority bigger and stronger, these ideals have led to an abundance of obesity. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of intermittent fasting.

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

There are many reasons to give fasting a try. It’s almost like meditation for the entire system. Instead of depriving yourself of unwanted chatter and clearing your mind, you’re giving your body a break and allowing the system to reset. Here are some of the benefits to laying off the grub for at least 16 hours.

Diabetes Management

sugar detox diabetes
Fasting can help lower insulin resistance

Diabetes is a disease defined by the body losing all sensitivity to insulin. Consequently, sometimes a low sensitivity to insulin is a sign of pre-diabetes [3]. 

Thankfully, intermittent fasting has shown to increase insulin sensitivity. Lower insulin resistance is ideal for preventative diabetic care. We rely on insulin to regulate blood glucose levels. The more sensitive you are to insulin, the healthier your metabolism is overall [4]. 

Weight Loss

Weight management is something that can seem more difficult than ever in the modern age. Luckily, intermittent fasting has shown to be an effective way to maintain a healthy weight.

A study was conducted involving obese mice on an alternate-day fasting protocol. One group was fed a high-fat diet (HFD), while the others followed a low-fat regimen (LFD).

Results found,

“After 4 weeks, IMF-HFD (∼13%) and IMF-LFD (∼18%) had significantly lower body weights than the HFD. Body fat was also lower (∼40%-52%) in all diet interventions. Lean mass was increased in the IMF-LFD (∼12%-13%) compared with the HFD and IMF-HFD groups [5].”

Endocrinology.

What’s so interesting about this conclusion is that both diets experienced weight loss. Therefore, caloric restriction can benefit anyone despite their dietary habits.

Increase Muscle Mass

One of the pitfalls of losing weight is that we lose muscle mass. Consequently, we don’t have the extra muscle for our skin to wrap around. That’s why people who lose a lot of weight end up with excess skin.

muscle mass fasting
Get swole with IF

Research shows that intermittent fasting can help you maintain muscle mass. That’s because this diet protocol promotes the production of growth hormone [6].

Growth hormone is essential for your body to repair itself and build muscle. With this benefit, intermittent fasting can help you lose a large percentage of pure fat.

With this benefit, intermittent fasting can help you lose a large percentage of pure fat. By maintaining muscle mass and losing fat tissue, you can keep a high metabolism. That’s because muscle is more metabolically active than fat [7]. Not to mention, increased muscle mass helps to keep you strong and prevent injuries. 

Heart Health

Keeping a healthy heart is another important factor in living a quality life where intermittent fasting can help. Inflammatory biomarkers facilitated by food, play a significant role in the development of cardiovascular disease
[8].

fasting for heart health
Gotta keep your ticker ticking!

Common indicators of heart disease include an abundance of:

  • Resistin (Peptide Hormone)
  • Homocysteine (Amino Acid)
  • Interleukin-6 (IL-6) [Immune Cell]
  • C-reactive protein (CRP) [Protein in Blood Plasma)

A primary reason why these inflammatory biomarkers cause heart conditions is because they lend themselves to the development of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a disease where plaque deposits build up in the arteries. Over time, the walls of the veins will thicken, making it more challenging for proper blood flow. Inevitably, atherosclerosis can lead to a heart attack [9].

Balances Cholesterol

Our body needs fat, just make sure you’re choosing the right fats!

Another large contributor to heart disease, is an imbalance in cholesterol levels. The ratio should lean towards more High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.

Unfortunately, a majority of us have excess Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

A long-term abundance of LDL cholesterol increases the risk of developing a heart condition.

One analysis followed people who fasted during Ramadan. The participants only fasted 12 hours per day, which is four hours shy of the most popular protocol, Leangains. Yet, there were still many benefits to be found.

Researchers concluded,

“Our results demonstrate that prolonged intermittent fasting in a model like Ramadan has some positive effects on the inflammatory status of the body and on the risk factors for cardiovascular diseases such as homocysteine, CRP and TC/HDL ratio [10].”

Ann Nutr Metab. 

As you can see, this study found the balance of total cholesterol (TC) shift back in favor of HDL. However, they also noted that fasting lowered levels of the inflammatory biomarkers we talked about earlier in homocysteine and CRP. Therefore, intermittent fasting can be extremely beneficial in improving heart health.

Promotes Autophagy

Another crucial part of maintaining a healthy body is your cell’s ability to repair themselves and get rid of old worn-out cells properly. This process of cellular clean up is called autophagy. Autophagy is vital for your body to run smoothly.

As cardiologist Dr. Luiza Petre explained to Healthline,

“It is recycling and cleaning at the same time, just like hitting a reset button to your body. Plus, it promotes survival and adaptation as a response to various stressors and toxins accumulated in our cell [11].”

Dr. Luiza Petre via Healthline

Intermittent fasting, as well as just general fasting, has been shown to increase autophagy [12]. This realization makes sense because when you fast, your body doesn’t have to work to digest food. Therefore, your cells can go ahead and perform other necessary functions, with one of those being autophagy.  

Is Intermittent Fasting Safe?

Intermittent fasting may seem like just the newest diet trend with no real scientific legs to stand on, but that is far from the truth. Following one of the many protocols can be beneficial in numerous aspects of one’s health and fitness.

doctor and fasting
Please consult your doctor before fasting

Remember, it is essential to talk to your doctor before making any significant changes in your diet. If you have ever struggled with an eating disorder, this might not be the best wellness trend for you. Also, if you are pregnant or under the age of 18, then intermittent fasting may not be the right fit for you right now [13].

It is also important not to overlook the importance of eating the right foods. Eating healthy is critical for optimal benefits. If you are depriving your body of food, then the first foods you introduce to your gut biome need to be nutritious.

Intermittent Fasting with Thryve Inside Gut Health Program

We can help you meet your wellness goals. Join the Thryve Inside Gut Health Program. Our database has a load of recipes that will benefit your overall health and the vitality of your stomach bacteria. With our guidance, and following an intermittent fasting protocol, achieving quality life has never been easier!

Thryve Probiotics Gut Health

Resources

[1] Cai. “Fasting Around the World.” Cultural Awareness, 27 July 2018, culturalawareness.com/fasting-around-the-world/.

[2] Mattson, Mark P., and Ruiqian Wan. “Beneficial Effects of Intermittent Fasting and Caloric Restriction on the Cardiovascular and Cerebrovascular Systems.” The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, Elsevier, 26 Feb. 2005, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S095528630400261X.

[3] “What Is Diabetes?” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1 Dec. 2016, www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/what-is-diabetes.

[4] Lillis, Charlotte. “Insulin Sensitivity: How to Improve It Naturally.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 29 Mar. 2019, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323027.php.

[5] Gotthardt, Juliet D, et al. “Intermittent Fasting Promotes Fat Loss With Lean Mass Retention, Increased Hypothalamic Norepinephrine Content, and Increased Neuropeptide Y Gene Expression in Diet-Induced Obese Male Mice.” Endocrinology, Endocrine Society, Feb. 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26653760.

[6] Ho, K. Y., Veldhuis, J. D., Johnson, M. L., Furlanetto, R., Evans, W. S., Alberti, K. G., & Thorner, M. O. (1988). Fasting enhances growth hormone secretion and amplifies the complex rhythms of growth hormone secretion in man. The Journal of clinical investigation81(4), 968–975. doi:10.1172/JCI113450

[7] McPherron, Alexandra C, et al. “Increasing Muscle Mass to Improve Metabolism.” Adipocyte, Landes Bioscience, 1 Apr. 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3661116/.

[8] Reilly, Muredach P., et al. “Resistin Is an Inflammatory Marker of Atherosclerosis in Humans.” Circulation, 14 Feb. 2005, www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/01.CIR.0000155620.10387.43.

[9] “Atherosclerosis.” National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 14 Nov. 2018, www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/atherosclerosis.

[10] Aksungar, Fehime B, et al. “Interleukin-6, C-Reactive Protein and Biochemical Parameters during Prolonged Intermittent Fasting.” Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2007, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17374948.

[11] Lindberg, Sara. “Autophagy: Definition, Diet, Fasting, Cancer, Benefits, and More.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 23 Aug. 2018, www.healthline.com/health/autophagy.

[12] Alirezaei, M., Kemball, C. C., Flynn, C. T., Wood, M. R., Whitton, J. L., & Kiosses, W. B. (2010). Short-term fasting induces profound neuronal autophagy. Autophagy6(6), 702–710. doi:10.4161/auto.6.6.12376

[13] Kirkpatrick, Kristin. “Intermittent Fasting Has Benefits Beyond Weight Loss.” Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic, Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic, 8 Jan. 2019, health.clevelandclinic.org/interested-fasting-health-get-facts-first/.