When I first heard the words ‘intermittent fasting’, I panicked. ‘Hangry’ is a real life condition that I suffer from terribly as most of my family and friends could confirm. So why on earth would anyone voluntarily fast?
Fasting is not actually just the latest ‘fad’ and has in fact been around for thousands of years. Whether conducted on purpose or not (our ancestors didn’t exactly have a supermarket down the road), for many people the body appears to thrive in this environment. The simplest and most sustainable form of fasting is the 16/8 method. This is where you only eat for an eight-hour window (say 12pm to 8pm) and fast for the remaining 16. This means that around half of your fasting is conducted while you are sleeping and it literally just means that you may be skipping breakfast. So why would anyone need to fast?
Benefits of fasting:
- Normalising your insulin sensitivity: Intermittent fasting can do wonders for normalising your insulin sensitivity. This is key to optimal health as insulin resistance contributes to a wide range of chronic disease from diabetes to heart disease (1).
- Increasing Human growth hormone (HGH): Studies have suggested that fasting provokes the release of HGH, which plays an important role in fat loss and muscle growth (2, 3)
- Reducing inflammation: studies have also shown reductions in inflammation markers whilst also reducing free radical damage in the body (4). This can have benefits against the development of many diseases.
- Weight loss: A big benefit of fasting is the weight loss. As mentioned above, fasting can alter hormones levels (such as HGH) in order to facilitate weight loss. Another study suggested that fasting could potentially have an effect on increasing your metabolic rate (5).
- Heart health: Studies have shown that intermittent fasting could reduce triglycerides and LDL cholesterol levels. Together this would have a positive impact on heart health (6).
Intermittent fasting is definitely one of those things where it may be great for one person and not so good for the next. If you aren’t into it that’s completely fine, just forget you ever read this post. It is definitely not something that needs to be done. In fact some studies suggest that women may not benefit from fasting as much as men (7) so if you are unsure give it a go to see if it works for you. However you should focus on the quality of your food before you consider fasting, as fasting combined with a highly processed or nutrient devoid diet is probably just going to make things worse. As with everything nutrition related, there is no one-size-fits-all approach so get into the habit of BACKING YOURSELF! Your body is very clever at telling you what works best, you just have to listen!
- Barnosky AR, Hoddy KK, Unterman TG, Varady KA. Intermittent fasting vs daily calorie restriction for type 2 diabetes prevention: a review of human findings. Translational Research. 2014;164(4):302-11.
- Hartman ML, Veldhuis JD, Johnson ML, Lee MM, Alberti KG, Samojlik E, et al. Augmented growth hormone (GH) secretory burst frequency and amplitude mediate enhanced GH secretion during a two-day fast in normal men. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1992;74(4):757-65.
- Ho KY, Veldhuis JD, Johnson ML, Furlanetto R, Evans WS, Alberti KG, et al. Fasting enhances growth hormone secretion and amplifies the complex rhythms of growth hormone secretion in man. Journal of Clinical Investigation. 1988;81(4):968-75.
- Aksungar FB, Topkaya AE, Akyildiz M. Interleukin-6, C-reactive protein and biochemical parameters during prolonged intermittent fasting. Ann Nutr Metab. 2007;51(1):88-95.
- Zauner C, Schneeweiss B, Kranz A, Madl C, Ratheiser K, Kramer L, et al. Resting energy expenditure in short-term starvation is increased as a result of an increase in serum norepinephrine. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000;71(6):1511-5.
- Azevedo FRd, Ikeoka D, Caramelli B. Effects of intermittent fasting on metabolism in men. Revista da Associação Médica Brasileira. 2013;59(2):167-73.
- Heilbronn LK, Civitarese AE, Bogacka I, Smith SR, Hulver M, Ravussin E. Glucose tolerance and skeletal muscle gene expression in response to alternate day fasting. Obes Res. 2005;13(3):574-81.