These days, it seems that there is a brand new diet program coming out each and every day. However, the ones that are actually good enough to stick around for a long time seem to only come along very occasionally. Usually, it’s because those diets are based on bad science or unsustainable guidelines that cause the users to give up on it completely before they see any results.
There is one type of weight loss method that has gained tremendous popularity in the past few years though and that is the intermittent fasting diet (IF). Fitness experts left and right are reevaluating their methods and rebuilding them from the ground up to incorporate this novel type of diet plan.
But because history has shown that just because a type of diet is popular doesn’t mean that it actually works, you would be wise to do some research to figure out it this particular method actually has merit. In this article, we explore the intermittent fasting and evaluate whether it adopting this eating strategy is a good idea.
What is an intermittent fasting diet?
At its core, intermittent fasting means alternating periods of eating with periods of fasting and while that might sound like what everybody has been doing for as long as time itself, the real trick lies in the actual time spent in a state of fasting.
Everybody does intermittent fasting in one way or another. Case in point, we can’t eat while we are sleeping and therefore the time we spend asleep each night is actually a period of fasting. That’s why the first meal of the day is referred to as breakfast (i.e. break fast, breaking your fast).
But where an intermittent fasting diet comes into play is it changes the variables. A regular night of sleep lasts probably somewhere between 6 to 8 hours, depending on who we are talking about. Now a lot of people eat as soon as they get up in the morning and snack only a few hours before they go to bed at night. That leaves a fasting period that only lasts for as long as they are asleep and the rest of the day is spent eating.
Now I’m not saying that the average person eats constantly throughout the day. Instead, the point is that they open their eating window as soon as they get up and close it only before they go to bed. When we refer to an eating window, we are basically talking about the period of time between the moment a person starts eating in the morning and the moment they stop eating.
All an intermittent fasting diet does is it extends the time spent in a state of fasting and shortens the eating window. Why is this important, as we’ll discuss in the following paragraphs, doing this completely changes the biochemistry of your body. As soon as you start eating in the morning, your hormonal balance changes drastically. This puts your body into a state where fat loss becomes pretty much impossible.
But if I fast, won’t I be hungry?
The main concern that people have when they first consider a dietary approach like an intermittent fasting diet plan is that they are going to be constantly hungry throughout the day. The truth is that the sensation of hunger that we feel is more often than not due to the timing of our eating habits.
We feel hungry in the morning because we have always eaten breakfast as soon as we got up. This is due to different hormones that trigger the sensation of hunger. The great thing is that if you choose to delay breakfast and eat your first meal of the day around lunch time, your body will adjust its hormone production to mirror your eating habits.
That means that while the first few days of intermittent fasting can be a bit challenging, the human body quickly adapts its hormonal production and those timed sensations of hunger disappear. After a few days of following this type of eating pattern, the fasting parts become very easy to follow.
How does an intermittent fasting diet plan affect the body’s biochemistry?
The biological changes that occur within the body are far too numerous to explain in detail here. However, most of the benefits attributed to this type of eating can be narrowed down to a few hormonal changes brought on by the fasting periods.
Regulates ghrelin production
The first thing that happens when you are fasting is that a hormone called ghrelin gets regulated to follow your eating pattern. Ghrelin is largely called the hunger hormone because when it is produced by the body, it triggers that sensation of hunger. But the interesting thing about it is that it is a hormone that can be trained. In other words, ghrelin is produced by the body when it thinks that you are about to eat.
So, if you’re used to eating first thing in the morning, it will be produced as soon as you get up. On the other hand, if you delay your first meal to around lunch time for a few days, your ghrelin production will follow suite and only be secreted around lunch time.
Increases production of growth hormone
Another huge benefit of following an intermittent fasting diet is that it pushes the body to produce more growth hormone. Growth hormone is one of those things where there are just too many benefits to count. But it is however one of the most effective hormones in relation to fat loss. Without getting too technical, it basically forces your body to use fat as an energy source and also stops it from storing fat at all.
One of the ways to increase your body’s production of growth hormone is to fast. Indeed, when you are in a state of fasting, your body drastically increases its production of growth hormone which in turn helps you not only burn off existing fat, but also stops your body from storing more fat than you already have.
There are plenty of other benefits to having more growth hormone though that extend to more than just weight loss. For example, growth hormone also drastically slows down aging and reduces inflammation.
That’s it for this post. In the next one, we’ll keep digging into the benefits that an intermittent fasting diet can bring.