Does Intermittent fasting live up to the hype? And compared to other methods, can you eat what you want - even potato chips and chocolate? Based on latest science, intermittent fasting should even be able to do a lot more.
With intermittent fasting, you don't count calories, but hours. During eight hours a day you can eat as much as you want - the rest of the day you fast. Not eating for 16 hours? Sounds tough, but it's actually a no brainer. Because half of these 16 hours you spend sleeping. And when we still lived in caves and had to hunt for our food, lunch was rarely on the table at 12 o'clock sharp. So, our body has adapted to longer phases of food deprivation for thousands of years. In response to a reduced calorie intake, it simply lowers the energy requirement.
Nowadays, however, there is a catch: If, after a diet, you start eating normally again, it often leads to weight gain - the well-known yo-yo effect. With intermittent fasting, on the other hand, the energy requirement does not seem to decrease, and the weight loss therefore remains sustainable. I know this effect from my own experience. As a personal trainer, I often had to start my day very early and therefore mostly did without breakfast - work-related intermittent fasting, sort of speak. I lost 15 pounds over a period of two years. Then I started reading about intermittent fasting and wondered if I had found the holy grail of weight loss.
Tracking down the benefits of intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting is about more than losing weight. Around seven years ago, American researchers published a photo of two mice in the journal Cell Metabolism. One was fat with liver disease, the other slim and healthy. Despite the fact that both mice came from the same breed line, were of the same age, both moved very little and always ate exactly the same amount of food. However, the slim mouse was only fed in a certain time window, while the fat mouse received its food ration throughout the day. The researchers concluded that the timing of food intake could be crucial in keeping a mouse healthy or getting sick, and that it could behave similarly in humans. Now humans are not mice, but human studies are still very limited.
The body recycles itself
It is now known that the body starts a process called autophagy after 10 to 16 hours without intake of calories. The Japanese cell researcher Yoshinori Osumi received the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2016 for his research in this area. The Greek term “autóphagoscan” - somewhat ugly sounding – can be translated as "self-digestion" and clarifies more or less what this process consists of. Without food, our organism draws on the body's own resources to gain nutrients and the energy it needs. It breaks down what it no longer needs - damaged proteins or dead cell components, for example. Pathological or potentially pathogenic structures as well as dead bacteria or viruses are also disposed of in this way. This process in our body cells, controlled by 35 genes, is the body's own garbage disposal. Autophagy thus ensures constant cell renewal, while true cell regeneration can take days or even years.
Research on intermittent fasting is just beginning
If the process of cell renewal is disrupted - for example because we eat around ten times a day today - this could lead to diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes. There is disagreement among experts on how pronounced these effects are. "Much is still a hypothesis," according to Harvard Health, "but the evidence is getting bigger and bigger." For example, certain tumors would be sensitive to food deprivation because they need a lot of energy to grow quickly. Equally undisputed is the knowledge that cells are not designed for a constant supply of energy, but rather require rest breaks. Intermittent fasting also specifically attacks belly fat. The so-called visceral fat is insidious: it first nests between the internal organs before it is externally visible. Even a slim person can have a lot of belly fat. Later, the belly fat behaves like an independent organ, can become chronically inflamed and actively intervenes in the metabolism. Its more than 200 signaling and inflammatory substances trigger diseases and are a risk for heart attacks, strokes, or metabolic syndrome.
First results set in just after a few weeks
All this information now has to be interpreted correctly. This definitely needs more long-term studies. Because the concept on which intermittent fasting is based is interesting and conclusive. I find it particularly fascinating that the first effects already appear even if you only practice intermittent fasting two or three days a week. Some of these can be measured after just a few days: the lab values for your blood count improve, high blood pressure decreases. Other positive effects can be felt after just a few weeks: the stomach is less bloated and flatter, you feel fitter and more alert.
And how about the chips and chocolate now? Can you really eat anything? Every now and then, chips and chocolate are okay. However, the same rule still applies, eat less fat and sugar, and exercise more.
This is how intermittent fasting works
There are several methods of intermittent fasting. The most popular form is the 16:8 fast, in which you eat in an eight-hour window and fast for 16 hours. Usually, you just skip breakfast.
With a 5:2 fast, people normally eat five days a week. On two days you limit the calorie intake to 500 calories and only eat a light dish such as vegetables or fish. The two days of fasting should not follow one another.
The hardest method is Alternate Day Fasting, in which the calorie intake is limited to 500 calories every other day. However, this form is not best suited as a long-term nutritional plan and should be cleared by your doctor.
With all fasting methods, it is important not to eat more than usual during the eating phase. Of course, you can and should also drink during fasting - calorie-free drinks such as water, thin vegetable broth, unsweetened tea or black coffee are best.
Who Shouldn't do Intermittent Fasting?
While intermittent fasting appears to have many benefits, caution is advised in certain circumstances. It is essential to seek medical advice in case of any chronic illnesses, low weight, metabolic diseases like diabetes, and cancer. Medical clearance is also advised for the elderly, for children and women during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
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Now it's your turn!
You want to know more? You just have to read a little bit into the topic because there is no one strategy for everyone. But that little bit of reading is really not a big deal. The internet is full of good articles about intermittent fasting.
I can’t wait to meet you soon, and hope that you will share many more low carb cooking ideas. And, of course, any tips how we can really enjoy slimming down with low carb. LET’S GO! Let's drop the holiday pounds, either before or after the feast.
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