How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?

People are much more health-conscious these days, which is not a bad thing by any means. They’re always searching for the hottest, newest fad that is totally going to change their lives but rarely does that ever actually happen. Although it seems to be the latest in lifestyle, health crazes, intermittent fasting, in actuality, has been in practice for centuries. And there is a reason it has stuck around for so long, it is because it works.

What is intermittent fasting?

A trendy (not so new) method to improve your health and lose weight (among other health benefits), intermittent fasting is a way to cycle between periods of eating and fasting (not eating). Although largely forgotten as of recently, fasting has been in practice throughout history. Currently, it is one of the most popular health and fitness trends, particularly when used in conjunction with low-calorie diets such as the Keto diet. To put it in simple terms, it is more of a pattern of eating than a diet. While a typical diet tells you what types of food you should be eating, intermittent fasting is more about controlling when you eat.

How it works:

Simply put, when you do not eat, your body gets triggered to eat its fat for energy. This is why it is super important to not attempt to fast when you are underweight. Instead of feeding off of new sources of food energy, by fasting (therefore not supplying new food sources), you are coaxing your body to use its stored energy or ‘body fat’. 

If you’re looking for more in-depth information about intermittent fasting, there’s a very detailed and thoroughly written eBook called “Eat Stop Eat“, created by the famous fitness guru Brad Pilon.

The benefits:

Fasting intermittently has its benefits, especially when it comes to weight loss. However, it is also said to help improve your health and quality of life as well. Many report better mental clarity and focus, an increase in fat burning, boosts in energy and lowered blood sugar levels. This is all in addition to body fat loss.

How to get started:

While we do not recommend extended fasting, more than 24-hour cycles, without the advisement of a medical professional, there are a few options for shorter, safer fasts.

  • 16:8 – This is when you fast for 16 hours a day, eating only within the remaining 8 hours. You will want to eat 2-3 meals during this 8-hour window.
  • 20:4 – Eating 1-2 small meals within a 4 hour period, followed by a fast of 20 hours.
  • 24 Hour Fast – You would fast from dinner on day 1 to dinner on day 2. Here, you would be eating once daily, this should be reserved for those with a bit more experience.
  • 5:2 – You would have 5 normal eating days followed by 2 days on extremely limited daily calories (500, usually). These calories can be consumed all at once or can be spread out throughout the day. Again, this may not be the best option for people new to intermittent fasting.

How does the Keto diet play into it?

While fasting, both, glycogen stores and insulin levels will decline, which, in turn, causes the body to start burning excess body fat for fuel. If you are also on the keto diet, and, not unlike many followers of the diet, are having difficulties entering ketosis, intermittent fasting may prove to be a valuable tool.

Is there any reason that I should not try intermittent fasting?

There are a few things that you need to consider before attempting a fast. 

  • Being underweight
  • Pregnant/breastfeeding
  • Pre-existing medical conditions
  • Those with eating disorders
  • Under 18 years of age
  • Diabetics, unless under the supervision of a medical professional

And everything else you need to know:

  • Exercising: It is perfectly safe to exercise while fasting. Your body will use the stored fat for energy.
  • Easing off of a fast: Ignore the urge to stuff your face as soon as it’s time to eat. Not only can it counteract your weight loss progress, eating too big of a meal, soon after a fast can also cause digestive upset.
  • Possible side effects: You will obviously feel hunger pangs, this is to be expected. Being on the Keto Diet seems to lessen these quite a bit. Constipation is normal and can be treated with laxatives if it becomes an issue, and you may experience headaches, but these are typically temporary and will likely subside after the first few fasting cycles.
  • More serious side effect: This is not common, however, refeeding syndrome is a possibility. It usually follows extended fasting (which is why you should consult with a doctor before a prolonged fast.

Intermittent fasting does not get the props that it deserves. If done correctly, it is a fantastic way to aid in weight loss, as well as providing all of its other health benefits, such as lowering blood sugars. As long as you follow your eating pattern, and adhere to the rules and precautions it can both enrich, and simplify your life.