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Intermittent Fasting- Is It Right For You?

By Shane YoungDecember 21, 2017

Intermittent Fasting : Is it right for you?

The concept of intermittent fasting has been around for thousands of years, and has been practiced by many different cultures. Some cultures have used fasting as a spiritual or religious technique, while others have recognized the numerous health benefits that can be gained from extended periods without eating.

So what is intermittent fasting, and how can it improve your overall health and quality of life?

Intermittent fasting is a general term used to describe different approaches to timing when you eat. It can apply to the 24 hour period of each day or, alternatively within a week. 

The emphasis is on the fasting aspect, which as the name implies, involves a period of time greater than that of just sleeping, when you abstain from eating. There are numerous different approaches to intermittent fasting. Today, I would like to take a look at 3 of the more popular styles:

 

  • 16 Hour Fasting – With this type of fasting you eat your last meal of the day early in the evening. Afterwards, you abstain from eating for 16 hours. For example if your last meal was at 7pm, you would fast until 11am.. This type of fasting is done on consecutive days of the week. It is one of the most popular fasts, as there are no full days of fasting required.

 

  • ADF ~ Alternate Day Fasting – With this style of intermittent fasting, you alternate days. Basically you fast for 24 hours,  then eat when you feel like it for 24 hours, and then fast for another 24 hours, and so on. Some people opt for a 23 hour cycle in which they can consume one small meal in that day. 

 

  • 5:2 Diet – This type of intermittent fasting involves having two non-consecutive days (24 hours each) during the week where no food is consumed. You then resume your normal eating patterns for the other 5 days in the week.

These days intermittent fasting has gained popularity as being an effective way to both shed unwanted pounds and maintain the healthy weight you desire. Yet there are actually numerous other health benefits that can be gained from using intermittent fasting, as Chris Kresser looks at in his article.

Some of these benefits include:

Altering the function of cells, genes and hormones – 

  • Insulin levels drop which helps boost your body’s fat burning capacity
  • The expression of some genes and molecules are altered, helping protect against disease.
  • The levels of human growth hormones can increase as much as 5x, which helps support muscle growth, facilitate fat burning.
  • Fasting helps initiate a boost in cell repair, including the enhancement of processes such as waste removal.

Help burn fat and facilitate weight loss –

  • Naturally reduces the amount of meals/calories you consume each week (assuming that you don’t counterbalance this by over eating during the times you can eat.
  • Increases the amount of growth hormones as well as noradrenaline which both increase the body’s ability to use fat stores as a means of energy.
  • Lowers insulin levels which helps facilitate the breakdown of fat.
  • Boosts your natural metabolic rate because of the above reasons.

 

 

Reduces oxidative stress and inflammation –

By helping reduce free-radicals and inflammation within the body, intermittent fasting may help slow the aging process and help protect against numerous diseases, including cancers.

 

Supports a healthy cardiovascular system – 

Intermittent fasting can help regulate blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels and reduce inflammation within the body, all of which help promote a healthy heart.

Lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes – 

Intermittent fasting has been shown to lower insulin resistance as well as dramatically decrease blood sugar levels, both of which can attribute to the development of type 2 diabetes.

 

I think it is important to point out here that there are a few risks that should be taken into consideration as well.

 

Firstly

Intermittent fasting is only recommended for people who are already in good health. Let me repeat that! Already in good, if not great health! If you do not have a firm foundation from which to work from, then disrupting your body’s energy supply can actually have a detrimental impact on your health. The same can be said for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, because during these times their bodies need a constant supply of nutrients.

The bottom line? Intermittent fasting is most appropriate for people who are in good health, are not pregnant or breastfeeding, and who balance the fasting by eating a healthy, nutrient rich diet. 

Secondly

If you are opting for the 5:2 fasting program, then it is unadvisable that you plan a high activity day on fasting days. You probably don’t want to go on a 20k run on a day you have not been fueling your body with energy.

The bottom line? You need to fuel your body for excessive exercise, because you need both the energy to power yourself, and the materials to build and repair any muscle damage. So be mindful when rostering your weekly workout schedule. 

Thirdly

Dehydration can be a risk, because a lot of the fluid we consume comes from the food we eat. So make sure you stay hydrated with water during the times you are fasting.

Finally

Prolonged periods of not eating can cause an increase in stomach acids which can cause heartburn. So if you are a person who experiences heartburn, then you may find that fasting creates an issue for you.

So at the end of the day, when practiced appropriately and with awareness, intermittent fasting can assist you in your fitness goals and enhance your quality of life!

 

 

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In health, 

Shane

 

*About Ascend Body: As the best personal trainers in San Francisco’s Mission District, we offer 1:1 personal training, Semi-Private strength training sessions and Boost your body small group training sessions. We pride ourselves on having the best nutritionist, massage therapists and wellness coaches in SF to provide you a one stop shop for all your SF fitness and wellness needs. Call (415) 724-7164 to schedule a free nutrition and fitness consultation today!

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