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Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss, Heart Health, Longevity, and More!

intermittent fasting

Article Key Takeaways: 

Intermittent fasting is a term that refers to the timing of your meals each day which cycles between periods of eating and fasting (not eating)

The benefits of intermittent fasting include: weight loss, decreasing inflammation, lowering risk of heart disease, increasing insulin sensitivity, boosting metabolic rate, reduce your risk for cancer, protect and improve your brain function, and longevity. 

The best way to incorporate I.F into your lifestyle for optimal results is to Eat an early dinner and avoid consuming anything except water 4-5 hours prior to bed. Upon waking, listen to your body and wait to eat breakfast until you are actually hungry.

Eating a good diet with plenty of healthy fats makes intermittent fasting work even better. 

Intermittent fasting, also referred to as time-restricted feeding, has exploded in popularity in recent years due to the research studies demonstrating its efficacy and millions of personal success stories popping up.

Scientific studies are backing up the claims that intermittent fasting can help everything from brain health to reversing diabetes, and is easier for most people to sustain than a caloric deficit.

Intermittent fasting can be a powerful tool to lose weight and improve your health when used correctly.

This article will outline many of the proven benefits of intermittent fasting, how to do it, and the ideal method to get the most out of this style of eating.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

The term “fasting” simply means to go without food or drink.

Intermittent fasting is a term that refers to the timing of your meals each day which cycles between periods of eating and fasting (not eating).

Many variations of intermittent fasting exist, but the underlying theme is that you have a prolonged period of time intermittently throughout the week where you don’t consume any calories.

Some versions of intermittent fasting involve a full 24 hour period of not eating, done 1-3 times per week.

The more commonly used method of IF entails a daily fast lasting anywhere from 12-20 hours.

Intermittent fasting (and fasting in general) is not a new concept.

Despite the recent surge in media attention, fasting has been done by humans since the dawn of existence, although not typically by choice.

Until very recently, humans didn’t have refrigeration or supermarkets. Often times people would have to go long periods of time between eating while they tried to find food.

Our species has evolved to operate for long stretches of time without any food.

The modern notion of eating 3-4 meals everyday is not exactly “natural” for humans.  

Problems with Frequent meals

Far too many people are consuming food/beverages from when they wake up until they go to sleep which wreaks havoc on your body.

It's typical for one to eat dinner at 8 pm then have a snack or dessert a few hours later at 10-11pm, right before bed. Then upon waking, people have been mislead to believe breakfast is the most important meal of the day so they consume food before heading off to work.

Whats even worse is that most folks are very rushed in the mornings and don’t have time to prepare a proper breakfast, so instead they eat some convenient junk food (bagel, muffin, fast food, etc.) which is the worst way to start your day!

This vicious cycle doesn’t give your gastrointestinal tract any time to rest, recover, and heal since its constantly bombarded. This can lead to:
-Massive weight gain
-Poor sleep quality
-Low energy levels
-Increased risk for chronic diseases
-Digestive issues
-And a multitude of other negative consequences.

Rather than having an unhealthy meal for breakfast, you are FAR better off skipping breakfast entirely. 

Intermittent fasting Benefits 

1. Decreases Body Fat and Promotes Weight Loss

Many studies have shown intermittent fasting to help with weight loss and decreasing your body fat percentage. (1)(2)(3)

The amazing thing that sets intermittent fasting apart from other weight loss strategies is that it helps to preserve muscle mass, while burning fat. (4)

During a prolonged period of fasting, your body switches fuel sources from glucose to fat. This switch in fat metabolism enables you to burn stored body fat as your primary source of fuel. (5)

This concept is similar to that of the ketogenic diet, where the main goal is to develop the metabolic flexibility to burn fat for fuel.

Check out our article on The Best Fats and Oils for Weight Loss and Optimal Health.  

Breakdown of proteins for fuel doesn’t seem to happen until day 3 or 4 of a prolonged fast, which is why more short-term intermittent fasting is really ideal to get the fat burning effects while still preserving muscle mass. (6)

2. Decreases Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is known by many to be one of the primary drivers of disease, weight gain, chronic pain, and multiple other health issues. (7)

Intermittent fasting has been shown to help lower levels of inflammation in our bodies.

One study looking at overnight intermittent fasting found a decrease in markers of inflammation. (8)

Multiple other research studies looking at other markers of inflammation demonstrated that intermittent fasting provided a beneficial effect in reducing inflammation. (9)(10)

3. Can Lower Your Risk for Heart Disease

intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting can have beneficial effects on both your cholesterol levels and triglycerides.

It's important to remember that cholesterol isn’t bad the way we once thought. It’s actually a protective substance that our bodies require for many important functions.

Although, high amounts of small, dense LDL particles can potentially pose an increased risk for cardiovascular disease in certain instances.

Test subjects undergoing an intermittent fasting protocol experienced a decrease in the potentially harmful small LDL cholesterol particles (11)(12)

Additionally, Studies have shown Intermittent fasting to lower triglycerides and improve HDL cholesterol levels. (13)

4. Increases Insulin Sensitivity

When you consume high-glycemic carbohydrates (starches and sugars) your blood glucose levels spike.

Your body normalizes your blood sugar by secreted the hormone insulin.

The problem is that chronic insulin secretion can cause your cells to be less sensitive to it, so your body much release more and more to accomplish the same task.

Excess insulin in the body leads to multiple health issues including weight gain (insulin is our bodies #1 fat storage hormone), brain fog, fatigue, and numerous chronic disease like diabetes and cancer.

The good news is that Intermittent fasting has been shown to increase your cells sensitivity to insulin, meaning less of the hormone is required to carry out its functions.(14)

This can result in weight loss, more energy, and lower your risk of type 2 diabetes and other conditions.

In addition to intermittent fasting, consuming a diet low in starch and sugar will greatly benefit you in your health journey.  

5. Boost Your Metabolic Rate  

One of the biggest drawbacks to a calorie restricted diet is that it has been shown to decrease your metabolic rate. (15)(16)

This slow down in your metabolic rate can persist long after you have stopped your calorie restricted diet.(17)

This can really set you up for failure in your weight loss goals long-term. 

Intermittent fasting on the other hand can have the opposite effect!

By lower insulin (fat storage hormone) and increasing norepinephrine (fat burning hormone) can increase your metabolic rate so you can burn more calories even when resting! (18)(19)

"The amazing thing that sets intermittent fasting apart from other weight loss strategies is that it helps to preserve muscle mass, while burning fat. "

6. Reduce your Risk for Cancer

This may be one of the most fascinating applications for intermittent fasting.

The research in animal studies has been very clear that intermittent fasting can decrease your risk for various types of cancer.(20)

Fasting can also help to increase the effectiveness while decreasing the negative side effects of some chemotherapy treatments.(21)

Prevention is really the key when it comes to cancer and intermittent fasting can help to lower your risk of getting cancer.(22)

In addition to starving out the cancer cells, fasting can also increase stem cell production in the body making it great for boosting the immune system (critical component to fending off cancer)(23)

The powder autophagy (cellular clean up) effects are also very conducive to preventing or reversing cancer since this process can remove old, defective cells to make way for new health ones.

7. Protects and Improves Your Brain

Intermittent fasting can boost levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which is very protective to the neurons in your brain.(24)

Animal studies have shown intermittent fasting to help with cognitive function, memory, and prevention of alzheimer's disease.(25)(26)

intermittent fasting brain health

This style of short-term fasting also increases neuronal autophagy (programmed cell death in the brain) which can improve brain health.

8. Longevity

Many of the previous mentioned benefits of intermittent fasting have the potential to add years to your life.

Research studies have also been done specifically looking at longevity in animal models and the findings showed that intermittent fasting can have life extension benefits. (27)(28)

intermittent fasting longevity

How to Best Implement Intermittent Fasting Into Your Lifestyle

As you can see there are numerous benefits to intermittent fasting and it’s a VERY effective strategy for people to utilize to shed excess body fat.

Doing a daily 14-18 hour fast is the best option for folks who are new to intermittent fasting.

Attempting to do one or two 24 hour fasts each week can be challenging for people new to intermittent fasting.

I believe most folks don’t maximize their success with intermittent fasting since they are eating too late in the evening.

Majority of people that follow this way of eating skip breakfast all together and eat their first meal around 1 or 2 pm and dinner around 8 or 9 pm (or even later)

The key is eating an early dinner.

Skipping breakfast can be helpful but is not as important as eating dinner early, and not consuming anything except water 4-5 hours before going to bed.

Then, upon waking listen to your body. If you are really hungry, eat breakfast a few hours after waking. If you are not, prolong your fast until you really have the desire and appetite to eat.

Some people (not everyone) run into problems and don’t feel great if they are hungry in the morning, yet completely skip breakfast anyways, rather than listening to their body.

Eating an early dinner is most important, breakfast is where you have the option.

Here is an example:
Wake up - 6am-8am
Breakfast - 9am- 10am (or later)
Light Lunch (Optional, only if needed) - 1-2pm
Dinner - 5:30pm - 7pm

This is VERY easy to do and will make a HUGE difference in your progress

Here are a few Living Phit Tips to keep in mind while adopting Intermittent fasting:

Ease your way into this new system of meal timing. If you are used to eating dinner at 10 pm, don’t try to push your mealtime to 6 pm day 1. Instead, make the change gradually over the course of 1-2 weeks moving your meal time slightly each day.

Make sure you don't under consume calories during dinner. Attempting to cut calories is not a sustainable or effective strategy long term. This will backfire and result in late night hunger and eating before bed, so be sure to eat plenty of food during dinner until you're full and satisfied.

Hydrate. Drinking plenty of water right when you wake up in the morning and throughout the day has numerous benefits, including positively controlling appetite. See our article on hydration to learn more.

Coffee is all good. Having water first thing when you wake up is essential. Hydration, movement, and sunlight should be the 3 things you use to naturally wake up and set your body's circadian rhythm (biological clock). With that being said, after you do those things, grabbing a cup of organic black coffee is totally fine and can actually help with fat burning and reducing food cravings. *Blending some healthy fats (grass-fed butter or ghee, or coconut oil) into your morning cup of joe and can also help to push back your first meal time and is an effective strategy for some.

Consistency is key. As with any lifestyle change, staying consistent is very important. You will find that intermittent fasting feels incredibly easy once your body adapts to this new style of eating.

Breakfast is optional. As mentioned previously, skipping breakfast all together is a method that works great for many people. Others find it better to still have breakfast, but at a delayed time (10am instead of 8am for example). Listen to your body and do what feels best.

If you deviate, just get back on track. We will all have certain times when eating an early dinner is not feasible. Special events, bday parties, and social gathers all tend to take place much later. No need to obsess over it. Simply, get back on track and do your best to implement the early dinners as consistency as you can.
** Eating late one day per week can actually be helpful with your long term progress since the variation helps keep your metabolism high.

Key Takeaway: Eat an early dinner and avoid consuming anything except water 4-5 hours prior to bed. Upon waking, listen to your body and wait to eat breakfast until you are actually hungry.

Intermittent Fasting isn’t for Everyone 

Fasting should be avoided when pregnant and/or breast feeding.

It is also not appropriate for growing children.

Always take precautions when making changes to your diet and work with a qualified health care practitioner to ensure intermittent fasting is appropriate for you.

Individuals who are dealing with adrenal and/or thyroid issues need to be cautions with intermittent fasting.

While weight loss is still possible using intermittent fasting even without changing your diet, we highly recommend you consume nutrient-dense whole foods and minimize/eliminate your consumption of processed food.

Combining healthy diet changes with intermittent fasting is the best way to reap the benefits and maximize results.

Most importantly, listen to your body.

If you don’t feel good when intermittent fasting, it’s likely not for you. Modify this system of meal timing to suit your own individual needs.

Bottom Line

Intermittent fasting is a safe, effective, and sustainable method to burn fat and improve your health for the vast majority of people.

Please share this article with anyone you know that can benefit from this information.

Comment below and let us know if intermittent fasting has helped you!

Read next: Shredded By 40! - The Bet is On!

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