Most people have heard of the term fasting. Most will recognize fasting from Ramadan, which requires people who follow the Muslim faith to be abstinent of food and water from sunrise to sunset. Intermittent fasting is very similar. The approach is to consume no calories for 16 hours then consume your required calories within an 8-hour window. This process is repeated and done every day, 16 hours of no food consumption, and 8 hours of eating. No calories are to be consumed during the 16 hour fast. The exceptions are water, coffee, sugar-free gum, and zero-calorie sweeteners. Diet sodas have zero calories but venture away from those types of drinks.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
INCREASE IN METABOLISM
The way intermittent fasting indirectly boosts your metabolism is through norepinephrine. During acute starvation, short-term calorie negligence, your body increases norepinephrine levels. Norepinephrine causes an increase in the release of glucose.
We associate a decrease in metabolism when we do not consume calories for long periods of time. When you are unable to consume calories, your body will naturally slow down and decrease its metabolism to adapt
In intermittent fasting, your metabolism does not decrease because the fasting is short term. It increases, you initially put mild stress on the body which equals a higher work demand. There is a higher work demand because now your body has to break down fat stores for energy. Before you allow your body to go into starvation mode, you flip over to eating. Once you start eating your body has a natural decrease in stress because it is now getting calories from an outside source. The body adjusts back to your baseline, slowly raising the threshold and becoming more efficient.
One of the main ways intermittent fasting boosts your immune system is a concept called autophagy. Autophagy is the process of programmed cell death. It is also the ability to find damaged cells and destroy them. During fasting, the body is breaking down glucose, fat, and ketones for energy. On the immunological level, it is also breaking down white blood cells for resources to rebuild. White blood cells is a general term used to associate all our immune cells. Our body naturally breaks down damaged cells and uses those components to create new mature white blood cells for the future.
Intermittent fasting also decreases oxidative stress and inflammation. Long-term effects of oxidation and inflammation increase the risks of developing cancer and other chronic diseases. A decrease in chronic disease, in turn, helps decrease the workload of the immune system. Cell regeneration is escalated during intermittent fasting. While intermittent fasting the human body is always in optimal shape.
The origins of fasting came from philosophers. Their intention was to increase mental capacity and function. Those Greek thinkers found a correlation; fasting increased their cognition and provided a cleaner more efficient way of thinking. Clearly, it worked because we now refer to them as philosophers. You take the work and time needed to consume food and put that effort into brain function and mental processing. This is also aided by autophagy, except this time with brain cells. Intermittent fasting may even regenerate damaged neurons, which is what neurologists are currently researching. The same way you clean your immune system you can cleanse your brain, intern leading to increased mental acuity and cognitive ability.
Intermittent fasting can increase a hormone called BDNF. Studies show that The chemical Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is decreased in depression and other brain issues. An increase in BDNF can make you feel better on a neurological level. During Intermittent fasting more of the BDNF proteins are present in your brain so the likelihood of you getting depressed or even sad should decrease.
How many times have you been hungry at an inconvenient time? You consistently put off food because you are too busy to eat. Intermittent fasting allows you to be on a schedule. You can only eat for 8 hours a day. The human body adapts to this schedule, so you are just hungry for those 8 hours. The food eaten during the 8 hour period has to be nutrient-dense, it has to provide for the whole daily value. If you consume empty calories, like processed food, junk food won’t hold you over. You will be struggling with fasting. The cravings developed will be for healthy foods because the body knows what foods provide the most nutrition. Simply, you’ll feel better because clean food will be going into a clean body.
Intermittent fasting leads to higher productivity. With intermittent fasting, you will be better at planning because you are already on a schedule. If you can mentally change your hunger and cravings, you can change any aspect of your life.
I’ve been fasting on and off for the past few months. The goal is to be as adamant with intermittent fasting as possible; unfortunately, things do come up, and schedules can change relatively quickly. My 16-8 intermittent fasting is consistent for most of the month. I do notice the differences when I stray away from fasting for a few days compared to when I am persistent. I feel that intermittent fasting did indeed increase metabolism, immune function, brain health, and self-control.