How important is fasting? For some, the idea of fasting might be linked and limited to its purported spiritual benefits, but you don’t have to subscribe to any sort of certain religious belief to reap any rewards it may bestow on your physical health.
Now, it’s easier said than done to limit your food intake. Intermittent fasting is more than just skipping a meal; it’s a calculated way of restricting your calories and adjusting your diet. There are as many approaches to it as there are misgivings about its efficacy.
Here are some of the potential benefits of intermittent fasting as observed by doctors and evidenced in clinical studies. While, admittedly, intermittent fasting might not be suited for everyone’s health or nutritional needs, these points might help steer you in the right direction and open a conversation with your doctor.
Can Intermittent Fasting Affect The Body At A Cellular Level?
Perhaps one of the most crucial benefits of fasting is how restricting your intake of calories for extended periods of time affects your blood sugar levels. On a fasting diet, your body’s insulin decreases, which impacts your glucose levels as well. This means your body is able to more efficiently process energy creation and dissemination, and aid in fat burning.1
This is also especially good news for diabetics or those with blood sugar problems, since intermittent fasting benefits may also support glucose regulation, and a healthy blood pressure and heart rate.2
Equally significant is the finding that one of the potential benefits of intermittent fasting is an increased release of human growth hormone. This is integral not only to fat burning (and subsequent weight loss) but also to muscle recovery and repair.3
Intermittent Fasting May Support Weight Loss
As previously established, regulated and controlled insulin levels affect your blood glucose, which, with the help of increased hormone function, supports sustained weight loss overall.4
But this isn’t the only way fasting may support your weight loss goals. Since you are restricting the hours you are allowed to eat, you end up consuming fewer calories that could contribute to weight gain (provided you aren’t binging food during your allowable hours).
So not only are you consuming fewer calories from food, but your body is working more efficiently at the cellular level to boost your metabolism and regulate your blood glucose levels.5 Combined, these factors may help you lose weight.
Can Intermittent Fasting Support A Positive Mood?
It may be hard to believe because hungry people aren’t often known to be the happiest. However, studies show that levels of the hormone ghrelin are also markedly higher during fasting. This hormone is said to be able to help lift and support your mood.6
Also, a small study is showing the promising effects intermittent fasting may have on getting quality sleep, which can overall affect your mood and energy levels in your waking hours.
How To Get Started With Intermittent Fasting
It’s important to note that there are many different ways to fast, from simply cutting down the hours you’re allowed to feast (usually down to an 8-12 hour window during the day), to actually skipping whole days altogether as controlled by your doctor.
An abrupt change in your eating habits and diet can definitely cause some short-term side effects that can take some adjustment – anything from headaches and dizziness to shifts in mood due to hunger. Depending on the person, fasting may actually have adverse effects on your health – specifically for those already suffering from low blood sugar or women with menstrual or fertility issues.7,8
This is why it’s integral to discuss fasting strategies with your doctor before you begin, or get the clearance to even start at all.
Maybe you’re hoping to control your blood sugar levels and, subsequently, your weight or simply want to remove the guesswork and pressure out of what and when to eat (a definite plus to fasting since your eating hours are limited). In any case, it’s worth listing the possible pros and potential cons of intermittent fasting as you consider it.
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