“Why should I intermittent fast?” is a question you should ask yourself before deciding to try it. In the context of fat burning, intermittent fasting can help us burn more fat by lowering our insulin levels, depleting our glycogen stores, and allowing us to use our own body fat as an energy source. In a recent article for the Harvard Health blog, Dr. Monique Tello wrote, “Between meals, as long as we don’t snack, our insulin levels will go down and our fat cells can then release their stored sugar, to be used as energy. We lose weight if we let our insulin levels go down. The entire idea of IF is to allow the insulin levels to go down far enough and for long enough that we burn off our fat.”
Fasting and intermittent fasting are also beneficial to several mechanisms in the body. They both turn on our “good” genes, and they promote autophagy. Autophagy is basically the consumption of the body’s own tissue as a metabolic process occurring during starvation, but also during fasting within a healthy lifestyle. Autophagy helps us get rid of damaged or redundant cellular components of cells. Simply put, this is a great way for the body to clean itself, rid itself of junk (whether that be damaged or mutated cells) and rebuild those cells back into healthy cells. There are several ways to induce autophagy, and you don’t have to fast for 72 hours to do that. In fact, we have several ways to promote autophagy—exercise and low carb, high fat diets alone can do that.
In addition, it should be noted that taking a more mindful approach to your meal timing will help cut down on mindless snacking. When we aren’t being mindful of our eating, we tend to snack and graze on junk throughout the day. A lot of it is low in nutrients, and low in satiety, so even if you are eating those “heart-healthy” triscuits, you may find that as the day progresses, you get hungrier and hungrier. Keep in mind that willpower is a limited resource, and if you spent it all during the day by eating tiny meals, and you never once experienced true satiety, you may find that by the end of the day you are all out of willpower. At this point, you may “reward” yourself for your discipline by making some less than optimal food decisions. Shortening your eating window can help you cut down on mindless snacking.
Another benefit is that when you fast during the day, it is much easier to stay within your calorie targets if you are tracking. If you are someone who is used to eating huge meals at night, you could still do that if you save your calories for the evening, which would lead to a net deficit in calories from how you ate before.
Lastly, intermittent fasting can help you feel the benefits of ketosis before you are keto adapted. You may feel the appetite suppression that comes with increased ketone production due to less energy being available. You may feel sharper cognitively. Frankly, knowing this has helped me perform better when I have to speak in public or use a lot of brain power, because I usually hold off on eating on those days and see a massive increase in productivity. Since your body is not using any resources to break down & assimilate meals, intermittent fasting simply allows you to take your foot off the brake, and that alone helps you to speed up. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. One popular example of intermittent fasting would be the 16:8 protocol. This simply means that we fast for 16 hours a day, followed by an eight hour feeding window. 16 hours may seem like a lot, but it is not that long if you take into account the hours you are asleep. While this tends to be one of the most popular—if not the most popular approach, you could lengthen your fasting window over time, and you may even end up at 18:6, 20:4, or even one meal a day (OMAD).