What Is Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a decisive pattern of eating that rotates between periods of fasting and eating. The focus is not necessarily on the foods that you eat, but rather when you eat them.
Common intermittent fasting methods involve daily 16 hour fasts or fasting for 24 hours, twice per week. I have done both for years and love the benefits, which I’ll also be sharing with you shortly.
Humans have evolved to be able to function without food for extended periods of time. In fact, fasting from time to time is more natural than always eating 3–4 (or more) meals per day1. Think about our ancestors. They didn’t always have food. We are genetically the same.
Short fasts give your digestive system a rest and allow many other systems to kick into gear. That’s because blood, nourishment and energy is no longer being consumed during this period by eating, digestion, assimilation and elimination of food and nutrients.
Below, we’ll break down some of the short and long term benefits of intermittent fasting to see if the practice is right for you.
Intermittent Fasting For Weight Loss
Weight loss is the most common reason people try intermittent fasting. By reducing your calorie and carb intake, you will change your hormone levels. This leads to a loss of excess weight as it’s an effective means to help burn fat.
Balance and regulation is everything to health.
In addition to lowering insulin (fat storing hormone released in the presence of sugar and carbohydrates) and increasing human growth hormones (responsible for fat burning and anti-ageing), it increases the release of the fat burning hormone norepinephrine (a stress response hormone).
Short term fasting has been proven to increase your metabolic rate by 3.6–14% so it’s an incredible weight loss tool. The reason being is that intermittent fasting doesn’t lead to muscle loss like most continuous eating patterns of restricting calories daily. But here’s the catch – your fast can’t exceed 24 hours because then you can lose muscle.
Studies suggest that it may be one of the best and most effective ways to lose weight and belly fat. In a review of studies on intermittent fasting and alternate-day fasting, people experienced a 4–7% decrease in abdominal fat within 6–24 weeks.2
Another study from The Annual Review of Nutrition supported the hypothesis that restricting the availability of food for 12 – 21 hours improved metabolic profiles and reduced the risk of obesity and obesity-related conditions, such as fatty liver disease, and even chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer.4
Intermittent Fasting at a Cellular and Hormonal Level
The following changes in hormone levels, cell function, and gene expression are fascinating, in my opinion. They’re also responsible for the health benefits of intermittent fasting.
- Insulin: Levels of insulin drop, which allows your body to burn body fat as a source of fuel. In other words, you become more insulin sensitive than insulin resistant, meaning you use energy better at a cellular level and store less body fat.
- Cellular repair: During a fast, your body gets time to heal as energy can be allocated to this rather than the process of digestion, assimilation, and elimination. Your cells are actually triggered to initiate cellular repair processes. This includes autophagy (removal and digestion of old debris cellular protein debris).
- Human Growth Hormone (HGH): Increases almost 5-fold as it does when you do 14 Day Smart Cleanse and take a break from caffeine and alcohol, both recreational drugs that block this wonder hormone. Elevated HGH leads to fat loss, muscle gain, elevated metabolism and is also anti-ageing. Don’t you want that in a bottle right now?
- Gene expression: There are changes in the function of genes related to protection against disease and living longer.
Intermittent Fasting Plan
It’s really important to emphasise the word intermittent. Fasting really should not be every day and only 2 times per week, unless you do the 16/8 method outlined below.
These are the most popular methods:
- The 16/8 method: It involves skipping breakfast and restricting your daily eating period to 8 hours, such as 1–9 p.m. Or 9 am to 5 pm, 10 am to 6 pm, 12pm to 8 pm. Whatever works for you, so that you are then fasting for 16 hours in between.3
- Eat-Stop-Eat: This involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week, for example on a Tuesday or a Thursday which I have done for a year at one point, so by not eating from dinner one day until dinner the next day. It’s hard at first but in time your body gets used to it.
- The 5:2 diet: You consume only 500 to 600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week and eat normally the other 5 days. It’s not so ideal to drop your calories and metabolic rate like this every day, best to drop your carbs and increase veggies, protein, good fats and detox like you do on 14 Day Smart Cleanse.
Intermittent Fasting For Beginners
Don’t be too overwhelmed with the prospect of not eating for short periods. You are probably already very good at it and, in fact, do it naturally. Most of us already have daily fasting and eating windows – we just don’t realize it!
Have you ever ever eaten dinner, slept late, and not eaten until lunch the next day? Then you’ve probably already fasted for 16+ hours. Your body can get used to it fairly quickly. For those of you who don’t feel hungry in the morning and skip meals, then you are already an intermittent faster.
Many people find that the 16/8 method is the simplest and most sustainable way of intermittent fasting — you might want to try this practice first before you embark on the 2 x 24 hour weekly fasts.
I don’t really like the 5:2 method as much. I find people drop their calories more permanently to 500–600 calories, even though the recommendation is only 1–2 days per week. The reason that this isn’t as desirable is because your body’s metabolic set point gets lowered, your metabolic rate lowers too. Then, when the time comes to consume more food, you end up storing excess food as body fat.
That’s why my 14 Day Smart Cleanse program does not drop calories too drastically. Instead, it drops daily carbs.
Still eating gourmet food and being in ketosis without starvation is more sustainable. When you are in ketosis, there is a lovely advantage of appetite suppression whilst operating on a fat metabolism (that is, using your own body fat for fuel).
If you find it easy and feel good during the fast, then maybe try moving on to more advanced fasts like 24-hour fasts 1–2 times per week (Eat-Stop-Eat) or only eating 500–600 calories 1–2 days per week only (5:2 diet).
Intermittent Fasting Side Effects
While intermittent fasting can be an effective way to lose weight, it comes with side effects, especially when you're first getting started.
Like anything in life that involves your body and mind, it takes time. Try to be patient. Your body needs time to adjust to a new eating pattern, which can lead to hunger pangs, headaches, and general discomfort.
Intermittent fasting isn't risk-free. You'll feel hungry, you might overeat, you might get dehydrated (so drink 2L of purified water daily).
You might feel tired. Rest for 20-30 mins whenever possible.
You might feel irritable, so try relaxation techniques like meditation.
With time, you will get used to intermittent fasting and reap the rewards.
Who Should Be Careful or Avoid It?
Intermittent fasting is certainly not for everyone.
If you’re underweight or have a history of eating disorders, you should not fast without consulting with a health professional first. In these cases, it can be harmful.
Hunger is the main side effect of intermittent fasting. You may also feel weak and your brain may not perform as well as you’re used to.
This may only be temporary, as it can take some time for your body to adapt to the new meal schedule.
If you have a medical condition, you should consult with your doctor before trying intermittent fasting.
This is particularly important if you:
- Take medications
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding
- Are underweight
- Have diabetes
- Have low blood pressure
- Have an eating disorder
- Blood sugar irregularities
- Are a woman who is trying to conceive
- Are a woman with a history of amenorrhea (no period)
All that being said, intermittent fasting has an outstanding safety profile. There is nothing dangerous about not eating for awhile if you’re healthy and well-nourished overall.
If you read all this and think that fasting would be impossible for you, then an equally and more sustainable program is of course my 14 Day Smart Cleanse’s powerful combination of gut focused detoxification with a low carb, keto, and gourmet dietary plan, without starvation.
The results on Smart Cleanse will be the same and easier to achieve and with exercise, your results will be amazing. Particularly when you increase the intensity of your exercise as you get fitter and fitter.
Or if you are really determined and don’t mind a challenge you can try intermittent fasting 24 hour fast 2 times in each week, whilst combining it with 14 Day Smart Cleanse, so 4 short fasts in total over the 14 day period.
Or you could do the 16/8 method which can be done daily.
You get to choose and play around with this fasting thing. All I’m saying is it’s not essential and by no means a must to achieve miraculous wellness and weight loss results. It’s more of an additional tactic to try when you are ready and are up for the challenge and to shock your body if you are experiencing weight loss plateaus.
Intermittent Fasting Results To Expect
Interestingly, many studies have been done on intermittent fasting, in both animals and humans, which show that it can have wonderful benefits for weight control and the health of your body, brain and longevity.
Here are the main health benefits of intermittent fasting:
- Inflammation: Some studies show reductions in markers of inflammation, a key driver of many chronic diseases
- Weight loss: As mentioned above, intermittent fasting can help you lose weight and belly fat, without needing to count calories
- Insulin resistance: Intermittent fasting reduces insulin resistance, lowering blood sugar by 3–6% and fasting insulin levels by 20–31%, which will protect against type 2 diabetes.2
- Brain health: Intermittent fasting increases the brain hormone BDNF (brain cell nerve growth factor). It may also protect against Alzheimer’s disease.5
- Heart health: Intermittent fasting can reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood sugar, and insulin resistance.
- Cancer: Animal studies suggest that intermittent fasting may prevent cancer.6
Anti-aging: Intermittent fasting can extend lifespan.
(4) Patterson. Metabolic Effects of Intermittent Fasting, Annual Review of Nutrition, 2017, 37 : 371 – 393