The Science of Intermittent Fasting

The Science of Intermittent Fasting

Fasting is any period of time that you are not eating, so intermittent fasting is simply alternating cycles of fasting and eating. Intermittent fasting has recently been rediscovered as a highly effective weight loss method, and new research confirms its many healthy benefits. In 2019, it was Google’s most searched for weight loss term, and also prominently reviewed in The New England Journal of Medicine, the most influential medical journal in the world.


An Introduction to Intermittent Fasting

There is nothing new about fasting. It is one of the oldest dietary interventions and has been part of the practice of virtually every culture and religion on earth. Indeed, the word ‘break-fast’ means the meal that breaks your fast, referring to the fasting period between the evening meal and the first meal of the next day.

Since 2010, the number of online searches for “intermittent fasting” has increased by over 10,000%, as people recognize the significant health benefits, including weight loss and type 2 diabetes reversal.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Fasting, the voluntary abstinence from food for spiritual, health or other reasons is not the same as starvation, which is the involuntary absence of food. Starvation is neither controlled nor deliberate. Fasting, on the other hand may be done for any period of time, from a few hours to a few weeks, always under control of the individual. Food is available, you simply choose not to eat it.


The Science

Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss

At its very core, intermittent fasting simply allows the body to use its stored sources of energy – blood sugar and body fat. This is an entirely normal process and humans have evolved these storage forms of food energy precisely so that we can fast for hours or days without detrimental health consequences. Blood sugar and body fat is merely stored food energy to fuel the body when food is not readily available. By fasting, we are lowering blood sugar and body fat by using them precisely for the reason we store them.

What Happens When We Eat

When we eat, more food energy is ingested than can immediately be used. Some of this energy must be stored for later use. The hormone insulin, is produced by the pancreas and is responsible for the storage of excess food energy.

What Happens When We Don’t Eat

When we don’t eat (fasting), insulin falls, and the food storage process goes in reverse. First, the body breaks down glycogen (sugar) into individual glucose units and released into the blood. Once that is finished, the body must now burn body fat for energy. This is the fasted state.

Insulin levels rise when we eat, telling us to store some of the excess energy:

  1. Sugar: Carbohydrates are broken down into individual glucose (sugar) units, which can be linked into long chains to form glycogen, which is then stored in the liver or muscle. However, there is very limited storage space for glycogen in the body.
  2. Body Fat: When we run out of space to store glycogen, the liver starts to turn the excess glucose into fat. This process is called de novo lipogenesis, which literally means “making new fat.” Some of this newly created fat is stored in the liver, but most of it is exported to other fat deposits in the body. While this is a more complicated process, there is almost no limit to the amount of fat that can be created.

A Bit More About Fasting for Weight Loss

Glycogen is the most easily accessible energy source. It is broken down into glucose molecules to provide energy for the body’s cells. Glycogen can provide enough energy to power much of the body’s needs for 24-36 hours. After this, the body will primarily break down fat for energy.

The body really only exists in one of two states – the fed (high insulin) state or the fasted (low insulin) state. Either we are storing food energy (increasing stores) or we are burning stored energy (decreasing stores). It is one or the other, but not both. You don’t store fat and burn fat at the same time. If eating and fasting are balanced, there should be no net weight change.

If we start eating the minute we roll out of bed, and do not stop until we go to sleep, we spend almost all of our time in the fed state. Over time we may gain weight, because we have not allowed our body any time to burn stored food energy.

To restore balance or to lose weight, we simply need to increase the amount of time spent burning food energy. That’s intermittent fasting.

In essence, intermittent fasting allows the body to use its stored energy. After all, that is what it is there for. The important thing to understand is that there is nothing wrong with allowing the body to utilize stored energy. This is what dogs, cats, lions and bears do. This is what humans do too.

If you are eating constantly, your body will just use the incoming food energy. There is simply no need to dip into your body’s stores of energy (body fat). Your body will save it for a time when there is nothing to eat. If you are fasting, your body will naturally lose weight.

The Science

Reversing Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes mellitus (DMII) is fundamentally a disease of too much sugar in the body. When we eat glucose, insulin stores the excess in our cells. Over time, if all our cells and storage systems become overloaded, the remaining glucose spills over into the blood. Those high blood glucose levels result in the diagnosis of DMII.

Think of Your Body Like a Sugar Bowl

It starts off empty. Over time, if we are continually putting in more sugar than we take out, it becomes full. Once full, any excess sugar just spills out into the blood. That’s type 2 diabetes. If the core issue is glucose overfilling the cells, then the solution is obvious: get that glucose out of the cell! Either put less sugar into our body, or let more of it burn off.

Resolving Toxic Glucose Overload

Put Less Sugar In

Use a low carbohydrate diet to reduce the amount of dietary glucoseFasting also eliminates carbohydrates – and all other foods, for that matter.

Burn Off Excess Glucose

Your body requires a certain amount of energy every day to survive. The heart, brain, kidneys, liver etc. all require energy even if you are lying in bed. Intermittent Fasting allows the body to burn off its excess sugar.

Reversing Type 2 Diabetes

In type 2 diabetes, blood sugar levels are too high. If you don’t eat, your blood sugar levels will come down. So, why can’t intermittent fasting be used as a natural treatment? There is actually no reason.

As you continue fasting, your body will start to burn body fat. As you lose body fat, the type 2 diabetes will start to reverse. Indeed, research shows that intermittent fasting has the potential to reverse type 2 diabetes without medications, surgery or even cost.

Weight Loss Is Just One Benefit of Intermittent Fasting

  1. Weight and body fat loss – improved body composition[1-4-6,8,9,11,12-18,19,37,38]
  2. Lowered blood insulin and glucose levels[1,20-22]
  3. Reduced hemoglobin A1c (A1c) levels[1,23-25]
  4. Reduced medication dependency[1]
  5. Improved blood pressure (hypertension)[10,29]
  6. Improved cholesterol levels[10,29,31]
  7. Improved mental clarity and concentration[13]
  8. Increased energy [27,28]
  9. Increased growth hormone [4,7,8]
  10. Increased longevity[30,32-35]
  11. Activated cellular cleansing by stimulating autophagy[34,35]
  12. Reduction of inflammation[36]

Intermittent fasting offers many unique advantages.

Anyone can start intermittent fasting today.

How to Fast

Fasting For Your Lifestyle

Intermittent fasting is infinitely flexible. Some weeks your schedule may allow for more fasting, while other weeks it will be difficult to fast as much as you did previously.

Shorter Fasting Windows

These fasting protocols are great for those looking to maintain their good health or are brand new to intermittent fasting and want to start increasing the duration of their fast slowly. They are typically done daily.

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Intermittent Fasting Protocols

Intermittent Fasting offers plenty of flexibility. You can fast for as long or as short a time period as you like. But if you’re fasting for long periods of time, you may require medical supervision, especially if you are taking medications.

These fasting protocols are great for individuals looking for deeper health benefits from intermittent fasting, such as weight loss and improved blood glucose levels. They are typically done 3 times a week.

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Extended Fasting

It is always important to check with your healthcare provider to ensure you are not at risk for developing complications if you want to try extended fasting. You may need to have various medications adjusted to prevent any unwanted side effects, such as dangerously low blood glucose (hypoglycemia) or low blood pressure (hypotension).

The world record for fasting is held by a gentleman named Angus Barbier who fasted for 382 days! While we don’t recommend this, it may be possible for some individuals to fast for 7-to-14 days with proper medical supervision.

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Frequently Asked Questions

A Few Questions We Get Asked

  • How much weight will I lose per week?

    Weight loss is highly dependent on your metabolism, eating plan and fasting schedule.

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  • Can I exercise during fasting?

    Definitely. You can continue your usual activities, including exercise, while fasting. You don’t need to eat before exercising to provide energy.

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  • What kind of diet should I be on?

    The Fasting Method has its roots in one of the most multicultural cities in the world. So, early on, we were very good at teaching clients to fast regardless of their diet preferences.

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More Questions?Find the answers

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