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Before understanding what intermittent fasting amounts to, you need to know that intermittent fasting is not a diet fad. Rather, it is a dieting pattern.
To put it simply, intermittent fasting is making a well thought out decision of skipping or avoiding certain meals and fasting for certain periods of time. This means that there is a certain period or “window” of a certain number of hours where you are allowed to eat, while there is a larger fasting window of more hours where you need to eat nothing.
So, you skip meals and eat smaller portions, and you will start shedding those pounds in no time at all. Well, that is only half the truth. Yes, by cutting down a meal, you are definitely reducing the average calories that you consume over the span of a week – even if you eat more than usual during your feeding window. However, you need to keep in mind that all the calories in the world are not equal! The impact of consuming calories from carbs has a different effect on the body than consuming calories from fats! Another factor that plays a significant role is the timing of the meals that you consume.
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How does intermittent fasting work?
While following intermittent fasting, your body follows a different operational mode while the body is in fasting state to that which is used in the feasting state. But, how does this work?
Whenever you consume a meal, it takes your body a couple of hours to process the food that you have consumed and to burn whatever it can from the processed food. Due to this, your body has a tremendous amount of energy to burn, which is used to fuel the body, instead of using fat. This happens especially when you consume sugar or carbs, as these are the primary sources of glucose. As the glucose molecule is the easiest to synthesize for energy, the body burns the glucose first, before moving on to more difficult to burn sources of energy.
While your body is in a state of fasting, your body does not have readily available energy from the food that you have consumed. So, in such a case, your body is forced to break down the stored fat in your body to keep the body fueled and the bodily functions going.
This is because, over the hours of fasting, the body has already used up all the glucose and glycogen derived from the food that you have consumed while you were permitted to eat. So, the body has no other option but to use the energy that has been stored in the form of fats in the body.
But, why does this method work so efficiently?
Well, the body reacts to the food we consume by producing insulin. When your body is sensitive to insulin, there is a more efficient use of the energy consumed. This not only helps with losing weight but also helps in the creation of muscle mass.
While you are fasting, your sensitivity to insulin is at its peak. When you are asleep, your body uses the glycogen stored in the liver and muscles to fuel the body. The glycogen is exhausted over the period of the night, and your body expects you to eat food first thing in the morning so that your glycogen levels are replenished again. By skipping breakfast, you do not provide the body with the glycogen, thus increasing insulin sensitivity.
So, when you finally do eat, everything you eat is used more efficiently, because the glycogen you consume is used to create muscle mass and is burned to provide your body with energy – thus leaving very little for your body to store as fat!
When you compare this to normal, non-fasting days, you will understand the actual impact intermittent fasting has on the body!
When you aren’t fasting, your body’s insulin sensitivity is at a reasonable level. So, when you consume foods that are rich in sugar and carbs, your body’s glycogen levels will max out, and there will be a high level of glucose in the bloodstream that is enough to keep your body energized. So, all the extra glycogen is converted to fat and is stored in multiple places in your body.
But, when you fast, the glycogen reserves in the body go down, forcing your body to release the growth hormone into the body. This, combined with increased insulin sensitivity and a decreased level of insulin production, helps you gain muscle mass while losing some of the fat from your body.
To put it very simply, intermittent fasting helps in regulating your bodily functions so that it uses the food you consume more efficiently and also burn fats to be used as fuel when there you are not constantly consuming calories. Due to various physiological reasons, when done correctly, fasting helps in building muscle as well as promoting weight loss.