Intermittent fasting involves cycling between periods of fasting and eating — and it’s recently become very popular.
Intermittent fasting can provide significant health benefits. Intermittent fasting simply allows the body to use its stored energy, by burning off excess body fat. It is important to realise that this is normal and humans have evolved to fast for shorter time periods – hours or days – without detrimental health consequences. Body fat is merely food energy that has been stored away. If you don’t eat, your body will simply “eat” its own fat for energy.
16:8 intermittent fasting is a form of time-restricted fasting. It involves consuming foods during an 8-hour window and avoiding food, or fasting, for the remaining 16 hours each day.
How to do it
The easiest way to follow the 16:8 diet is to choose a 16-hour fasting window that includes the time that a person spends sleeping.
People may choose one of the following 8-hour eating windows:
- 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- noon to 8 p.m.
Within this timeframe, people can eat their meals and snacks at convenient times. Eating regularly is important to prevent blood sugar peaks and dips and to avoid excessive hunger.
Here are some intermittent fasting benefits research has revealed so far:
- Thinking and memory. Studies discovered that intermittent fasting boosts working memory in animals and verbal memory in adult humans.
- Heart health. Intermittent fasting improved blood pressure and resting heart rates as well as other heart-related measurements.
- Physical performance. Young men who fasted for 16 hours showed fat loss while maintaining muscle mass. Mice who were fed on alternate days showed better endurance in running.
- Diabetes and obesity. In animal studies, intermittent fasting prevented obesity. And in six brief studies, obese adult humans lost weight through intermittent fasting.
- Tissue health. In animals, intermittent fasting reduced tissue damage in surgery and improved results.
Here are some of the changes that occur in your body during fasting:
- Insulin levels: Blood levels of insulin drop significantly, which facilitates fat burning.
- Human growth hormone: The blood levels of growth hormone may increase. Higher levels of this hormone facilitate fat burning and muscle gain, and have numerous other benefits
- Cellular repair: The body induces important cellular repair processes, such as removing waste material from cells
- Gene expression: There are beneficial changes in several genes and molecules related to longevity and protection against disease
Fasting has been shown to have several beneficial effects on metabolism that may lead to reduced risk of cancer.
Although human studies are needed, evidence from animal studies indicates that intermittent fasting may help prevent cancer. There is also some evidence on human cancer patients, showing that fasting reduced various side effects of chemotherapy.