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The Science Behind Intermittent Fasting Benefits

Intermittent fasting benefits include managing your weight, boosting your brain power, and improving longevity. Learn how to start intermittent fasting.
Many people choose to follow intermittent fasting for fat loss because it has been shown to promote fat oxidation and insulin sensitivity.
If you’ve searched for ways to burn more fat, give yourself a brain boost, or extend longevity, two words have probably come across your screen: intermittent fasting. This timed method of abstaining from consuming food and caloric beverages has captured the scientific community as much as the fitness industry. Studies have revealed several intermittent fasting benefits including weight management and a lowered risk for disease.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

As a species, we’re built to fast. We’ve been doing it for thousands of years, but only now are we voluntarily choosing to do it. Intermittent fasting is a way of timing your meals so that you are fasting for most or all of the day. There are two popular methods of intermittent fasting: 16:8 and 24:1.

16:8

This system has you fasting for 16 hours each day up to seven days per week. You get an 8-hour feeding window to fit in the day’s calories. 16:8 is the most popular method for intermittent fasting as it is beginner-friendly and most of the fasting is done while asleep. You’ll abstain from all calories for 16 hours. Water, plain tea, and black coffee are okay but no food or calorie-based beverages. Once your fasting time is up, you can follow your normal diet for 8 hours. When the feeding window ends, you resume your fast for another 16 hours. An ideal time to start your fast is at 8 p.m., then begin the feeding window at noon the following day. Once 8 p.m. rolls around, begin the fast again. Most beginners will start with four or five days per week – usually Monday through Friday – and leave the weekend to eat as they like.

24:1

This intermittent fasting system involves fasting for a full 24 hours, but only once per week. The 24:1 system is ideal for those who have experience with the 16:8 system and have adjusted to abstaining from eating for extended periods of time. We recommend starting with the 16:8 method and then gradually increasing the fasting time by one hour every other week. Your fasting schedule would look like this:
  • Week One: 16 hours fasted
  • Week Three: 17 hours fasted
  • Week Five: 18 hours fasted
  • Week Seven: 19 hours fasted
  • Week Nine: 20 hours fasted
Once you get to the 20-hour mark, you should be able to make the leap to a full 24 hours of fasting because, as mentioned above, a good chunk of the time you spend fasting will be while you’re asleep. Some anecdotal reports claim that you can feel the 24-hour fast benefits more than the 16:8 system, but this will vary from person to person. Before trying either system, it’s important to chat with your doctor to make sure this is appropriate and safe for you.

Science Behind Intermittent Fasting Benefits

The health benefits of fasting have fueled the fame of intermittent fasting in popular fitness culture. Let’s explore the most studied benefits of intermittent fasting and the science behind them.

Intermittent Fasting for Fat Loss

Responsible fasting can promote fat loss through lower calorie intake and improved metabolic responses. One study showed that alternate day fasting was effective in promoting fat loss in subjects while improving insulin sensitivity. The one drawback to alternate day fasting is that subjects found their hunger did not decrease. This could be from the fact that normal eating habits were restored every other day, not allowing the body to adjust to the 16:8 method. [1] In another study, subjects burned body fat, but they did not lose any muscle. The implications for bodybuilders and weight-cutting athletes is that intermittent fasting may be a safe and effective way to achieve weight and physique goals without sacrificing hard-earned muscle mass. [2] Looking for a workout you can start today to help you burn fat and build muscle? Check out our bodyweight workouts that you can do at home or your local park.
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Cognitive Health and Intermittent Fasting

Studies show that fasting has a unique effect on our bodies, helping to remove waste and repair damaged cells and DNA, and this can have a big impact on improving brain health. [3] One recent study found that adults using intermittent fasting for three months had increased levels of hippocampal neurogenesis. This is when adult neural stem cells are used to create new functional dentate granule cells, which are essential for learning and memory. That same study confirmed that intermittent fasting can promote the incorporation of these new neurons into existing neural circuits. [4]

Intermittent Fasting Can Lower Disease Risk

Inflammation can cause or exacerbate a number of diseases including Alzheimer’s, obesity, and type-2 diabetes. Intermittent fasting can help to lower total body inflammation, thereby lowering the risk of disease. [5] Fasting is particularly effective for combating type 2 diabetes. Studies show that intermittent fasting can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce your risk for developing type 2 diabetes, one of the leading preventable diseases. [6] Fasting also improves genetic markers to fight off lifestyle and aged-related diseases. [7]

Should You Use Amino Acids During Intermittent Fasting?

If you’ve never tried fasting before, it’ll take a bit to adjust. One trick you can use is to drink an amino acid supplement during that struggle hour – the one where you can feel your willpower start to slip. Experts suggest that you’ll still reap the benefits of intermittent fasting if you consume no more than 15 calories during your 16-hour fast. MR46 – Muscle Recovery is a comprehensive amino acid supplement that contains only 12 calories per serving. Support your fitness goals and protect your muscle mass while you fast. Learn more about how MR46 can help you.
MR46- Muscle Recovery Supplement

References

  1. Heilbronn LK, Smith SR, Martin CK, Anton SD, Ravussin E. Alternate-day fasting in nonobese subjects: effects on body weight, body composition, and energy metabolism. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Jan;81(1):69-73.
  2. Moro T, Tinsley G, Bianco A, et al. Effects of eight weeks of time-restricted feeding (16/8) on basal metabolism, maximal strength, body composition, inflammation, and cardiovascular risk factors in resistance-trained males. Journal of Translational Medicine. 2016;14:290. doi:10.1186/s12967-016-1044-0.
  3. Van Praag, Henriette et al. “Exercise, Energy Intake, Glucose Homeostasis, and the Brain.” The Journal of Neuroscience 34.46 (2014): 15139–15149. PMC. Web. 14 Nov. 2017.
  4. Baik SH, Rajeev V, Fann DY, Jo DG, Arumugam TV. Intermittent fasting increases adult hippocampal neurogenesis. Brain Behav. 2020;10(1):e01444. doi:10.1002/brb3.1444.
  5. Johnson JB, Summer W, Cutler RG, Martin B, Hyun DH, Dixit VD, Pearson M, Nassar M, Telljohann R, Maudsley S, Carlson O, John S, Laub DR, Mattson MP. Alternate day calorie restriction improves clinical findings and reduces markers of oxidative stress and inflammation in overweight adults with moderate asthma. Free Radic Biol Med. 2007 Mar 1;42(5):665-74. Epub 2006 Dec 14.
  6. Barnosky AR, Hoddy KK, Unterman TG, Varady KA. Intermittent fasting vs daily calorie restriction for type 2 diabetes prevention: a review of human findings. Transl Res. 2014 Oct;164(4):302-11. doi: 10.1016/j.trsl.2014.05.013. Epub 2014 Jun 12.
  7. Aly SM. Role of Intermittent Fasting on Improving Health and Reducing Diseases. International Journal of Health Sciences. 2014;8(3):V-VI.
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