Harvard-trained physician and author of The Paleovedic Diet, Dr. Akil Palanisamy further explains to POPSUGAR that "autophagy is the self-cleaning process by which the body's cells break down and recycle damaged proteins and components. This is activated by intermittent fasting, but anything other than water (even black coffee) disrupts it to some extent."
As far back as the 1930s, scientists have been exploring the benefits of reducing calories by skipping meals. During that time, one American scientist found that significantly reducing calories helped mice live longer, healthier lives. More recently, researches have found the same in fruit flies, roundworms and monkeys. Studies have also shown that decreasing calorie consumption by 30 to 40 percent (regardless of how it’s done) can extend life span by a third or more. Plus, there’s data to suggest that limiting food intake may reduce the risk of many common diseases. Some believe fasting may also increase the body’s responsiveness to insulin, which regulates blood sugar and helps control hunger.
In practice, however, I would be concerned with eating enough. Based on my experience, teaching yourself to consistently eat more is one of the harder parts of intermittent fasting. You might be able to feast for a meal, but learning to do so every day of the week takes a little bit of planning, a lot of cooking, and consistent eating. The end result is that most people who try intermittent fasting end up losing some weight because the size of their meals remains similar even though a few meals are being cut out each week.
Intermittent fasting is a technique that involves restricting your food intake to a certain time window each day and then fasting for a specific period. There are several different fasting methods, with many variations that can fit nearly any personal preference or routine. A few of the most common types of intermittent fasting include alternate day fasting, 16/8 fasting and the 5:2 diet, each of which varies based on the amount of time you spend fasting during the week.
To start, recognize that the bulk of your weight-loss is going to come from fasting, not from working out. Exercise will have other benefits, of course, like building and preserving muscle tissue, improving performance, and increasing endurance, but it won’t be where you’re really taking off the pounds. With this in mind, if your priority is to lose weight, you’ll need to be prioritizing meal planning over working out. As you start intermittent fasting, you may need to pull back from regular strenuous exercise, at least until you feel like your body is used to your new schedule.
On this plan you'll eat clean five days of the week but will not eat anything for two nonconsecutive days of the week. For example, you can fast on Monday and Thursday but eat clean meals on the other days. Food on these five days will look just like the rest of the fasting plans—healthy fats, clean meat sources, vegetables, and some fruit. Keep in mind that this plan is not for beginners, and you should always talk to your doctor before starting any fasting regimen, especially if you are on medication or have a medical condition.
If you're worried you’ll be starving while fasting, you’ll be pleasantly surprised! Intermittent fasting decreases your hunger hormone ghrelin, which in turn can increase dopamine levels in the brain. (Just another example of the gut-brain axis at work.) Fasting can also help free people from emotional eating and kill cravings by transitioning your metabolism from unstable sugar-burning to steady fat-burning.
The benefits of intermittent fasting translate to untrained overweight and obese individuals as well. One study published in Obesity Reviews found that eating fewer calories is effective for fat loss, but it does come with some muscle loss. However, if the subjects fasted for 24 hours and ate as much as they wanted on the next day for a period of 12 weeks, they lost significantly less muscle mass.
Because we don't enter the fasted state until 12 hours after our last meal, it's rare that our bodies are in this fat burning state. This is one of the reasons why many people who start intermittent fasting will lose fat without changing what they eat, how much they eat, or how often they exercise. Fasting puts your body in a fat burning state that you rarely make it to during a normal eating schedule.
When our cells undergo the process of autophagy, non-essential parts like damaged proteins are recycled and invading microorganisms and toxic compounds are removed. This means that autophagy plays an important role in stopping the aging process, reversing disease, and preventing cancer, but it doesn’t happen all the time. Fasting, protein restriction, and carbohydrate restriction are the three main ways that can initiate different autophagic processes — all of which are not the same. This is part of the reason why a ketogenic diet has so many positive effects, and it also shows you why intermittent fasting is a way to improve your diet even more.
There are different types of intermittent fasting, but the most common involves only eating within a certain window of time each day. For example, you might only eat between 12pm and 6pm each day, giving you a 6-hour “feeding” window when you eat all of your calories for the day. That means you’ll be fasting for 18 hours in between. Your intermittent fasting ratio would then be 18/6.
For example, in the graphic below you would eat dinner on Monday night and then not eat again until Tuesday evening. On Wednesday, however, you would eat all day and then start the 24–hour fasting cycle again after dinner on Wednesday evening. This allows you to get long fast periods on a consistent basis while also eating at least one meal every day of the week.
60 year old and just started IF a week ago. I eat from noon to 8pm. The noon start works for me because I’m not starting my day with the thought of food! I LOVE FOOD AND LOVE TO EAT! I am moving away from some bad habits and it doesn’t seem that difficult for me with IF! Just one week in and I do feel better. Can’t wait till I’ve got a month under my belt.
In one study, protein and carbohydrates were more efficiently absorbed in individuals who completed a cardio workout after fasting, as opposed to those who consumed a carbohydrate rich breakfast prior to working out. This research indicates that fasting can assist your body to more efficiently absorb nutrients from your post-exercise meals, as well as improve your general health and boost lean muscle mass growth.
Yes, by cutting out an entire meal each day, you are consuming fewer calories per week – even if your two meals per day are slightly bigger than before. Overall, you’re still consuming fewer calories per day. This is highlighted in a recent JAMA study[b] in which both calorie restricted dieters and intermittent fasters lost similar amounts of weight over a year period.