Forms of intermittent fasting exist in religious practices in various groups across the world. Religious fasting regimens include, but are not limited to, Vrata in Hinduism, Ramadan fasting (Islam), Yom Kippur fasting (Judaism), Orthodox Christian fasting, Fast Sunday (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), and Buddhist fasting. Certain religious fasting practices, like Buddhist fasting, only require abstinence from certain foods, while others, like the Jewish fast on Yom Kippur, last for a short period of time and would cause negligible effects on the body.
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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.
There’s a ton of incredibly promising intermittent fasting (IF) research done on fat rats. They lose weight, their blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugars improve… but they’re rats. Studies in humans, almost across the board, have shown that IF is safe and incredibly effective, but really no more effective than any other diet. In addition, many people find it difficult to fast.
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.
A 2018 review of intermittent fasting in obese people showed that reducing calorie intake one to six days per week over at least 12 weeks was effective for reducing body weight on an average of 7 kilograms (15 lb); the results were not different from a simple calorie restricted diet, and the clinical trials reviewed were run mostly on middle-aged women from the US and the UK, limiting interpretation of the results. Intermittent fasting has not been studied in children, the elderly, or underweight people, and could be harmful in these populations.
Based on this, researchers from the University of Alabama conducted a study with a small group of obese men with prediabetes. They compared a form of intermittent fasting called “early time-restricted feeding,” where all meals were fit into an early eight-hour period of the day (7 am to 3 pm), or spread out over 12 hours (between 7 am and 7 pm). Both groups maintained their weight (did not gain or lose) but after five weeks, the eight-hours group had dramatically lower insulin levels and significantly improved insulin sensitivity, as well as significantly lower blood pressure. The best part? The eight-hours group also had significantly decreased appetite. They weren’t starving.
AN IMPORTANT CAVEAT: Intermittent Fasting can be more complex for people who have issues with blood sugar regulation, suffer from hypoglycemia, have diabetes, etc. If you fit into this category, check with your doctor or dietitian before adjusting your eating schedule. It also affects women differently (there’s a whole section dedicated to that below)
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When the female body senses it’s headed towards famine, it will increase the production of the hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin, which signal the body that you’re hungry and need to eat (2). Additionally, if there’s not enough food for you to survive, your body is going to shut down the system that would allow you to create another human. This is the body’s natural way of protecting a potential pregnancy, even if you’re not actually pregnant or trying to conceive.
This is the same as the 8-to-6 window plan, but you are extending your fasting time an extra four hours. I personally practice this plan during the workweek. I'm not a breakfast person, so I just enjoy a few cups of herbal tea to start my day. With this plan you will be eating only between the hours of 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. for a full 18 hours of fasting within a 24-hour period.
Not only that, but growth hormone is increased during fasted states (both during sleep and after a period of fasting). Combine this increased growth hormone secretion:, the decrease in insulin production (and thus increase in insulin sensitivity ), and you’re essentially priming your body for muscle growth and fat loss with intermittent fasting.