How and why intermittent fasting works
Fasting positively influences two important hormones that play a role in your body’s ability to burn fat–insulin and glucagon.
What’s great about insulin–a blood sugar regulator–is it transports the nutrients from your bloodstream into your cells. But when you eat TOO often or TOO much, your insulin levels rise and remain high.
The problem with this is that insulin puts on pounds. In fact, insulin is one of the biggest driver of excess weight (a.k.a. fat).
When your insulin levels are chronically high, your cells react by becoming insulin resistant. This means that when insulin knocks on the door of a cell and asks to escort glucose in, the cell is likely to slam the door in its face. This forces your body to reroute that glucose to your liver, where it gets transformed into fat.
However, during a fast, your insulin levels drop. And your cells rapidly start becoming more sensitive to insulin. Rather than barring the door to it, they’ll welcome it in, along with its package of glucose—so that glucose will get burned as fuel rather than wind up on your waistline.
To burn fat, you need to break fatty acids out of your fat stores and get them into your bloodstream. This is called lipolysis, and it depends on glucagon—a hormone that has the opposite job of insulin. Thus, while insulin stores fat, glucagon pulls fat out of your cells.
Rising levels of glucagon cause your body to start releasing fatty acids into your bloodstream (a.k.a. lipolysis) so they can be transported to your cells to make energy (a.k.a. oxidation).
Adrenaline and Norepinephrine
Fasting also increases your levels of adrenaline and norepinephrine. And these two hormones rev up the amount of energy you burn at rest, making your body pull even more fat from your stores.
Bottom line: Fat, and belly fat (which is easily mobilized) in particular, melts away when you fast.
Intermittent Fasting Can Help Build and Tone Muscles
Exercising while fasting can help you build and tone your muscles, burn more fat, reduce your insulin levels, and improve your performance.
Human growth hormone (HGH)
Studies show intermittent fasting and interval training workouts increase Hormone Growth Hormone (HGH) by 1300% in women! This is important because HGH is essential to sculpting lean muscle. And the more muscle you have, the more fat you’ll burn.
Research shows that if you work out before eating breakfast in the morning rather than afterward, you can burn nearly 20 percent more fat.
Science has also found that fasted exercise is a great way to keep extra pounds from piling on if you’ve over-indulged.In one six-week study, researchers asked male volunteers to stuff themselves with junk food every day. Some participants didn’t exercise at all while gorging themselves, while others either fasted before exercising in the morning or ate a big breakfast before working out.
What happened? The men who didn’t exercise got way chubbier (no surprise). The men who ate breakfast before exercising also gained weight, although only about half as much as the controls. The fasting exercisers, however, gained virtually no weight, even though they ate the same bad diet.
Both fasting and exercise alone will help lower your insulin levels. But when you pair them up, the result is metabolic magic. In the study just mentioned above, for instance, the controls and the non-fasting exercisers exhibited insulin resistance (which leads to higher insulin levels) after their junk food overload. The fasted exercisers, however, showed no signs of insulin resistance, in spite of their terrible diet.
In another study, participants exercised in a fasted state at least three times weekly for 12 weeks. By the end of the study, they lost an average of one-quarter of their baseline fat mass, and their fasting insulin levels fell by 25%.
Right now, you’re carrying around a big supply of energy in the form of fat. The problem is that you can’t access that energy easily, because your body is trained to burn sugar—not fat. That’s why you’ll “hit the wall” if you run out of blood sugar in the middle of a race or a game.
When you exercise when fasting, however, you teach your body how to tap readily into your fat stores for energy. When you do this, you become metabolically flexible.
On the day of a big race or game, you’ll still want to eat beforehand (that’s not the time for fasting). But if you’re metabolically flexible, your body will easily switch to burning stored fat once it uses up the sugar from your meal. As a result, you’ll have a virtually unlimited supply of energy… and that means you can leave your competition in the dust.
Bottom Line: Intermittent fasting is great for your waistline. But exercising while fasting will speed up your progress as well as boost your performance.
Intermittent Fasting Helps Your Brain Health & Function
The benefits of fasting on the brain alone is reason to do it–even if you don’t want to lose weight or gain muscle. Research has proven that fasting decreases your risk of developing a neurodegenerative disease.
- It puts mild stress on brain cells, similar to how exercise does on your muscles. And this makes them stronger.
- It increases a protein known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF prevents stressed neurons from dying (as well as increase insulin sensitivity). Low levels of BDNF are linked to Alzheimer’s dementia, and cognitive decline.
- It grows new brain cells. Also called neurogenesis, this process helps establish new connections in the brain and sharpen your cognitive abilities. This means your brain grows stronger and more resistant to disease. Your focus, concentration, and memory will all improve as well.
Bottom line: Intermittent fasting is highly protective of the brain. And, it’s the ultimate productivity hack!
Intermittent Fasting is Cleansing and Rejuvinating
Think of the fluid around your cells—your cellular matrix—as the water in a fish tank. When it’s filled with sludge, the cells are sludgy, too. Fasting cleanses your cellular matrix, removing debris that makes cells sluggish.
- It promotes the “tagging” of unnecessary proteins for removal and recycling.
- It ramps up a process called autophagy, which gets rid of old, tired cells that can’t burn energy efficiently. By breaking down damaged cells, autophagy speeds up your metabolism at the same time it reduces your risk of cancer and other diseases of aging.
- By recycling the usable parts of old cells and using them to build new, healthy cells, it rejuvenates you from head to toe. In fact, research shows that fasting even makes your brain younger by increasing neuronal autophagy. Specifically, it gets rid of damaged molecules tied to neurological diseases. It’s your brain’s way of taking out the trash so that garbage doesn’t pile up.
Bottom line: While fasting, your body gets to work. It takes out the trash. And it generates new healthy cells throughout the entire the body.[/cs_text]
Intermittent Fasting Fights Inflammation
What’s the #1 true killer in the US?
You guessed it–inflammation! Inflammation is the body’s natural response to any harmful stimuli, from bacterial infection to a bump on the head.
If it gets chronic, it can lead to diseases like arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and various forms of cancer.
In addition, anything that increases inflammation puts on weight and makes you look older. And anything that reduces inflammation takes off weight and makes you look younger.
So you’ll be happy to know that fasting fights inflammation at its roots.
Specifically, when you fast, your body releases a compound called beta-hydroxybutyrate, or BHB. BHB inhibits one part of a set of proteins called the inflammasome—and when you inhibit the inflammasome, you knock out inflammation. And that translates into easier weight loss, as well as a healthier body and even healthier skin.
Bottom line: Inflammation is BAD. It’s the at the root of most modern diseases, including obesity. Fortunately, intermittent fasting is a simple lifestyle change that can significantly reduce inflammation in your body.
Intermittent Fasting Can Boost Energy
At first, fasting can be draining. Which is why most believe fasting bogs you down and hinders your productivity and performance. But, once you pass the initial phase, your energy level will increase significantly.
As previously mentioned, fasting is a form of temporary stress. And the body responds to stress via the release of adrenaline, which makes you feel awake, alert, and ready for action.
Bottom line: Intermittent fasting naturally boosts your energy once your body adjusts to the change.
Intermittent fasting Boosts Your Immune Health
Intermittent fasting plays a significant role in boosting your immune system. And I’ve already discussed several ways in which this works.
- Autophagy–the process in which your body gets rid of damaged cells. And this applies to cells that make up immune system, such as white blood cells. There is also some evidence, although more research is needed, that fasting triggers stem cells to replace old white blood cells.
- Reducing chronic inflammation, which is the sign of an overactive immune system. Thus, by reducing inflammation, you’re essentially putting less burden on your immune system.
- Improving gut health by resting your digestive system and repairing your intestinal lining. And this is important because a majority of your immune system resides in your gut.