Part 2: Intermittent Fasting – healthy reasons to try it

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If you get hangry – you know, when your hunger makes your irritable or unable to think straight – it’s often a sign of an over-reliance on food (particularly sugars).

Your body is so used to eating and snacking at such regular intervals that your hunger hormone, Ghrelin, gets desensitised. As opposed to identifying hunger, it is triggered out of habit.

This can get in the way of being efficient at work or socially inconvenient, particularly if your life isn’t based on a very consistent schedule.

Plus, when you don’t have control over this, you’ll often end up eating an unhealthy snack on the move when busy, unable to wait until you will have the time to sit down and eat a nutritious meal in a calm state.

The simple truth: It’s like going cold turkey on what is an addiction, but, once you’ve kicked it, it’s liberating.

Improved insulin sensitivity

In the first article “Introducing Insulin” the importance of keeping your insulin response sensitive was discussed.

If you have spent a lot of time in a calorie surplus state due to laziness or as part of your effort to put on muscle, your body will be “bored” with dealing with excess carbs. Your body only releasing or accepting insulin when your blood sugar levels are high, is unhealthy.

Optimal health consists of your insulin response being as sensitive as possible, removing toxic sugars from your system. Periods without any food whatsoever re-sensitises your body to increases in blood sugar.

The simple truth: Not giving your body ANY carbs by not consuming calories makes it more active in managing them when you do.

More brain cells, please

Fasting supercharges brain activity and results in the production of a protein called BDNF. This protein stimulates neural hypertrophy, similarly to how food proteins assist muscle growth. Not only that, it increases your focus too.

Your receptors receive constant stimulus when they’re subjected to food and reducing this helps with mental clarity. You can literally feel it.

You can channel the ancient overdrive feeling of having to think harder than usual to “survive” in your day-to-day life.

The simple truth: You’re letting your brain focus on development as opposed to food processing.

Human growth hormone release

Human growth hormone (HGH) is a key hormone involved in muscle and bone growth. It’s released on occasion as part of doing the opposite of what insulin does, when it breaks down glycogen stores into glucose for usage.

When one eats all the time and glucose is abundant in the blood stream, this isn’t necessary.

HGH is mainly released just before waking when one has been asleep (fasted) for several hours and needs an energy boost to wake up. During intended fasting though, this process takes place throughout the day.

You get constant bursts of HGH to assist in gluconeogenisis when glucose levels have been low for too long.

For muscle building, natural HGH levels aren’t enough for a noticeable difference. Fasting on a constant basis also makes it hard to maintain the calories needed for hypertrophy.

Slight increases have proven to assist in fat burning and shortening your recovery time though.

Studies have also shown it to contribute in a small way to strengthening your joints and ligaments, and healing damaged tissue. All great “1%” tools.

The simple truth: Forcing your body to convert stored sugars into energy is good for you.

Autophagy

When you give your body and brain a break from dealing with digestion and energy distribution, your body creates membranes called autophagosomes.

These handy helpers go about cleaning up scraps of dead or diseased cells and sends them to lysosomes. Lysosomes strip them and use the dead cells as materials for new cells.

Think of it as a recycling programme where someone goes around collecting all the waste plastic that’s polluting the environment and sends it for processing to make new, useful plastic.

Autophagy plays a role in preventing cancerous growths and metabolic dysfunction (like obesity and diabetes), as well as controlling inflammation and boosting the immune system function.

The simple truth: Giving your body a regular break from food allows it to get some spring cleaning done.

Bonus benefit: Weight loss due to calorie restriction

It’s particularly healthy to get into fasting for weight loss. As stated in the previous article, there are far healthier habits to get back to thinking about food and your diet in a positive way.

However, if one fasts well and with the combined intention of weight loss it is a very achievable side-effect. You just have to make sure you don’t overeat and compensate for calories “skipped”.

If, for example, you do not eat breakfast every day, you’d then be missing one of your meals, which would be anywhere from 15-35% of your daily calories.

If you then ate 50% more over each of your remaining meals, you’d probably put on weight.

If you ate as per usual on all other meals (and snacks) then you’d be in a deficit and able to lose weight if other health considerations were aligned.

The simple truth: If fasting means you consume fewer calories, you’ll likely lose weight doing it.

Joompa is a digital platform that facilitates the sourcing and booking of freelance, mobile personal fitness coaches. Available on iOS or via www.joompa.com.my