If you’ve been on the hunt for an effective way to lose weight and regular diets just aren’t cutting it, you may choose to tap into your body’s natural fat burning power with the help of intermittent fasting. In our latest free webinar, Becky Barkey, NP, explains the benefits of intermittent fasting, how it works and how you can incorporate it into your lifestyle for powerful, long-term weight management tailored to your individual needs and goals.
Let’s dive into this unique, intuitive approach to eating:
Stages of intermittent fasting
The fed-fast cycle is a crucial component of this diet, marked by changes to both your metabolism and hormones, along with other lasting health benefits.
Fed state (0-3 hours)
The fed state is the first phase of fasting, during which your body digests and absorbs nutrients from food within three to four hours of eating. Your blood glucose levels increase, prompting a boost in insulin secretion to regulate blood sugar and steadily supply the body with energy. Certain hormones shift as well — ghrelin, the “hunger hormone,” drops, while leptin levels increase, making you feel full.
Early fasting state (3-18 hours)
About three hours after eating, your body enters the early fasting state. This stage is characterized by a decline in both blood sugar and insulin, prompting your body to convert glycogen stored in the liver into glucose to use as energy. As this phase continues, your body will eventually run out of glycogen stores, leading it to use alternative energy sources. Lipolysis may occur, a process that breaks down triglycerides in fat cells to use as fuel. Amino acids are also converted into energy.
Fasting state (18-48 hours)
At this point, your body will have depleted all its glycogen stores and has likely already started breaking down triglycerides and proteins to use as energy. As the liver breaks down fats, it produces ketones, an alternative energy source that can provide a range of benefits throughout the body. Over time, the body enters ketosis, a state where your body burns fat instead of sugar for fuel. Research suggests that autophagy occurs during this phase, a process during which the body clears out damaged, dysfunctional cells and recycles them for energy.
Benefits of intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting offers a variety of health benefits that can be difficult to achieve with other diets, such as:
- Helps you lose weight and visceral fat
- Improves insulin sensitivity
- Cellular autophagy
- Reduced inflammation
Intermittent fasting allows you to eat fewer meals, resulting in a smaller caloric intake, which is crucial for weight loss. Plus, hormonal function is enhanced, which can assist in breaking down body fat to use for energy. This can actually increase your metabolic rate, helping you burn even more calories.
Intermittent fasting can reduce insulin resistance and increase insulin sensitivity, enhancing your body’s capacity to react to insulin appropriately and use glucose efficiently. This also lowers your blood sugar, making intermittent fasting a great way to protect against type two diabetes and even prediabetes.
As mentioned above, the fasting state prompts the body to initiate a cellular “cleanup” process known as autophagy. This allows the cells to break down and metabolize damaged and dysfunctional proteins that have collected inside cells. Research suggests that cellular autophagy may help protect against aging, cancer and other diseases.
Many chronic diseases, such as heart disease or Alzheimer’s, are caused or worsened by chronic inflammation in the body. Fasting can reduce inflammation by decreasing the release of pro-inflammatory chemicals and increasing the presence of anti-inflammatory chemicals.