Intermittent fasting: effects and benefits

Intermittent fasting: effects and benefits

Intermittent fasting: what is it?

Intermittent fasting is a weight loss system based on the cardinal principle of creating a fasting ”  window” (time frame) with a duration that affects the overall caloric balance and hormonal metabolism. In conditions of food abstinence, in addition to a total insulin calm (remember that insulin is  the anabolic hormone  par excellence but also responsible for fat deposits), there is a significant increase in another hormone : IGF-1 or somatomedin  (some also mention an increase in  testosterone). Intermittent food deprivation is then responsible for the secretion of GH (somatotropin), known as the “feel-good hormone”. Unlike insulin, GH, while increasing hypertrophy , does not cause fat deposits, but favors the lipolysis necessary for weight loss and muscle definition .

There are three main dietary regimens involving intermittent fasting:  alternate day fasting ,  fasting for 2 days a week  and  daily fasting (the time of day during which the individual eats is limited to 8-12 hours and the remaining 12-14-16 hours are fasting).

Intermittent fasting diet plan

The intermittent fasting food pattern consists of 3 daily meals and 1 training session with a 16-hour fasting window.

  • 1st meal to be eaten as soon as you get up: source of protein and carbohydrates with a  medium-low glycemic index ; little fat
  • 2nd meal –  breakfast : complete
  • Training (bodybuilding or  high intensity training )
  • 3rd meal (to be taken IMMEDIATELY after training) – lunch: complete
  • Fasting window from approximately 1 or 3 pm until the following morning.

    Benefits of intermittent fasting

    Some specialists propose to cure overweight and metabolic  diseases  through the so-called therapeutic fasting . This practice takes place under conditions of medical supervision and nutritional support. Fasting can be beneficial or harmful on the basis of some factors: duration, completeness of food abstention, pathological conditions for its application, etc. Not all forms of fasting are created equal; some are extremely debilitating and unmotivated, others less exhausting and more rational.

    Several studies have highlighted the health benefits of intermittent fasting on the body. Not only weight loss and the contrast of free radicals , which translated may seem like an elixir of life, but also resources capable of regulating blood sugar levels and inflammation. From a cardiovascular health perspective, intermittent fasting improves blood pressure levels, resting heart rate, blood triglyceride and cholesterol levels , and reduces oxidative  stress linked to the development of atherosclerosis .

    Benefits for athletes and muscle mass

    In bodybuilding, to increase muscle and decrease fat mass , it has always been essential to combine diet and training to achieve both objectives. Intermittent fasting generates an improvement in body composition in a bilateral way (by increasing muscle mass and by losing weight).

    The effects on metabolism

    The main essential nutrients for our body are sugars  (especially  glucose ) and  fatty acids . After meals, excess fats are stored in adipose tissue in the form of  triglycerides which are broken down into glycerol and fatty acids during fasting . The liver converts fatty acids into ketone bodies , which provide energyto many organs (during fasting: the levels of ketone bodies increase in the blood of humans approximately 8-12 hours after consuming the last meal). The change in metabolism affects the regulation of glucose levels, blood pressure, heart rate and abdominal fat loss.

    Effects on health and ageing

    Calorie restriction (reducing food intake) appears to be able to increase life expectancy. In some studies, people subjected to intermittent fasting have shown: weight loss , reduction in abdominal circumference , better insulin sensitivity  and therefore a lower risk of developing diabetes , greater muscular endurance and increased cognitive abilities. However, there is a lack of scientific validations capable of defining whether these effects are linked to intermittent fasting or to a calorie deficit alone.

    The Okinawa case

    The island of Okinawa (south of Japan) holds the absolute record for the number of ultra-centenarian inhabitants in top form. Here intermittent fasting is practiced regularly, mainly vegetables ,  seaweed , goya,  tofu ,  fish  (very  raw , even large pieces such as  tuna ) and very little  meat are eaten . Another very important aspect that characterizes the food style of the inhabitants of this Japanese island is  caloric moderation ; in this regard, a famous local saying suggests eating about 80% of the food needed to feel full.

    Long-term applicability

    Despite the disparate health benefits of intermittent fasting, incorporating this practice into everyday life is not easy: during the first few weeks, most people deal with anger, irritability and difficulty concentrating . Before starting intermittent fasting, it is necessary to ask for the help of a nutritionist or dietician to ensure a balanced intake of macro and micro nutrients.



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