Intermittent Fasting and Its Ties with Obesity and Weight Loss

September 07, 2015 | 5,596 views

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By Dr. Mercola

Your road to fitness is always driven by the goal of reducing your weight. Sometimes, your first instinct would drift to ways to lose weight without wearing yourself out, so you start reducing the amount of food you consume. But will this be effective for you in the long run? Surely, you must think of the consequences of your decisions.

When people are trying to lose weight, they tend to forget that it’s not just the quantity of the food they eat that matters, but the quality of it as well. This is where intermittent fasting comes in. It’s a new way of looking at your commitment to your fitness goals.

Fast Facts about Intermittent Fasting

The human body takes about six to eight hours to metabolize glycogen, or simply, energy that is used for our daily activities. After that, the shift to burning fat begins. This way of fasting counts these hours used by the body to metabolize as intervals between our meals.

If you have reached the minimum of six or maximum of eight hours of not eating, I recommend that you break your fast by eating food that’s high in healthy fat or high-quality pasture-fed organic protein. Limiting or totally avoiding carbohydrates is also a wise choice.

Working out during your fasting hours, especially if it’s high-intensity interval training, can also be helpful for your body in producing results and increasing the benefits you get from the process. Consistency and patience is absolutely important when you start intermittent fasting.

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Although fasting can be quite difficult at first, the benefits that you can receive from it are positive, such as protection against diseases and a slower aging process.

George Dvorsky reported in 2013 about a study conducted by biologist Satchidananda Panda together with colleagues at Salk’s Regulatory Biology Laboratory the previous year. An experiment involved feeding mice a high-fat, high-calorie diet. The mice were divided into two groups, with one having access to food in the morning and the evening, and the other group having access to food at a particular time, resulting in an eating time of eight hours during the day. The results showed that the former group became obese and developed health problems.

The group that was given access to food for a limited amount of time, however, became lean, did not have health problems, and showed improved endurance motor coordination when exercising.

This experiment shed light on the benefits your body could get when there’s a break between your meals, as opposed to having a schedule that allows you to eat at any given time of the day, which could lead to metabolic exhaustion and weight gain.

Other studies conducted on fasting have yielded positive feedback. From Valter Longo’s research at the Longevity Institute of the University of Southern California, which showed that fasting could lessen the expression of IGF-1 and slow down the aging process, to Krista Varady of the University of Illinois, who has been researching on the link between fasting and contraction of chronic diseases, and to Mark Hartman and his colleagues, who have also discovered that short-term fasting can also boost brain health, mental well-being, and clarity of thought.

Debunking Myths on Fitness and Obesity

With increasing knowledge about intermittent fasting, it pays to be curious on how it lays side-by-side with preconceived notions about losing weight, and fitness in general. In 2013, Dr. David B. Allison and his colleagues of the Nutrition Obesity Research Center at the University of Alabama published their review that tackled common notions and “teachings” about weight loss, obesity, and fitness.

What they discovered were practices or perceptions that a lot of people who wish to lose weight are doing today, yet there is little to no scientific information that exists that makes them truly legitimate. These myths touched on the following topics:

  • Effects of small sustained increases in energy intake or expenditure
  • Establishment of realistic goals for weight loss
  • Rapid weight-loss readiness
  • Physical education classes
  • Breastfeeding
  • Energy expended during sexual activity

The team also found out that there were existing ideas that remain as popular as ever today even though there is enough information to contradict them. Further information is still needed to find out if weight loss is correlated to the effects of the practitioner such as:

  • Eating breakfast regularly
  • Early childhood experiences
  • Eating fruits and vegetables
  • Weight cycling
  • Consistent snacking
  • Built or man-made environment

Lastly, the team also found facts supported by scientific evidence that can be utilized to form public health policies or clinical recommendations, which is great. However, it is also important that as practitioners of fasting, there be an initiative to see for ourselves what separates an established science fact from fiction. There are products and medical procedures available in the market that offer positive effects to your health in the short term, but may have ill consequences to your body in the long run.

This is why it is important to take note first of what your body needs in terms of vitamins and nutrients and how it functions when you start fasting. Intermittent fasting is not for everyone, especially if you’re pregnant or require a special diet. More so, it’s best to take the fasting slowly and gradually when you begin.

The breakthrough in information about intermittent fasting, and fasting in general, has affected so much of what we know about losing weight. I can only do so much in terms of explanation and discussion – it is up to you to see what intermittent fasting can do for your health.

For more details on how intermittent fasting debunks and displaces common ideas and perceptions, read my article "How Intermittent Fasting Stacks Up Among Obesity-Related Myths, Assumptions, and Evidence-Backed Facts."

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