Intermittent Fasting: The Ultimate Guide for Beginners

by | Fasting, Focus

What is Intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting is as simple as a “scheduled eating plan.” i.e., eating in a limited time window so you give your body enough time to burn glycogen, the form of sugar stored primarily in your muscle and liver cells.

What happens in your body when you eat three meals per day & intermittent snacks?

According to Dr. Mattson, Chief of the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute of Aging and professor of Neuroscience at The John Hopkins University, when you fast, your energy metabolism shifts and you start burning fat. Every time you eat a meal, the carbohydrates are broken down into glucose (blood sugar), then shuttled into your liver and muscle cells where it’s converted go glycogen, a short term energy source.  

When your body needs energy, it taps the glycogen in the liver first. And it takes about 10-12 hours before the glycogen is depleted from the liver to convert that into energy.

But if you eat three meals per day and intermittent snacks, you never deplete the glycogen from the liver and never end up burning any fat. However, if you start exercising regularly then you and speed up the depletion of glycogen.

When your body is depleted of glycogen, you then start burning fat, which is characterized by your liver producing Ketone bodies which are very good for your brain health.

Why would Big Pharmaceuticals & Food Industry doesn’t want you to fast?

Ahem … M O N E Y

Dr. Mattson also addresses this issue (1) :

Why is it that the normal diet is three meals a day plus snacks? It isn’t that it’s the healthiest eating pattern, now that’s my opinion, but I think there is a lot of evidence to support that. There are a lot of pressures to have that eating pattern; there’s a lot of money involved.

 

The food industry — are they going to make money from skipping breakfast like I did today? No, they’re going to lose money. If people fast, the food industry loses money. What about the pharmaceutical industries? What if people do some intermittent fasting, exercise periodically and are very healthy, is the pharmaceutical industry going to make any money on healthy people?

How to get started with Intermittent fasting?

Unlike other diet programs where you have to cut carbs or have food restrictions, intermittent fasting is simple and straightforward.

And we all know that diet programs hardly ever work because after the diet program is over, people often end up gaining the similar amount of weight or more.

There are various ways you can practice intermittent fasting. Choose the one that works for you:

1, Intermittent fasting 16/8 plan

Intermittent fasting is a “scheduled eating plan.” As we discussed above, it takes approximately 12 hours to burn glycogen in your body.

We have 24 hours in a day, so by reducing your eating window to 8 hours, you can still have 16-hour window for your body to burn glycogen.

For example: by allowing yourself to eat from 11 am – 7 pm OR 10 am – 6 pm, you can manage your eating window by 8 hours and not eating for other 16 hours, which includes sleeping, resting, reading, etc. You can practice intermittent fasting.

It is as easy as not having breakfast and eating early lunch at 11 am and then dinner by 6 pm.

It is also known as intermittent fasting 16/8 diet a.k.a 16 8 diet.

2, Intermittent fasting 5-2 plan

British doctor Michael Mosley popularized this variation. The fundamental principle behind this practice is that you eat regularly for five days and then consume around 500 calories for two days.

I.e., You can choose to consume around 500 calories on Tuesday & Friday of the week and the rest of the days you can eat regularly.

3, Intermittent fasting 24 hour fast

As the name suggests, you fast for a 24-hour period, during which you do not consume any solid foods, but you can drink water, tea, coffee, etc.

You can work the 24-hour fast time frame that fits your schedule. E.g., You can stop eating on Tuesday 8 am till Wed 8 am OR Wed 8 pm – Thursday 8 pm.

The goal is to not consume any solid foods for the 24-hour fast period and practice it once or twice per week.

Try one of these practices for a few weeks and see how it worked out for you.

Plato:

“I fast for greater physical and mental efficiency.”

Why Fasting Boosts Your Brain Power?

Your brain consists of about 100 billion of neurons. As you grow older, some people’s brain stays healthy and retains normal brain activity many people experience decreased brain activity.

“When you fast, it’s a challenge to your brain & it responds to that challenge by activating adaptive stress response pathways that help your brain cope with stress. “ Dr. Mattson says.

In layman’s terms, when you are hungry, your brain wants you to find food, so your nerve cells circuits get more active. It’s almost like exercising a muscle to increase its strength.

Fasting increases the production of “neurotrophic factors” such as BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor) and FGF (fibroblast growth factor) in your brain. These neurotrophic factors assist in the growth of dendrites, increasing the ability of neurons to receive communication from other neurons, and in the creation of new neurons from stem cells.

You can also experience increased production of neurotrophic factors by exercising and cognitive activities, i.e., using your brain to do puzzles, learning a new language, etc.

Other benefits of fasting:

1, Helps build muscles

According to the study presented American College of Cardiology in New Orleans (2), there were positive effects of fasting on human growth hormone HGH. HGH core functionality is to protect lean muscle and metabolic balance.

This response is triggered and accelerated by fasting and study showed that during 24 hour fasting period, HGH increased on average of 1300 % in women and 2000% in men. (3)

 

2, Intermittent fasting for Weight loss

Intermittent fasting is far more effective in improving insulin resistance, improving your cells response to insulin allowing the blood glucose to be absorbed. With intermittent fasting, your body gets more than 12-hour window to burn all the glycogen, and then it moves on to consume the fat, therefore, resulting in weight loss.

 

3, Helps with Anti Aging

People who practice intermittent fasting, experience an increase in insulin sensitivity along with mitochondrial energy efficiency, an preserving this important cellular function. It helps in preventing aging since aging is associated with loss of insulin sensitivity and lowered mitochondrial energy.

 

Conclusion:

Intermittent fasting for beginners is easy to practice since its fundamental principle revolves around practicing a “scheduled eating plan” and giving your body at least 12-hour window to consume glycogen.

Please note that intermittent fasting is not a quick fix and doesn’t work overnight. You can experience best results by continuously practicing it and making it a habit. Be sure to check with your medical doctor before your begin.

Resources:

  1. https://www.collective-evolution.com/2015/12/11/neuroscientist-shows-what-fasting-does-to-your-brain-why-big-pharma-wont-study-it/
  2. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-04/imc-sfr033111.php
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3127426