I write about Intermittent Fasting, a dietary approach revolving around scheduled eating and fasting periods. It has garnered attention globally in the context of losing weight. Intermittent Fasting doesn’t dictate food choices but rather focuses on timing e.g. the 16/8 method that is the most common (16 hours of fasting followed by 8 hours during which you eat), the 24 to 36 hour fast once a week, etc.
Over the years, I have experimented with various configurations of fasting, with my success metrics being my blood biomarker improvements (e.g. lower levels of triglycerides, visceral fat, inflammation) as well as for more qualitative improvements like better energy levels, less brain fog, etc. The latter are hard to measure but you know when you feel better.
I want to highlight a few benefits of Intermittent Fasting that I have observed.
- Cellular Repair: Fasting initiates autophagy, a process of clearing out damaged cells, promoting cell health. How long a fast is needed to trigger autophagy isn’t clear but it is believed that it starts happening around the 16 hour mark and therefore the 16/8 protocol.
- Brain Health: Some studies suggest that intermittent fasting may have neuroprotective effects and improve brain function. I can qualitatively state that I felt the benefits in terms of clarity in my thinking.
- Inflammation Reduction: Intermittent fasting has helped reduce my inflammation marker (hs-CRP) by about 20% (see post #6 for more context).
- Weight and Visceral Fat Loss: Intermittent fasting can improve metabolism and fat-burning processes. This is because after glycogen depletion due to Intermittent Fasting, the body turns to fat stores for energy. It is useful to note that most of us have enough fat reserves in our body to keep us going for days. Not that we should fast for long periods, because there are certain mechanisms that kick in during very long fasting periods that may signal to the body to accumulate fat rather than use it. I found that I lost visceral fat (9 down to 3) due to different forms of fasting coupled with eating right.
- Improved Insulin Sensitivity: My HbA1c dropped from pre-diabetic to normal levels using a combination of zone 2 exercise (walking at 60% to 70% of my maximum heart rate) and Intermittent Fasting.
I also want to talk about a few useful tips that I keep in mind when doing any form of fasting:
- I break my fasts with fiber followed by fat and protein and then carbs. I avoid breaking my fast with carbs because I have noticed even larger spikes in my glucose levels when I do that.
- I engage in weight training to ensure that I don’t lose muscle mass, especially when I undertake 24 - 36 hour fasts, which I do about once a month.
- I drink slightly more than my usual amount of water because I have found that it helps me adhere to my fasting periods that much better.
As always, speak to your doctor if you have any health issues before embarking on any fasting program.