The Facts About Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting has become a buzzword is some health and fitness circles. But, there is a lot of confusion and misunderstandings around the practice. Intermittent fasting is not a diet. It is not focused on what you eat, but on when you eat. It is about optimizing your pattern of eating to benefit your fitness goals. Typically, intermittent fasting is used to help lose fat and gain lean muscle.
How Intermittent Fasting Works
Intermittent fasting requires you to go long stretches of the day without eating. There are several different variations of intermittent fasting that require you to abstain from eating for different lengths of time between meals.
The practice of intermittent fasting works because of how your body processes food. After you eat a meal, even a perfectly balanced and healthy meal, it takes your body three to five hours to process the food. During that time, your body doesn’t do much of anything except break down the food.
When you go long stretches without eating you unlock a new phase, a fast phase. This phase allows your body to begin a variety of key processes that help you burn fat and gain lean muscle.
Using Intermittent Fasting for Fat Loss
During the hours after you eat, your blood insulin levels are elevated. This makes it very difficult to burn fat. Your body uses your insulin for fuel. This one of the reasons it is so hard to lose the last little bits of fat. Eating, even perfectly healthy eating, makes some of that fat inaccessible.
Sometime between eight and twelve hours after you eat a meal your body enters into a fasting state. Your insulin levels are low. If you are awake, your body still needs high levels of fuel to function properly. During this time, your body starts to burn fat to make energy. This is fat that was not accessible during a normal eating schedule.
Intermittent fasting makes your body a fat burning machine.
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Intermittent Fasting for Lean Muscle Gain
Once your body has entered into a fasting phase it starts key repair processes that do not happen at the same rate at any other time. Once it has been eight to twelve hours since you last ate, your body begins to produce high levels of human growth hormone. Intermittent fasting can trigger growth hormone levels as much as five times faster than normal.
Your body during the fasting state also begins repairing cells, including removing old, dysfunctional proteins, especially in muscle tissue. This process is called autophagy.
The rapid production of growth hormone and the autophagy make this the best time to build lean muscle. Any workout you do during this time will be more efficient and help you develop lean muscle faster than the same workout during a fed state.
Different Methods of Intermittent Fasting
The three most common variations of intermittent fasting are:
- 16/8 (the famous leangains protocol)
- 24-hour fast (eat-stop-eat)
16/8-Famous Leangains Protocol
In this variation, you fast for 16 hours each day and do all of your eating in an eight-hour period. This approach will help you lose fat but is primarily focused on gaining lean muscle. For best results, you should do your workout at the end of the fasting period and eat right after your workout.
This method is extremely popular. The main drawback is that some people have difficulty scheduling the workout and meals to at the right times to get optimal results.
This is similar to the 16/8 variation, only more hardcore. You fast for 23 hours a day and consume all of your calories for the day in a one hour window. This gives your body a chance to produce less insulin and more growth hormone which lead to more intense fat loss and lean muscle gain.
The major drawback with this variation is that it can make having a social life difficult since you only have one hour to eat. It’s hard on people who want to eat with family, go on dates, etc.
24-Hour Fast Eat-Stop-Eat
This variation is not a daily practice but is only used two or three times a week. You fast for a complete 24-hours and then you eat normally the rest of the week. During those few days, you are getting the same intense insulin suppression and growth hormone increases you get during the 23/1 method. However, you are only getting them a few times a week. Many people find this easier than the 23/1 because you can switch your fasting days each week.
The major drawback here is that since it is not a daily practice, it may take longer to see the results you want.
Intermittent fasting works by allowing your body’s natural rhythms and processes work for you. You don’t have to monitor anything except not eating. It is easy to manage and produces incredible results.
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