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How intermittent fasting can improve overall wellness

The effects of fasting on your blood sugar, metabolic health, and general wellbeing.

What is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting (IF) is a pretty simple concept: eat for a set number of hours per day, don’t eat for the rest. You already do this to an extent—we all fast while sleeping. IF simply pushes you to increase the number of hours where you don’t eat a little bit further. A good place to start is 16/8: 16 hours of fasting, and 8 hours in which you do eat.

‍16 hours may sound long, but it might not be that far off from how a lot of us typically eat. For example, you could simply skip breakfast in the morning, have your first meal at noon, and stop eating by 8 p.m. Alternatively, you could have your morning meal at 8 a.m. but finish your day with dinner around 4 p.m. Whatever feels best for you.

Benefits of intermittent fasting

You’ve most likely been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and that three meals a day with some snack in-between is the only way to keep your energy up. While that may work for some people, it’s not the only way to eat for optimal energy and metabolic health.

IF can significantly improve your physical and mental health. During the hours of the day that you eat, your body has to spend a lot of energy on the digestion of that food. When you don’t eat for a longer period of time, your body can instead redirect that energy to other processes that keep you healthy.(1)

Potential benefits—backed up by scientific studies(2,3)—include:

  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • Improved metabolic health
  • Improved cell health and repair
  • Improved endurance
  • Improved fat burning
  • Reduced fat mass
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Increased muscle mass

It also combines well with exercise: individuals on a resistance training program showed fat loss, muscle retention and improved metabolic health after 8 weeks of restricting their eating to an 8 hour window.(4)

The science behind intermittent fasting 

It’s believed that three major factors are involved in why IF is so good for you: your circadian rhythm, your microbiota, and autophagy. Learn how IF affects each of these, below.

Circadian rhythm (your internal clock)

Your natural circadian rhythm (internal clock; run by your hypothalamus) plays a large part in your metabolic health. This system regulates your body throughout the day, matching physiological functions to different regions of a 24-hour period. For example, the physiological factors related to metabolism are geared towards an early start: your insulin sensitivity is at its highest in the morning, and decreases throughout the day.(2)

‍This is one of the large benefits of IF: if you’re not eating after a set time, you won’t be late-night snacking, and you won’t be disturbing your body’s natural metabolic system. Since insulin sensitivity decreases throughout the day, the later you eat in the day, the more insulin your body will have to produce to deal with the blood sugar effects.(4)

Microbiota (your gut bacteria)

Some of the benefits of IF are thought to possibly stem from its impact on your gut. Your gut houses a large microbial network, often called the microbiota, which plays a giant part in your overall health. Restricting the time window for eating appears to help make the microbiota more diverse and to reduce gut permeability, two factors that are very important in battling chronic inflammation.(3)

Autophagy (your cell’s “recycling program”)

Autophagy is the local recycling program for all of your cells. This process recycles damaged cell parts, proteins, viruses and bacteria that could potentially cause a lot of harm to your body. Autophagy is an important part of maintaining cell health, and in reducing risks for conditions related to cell dysfunction such as infections, cancer, obesity and inflammatory, neurodegenerative, metabolic and cardiovascular diseases.(5,6)‍

Nutrient starvation—a dramatic name for not eating for a while—can activate and stimulate autophagy. This can impact your entire body, your mitochondria, your brain, and your immune system—eventually leading to improved metabolic health.(6,7)

Veri + intermittent fasting

Veri’s Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) system lets you monitor your blood sugar in real time, while also tracking patterns related to your food and lifestyle decisions. Should you try intermittent fasting, Veri can help you see the direct impact on your blood sugar and metabolic health.

References

1. Found My Fitness, “Fasting", 2020. Published through Found My Fitness. URL: https://www.foundmyfitness.com/topics/fasting#related-news

2. E. Sutton et al., “Early Time-Restricted Feeding Improves Insulin Sensitivity, Blood Pressure, and Oxidative Stress Even without Weight Loss in Men with Prediabetes”, 2018. Published in Clinical and Translational Report. URL: https://www.cell.com/cell-metabolism/fulltext/S1550-4131(18)30253-5

3. R. Patterson and D. Sears, “Metabolic Effects of Intermittent Fasting”, 2017. Published in Annual Review of Nutrition. URL: https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev-nutr-071816-064634?journalCode=nutr

4. T. Moro et al., “Effects of eight weeks of time-restricted feeding (16/8) on basal metabolism, maximal strength, body composition, inflammation, and cardiovascular risk factors in resistance-trained males”, 2016. Published in Journal of Translational Medicine. URL: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27737674/

5. F. Antunes et al., “Autophagy and intermittent fasting: the connection for cancer therapy?”, 2018. Published in Clinics. URL: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6257056/

6. M. Begherniya et al., “The effect of fasting or calorie restriction on autophagy induction: A review of the literature”, 2018. Published in Ageing Research Reviews. URL: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1568163718301478?via%3Dihub

7. Found My Fitness, “Dr. Guido Kroemer on Autophagy, Caloric Restriction Mimetics, Fasting & Protein Acetylation”, 2017. Published through Found My Fitness. URL: https://www.foundmyfitness.com/episodes/guido-kroemer

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