The Benefits and Pitfalls of Intermittent Fasting According to Science

The Benefits and Pitfalls of Intermittent Fasting According to Science

I love intermittent fasting, and there are positive and negative takes to taking the IF plunge

When I began my Intermittent fasting journey, I did so out of desperation. I was following my old bodybuilder diet (eating six meals a day), suffering dreadful constipation and bloating and was not getting closer to the body-weight I wanted to be. I had tried low carb, a gut cleanse and keto. They all moved me back to where it all began — frustrated and unable to understand why I could not maintain my weight. As I complained to my best friend one night, she mentioned her success with Intermittent fasting and said I should try it. But, I kid you not — the moment we finished our conversation, I had my last meal the following day. 

The first few weeks were very hard.

 That endless hunger and noise coming from my gut were overwhelming. But I pushed through, and here I am! I have tried every diet known to man, and nothing has helped me achieve my long-term health and body composition goals. I have used fasting when recovering from surgery and fasting every day. I might have the odd day off because I want to go out for dinner — but I don’t usually eat after 12.30–1 pm. That is naturally how my body operates. However, some people like to start eating at lunchtime. The good news is that it doesn’t matter; it is based on your lifestyle and terms.


Why fasting works

After eating fats and carbs, we experience a rise in blood glucose (which depends on the food types). Then our pancreas releases insulin, which helps tissues in our body take up the necessary glucose and lipids, which supply us with energy. Whatever is leftover is stored in the liver and skeletal muscle in a form called glycogen. When that glycogen is full, the excess converts to fatty acids stored in the fat tissue. If we exercise, that glucose is put to better use. 

Our metabolism uses stored energy from about 3–18 hours after a meal.

 The actual fasting state for the body is about 18 hours to two days. Your body’s glycogen is depleted, and your main organs rely on stored fat for energy to keep functioning. 


Does the body always use stored fat when there is a depletion of energy?

Not necessarily! Sometimes the body can break down muscles to gain the fuel it needs (which is very disheartening). If this happens regularly, it’s not sustainable because proteins are necessary to support those essential bodily functions. Ketosis also results when glucose is not available. Ketones become a valuable energy source because our bodies cannot solely utilise fat for energy. Burning just fat is not biologically possible. This process repeatedly happens in an endless cycle when you break your fast. Our bodies start to adapt well and coordinate functions efficiently to supply the necessary energy when there is a lack of nutrients. 


What’s the downfall when it comes to fasting?

The most significant downfall is that when you stop using fasting as your source of maintaining a lower caloric intake, you will begin to put on weight. That’s why I refer to fasting as a ‘lifestyle’ blueprint. You don’t have to fast every day, but you must schedule regular days when you consume under 500 clarifies or stop eating for at least 16–20 hours. Some people increase their caloric intake to make up for the lost amount through overeating — which is another downfall. You must continually eat well and maintain a lower caloric intake over your lifetime to stay lean and healthy and increase longevity. Studies also indicate that fasting differs from your standard caloric diet and produces the same weight loss results. Perhaps this is true, but I haven’t ever succeeded with a lower-caloric diet over time. For me, it’s easier not to eat rather than keep eating less and less and then experience a binging session. But, again, this is based on my own experience. Fasting is best practised in conjunction with exercise. If your goal is better health and weight loss (which is probably the case for most of us), exercise is an essential part of the successful progression in weight loss. Dieting increases our chances of losing muscle, and when you apply resistance exercise and a little bit of cardio — that will help eliminate the possibility of this occurring.


Key take away

If you did not experience great success with dieting alone, why not try Intermittent fasting? There are plenty of flexible ways to tailor fasting to experience great success. Remember, it’s a lifestyle add-on, which makes it much more relaxed and allows us to maintain this way of life for the duration of our lifespan. Have you tried fasting, and what has been your experience? Need a meal, exercise and fasting timer? Get all of these and more in the DoFasting App. 

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