Trying to shed excess body fat? Intermittent fasting is a phenomenal option. But what if you also wanted to improve your heart health, lower your cholesterol and even sleep better at night? Yes, intermittent fasting is still the best option for you!
Unlike crazy crash diets that can cause weight to fluctuate periodically, intermittent fasting is a health-conscious lifestyle that benefits your overall wellness just as it does weight loss. Keep reading to learn more about the research-backed benefits of intermittent fasting.
1. Weight Loss
Most people typically turn to intermittent fasting for weight loss results. In most cases, it delivers. As a conscious lifestyle choice, intermittent fasting puts an end to unhealthy meals throughout the day. When paired with healthy eating habits, like consuming fruits, vegetables, and limited processed foods, researchers found participants can lose 7 to 11 pounds in 10 weeks.
In an article published by the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a review of 13 studies furthered the link between extended fasting and shedding pounds. Utilizing data from all 13 clinical trials, researchers found that average weight loss ranged from 1.3% for a two-week trial to a whopping 8% for an eight-week trial. For an individual weighing 200 pounds, that equates to losing up to 16 pounds in two months.
To learn more about weight loss as a benefit of longterm fasting, be sure to check out this article all about weight loss results.
2. Belly Fat Reduction
While we’ve already touched on weight loss, it’s important to differentiate the number on the scale from the total amount of body fat loss. Losing weight means you’ve shed fluids, muscle, fat and possibly even organ size. In comparison, when you lose fat, you’re disposing of fat deposits and retaining muscle mass.
Luckily, one of the physical benefits of fasting is the ability to shed visceral abdominal fat or belly fat. In a study published by the journal, Cell Metabolism, overweight individuals who adhered to a time-restricted eating schedule saw both a reduction in waist circumference as well as belly fat. Shedding this type of fat deposit leads to a visible difference in appearance and is also a healthy method of losing weight.
3. Better Night’s Sleep
What we put into our bodies determines what we get out, including how well or how poorly we sleep at night. This connection forms a link between intermittent fasting and sleep issues.
In a study spearheaded by the Department of Nutrition Sciences, scientists found that early time-restricted feeding (eTRF) alters patterns in circadian clock genes. These genes contribute to our circadian rhythm, which determines sleep patterns. As intermittent fasting regulates the circadian rhythm, it becomes easier to fall asleep. Participants even woke feeling more refreshed after periodically fasting. If you’ve been battling insomnia or other sleep issues, IF might be the solution for you.
4. Increased Longevity
Benefits of extended fasting, such as adhering to the 16:8 diet, include building resistance to age-related diseases. This perk of healthy living means IF can potentially increase longevity, meaning a longer life span.
Evidence gathered by the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that intermittent fasting can trigger a metabolic switch from sugar-based energy to ketone-based energy. They report that this switch increases stress resistance and decreases the incidence of diseases, thus increasing longevity.
5. May Benefit Muscle Maintenance
As we’ve mentioned above, when you begin to lose weight, you run the risk of possibly losing muscle mass. However, a study conducted by the Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition at the University of Illinois discovered that IF may be more efficient at maintaining muscles than traditional calorie-restrictive protocols.
During the study, overweight and obese participants adhering to a calorie-restricted diet were compared to similar-weight participants following intermittent fasting protocol. After a 12-week trial, both parties lost fat mass, but the fasting group retained significantly more muscle mass. This means that while either diet can help with weight loss, IF could be the option that will keep your body more toned.
6. Lower Insulin Resistance
A diet rich in processed carbohydrates and sugar rapidly introduces glucose to the bloodstream, forcing the body to mass-produce insulin. We continue to raise our insulin levels the more we eat. Ultimately, the pancreas can fail to keep up with insulin production, causing insulin resistance. When we choose to fast, we allow insulin levels to equalize and fight against resistance.
Read more about the link between intermittent fasting and insulin resistance.
7. Reduce Oxidative Stress
Oxidative stress is an imbalance between the body’s antioxidants and free radicals, which can lead to damage of fatty tissue, blood proteins and DNA. This can lead to neurodegenerative and inflammatory diseases, as well as contribute to aging. Studies conducted by the University of Florida have found that IF can potentially strengthen the body’s protection against oxidative stress and decrease the subsequent inflammation.
8. Lower High Blood Pressure
Intermittent fasting can drastically improve a participant’s daily life, from feeling better when looking in the mirror to sleeping better, living longer, and staying stronger. But in addition to all of these amazing benefits to intermittent fasting, there’s also a plethora of health benefits occurring deep within the body’s cells.
Many people wonder if intermittent fasting can lower blood pressure, and the answer is yes. In a 2018 study published by Nutrition and Healthy Aging, participants following the 16:8 protocol experienced significantly lowered systolic blood pressure.
9. Lower Cholesterol
It’s not just blood pressure — IF can lower cholesterol, too. The Intermountain Medical Center has found that after 10 to 12 hours of fasting, the body will use LDL (bad cholesterol) from fat cells for energy. When repeated through periodic fasting, this process decreases total cholesterol in the body.
10. Improve Heart Health
Intermittent fasting and heart health go hand in hand. By lowering fat and cholesterol levels, improving blood pressure, and helping the body efficiently use insulin, you can decrease the chances of developing a heart condition.
We’ve written all about how a lifestyle of intermittent fasting can improve heart health if you’re interested in learning more.
11. Lower Risk of Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is a collection of health conditions, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, and excess belly fat. Metabolic syndrome is the leading cause of chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Introducing intermittent fasting can lower your chance of acquiring metabolic syndrome, thus decreasing the risk of disease.
Learn more about how intermittent fasting can defend against metabolic syndrome and decrease your chances of developing diabetes (LINK).
12. Increase in Cell Turnover
When we constantly eat, we don’t give the body a chance to rest and regulate. Intermittent fasting provides a break from eating and digestion so the body can take the time to heal at a molecular level. This means IF gives the body a chance to detoxify damaged cells. We call this cell turnover.
A 2019 study found that one of the benefits of extended fasting is an increase in certain proteins that encourage cell turnover. This allows the body a chance to eliminate toxins in the blood.
13. May Prevent Cancer
If you’ve found yourself questioning, “Does intermittent fasting reduce cancer risk?” you could be correct. A review of studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition determined that adhering to an intermittent fasting regimen may reduce cancer risk by decreasing the spread of cancer cells, decreasing the development and lymphoma, and even limiting tumor survival.
14. Improve Brain Health
Though metabolic features such as reduced blood sugar and oxidative stress are great for the heart, they’re also critical for the brain. By improving these metabolic features, intermittent fasting can boost brain health.
Dive into all the interesting links between intermittent fasting for improved brain health here.
15. May Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
Lastly, did you know there was a connection between intermittent fasting and Alzheimer’s disease? A piece published in Ageing Research Reviews found that extended fasting can counteract disease and age-related disorders, including neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. While the research is still in its infancy, improved brain health and increased cell turnover can both help inhibit Alzheimer’s disease.
Experiencing the Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
On the surface, many assume intermittent fasting is solely for weight loss. While this is a benefit, it’s important to recognize the plethora of health benefits caused by an IF protocol. When combined with healthy eating habits, a lifestyle of fasting can improve your body, your mind, and your life.
Proceed with our Intermittent Fasting guide for beginners to uncover how it works and how it should be done to achieve best results.