There has been a large rise in the popularity of intermittent fasting recently, but what are the facts and is it something helpful or harmful to your body? We’ve been doing our research and we found some interesting results.

Firstly, it must be said that “intermittent fasting” doesn’t need to be as drastic as it sounds. Typically, subjects will contain their meals to a six or seven hour period each day, resulting in a period of 18 hours without food. Bear in mind also, that obviously you don’t eat in your sleep (around 8 hours) and that leaves just 10 hours without food each day. Skipping breakfast, then eating at noon and around 6 or 7 pm is a good way to start this regime. But is it the right thing to do for your body?

Our ancestors did not have regular access to food, so it makes sense that our bodies have developed in a way that supports certain eating schedules. For example, it takes roughly 6 hours for our bodies to digest a meal, after which we begin to burn fat. So by eating less frequently, we enable our bodies to enter this “fasting mode”. When we eat, insulin levels in the body rise and insulin determines what energy source your body uses for fuel. Low levels of insulin cause stored fats to be used whereas high levels encourage carbohydrates as the main source. So by eating less regularly, insulin is kept to a minimum and fat can be burned. There are however downsides…

Firstly, if you have diabetes (2.9 million people in the UK), maintaining steady insulin levels is very important and so fasting is not suitable. Many other people notice problems with their energy levels dropping during periods of fasting as the body tries to optimise itself into a survival state. Fast for too long (periods over around 30 hours) and your body will switch to burning fats stored in muscle rather than the sort of fat you find on your waist line! You must remember that your diet shouldn’t change – you mustn’t binge just because you have fasted for a certain period of time, and if you eat very refined food (with high glycaemic food ratio’s) or 40 % of your daily calories in one sitting, intermittent fasting simply won’t do.

There are many benefits and negatives to intermittent fasting, but at the end of the day it comes down to the individual. Many people like to have a strong breakfast to set them up for the day and the “little and often” eating method will always be popular for maintaining insulin levels and energy stores. On the other hand, there is much evidence to suggest that exercising on an empty stomach is a great way to burn fat, stay in shape and be healthy.

Intermittent fasting? The jury is out. We want to know what you think. Have you tried it? Leave a comment below and let us know how you got on.

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