Intermittent Fasting

Feb 25, 2024 | Nutrition

For thousands of years before technology entered our lives and refrigerators or cooking stoves were unknown devices of the future, humans consumed food when available and stored it in their bodies as fat to be consumed later during periods when food was scarce. For example, with the changing seasons from winter to summer, when there was a greater abundance of food, a phenomenon also observed in some wild animals when they enter hibernation. This biochemical state of the body, which existed then due to food scarcity, can now be mimicked with intermittent fasting. With this “new” or rather very ancient method of nutrition, we know that we have the ability to contribute to our physical and perhaps mental health. We can strengthen our immune system and avoid serious illnesses such as diabetes and cancer.

In our bodies, there are the following nutritional states: feeding, where we consume food and insulin levels increase hormonally, utilizing the components of processed food according to the body’s needs, with the remaining unused components stored either as sugar or as fat. During feeding, insulin presence in the body leads only to storage and not burning of fat.

In the second nutritional state, fasting, which means not consuming food or better yet, not taking in energy, there is a decrease in insulin levels hormonally, and first the stored sugar is burned, followed by stored fat.

There are various methods of intermittent fasting. The most common is the daily method with changes in fasting and feeding times. From the 16/8 method, the most widespread, to the 14/10, 18/6, 20/4, and finally the 12/12, perhaps the easiest and simplest to use. The first number represents the fasting hours and the second the feeding hours. But examples on a weekly basis include the 5/2 method with five days of a normal diet and two days of fasting with about 300-500 calories, as presented by Dr. Michael Mosley in his book “The Fast Diet”. Other less common fasts include the 24-hour fast once a week, such as having the last meal on Sunday night and the next one on Monday night, and the continuous alternation of one-day fasting, and one-day feeding.

Some of the positives of intermittent fasting include reducing insulin and simultaneously reducing insulin resistance with blood sugar correction, weight loss, reduction of inflammation, cancer prevention by cell repair and strengthening the immune system, cardiovascular and mental health, anti-aging, and many more.

Individuals for whom intermittent fasting is contraindicated include pregnant women, small children, individuals with low body mass, insulin-dependent diabetics, as well as other patients with chronic conditions who should consult their doctor.

Myths have been created about our diet and mainly about not consuming food.

  1. We must eat constantly to maintain stable blood sugar levels. In healthy individuals, the body has the ability to maintain stable blood sugar levels even after 24 hours and more without food intake. In the literature, there is a case where an individual did not eat for over 300 days and only consumed fluids and vitamins under hospital conditions where they were constantly monitored by doctors. However, there is no mention of any problem with their blood sugar.
  2. With fasting, you lose muscle mass. If that were the case, the human species would have disappeared because our ancestors in ancient times did not have food to eat constantly and had long periods of fasting. However, their muscle mass was anything but decreased compared to ours, who are constantly fed. Muscle mass increases or decreases with exercise. When glucose and its stores are depleted, stored fat will be used.
  3. Our brains cannot function without glucose. The brain in prolonged fasting and lack of glucose will use ketones as a fuel source.

Let’s learn more about this ancient method of non-continuous food intake and let’s experience the benefits of intermittent fasting.