24th January 2024

The science behind intermittent fasting

Intermittent Fasting (IF) is an ancient practice that has more recently become a popular approach to health and wellness. It’s captured the attention of fitness enthusiasts and health-conscious individuals worldwide due to its impressive health benefits, but what is the actual science behind IF? Keep reading to find out what intermittent fasting is,  explore popular methods like 16:8, The New 5:2, and alternate day fasting, and discover the science underpinning this powerful lifestyle choice.

Understanding Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent Fasting (IF) is a unique and flexible approach to health and wellness that extends beyond the realms of traditional dieting. Rooted in the natural fasting and feeding cycles of our ancestors, IF has gained scientific acclaim for its ability to improve overall health and wellbeing.

At the heart of intermittent fasting lies the concept of cyclical eating patterns. This method differs from conventional diets, which often focus on calorie restriction or eliminating certain food types. Instead, IF emphasises the timing of meals, involving  periods of fasting and set eating windows. This rhythm not only aligns with our body’s natural tendencies but also offers a more sustainable and less restrictive approach to managing health and wellness.

Notably, IF can be flexible and personalised to your unique lifestyle. Whether you’re an early riser or someone who functions better later in the day, IF can be adapted to suit your individual preferences. This adaptability makes it a great option if you’re looking for  a manageable and less restrictive approach to dieting.

What makes intermittent fasting so effective is the metabolic shift that occurs during fasting periods. When the body is not consuming food, it transitions from using glucose as its primary energy source to tapping into stored fat. This metabolic change is referred to as ‘flipping the switch’, and is why IF is so effective for weight loss in particular, as the body begins to burn its excess fat stores for energy, while in a caloric deficit. .

There are many more health benefits of intermittent fasting, aside from weight loss. Research into IF has unveiled a range of positive outcomes including improved insulin sensitivity, enhanced brain health, better heart health, and potential increases in longevity. The fasting periods in IF are also believed to trigger cellular repair processes, which can lead to improved overall health.

Popular methods of intermittent fasting

  • Time Restricted Eating (TRE): This widely embraced method involves reducing the hours in which you consume calories (your eating window)  and not consuming any calories outside of that (your fasting window). Popular patterns are 16:8 (fasting for 16 hours, eating within eight hours) and 12:12. 16:8, for example, is akin to skipping breakfast and enjoying meals between noon and 8pm.
  • The New 5:2 Diet: The New 5:2 approach advocates normal eating for five days of the week while limiting calorie intake to 800 calories on the other two days. At The Fast 800, we recommend consuming a Mediterranean-style diet on all days, regardless of calorie intake, to stay properly nourished.
  • Alternate day fasting: This more intensive method involves a full 24-hour fast once or twice a week, typically from dinner to dinner. We do not recommend this method for multiple reasons: mainly that there are no significant benefits to fasting for more than 16 hours, and that it is incredibly challenging for most people to attempt to consume no calories for up to 36 hours.

The science behind intermittent fasting

At its core, Intermittent Fasting taps into our body’s innate ability to adapt to periods of food scarcity. During fasting, significant metabolic adjustments occur:

  • Insulin levels reduce: Fasting reduces insulin levels, facilitating fat burning.
  • Cellular repair: Fasting triggers cellular repair processes, allowing  cells to digest and remove old and dysfunctional proteins.
  • Gene expression: Beneficial changes in several genes and molecules related to longevity and protection against disease have been noted during fasting periods.

Embracing a healthier future with intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting offers more than just a novel approach to eating; it’s a gateway to a healthier, more balanced lifestyle. By understanding and trying it out, you can  improve your metabolic health, enhance your mental clarity and mood, and increase longevity. To find out more about the benefits of intermittent fasting, head to this article.

We encourage you to listen to your body and choose the rhythm that aligns best with your life and health goals. The Fast 800 Programme offers guidance on various intermittent fasting approaches, from TRE to The New 5:2, including meal plans, fasting-friendly recipes, and connection to our team of nutritionists and wellness professionals to make the process as easy and enjoyable as possible. Try your 7-day free trial today and see how intermittent fasting could work for you and  let this be your first step towards a transformative journey of health and wellbeing.

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