by HAC Member, Rahul Gupta
Since ancient times, fasting has been in practice throughout human history. Many religions around the world prescribe and promote fasting; however, the benefits of this powerful practice are what makes it worth considering outside of religious reasons.
Intermittent fasting (I.F.) is a form of fasting when one goes for 12+ hours of intervals without food (except for water). I.F. holds the potential for significant benefits such as weight loss, the reversal of type 2 diabetes, and many more.
It is important to note that I.F. is not starvation. Starvation is the absence of food for a prolonged period, while fasting is for controlled durations. I.F. is deliberate and controlled, and one can begin and end fasting any time they want. Conversely, starvation occurs when there is no choice to not eat due to the lack of food or in a dire situation.
Our body can perform in two states; the “satiated” or “fed” state and the “hungry” or “fasted” state. Either we store food energy (high insulin, increased storage), or we burn energy (low insulin, decreased storage). If eating and fasting are balanced, there should be no net weight change (calories in = calories out)! Starting with breakfast, if we do not stop eating until late in the night, we continuously stay in the “fed” state and would, therefore, gain weight since our body isn’t getting any chance to burn the stored food energy. The goal is to increase the amount of time spent on burning food energy.
I.F. prompts the body to use its energy stored in excess body fat. The insulin hormone is responsible for the creation of the stored food energy in our bodies. Carbohydrates are broken down into individual glucose units, and those are released in the bloodstream for the body to use as energy. If there is more glucose than can be used as energy, the liver begins to convert the excess glucose into fat. The body then stores some of the newly converted fat in the liver and stores the rest in other areas of the body. There is practically no limit to the amount of fat that can be created and stored – this leads to weight gain and obesity.
With intermittent fasting, insulin and blood glucose levels go down, forcing the body to pull glucose out of storage to burn for energy. Glycogen can be converted into glucose to provide energy for 24-36 hours. After that, the body will be forced to break down fat for energy.
I’ve just completed my first experience with the combination of exercise, healthy diet, and intermittent fasting, and I cannot believe the results. I have been working out at the fantastic Hockessin Athletic Club religiously for many years with a blend of cardio (Zumba®), weight training along with a healthy, clean diet. Earlier this year, I set a goal for myself to try my best to reduce visceral fat.
The fat we store right below our skins is subcutaneous fat, which is far less dangerous compared to visceral fat. Visceral fat is the internal body fat that is stored within the abdominal cavity and surrounds the internal organs that serve critical functions, such as the liver and pancreas. Visceral fat is referred to in the medical community as “active fat” since it affects the way our hormones function. Studies have linked having an abundance of visceral fat to many health problems, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Research indicates that the size of the belly is an easy way to gauge the amount of visceral fat that may be in the abdominal cavity. Using waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), you can estimate how much visceral fat is around your waist, hips, and buttocks. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a healthy WHR is 0.9 or less in men and 0.85 or less for women. A ratio of 1.0 or higher increases the risk of heart disease and other conditions linked to being overweight in both men and women. You can calculate your WHR by dividing your waist measurement by your hip measurement.
In early 2019, I bought an advanced Bluetooth Body Fat Scale (made by Arboleaf) (Body Composition Analyzer for Fat, BMI, BMR, Muscle Mass, Water) which sells on Amazon for the reasonable price of $40.
I started practicing I.F. in the middle of March 2019. I would either take a morning smoothie for breakfast or skip breakfast, skip lunch, and have supper as the main meal early in the evening filled with lean protein, whole grain unprocessed, unrefined carbs along with ample fruits and vegetables. During the day and after my evening meal, I would drink water when and as needed. The journey wasn’t smooth or easy in the beginning, but over time, it became easier to be on the routine.
Many times, eating can be out of habit, rather than out of hunger or the need to fuel the body. From a combination of exercise, healthy diet and intermittent fasting, I saw a 40% reduction in my visceral fat!
Based on my personal experience, I didn’t feel any lack of energy or strength throughout the journey. It is important to recognize, however, that everyone’s body is different and the experience might be quite different from person to person. Once you find the right formula, I believe the body is amazingly resilient and adaptive and can adjust to changed routine if one is driven, disciplined, and motivated.
FASTING IS NOT FOR EVERYONE: Despite many proven benefits, intermittent fasting is still controversial. People who are underweight or have eating disorders like anorexia, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and people under the age of 18 SHOULD NOT FAST. Always discuss any changes in diet and lifestyle changes with your doctor, especially if you have existing medical conditions or are taking any medications.