The science behind intermittent fasting — and how you can make it work for you
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When we shorten the period for eating and extend the time for fasting, we stay in the fat-burning mode of our metabolism.
The moment we eat food, even coffee with a bit of sugar and milk, we switch to the other mode and start burning carbohydrates while storing glycogen and fat.
Many of the human body’s processes are tied to our circadian rhythms.
Eating food at the right time can nurture us, and healthy food at the wrong time can be junk food because it gets stored as fat instead of being used as fuel.
Intermittent fasting is based on the idea that when you reduce your calorie intake for limited stretches of time, your body will use its stored fat for energy. Intermittent fasting has many health benefits, including losing weight.
There is no one way to do intermittent fasting. There is the 5:2 diet, which means eating very few calories for two days of the week, followed by five days of normal eating. Or the alternate-day fasting, which means eating normally for one day, then either nothing or just 500 calories the next.
One intermittent fasting method is known as time-restricted eating: A person consumes all of their calories for the day within an 8-to-12-hour window. You might eat breakfast at 8 AM, including coffee, and finishing your dinner by 6 PM.
In an experiment, two sets of mice were fed the same diet and ate the same number of calories a day. One set had access to food for 24 hours, and the other group had access for only 8 hours. After 18 weeks, the group that could eat all hours showed signs of insulin resistance and had liver damage. The mice who ate in an 8-hour window did not have the condition and weighed 28 percent less than the other group.
While the time-restricted eating holds promise, there is a need for more research.
Time-restricted eating gives our body a chance to use up fat. When we eat, our body uses carbohydrates for energy. When we don't need them right away, they get stored in the liver as glycogen or converted into fat.
When we finish eating for the day, our body first use glucose from the carbohydrates we've eaten before moving on to the stored carbohydrates, or glycogen, in the liver. Glycogen lasts for eight hours after we've stopped eating. After that, our body begins to tap into its stored fat.
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