I do something many of you may view as odd. I often skip dinner as my personal way of intermittently fasting. Such fasting for short periods allows me to eat fewer calories, and I believe it can help optimize some hormones related to weight control.
Intermittent fasting as a means of dropping weight has been around for a long time. It became especially popular following the 2012 British Broadcast Company’s television documentary Eat Fast, Live Longer and the book The Fast Diet, followed by journalist Kate Harrison’s book The 5:2 Diet based on her own experience, and subsequently by Dr. Jason Fung’s 2016 bestseller The Obesity Code.
There are several different methods of intermittent fasting. Three popular ones are:
- The 16/8 Method. Here, you skip breakfast every day and eat during an eight hour feeding window, such as from 12 noon to 8 in the evening.
- Eat-Stop-Eat: You do one or two twenty-four hour fasts each week. For example, not eating from dinner one day until dinner the next day. I am disciplined, but I would find this personally challenging.
- The 5:2 Diet. Here, you only consume five hundred to six hundred calories on two days of the week, but eat normally the other five days.
Between meals, assuming we don’t snack or otherwise compensate by eating much more during the non-fasting time frames, our insulin levels go down and our fat cells can then release their stored sugar, to be used as energy. We lose weight if we let our insulin levels go down. The entire idea of intermittent fasting is to allow the insulin levels to go down far enough and for long enough that we burn off our fat.
But how does intermittent fasting work on a more granular level?
Cells and Hormones
When you fast, there are cellular and molecular changes happening within you. Hormone levels change, rendering stored body fat more accessible to burn. Cellular gene expression can change, and critical repair mechanisms initiated.
Here are some changes that occur in your body when you fast, according to the online publication HealthLine. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/intermittent-fasting-guide#effects:
- Human Growth Hormone (HGH): The levels of growth hormone skyrocket, increasing as much as 5-fold. This has benefits for fat loss and muscle gain, to name a few.
- Insulin: Insulin sensitivity improves and levels of insulin drop dramatically. Lower insulin levels make stored body fat more accessible.
- Cellular repair: When fasted, your cells initiate cellular repair processes. This includes autophagy, where cells digest and remove old and dysfunctional proteins that build up inside cells.
- Gene expression: There are changes in the function of genes related to longevity and protection against disease .
These changes in hormone levels, cell function and gene expression are responsible for the health benefits of intermittent fasting.
SUMMARY When you fast, human growth hormone levels go up and insulin levels go down. Your body’s cells also change the expression of genes and initiate important cellular repair processes. This may facilitate weight loss for you.
Of course, it is best if you run any diet strategy by a valued health provider.