"Intermittent fasting" refers to periods of fasting followed by periods of feeding. The typical daily intermittent fasting diet—and the one that I follow—is called a 16:8, where you're basically fasting for 16 hours of the day, and eating for only eight hours.
We already have periods of fasting in our normal lives as a result of our daily sleeping patterns. The reason it's called "breakfast" is because you fast while you sleep and break your fast with the first meal you eat when you wake up.
Most people fast for about 12 hours and eat for about 12 hours. By simply extending that fasting window by a few more hours, so that you're fasting for 16 hours and eating only for eight, you'll derive many of the benefits of intermittent fasting that are lacking with normal eating schedules.
Benefit 1: Greater Fat Loss
Research I was a part of at Yale University School of Medicine showed that—contrary to popular belief—your metabolic rate increases when you follow intermittent fasting. This ups the number of calories your body burns in a day. The way intermittent fasting does this is by supporting gene activity. Fasting turns on genes, which in turn produce proteins that make the body less efficient. While this may sound like a bad thing, it is actually very beneficial for fat loss.
Lowered efficiency means your body has to burn more fat and more carbs in order to complete your normal daily activities. Combine intermittent fasting with high-intensity exercise, such as weightlifting or intervals, and you have the perfect plan for efficient fat loss while still maintaining lean body mass.
Benefit 2: Improved Health
Research shows that intermittent fasting supports immune function, which means you'll be less likely to get sick and need to skip days in the gym. Other studies also show that intermittent fasting promotes normal insulin sensitivity and cardiovascular health!
Put simply, intermittent fasting can keep you from getting sick, improve your metabolism, and make it easier for your body to recover after a workout.
Benefit 3: Helps Fight Jet Lag
Believe it or not, intermittent fasting can help fight jet lag. Research shows if you fast for at least 16 hours, it helps to erase what's called our "food clock."
Our bodies work on a 24-hour clock based on light cues. This clock helps to signal when it's time to eat or sleep, which is why we naturally become drowsy when it gets dark and more alert when it is light. When you change time zones, your body clock must adjust to the change in cues, which is why you can feel tired and "off" when you travel to a new time zone.
But light isn't the only signal your body uses to set these patterns. There are a variety of other cues throughout the day to help program your body clock, and one of them is eating.
When you fast, you sort of reset your body's internal clock, since it doesn't have the eating cues to go off of. If you then cue your body by eating at the same time of day when you'd normally break your fast—but do it in the new time zone—your body adjusts much faster and your jet lag symptoms are less noticeable.
Benefit 4: Convenience
When I wake up in the morning, I don't have to make breakfast, I don't have to prep food for my lunch—I really don't have to even think about food until 4 p.m.!
There's also another side to the convenience of intermittent fasting: When 4 p.m. does finally roll around, I don't have to worry so much about what I eat because intermittent fasting allows you to have a much more flexible diet.
I'm on the road nearly constantly, yet I do zero food prep. I can eat at restaurants and still maintain a photoshoot-ready physique, thanks to intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting works well for me because it addresses all of my needs. It helps improve fat loss and health, fights jet lag, and it is very convenient. And those four reasons are why you—and really everyone—should be intermittent fasting.
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- Hildebrandt, A. L., & Neufer, P. D. (2000). Exercise attenuates the fasting-induced transcriptional activation of metabolic genes in skeletal muscle. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, 278(6), E1078-E1086.
- Mattson, M. P., & Wan, R. (2005). Beneficial effects of intermittent fasting and caloric restriction on the cardiovascular and cerebrovascular systems. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 16(3), 129-137.