Let’s face it ladies—intermittent fasting has earned itself some very mixed reviews. Some say that it’s the holy grail of all diets; claiming that the benefits extend beyond weight loss into the realms of improved brain function, anti-ageing and a whole lot more. Others, however, take a less flattering view of the diet and claim it’s especially not suitable for women because of our sensitive and always-fluctuating hormones; contending that it often leads to missed periods and even early onset menopause.
So, what to believe? While fasting is definitely not for everyone, if it works for you—the benefits can be endless. Here’s what you can expect from IF.
So, you know what we said about your metabolism? Well, intermittent fasting helps you to switch your body from being a sugar-burner to a fat burner. Do you find you’re never satiated after your meals, struggle with brain fog and “hanger”, and can’t seem to lose weight? You’re definitely a sugar burner.
According to JJ Virgin, by eating fewer carbs plus more clean, lean protein and healthy fats, you train your body to burn fat for fuel. As a fat burner, your system still burns carbs as fuel first and will use the small amount of sugar you get from slow-low carbs like vegetables, quinoa, or legumes. Then your metabolism quickly turns to your fat stores for energy. Because fat burns more slowly and steadily, fat burners can easily go 4-6 hours between meals and don’t suffer from sugar or carb cravings, while they also lose fat easily and experience more steady energy.
Becoming a fat burner as opposed to a sugar burner will optimise the impact of intermittent fasting on the body and on your metabolism. Winner winner, low-carb dinner!
One of the main ways IF benefits the brain is by increasing a protein that the brain makes: brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This growth factor grows new neurons (nerve/brain cells) and is a natural antidepressant. How’s that for good news!
In addition, intermittent fasting seems to keep our brains staying younger. According to Neurotrition, it may even protect against neurodegeneration (loss of structure and function of neurons) from Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease. For example, one small study showed that IF improved cognitive ability in people with cognitive impairment. Ten people with early signs of Alzheimer’s started several lifestyle improvements including a 12-hour fast each night. Within 3-6 months, nine of the ten patients had improved cognition.
Some studies have shown that practising intermittent fasting can help to prevent cancer—even stopping or at least slowing its progression, thanks to its anti-inflammatory benefits. Plus, the impact on the immune system cannot be underestimated.
A study from the University of California conducted a study into the impact of intermittent fasting on the immune system and observed that when cells went without standard fuel from regular meals, the body switched to survival mode and ended up killing off old, damaged white blood cells to conserve energy. Afterwards, once provided with food and nutrients again, the body’s stem cells kicked into gear and restocked the immune system with a fresh batch of (healthier) cells.