What is intermittent fasting? What are its benefits? What free intermittent fasting apps are there? How long should intermittent fasting last for in order to be effective? Let’s take a closer look at these questions.

What Is Intermittent Fasting? What Are Its Benefits?

Evidence is accumulating that eating in a 6-hour period and fasting for 18 hours can trigger a metabolic switch from glucose-based to ketone-based energy, with increased stress resistance, increased longevity, and a decreased incidence of diseases, including cancer and obesity – a study published at the New England Journal Of Medicine says.

The sentence above is one among many coming from a growing number of studies that analyze the effects of intermittent fasting. For those new to the idea: any time you are not eating, you are intermittently fasting.

In other words, intermittent fasting refers to an eating pattern where you cycle between periods of eating and periods of voluntary fasting over the course of hours, a single day or other defined periods. But other than the likely consequence of losing weight, what other benefits does intermittent fasting bring along?

What Happens When We Eat Or Fast?

In order to understand the benefits of intermittent fasting, understanding the basics around what happens during the process eating becomes important. When we eat, we ingest more energy than we need at the moment, signaling our body to start producing insulin to store glucose in our liver and muscles. However, since they both have a limited “storage” capacity, the remaining glucose will be stored as fat – simply put.

With intermittent fasting, the opposite takes place: the absence of eating means the human body gets signaled there’s no need for insulin levels in the blood to rise. Rather, the body will rely on ketones, i.e. chemicals made in the liver that signal the body to start burning stored fat to produce energy.

Several studies have been conducted about the benefits of doing intermittent fasting. However, very few are long term and many have only been tested in laboratory animals. Nonetheless, below are some of the most interesting findings.

Intermittent Fasting: Benefits

Weight and body fat loss are among the benefits intermittent fasting can bring if a normal and healthy diet is kept. But this is not always straight forward – a person who starts intermittent fasting and nonetheless starts eating more calories than usual won’t necessarily lose weight.

Preclinical studies and clinical trials have shown intermittent fasting can have broad-spectrum benefits for different health conditions, from diabetes to obesity, cardiovascular diseases, neurologic disorders or cancers. Health throughout the life span can also be improved, according to tests run on animals.

The study linked above also says the beneficial effects of intermittent fasting involve metabolic switching and cellular stress resistance. Professor Eitan Okun, an expert in neurodegeneration, says that when the body is constantly being fed, the cell’s maintenance system keeps inoperative. As a result, an accumulation of defective proteins in the cells (that can spur degenerative processes) becomes more likely.

Periods of fasting can, therefore, help cells stay healthy. In fact, according to a study from Harvard Medical School, the body’s ability to adapt to shifting conditions and changing physiologic needs is essential to survival. This means cells must be capable of getting rid of damaged or useless proteins – a critical quality-control mechanism for cellular performance and, from a bigger picture perspective, for the health of the entire organism. To do this, they can’t be busy all the time processing the food we eat.

There aren’t currently many long term studies proving what are, specifically, the benefits of intermittent fasting in humans. However, these cellular responses that decrease oxidative damage and inflammation, optimize energy metabolism and bolster cellular protection suggest that at least a short period of intermittent fasting can beneficial. Moreover, the likely consequence of people being more conscious about their diet, their body, and their well-being are also positive.

How To Start Fasting

Mind that intermittent fasting is not for everyone. It depends on the flexibility of each person’s routine, their sportive habits, circadian rhythm or metabolism. People with conditions should as diabetes, heart disease, underweight, pregnant, breastfeeding or taking pills should be extra careful and see a doctor before starting a regular fasting practice.

There are two main types of fasting: short fasts and long fasts. The typical short fasts are the 16/8h fasting and or the 18/6h fasting in which there is, respectively, an 8-hour or a 6-hour eating window. These are also easier periods to start with.

Then there are also other types of fasting regimes during which people fast for 24h or 48h once a week or once a month. Others choose to fast according to their circadian rhythm – which means eating when the sun is up and start fasting as the sun sets. Others go for the OMAD – one meal a day – diet in which they only eat once a day and need to carefully ensure their unique meal has the calories and nutrients needed in a healthy, balanced diet.

In the midst of busy routines filled up with demands coming from multiple sides at various moments, keeping an intermittent fasting routine can be challenging. But thanks to the power of technology, there are multiple apps that can make our fasting lives easier. We leave you with some suggestions: most of which have free plans with multiple possible upgrades.

Best Intermittent Fasting Free Apps 2020

  1. Fasten
  2. DoFasting
  3. BodyFast Intermittent Fast
  4. Simple Fasting Tracker
  5. Life Fasting Tracker
  6. Zero

Intermittent Fasting: “Should I Do It?”

It depends on each person’s goals. The short intermittent fasting looks like a good way of keeping your organism’s cells active and healthy and also a good idea to lose some wealth if combined with a healthy diet and balanced routine. Long fasts should be more carefully considered.

Mind that for people doing intensive morning sports regularly – like professional athletes – skipping to eat for a whole morning might perhaps leave them too weak. Also, for people somewhat obsessed with their weight and not very food-friendly, it might be a dangerous road for anorexia. If you fit any of these groups, intermittent fasting might not be a good idea for you.

On what concerns boosting productivity, intermittent fasting throughout lunchtime has its benefits. In this case, the after lunch tiredness is avoided since the organism is not distributing energy for the digestive process – the reason why power naps can be a good idea when you do eat. Besides this, the human brain also becomes stronger and more resistant to neurodegenerative diseases through fasting, as we’ve seen. Consider all sides before committing to it.

[Image credits to lightspring on Shutterstock]