If you’re up to date on the world of health and fitness, then you’ve probably heard of intermittent fasting (IF). And while IF is currently one of the hottest dietary trends, it’s hardly a new invention. In fact, the ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras once praised the virtues of fasting. Read on to learn more about intermittent fasting and amino acids, and how these dietary supplements can help boost your IF efforts.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
An eating pattern in which participants alternate between periods of eating and not eating, intermittent fasting can have a profound effect on both the body and the brain, enabling participants to lose weight and improve overall health. Unlike other dietary strategies, IF doesn’t restrict what foods you eat but instead dictates when you may and may not eat them. As a result, participants often have an easier time adhering to this dietary schedule over the long haul.
Individuals who utilize intermittent fasting can choose their own schedule for eating and abstaining. Although the most popular approach is the 16:8 schedule according to a recent Reader’s Digest article, fasters can also opt to employ alternate day fasting, in which they eat one day and fast or consume very few calories the next. Still other participants use a 5:2 approach, in which they fast two days a week and eat normally the other five. The approach you choose depends on your personal preferences and lifestyle factors.
Intermittent Fasting and Weight Loss
Numerous studies have shown that adopting an intermittent fasting strategy can help you reduce weight and keep it off for the long haul.
Research shows that intermittent fasting provides health benefits equivalent to those gained by prolonged fasting or caloric restriction. According to a study in the journal Cell Research, some evidence suggests that intermittent fasting may help convert white fat into brown fat. While white fat is necessary for storing excess energy and releasing lipids, it’s also associated with obesity and type 2 diabetes. On the other hand, brown fat burns energy and has other positive effects. Converting white fat to brown—also known as browning—could be a key component in reducing obesity.
Moreover, a study out of the University of Southern California showed that intermittent fasting cut cardiovascular risk factors while keeping muscle mass intact. Research published in the International Journal of Endocrinology Metabolism echoed these findings, showing that Ramadan fasters lost weight but not protein mass. That’s good news for athletes and bodybuilders, in addition to those who are worried about their heart health.
Additionally, intermittent fasting can have psychological benefits. According to a study in Psychosomatic Medicine, diets that rely on calorie counting often trigger cravings and feelings of deprivation in participants. As a result, individuals are more likely to abandon their diets and resume unhealthy eating habits that lead to weight gain. The study further noted that dieting increases psychological stress and triggers cortisol production. One of the benefits of intermittent fasting is that it doesn’t require participants to limit what foods they eat, only when they eat them.
Other Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting isn’t just an effective way to drop pounds without feeling deprived. Research reveals that reducing your eating window can also lower your risk of developing a cardiovascular disorder. According to a study in the Annual Review of Nutrition, employing intermittent fasting may influence metabolic regulation thanks to its impact on circadian biology and the gut microbiome, among other factors. And a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that fasting could improve cardiovascular risk and insulin resistance. Approximately 610,000 people die of heart disease each year in the U.S., according to the CDC, so intermittent fasting could help save a significant number of lives.
In a broader sense, intermittent fasting may even help patients live longer. A 2017 study out of Harvard University revealed that IF may manipulate mitochondrial networks inside cells, thereby lengthening lifespans and improving overall health. While doctors don’t yet know how to harness these benefits in a therapeutic sense, the future applications of intermittent fasting appear promising.
Of course, intermittent fasting represents a significant lifestyle change, and not everyone is a good candidate for this dietary strategy. It’s best to speak to a medical professional before beginning any new exercise or nutritional regimen. Some practitioners may benefit from taking amino acids while fasting.
Intermittent Fasting and Amino Acids
One of the long-term limitations of intermittent fasting is the potential that protein and amino acid intake is reduced below the optimal amount. Many recent lines of evidence indicate that the ideal intake of dietary protein is at least 1.2 grams of high-quality protein per kilogram of body weight per day. For a 100-kg person, this translates to 120 grams of protein a day, or 840 grams of protein each week.
If food is only consumed five days per week, and the normal dietary pattern is maintained, then protein intake will be only be about 600 grams. To meet the optimal level of protein intake while fasting two days out of the week, you’d need to ingest 168 grams of protein on your five non-fasting days (or 1.68 g/kg of body weight each day). This is a very high-protein diet.
While achievable, such a high-protein diet is difficult to maintain on a regular basis. And this is where amino acids come into the intermittent fasting picture. Essential amino acids are the active components of dietary protein that help produce new muscle protein. Taking an essential amino acid dietary supplement on days in which food is eaten will ensure that your optimal weekly intake of all essential amino acids are achieved, even if you fast two days of the week.