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Most of you who are familiar with and practice intermittent fasting also know that it produces a metabolic and hormonal similarity to exercise.
Intermittent fasting and exercise each increase circulatory catecholamines, growth hormone, and glucagon, leading to an energy metabolism that favors fat burning.
People looking to becoming lean also want the fat burning effect of exercise and intermittent fasting. To be honest, it’s the original reason I adopted intermittent fasting.
But I’ve learned that the true benefit of intermittent fasting is that it allows an energy metabolism that balances calorie storage and usage.
A body that’s not using is a body that’s storing — and becoming overweight. Exercise and intermittent fasting stimulate usage.
But we have to remember that, like gasoline and cars, what our body burns can be replaced at the next meal. Therefore, fat burning does not mean we’ll lose fat off our stomach and thighs, if we consume more food than we need.
So why even do intermittent fasting?
Well, aside from supporting a balanced energy metabolism, intermittent fasting helps us learn how to eat less without feeling deprived.
When the stomach is empty after a certain period of time (say, 4 hours of fasting), it rebounds back to a certain unfed size. And because this rebound isn’t linear with time, it achieves the same size whether we’ve fasted 4 hours or 18.
Thus, any (somatic) hunger in our stomach at hour 18 is of the same magnitude as that of hour 4. Psychological hunger, however, may be at a different magnitude, but this can change through the natural re-conditioning that occurs with daily intermittent fasting.
The re-conditioning of psychological hunger is the main factor in making daily intermittent fasting successful.
But, as in most cases, there’s a mind-body connection, and the re-conditioning of both somatic and psychological hunger is based on the releasing pattern of ghrelin, the hunger hormone. When we eat fewer times, ghrelin is released fewer times, and as a result we get hungry fewer times.
Intermittent fasting, like exercise, can burn fat, but alone it doesn’t necessarily cause fat loss. We have to be careful not to put back in more than we burn. But intermittent fasting makes it easier for us to put back in less.