Metabolic switching may be the key to weight loss and good health

The way metabolic switching works is very simple, but if you have a sedentary lifestyle then the switch can never be triggered, no matter how long you fast.

Myupchar January 05, 2020 09:00:52 IST
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Metabolic switching may be the key to weight loss and good health

Now that 2020 has arrived and you’re done with partying and binge-eating, we’re sure you’re thinking of the best way to lose the holiday weight. You might also have made a New Year's resolution to get fitter and maintain better diet practices. If you have, then suggestions made by a recent study may be of great interest to you.

The study, done by neuroscientist Mark Mattson, and published in The New England Journal of Medicine, suggests that triggering the metabolic switch in the body through intermittent fasting, frequently and for longer durations, can benefit your health in many ways - starting with shedding the extra kilos.

Metabolic switching may be the key to weight loss and good health

What is metabolic switching?

Metabolic switching is one of the key factors behind evolution, Mattson claims. Individuals who thrived despite long durations of food scarcity — that is, their brain and body function improved when they fasted — were more successful at surviving. During a period of food scarcity or fasting, the metabolism of the body switches: the cells break down the easily accessible stores of sugar or glucose and fat to get fuel.

If paired with exercise or physical activity, this metabolic switching results in the depletion of glycogen stores in the liver and fatty acids from adipose cells. What’s more, it also triggers autophagy, which is the body’s way of flushing out damaged cells which can be replaced by newer and healthier ones. This replacement happens when the period of fasting is over and the body goes through a recovery period by eating, resting and sleeping. 

Sounds familiar? Intermittent fasting, a type of diet where the body is put in fasting mode for a particular period and then in recovery mode for a fixed duration, depends exclusively on triggering the metabolic switch.

Also read: 12 diets India tried in 2019

Benefits of metabolic switching

The way metabolic switching works is very simple, but if you have a sedentary lifestyle then the switch can never be triggered, no matter how long you fast for. The period of fasting has to be paired with physical exercise or activity so that your metabolism actually switches and starts to break down the stored fats and glucose in the body. 

The benefits you can reap from metabolic switching are many, and not limited to weight loss. Mattson claims that apart from regulating blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels and blood pressure, metabolic switching also suppresses inflammation, reduces the resting heart rate, builds resistance to stress and improves brain health (especially memory and cognitive function). So giving intermittent fasting a try might just be what you need to do to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

What’s the best way to start?

The biggest issue people face when going on an intermittent fasting diet is dealing with the hunger pangs. Intermittent fasting can be done in two ways: first, you have a daily time-restricted feeding type, where you eat for 6-8 hours in a day and fast for the remaining period. Second, the 5:2 type involves eating a normally for five days and tiny meals on the remaining two days in the week.

Admittedly both can be difficult to adapt to, especially if you are used to eating three meals a day interspersed with snacks and junk food. Here are some things you should keep in mind before you start an intermittent fasting diet to trigger metabolic switching properly:

  • Going cold turkey, or suddenly starting either of the two methods of intermittent in full force is the wrong way to go. People give up the diet entirely and sooner this way.
  • Gradually increasing the duration and frequency of fasting is more effective, so start small and pair it with an increasing amount of physical activity. This will help you cope better and sustainably increase your endurance as well.
  • Feeling hungry and cranky in the beginning is normal. You have to let the body and mind get used to it naturally, and this process can take anywhere from two weeks to a month. So being patient, despite those hunger pangs hitting hard, is important.

Also read: Hangry is now a commonly-used term — is it real? What does it actually mean?

For more on this topic, please read our articles on How to lose weight fast, and safely.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

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