Intermittent fasting has become quite mainstream over the last few years as a means to lose fat, especially around the midsection – and is a particularly good way to achieve it. It also improves body and brain health, while promoting longevity.
Fasting on its own, can single handedly lower insulin more than anything else you can do with diet and nutritional interventions. Adding fasting to your lifestyle is THE most effective way to get rid of that belly fat. When you fast, several things happen in your body at a cellular level that help with weight and belly fat loss
1. You produce no insulin AT ALL – because you’re not ingesting any food. As long as insulin is elevated, that fat is UNTOUCHABLE, and we can’t turn it into energy. But, when insulin drops, that fat can be mobilised and liberated. It can be put into the blood stream as free fatty acids where it can be sent to our organs for converting into energy. Insulin sensitivity also improves as levels of insulin drop. This speeds reversal of insulin resistance and fatty liver.
2. The second thing that fasting does is it increases Human Growth Hormone and fasting is by far THE most powerful way to increase Growth Hormone – making their levels skyrocket, increasing as much as 5-fold or more. Human Growth Hormone greatly stimulates fat loss, while maintaining muscle mass, as well as providing anti-aging benefits.
So, in summary when insulin goes down, it mobilizes fat. This increases Human Growth Hormone and other fat-burning hormones – which burn the mobilized fat for energy. Hence, the longer we fast, the MORE fat we burn – and these mechanisms work synergistically in our favor to lower body fat. Everything gets better with fasting!
3. Norepinephrine (or noradrenaline) is ALSO released while fasting. With already low insulin and high growth hormone levels, your nervous system now sends norepinephrine to your fat cells, helping them further break down the already mobilised fat stores to be used for energy.
4. Fasting balances your appetite hormones – GHRELIN and LEPTIN, making you less hungry – so you tend to binge less and stay satiated longer.
I personally find that a low carb-high fat diet may be sustainable for the longish term but is restrictive. Keto diets, although very safe and fruitful (pun intended!), are overly restrictive and quite unsustainable in the long-term, but perhaps a good short-term fix to get you started on your fat loss journey. Fasting however, in my opinion, is extremely safe and very sustainable in the long-term, and easy to form a habit of. It is not that restrictive when it comes to food choices, since the focus is more on a shorter eating window.
So, in order to burn belly fat effectively and reverse fatty liver, here are the 4 steps :
1. Try intermittent fasting or time-restricted eating – which simply means you shorten the time period in the day when you eat. This doesn’t imply a change in diet necessarily, but of course, focusing on what you’re consuming also matters! A popular one is 18:6 – where you fast for 18 out of the 24h in a day and consume all your meals and calories within a 6-hour eating window.
2. Eat a low carb diet. The lower the carbs in your diet, the lower your insulin levels, meaning you get into that fat burning zone much QUICKER – and stay in it LONGER.
3. You want to stop all sugar, especially refined sugars, and fructose.
4. Work on lowering your cortisol levels. Work on reducing overall stress, getting off the fight or flight mode you’re on for extended periods during the day. Yoga, deep breathing exercises, stretching, and meditation are key.
The role of exercise
It’s been drilled into us – this EAT LESS, EXERCISE MORE concept. But again, it’s just NOT about the calories. What it’s actually about is the HORMONES and BALANCING those hormones. The liver can be fatty, and you could be insulin-resistant with constantly high insulin, and exercise is not going to do anything!
You could be a marathon runner or endurance athlete and STILL have a fatty liver. As an ironman triathlete myself and having worked with quite a few endurance athletes on their nutrition, I have come across so many who are insulin-resistant! Overconsumption of fructose and glucose together causes this.
Exercise on its own can be done in the right and wrong way. When done wrong, it may not hurt you, but it won’t benefit you much either – regarding fat loss. When done right though, while insulin is low, it greatly assists in burning the mobilized fat. Exercise also increases cortisol post-training, since cortisol is a potent anti-inflammatory needed for recovery.
The problem is when you have chronically elevated cortisol to begin with, and you do things that further increase cortisol greatly. Pick activities that minimize cortisol release if you’re fairly overweight. These could include steady jogs, brisk walks, and easy bike rides versus endurance activities. Weightlifting – for short durations, is also useful in minimizing the impact of cortisol after training. These also help increase blood circulation and fat mobilization, without over stressing the body and adding to your problems.
As you start to eat properly, fast, and drop body fat – you can gradually increase intensity and duration of exercise. This also helps prevent injuries by slowly getting your body used to working out.
This is how exercise is done correctly.