Insulin levels rise when we eat, telling us to store some of the excess energy:
- Sugar: Carbohydrates are broken down into individual glucose (sugar) units, which can be linked into long chains to form glycogen, which is then stored in the liver or muscle. However, there is very limited storage space for glycogen in the body.
- Body Fat: When we run out of space to store glycogen, the liver starts to turn the excess glucose into fat. This process is called de novo lipogenesis, which literally means “making new fat.” Some of this newly created fat is stored in the liver, but most of it is exported to other fat deposits in the body. While this is a more complicated process, there is almost no limit to the amount of fat that can be created.
Glycogen is the most easily accessible energy source. It is broken down into glucose molecules to provide energy for the body’s cells. Glycogen can provide enough energy to power much of the body’s needs for 24-36 hours. After this, the body will primarily break down fat for energy.
The body really only exists in one of two states – the fed (high insulin) state or the fasted (low insulin) state. Either we are storing food energy (increasing stores) or we are burning stored energy (decreasing stores). It is one or the other, but not both. You don’t store fat and burn fat at the same time. If eating and fasting are balanced, there should be no net weight change.
If we start eating the minute we roll out of bed, and do not stop until we go to sleep, we spend almost all of our time in the fed state. Over time we may gain weight, because we have not allowed our body any time to burn stored food energy.
To restore balance or to lose weight, we simply need to increase the amount of time spent burning food energy. That’s intermittent fasting.
In essence, intermittent fasting allows the body to use its stored energy. After all, that is what it is there for. The important thing to understand is that there is nothing wrong with allowing the body to utilize stored energy. This is what dogs, cats, lions and bears do. This is what humans do too.
If you are eating constantly, your body will just use the incoming food energy. There is simply no need to dip into your body’s stores of energy (body fat). Your body will save it for a time when there is nothing to eat. If you are fasting, your body will naturally lose weight.