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Intermittent Fasting: What to Know About Fed vs. Fasted States

When people hear the word fasting, they usually associate it with putting your body in starvation mode. However, that is not necessarily the case. Intermittent fasting can actually help with weight loss, giving people more energy, and living more balanced lives. Lindsay Boyers, author of THE EVERYTHING GUIDE TO INTERMITTENT FASTING, shares the benefits of this diet and health plan. 

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting isn’t a specific diet plan. It’s a general term that describes an eating pattern in which you alternate between eating and fasting (purposefully going without food for a set period of time). To fully understand intermittent fasting, it’s helpful to know the difference between a “fed” state and a “fasted” state—the two phases of the digestive system.

Fed versus Fasted States

A fed state—also called the absorptive state—happens right after a meal or a snack, when your body is digesting the food and absorbing its nutrients. As soon as you even think about, see, or smell food, and your mouth starts to water, digestion begins. It continues until the broken-down components of your food are transported into your blood, where they travel to the liver, fatty (or adipose) tissue, and muscles.

When the broken-down components of food first enter your blood, it causes your blood glucose levels to rise, which then stimulates the beta cells (the specialized cells in your pancreas that produce, store, and release insulin) to release insulin into the blood. The released insulin then attaches to the glucose in your blood and carries it to the cells, where it’s used for energy, or carries it to the liver and muscles, where it’s converted to glycogen and stored for later use.

In the fed state, which typically lasts for four hours, insulin is elevated, which prompts your body to store any excess calories in the fat cells. While insulin is elevated, your body also stops burning fat and turns instead to glucose (from the food you just ingested) for energy.

Once the fed state ends, your body enters the fasted, or postabsorptive, state. This state begins after the food has been digested, absorbed, and properly stored. When you’re in the fasted state, approximately four hours after you eat, your body relies on stored glycogen for energy. Glucose levels in the blood drop as the cells begin to use the sugar, and in response to this decrease in glucose, insulin levels drop as well. Because your body likes to maintain blood glucose levels between 70 and 99 milligrams per deciliter, this drop in glucose in the blood triggers the alpha cells of the pancreas to release a hormone called glucagon. Glucagon travels to the liver, where it breaks glycogen down into glucose. Once glucose is formed, it’s released by the liver and travels to your brain and tissues.

In this fasted state, insulin and glucose levels are low, while glucagon and growth-hormone levels are high. After the glucose that comes from the stored glycogen is used up, the body turns to stored fat in your fat cells for energy, burning up the fat in the process.

Find out more tips on dieting and eating healthy check out THE EVERYTHING GUIDE TO INTERMITTENT FASTING by Lindsay Boyers! 

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Excerpted from The Everything Guide to Intermittent Fasting by Lindsay Boyers. Copyright © 2018 by the author. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash.

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