11 Oct Starving Yourself to Health?! The Science and Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
I am sure you’ve heard a lot of buzz around the word, “intermittent fasting”. Simply put, intermittent fasting is making a conscious decision to skip some meals purposely and eat in specific time frames. It is not a diet in the conventional sense, but rather an eating pattern that revolves between periods of fasting and eating. It is one of the most popular health and fitness trends in the world today. People are using it to simplify their lives, lose weight, and improve their overall health.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
1. Weight loss
Many people incorporate intermittent fasting in their lifestyles to lose weight and stay lean. Generally, intermittent fasting makes you eat less food and burn more fat. During fasting, the body turns to burning fat stored in the body for energy in a process called ketosis. I recommend intermittent fasting to many of my patients and combine it with my ketogenic nutritional plan to supercharge fat burning and facilitate more efficient weight loss.
Additionally, intermittent fasting improves weight loss through affecting our hormones. Leptin, a hormone in the body, signals the body to utilize fats stored in the body for energy during a fast. Intermittent fasting helps to balance the leptin levels in our body and reduces chronic inflammation, which can dull the brain’s leptin receptor sites. An imbalanced system would cause the body to not recognize the leptin as well, causing the body to store more fat instead of burn more fat.
2. Brain health
Anything good for the body is good for the brain. Intermittent fasting enhances brain health in various ways.
One of the greatest effects of Intermittent fasting is that it enhances neuronal autophagy. Autophagy is the process through which cells recycle materials and naturally repair themselves. Neuronal autophagy is very important for brain health because it keeps our brain cells healthy and optimized. Simply, lack of neuronal autophagy impairs proper brain development and functioning.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most frequent neurodegenerative disease in the world. It has no known cure, so it is important to prevent it from showing up in the first place. Research has shown that intermittent fasting reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease or its severity, by reducing obesity and the risk of having diabetes, both of which are major risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease.
Intermittent fasting also eases depression. Studies have found that people with depression reported improvement in mood, mental alertness, and a sense of peace when fasting. Intermittent fasting also improves learning and memory.
3. Promotes Longevity
One of the most exciting benefits of intermittent fasting is its ability to extend lifespan. It can protect against heart disease, diabetes and cancer thereby promoting longevity.
A study conducted in 2010 on overweight women showed that intermittent fasting reduces risks for chronic diseases. It lowers blood pressure, reduces insulin resistance and lowers cholesterol.
Cancer is a dangerous disease characterized by uncontrolled growth of cells. Studies have shown that fasting has several metabolism factors that may lead to a reduced risk of cancer. It slows down the progression of skin and breast cancer when done together with chemotherapy by increasing the levels of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes.
Intermittent fasting may also help to keep your heart healthy. Heart disease is the biggest killer in the world today. Intermittent fasting improves various heart disease risk factors such as cholesterol levels, blood pressure, triglycerides and inflammatory markers.
Intermittent fasting has been proven to take center stage when it comes to managing blood sugar. It reduces insulin resistance. Anything that reduces insulin resistance should help reduce blood sugars and prevent type 2 diabetes.
How to do Intermittent Fasting
There exist various methods to do intermittent fasting. They are all effective, but which one fits best depend on the individual. Below are the three most popular methods:
16/8 method: Fasting for 16 hours a day
This method involves restricting your eating period to 8 hours and fasting for 16 hours. In the eating window, you can have 2 or 3 meals.
16/8 method can be as simple as not eating anything after dinner and skipping breakfast. You can drink coffee, water or any non-caloric beverage during the fast to reduce hunger levels. It is important that you eat healthy foods during the eating window. Eating junk foods will make the exercise futile.
Sample 16/8 method schedule
Step 1: Drink coffee in the morning
You can take another cup if you feel hungry during the day.
Step 2: Take a moderate protein, low-carb, high fat lunch at 2pm.
Step 3: Do not snack in between meals.
Step 4: Take dinner by 8pm.
The 5:2 method involves consuming around 500-600 calories for two non-consecutive days in a week but eating normally the other 5 days. This diet is also known as the Fast diet. It is recommended that women eat 500 calories and men eat 600 calories on the fasting days.
For instance, you may normally eat all days of the week except on Wednesdays and Fridays where you take two light meals (300 calories each meal for men, and 250 calories each meal for women)
Eat-stop-eat: Fast for 24 hours once or twice a week
This method involves going for 24 hours without food once or twice a week. For instance, if you have lunch at 2pm, you don’t eat again until 2pnm the following day. You may also fast from lunch to lunch, or from breakfast to breakfast.
Water coffee or any other non-caloric beverages are allowed during the fasting period.
Intermittent fasting offers many benefits that aren’t available in typical diets. I personally recommend the 16/8 intermittent fasting technique 2-3 times per week to my patients in combination with my ketogenic nutritional plan. And I personally fast for 16 hours, three times per week and have noticed substantial improvements in my overall health and energy.
That being said, intermittent fasting is not for everyone. Intermittent fasting is not something everyone requires, it is just another tool in the toolbox that some people may want to incorporate. I recommend trying out the 16-8 method first one day a week and see how you feel. As you begin to feel more comfortable with fasting, you can increase the amount of days.
It is worthy to note that fasting affects women differently from men. Women should take a mild approach to intermittent fasting. They should have shorter fasting periods and fewer fasting days.
If you decide to try out this out, it is important to eat a healthy and balanced diet during the non-fasting windows for best results. If need be, you should seek professional guidance to personalize an intermittent fasting plan and avoid pitfalls.