If you’ve been hearing about intermittent fasting—IF—as a technique for weight loss and think it’s one of the latest diet fads, think again. It’s not new. In fact, it’s been around for quite a while and used as part of religious ceremonies, then to help control epilepsy before medications were created. Early man fasted periodically, sometimes longer periods when food was scarce. The body was meant to fast for short periods. In fact, some intermittent fasting isn’t longer than a day. It simply means you eat within a 6-8 hour window and fast the rest of the time. Other types, require fasting for a day or two.
Most people actually get healthier when they do IF.
There have been studies on the effect of fasting since the 1930s. One animal study divided mice into three groups. One group ate just once a day. The second group had a 30% calorie restriction and was fed twice a day, while the last group ate on demand. The mice that fasted and ate once a day not only lived longer, they aged slower than those in the other two groups. They remained more active and looked more youthful. They lived 28% longer than the group that ate on demand, while the calorie restricted group only lived 11% longer than that group.
Weight loss seems imminent, since you eat within a narrower window or skip a day.
Narrowing your window of eating means you won’t have as much time to eat and you’ll be fuller most of that time. That means you’ll eat fewer calories. If you start eating at 11am and finish at 7pm—8 hours—there’s less time to overindulge. If you have insomnia, are pregnant, lactating, take medication that requires food previously, have digestive issues or a compromised immune system, always check with your health care professional first. Fasting may not be for you, even intermittent fasting.
You’ll get other benefits from IF.
You might look years younger when you do IF. That’s because the fasting helps you shed extra pounds, particularly around your mid-section. It increases insulin sensitivity and human growth hormone. It also helps boost your metabolic rate, while reducing one of the major causes of disease, inflammation. It also gives the body a chance to do cellular repair and remove waste, a process known as autophagy. Once old cells are removed, the body replaces them with new ones. This isn’t done during short fasting periods, but requires at least 24 hours, so it requires alternate days of fasting. IF also improves concentration and brain health, while lowering the risk of cancer.
- One caution about IF. During those times you eat, make sure you eat healthy. While timing is important, so is adequate nutrition. Don’t feast on junk food but make the food you eat healthy.
- Recent studies looked at the effect of IF while on a keto diet. It found that it increases fat burning and reduced the amount of time for ketosis that leads to maximum weight loss.
- One reason IF works is that it’s relatively easy to do. Simply restricting the amount of time when you eat and using a healthy diet means you’ll eat fewer calories for that day. It also improves metabolism.
- An animal study showed that fasting caused the body to produce a molecule beta-hydroxybutyrate. It helped reverse vascular aging and caused the blood vessels to build more cells that line the interior.
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