Intermittent fasting might sound scary, but what if we were to tell you that everyone does some form of it every single day? It’s called sleeping, and it’s really important. Not only does this daily fasting period leave time for cellular repair, but it encourages hormonal changes that facilitate fat burning and muscle gain.
So what would happen if we were to extend these periods of fasting? Well, nutritionists think they have the answer. Numerous studies have shown that, when done properly, intermittent fasting can help regulate blood lipids, facilitate weight loss, boost life expectancy and keep our brains healthy.
Fasting is also one of the most powerful healing and weight loss methods we can incorporate in our lives today. It is now backed up by a multitude of scientific research and peer reviewed articles. Many religions incorporate an element fasting such as the 30 days of Ramadan, a one day Yum Kippor fast and Lent.
Our ancestors did not have the luxury of 24 hour food outlets and had to go without food for extended periods. Their bodies were adapted for fresh food and has not changed. In fact fasting from time to time is healthier and more natural than eating 3-5 meals a day
What is Intermittent Fasting (IF)?
Let’s be clear: intermittent fasting doesn’t mean starving yourself. It simply means restricting calories during certain times of the day, or for a certain number of days a week. The rest of the time you’re free to eat whatever you like (within reason, of course).
There are lots of different ways of approaching intermittent fasting, but adopting a philosophy of self-experimentation is really important – after all, what works for one person, may not work for someone else. Here are a few of the most popular approaches.
The 5:2 Diet
The premise is simple: eat what you want five days a week, and rein in those calories for the other two. One of the major draws of this particular pattern of fasting is that there are no restrictions on the type of food you can eat. On fast days, just make sure you eat only 25 per cent of your usual calorie total – so around 500 calories for women and 600 for men.
The 16:8 Method
Some may say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but this fasting option encourages you to skip it. One of the most popular types of intermittent fast, the 16:8 Method involves fasting every day for 16 hours, and restricting your daily eating window to 8 hours.
Fasting for 24 hours straight may sound like some people’s idea of hell, but according to proponents of the Eat-Stop-Eat diet, it’s surprisingly easy to do. And the best bit? You only have to do it once a week to begin seeing an effect.
Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting isn’t all about shedding the pounds (although that’s often a welcome side effect). It’s also been shown to have a positive effect on our overall health.
Boost Weight Loss
The fact that restricting eating can lead to weight loss is a no-brainer. But the secret to the success of intermittent fasting isn’t just down to reducing calories – many studies have shown that ‘feeding’ and ‘fasting’ at controlled times allows the body to burn through fat cells more effectively than regular dieting allows.
Not only that, but research shows that people following an intermittent fast are less likely to binge during eating periods. One small study found that people only ate around 10 to 22 per cent extra on their feast days, meaning they maintained a caloric deficit over the course of a week. All of this points to the fact that intermittent fasting is an effective, as well as a sustainable, route to weight loss.
Reduce Insulin Resistance
When your body is overloaded with carbs and sugar, it can become insulin resistant, opening up the floodgates for all types of diseases. Luckily, fasting has been shown to have a positive effect on insulin sensitivity, allowing the body to build a tolerance for carbohydrates (sugar). With improved insulin sensitivity, you should be much better prepared to fight off diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart problems.
Protect Your Heart
Heart disease may be the world’s biggest killer, but intermittent fasting could help keep your ticker healthy. Fasting has been shown to improve a number of risk factors, such as LDL cholesterol, inflammatory markers and blood pressure, leading scientists to believe it could help protect the heart.
Boost Brain Power
While there’s no surefire way of avoiding Alzheimer’s disease, a number of studies suggest that intermittent fasting could help delay its onset. And it’s not just Alzheimer’s – a handful of animal studies also suggest fasting may help ward off other neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s.
May Extend Lifespan
Intermittent fasting may not give you superpowers, but it could make you live longer. While more research needs to be carried out, animal studies have already connected calorie restriction with extended lifespan. One study even found that rats on restricted diets lived 83 per cent longer than those fed normally. These studies may still be in their infancy, but they could have life-changing results.
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