I’ve been researching the health benefits of intermittent fasting, and I’m finding it pretty exciting, so I wanted to share my discoveries with you.
Did you know the term breakfast comes from “break” and “fast” as technically we fast when we are sleeping? It has often been stated that breakfast is an essential meal.
However, what if breakfast wasn’t the most important meal of the day?
When approaching a new concept, looking in the rearview mirror can often enlighten us. Ancient cultures worldwide have participated in the practice of fasting for centuries often as a spiritual practice, but also as a health alternative. We can also learn about health by taking a close look at nature. Animals almost always fast when they are ill.
The revered philosopher and poet Rumi said, “Fasting is the first principle of medicine; fast and see the strength of the spirit reveal itself.”
What is intermittent fasting?
As with a “fasting” lab test, a minimum of eight hours is considered a fasting state. However, for effective intermittent fasting, a sixteen-hour span is recommended.
How does it work?
A couple of different processes occur during the fasting stage. After a meal, your body uses fuel (glucose) from the food. When the glucose is used up, the body starts using your stores of fat. Additionally, an IF study by Stephen Anton, Ph.D. states, “Cells perform their ‘housekeeping’ better, clearing out waste particles more efficiently.” This process of “autophagy” is the body’s survival response to the stress of not getting enough calories and is thought to be a driving mechanism behind anti-aging and protection from the development of disease.” Other research has established that fasting promotes the secretion of growth hormone levels and normalizes metabolic hormones like insulin, leptin, and ghrelin.
What are the health benefits?
Intermittent fasting may have substantial benefits for brain health. It may increase the growth of new neurons and protect the brain from damage. Other benefits include lowered blood sugar levels, lowered cholesterol, and reduced inflammation. One aspect of IF that has everyone excited is its ability to extend lifespan.
Oxidative Stress and IF
One of the newest findings is that IF decreases oxidative stress. Oxidative stress begins when oxygen molecules split into single atoms that have unpaired electrons. These molecules become unstable free radicals that seek to attach to other atoms or molecules. This eventually leads to negative outcomes including aging and a host of chronic diseases.
Will it help with weight loss?
Many physicians agree that weight loss is one of the results of intermittent fasting. But it is not meant to be thought of as a diet, rather a schedule of eating. Weight loss may not occur if a person overeats when they are not on the fasting schedule.
However, intermittent fasting may help you to eat fewer calories, while at the same time boost your metabolism and burn fat stores.
Another positive aspect of fasting is that many diets are complicated and difficult to understand. As a method of weight loss, fasting is simple and easy to understand.
Ways to practice intermittent fasting.
There are a few options for those that want to give intermittent fasting a try. These options are part of the success rate of the practice as it can be tailored to specific schedules or personalities.
Daily – The daily method means you will fast for 16 hours each day. Many find that eating their last meal at 8 p.m. and skipping breakfast works well for them. Often people eat breakfast alone in a rush, so this is the method that works for many socially and practically. One hindrance is the morning coffee. Most advocates agree that coffee is acceptable, just without the cream and sugar.
Weekly – The weekly method means that one day a week you will not eat from 8 p.m. until 8 p.m. the next day for a 24-hour fasting period. This works well for some, as it is just once a week and their routine can easily be managed around it. For example, you may decide that this fasting day is a non-workout day.
Calorie Reduction – This method does not require actual fasting but requires that on two days a week – you practice significant calorie reduction to 500-700 calories on those days. This method involves calorie counting, so it can be a little more tenuous.
If you think you might like to try intermittent fasting, discuss it with your doctor. Women who are pregnant or nursing should not engage in this practice. Additionally, diabetics and those with eating disorders or in an active growth phase such as adolescents should avoid IF.
Tip from Dr. G – Bulletproof Coffee or Butter Tea will help to satiate you when you fast.
Fasting like eating is a practice that is clarified by the individual. If you eat a healthy diet as opposed to a junk food diet, you will see positive results. The same can be said for fasting. If you fast for one day a week yet spend the remainder of the week overeating or feasting on unhealthy food, you may not notice an improvement in your health. Of course, if you fast too often and deprive your body of essential nutrients, again, you may experience negative benefits.
Before you embark on any type of diet or fast, you should meet with your health practitioner for advice.