Many diets have a strict approach to eating. If you want something different, then the health benefits of intermittent fasting may be your solution. Rather than tracking what you eat, intermittent fasting requires you to alternate fasting periods with eating periods. Also, you need to eat healthy because after a long fast you don’t want to eat a bad meal.
Since it is natural that you fast when you sleep, the average diet includes an eating window that is bigger than the fasting window. But with intermittent fasting, you choose to increase the fasting period while you decrease the eating period.
So with an intermittent fasting plan, you have a range of options. You can fast for 16 hours and eat in an 8-hour window, or you may choose to increase the fasting period to 20 hours and only eat 4 hours in a day. Alternatively, you might find it more practical to fast for 24 hours once or twice each week.
How Intermittent Fasting Compares With a Typical Diet
|Easy to do
||Hard to do
||Can be Expensive
|Simplifies your Life
||Complicates your Life
Here are the reasons why you should fast:
Weight loss and weight maintenance.
Intermittent fasting can help you lose weight and belly fat. When you fast, two things happen.
- You are consuming fewer calories, and
- Your base metabolic rate is increasing.
This being so and because it is easy to do, fasting is an effective way to lose weight.
Animal studies have proven that intermittent fasting boosts metabolism and help burn body fat.
Can Extend Your Lifespan.
Intermittent fasting is an effective anti-ageing approach because calorie restriction is a scientifically proven way to increase lifespan. When you fast, your body has time to detox and this will slow down ageing and prevent age-related disease.
In a study done at Harvard it was found that fasting promotes a longer lifespan by manipulating the numbers and quality of stem cell mitochondria.
Fasting lowers the pancreatic production of insulin, which in turn, results in greater fat burning. After you eat, your insulin levels increase and this promotes the creation of new fat cells at a rate that is faster than your body can burn them. When you fast, your insulin levels are low and you guessed it – your body can burn fat for energy.
Assists in Reversing Insulin Resistance.
Insulin is a hormone whose function is, to notify your cells that glucose is coming via the blood supply. But when you have too much glucose in your blood over an extended period of time, your cells can become desensitized to insulin. When this happens, your cells will only react to high levels of insulin, which in turn means that your pancreas is forced to produce more insulin. In time your pancreas will become fatigued with over-work, leading to insulin deficiency, pre-diabetes, or diabetes.
Other Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting has a positive effect on the hunger hormone ghrelin – a hormone which is produced by the stomach when it is empty. Ghrelin promotes the growth of new brain cells and enhances cognition functions. This is the reason why you feel more focused while you’re fasting.
Human growth hormone is responsible for muscle growth and for anti ageing. The deficiency of this hormone leads to body fat, lower muscle mass and decreased bone mass. But during the fasting period, this hormone is increased.
Protecting Your Heart – heart failure is the number one cause of death in the world. Most cardiovascular diseases happen because of fatty deposits build-up in the arteries.
But intermittent fasting can help you reduce cholesterol, triglyceride, body fat, blood pressure and insulin resistance, resulting in improved cardiac function and protecting your arteries and your heart.
New research has found that people who regularly fast are less likely to succumb to heart disease or stroke.
Reduces Risk of Cancer – The immune system can destroy viruses and pathogens in our bodies but it is not so good at killing the body’s own abnormal cells, specifically cancer cells. Recent medical treatments have adopted the strategy of programming the immune system to find and destroy cancer cells. Latest research has discovered that fasting has the same effect.
When fasting, the immune system produces more B-cells and T-cells, which target and destroy tumor cells. If someone is undergoing chemotherapy, fasting is a safe practice that can be used to slow tumor growth in cancer patients.
Protects Your Brain – Brain Derived NeuroTrophic Factor(BDNF)is a protein that helps in the formation of new neurons and synapses within the brain. High levels of BDNF are essential for healthier neurons and better communication between them while low levels are associated with memory loss, dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
While you’re fasting, BDNF levels are increased and this contributes toward a healthy brain which stays younger, for longer.
Avoid Diabetes – If someone has type 2 diabetes, their blood sugar levels rise to dangerous and unhealthy levels. But what if you are not eating? Since extra fuel is stored in the body as fat and glycogen, your body will use these for energy, giving it time to heal.
So intermittent fasting is beneficial for both patients with type 2 diabetes and anyone who is susceptible to getting it. The reason is, because it reduces blood sugar. But before you attempt intermittent fasting for diabetes control, we recommend that, as with any diet plan, you first consult your health professional.
More Energy and Mental Focus – As most people would know, after a meal you feel tired. But during the fasting period, you will feel that you have more energy, you will experience better workouts. It is amazing!
This happens because after you eat, your body converts carbohydrates into blood sugar. This blood sugar is either used for energy or stored as body fat. But then your blood sugar level will drop and along with it, your energy and mental focus. Your body will try to compensate for this lack of energy by asking for more food, making you hungry and the process will repeat. You eat, your body will process the food and this will place stress on your metabolism and you’ll feel tired.
But when you fast your body is forced to turn body fat into energy. This process happens in the liver and it is a slow, consistent process without the “ups and downs” that are associated with processing food. Consequently, there is no stress on your metabolism.
Bottom line: fasting = insane energy + mental performance.
Other health benefits of intermittent fasting include improved memory and mood, it boosts your immune system, it rejuvenates your skin, it speeds healing and recovery, it helps sync circadian rhythms, it fights off metabolic diseases and improves your blood work.
About the Author:
Dan is the founder of Brain Your Life and he advises on how to build healthy eating habits. The 3 main goals of Brain Your Life are, to help people lose weight without stress and effort; to live a healthy life and to be so much more.