Intermittent Fasting – Boost Energy, Vitality and Longevity
What Is Intermittent Fasting and Is It Safe For You?
Fasting—or cessation from eating for a specific period of time—has gotten a bad rap! For millennia, Judeo-Christian traditions have recommended fasting for drawing closer to God. Unfortunately, many perverted the purpose of fasting to attempt to bend God’s will, make a public show of piety, or punish oneself for sins committed. None of those are valid reasons to fast and have given fasting a bad name.
As a result, for many years here in America, fasting has been a lost practice. But recently, as a result of numerous clinical studies, interest in fasting for health reasons is on the rise. In particular, the term “intermittent fasting” (IF for short) is gaining popularity. But there are still skeptics out there and once again, fasting in this context is stirring some controversy.
If you conduct an internet search on intermittent fasting, you will discover sites that warn against the “dangers of intermittent fasting.” We read something like that and tend to throw “the baby out with the bathwater.”
But let’s get real. What about the dangers of eating? Whether we’re talking about fasting or eating, if we abuse either one—then of course there are dangers! All one need do is stand on a downtown street corner in any city in America and observe people to recognize the dangers of eating. We consume way too much food … and generally we eat the wrong stuff.
According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly three-quarters of our population are overweight! As a result, our eating habits and sedentary lifestyle have brought on an epidemic of chronic diseases such as:
- Coronary heart disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- High blood pressure
- Fatty liver disease
- Some types of cancer
- And others
Given the above health issues, it’s no wonder that intermittent fasting is gaining popularity.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Strictly speaking, intermittent fasting (IF) is not a diet. Diets typically restrict what you eat. Intermittent fasting lets you control when you eat.
Also, in a very real sense, whether you knew it or not, you already practice intermittent fasting. Since fasting is the cessation of food intake, then going to bed at night signals the beginning of your daily fast. And if you eat breakfast, that morning meal “breaks your fast” (hence the name, “breakfast”).
While most of us unwittingly practice intermittent fasting in this way, what we don’t realize is that we hold the key to unlocking some pretty impressive health benefits. Fasting while we sleep is a good start, but we need to take this practice just a little bit farther to enjoy all those health benefits.
What Are the Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting?
- Weight loss. This is a no-brainer! When you fast intermittently, you reduce your calorie intake. We’ll see later that the length of your fast is significant when it comes to weight loss and experiencing some of the other benefits. When we eat non-stop, or eat too much, our bodies cannot keep up with the influx of energy, so we store it as fat.
- Lowers blood sugar and insulin levels. Every time you eat, you add sugar to your blood stream and your pancreas produces insulin to deal with it. Intermittent fasting allows your cells time to actually burn the glucose stored in them. This improves insulin sensitivity, allowing insulin to do its job.This is a huge benefit to those who suffer from diabetes. Dr. Mark Mattson, Chief of Laboratory Neurosciences at the National Institutes of Health highly recommends intermittent fasting as a means for preventing and treating diabetes.
- Helps repair cells. When you fast, you give your cells a break. They go into a mode called autophagy, which allows them to do cellular maintenance and repair. During this phase, cells discard unusable proteins and other “trash.”
- Increases human growth hormone (HGH). Fasting greatly increases the amount of HGH in your body when you fast. This helps you burn fat, gain muscle, maintain optimum fitness and slows the aging process.
- Recalibrates your ghrelin levels. Ghrelin is the “hunger hormone.” Fasting helps bring it back to normal so that you feel satisfied sooner when you eat.
- Reduces inflammation and damage from free radicals. Inflammation is a major contributor to many chronic diseases. As a result, Dr. Mark Mattson states that intermittent fasting is a great way to help treat diseases such as: diabetes, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Improves brain function. When you fast, your brain increases neurotrophic factors, which improves cognitive function. Many who fast intermittently describe that they can think more clearly as a result. I’ve experienced this personally.
- Decreases blood pressure and resting heart rate. Long heralded as the “silent killer,” high blood pressure is a major contributor to heart attack and stroke. If you can control your blood pressure with intermittent fasting, you’ve saved yourself time, money, the dangers of statin drugs, and the consequences of high blood pressure.
- Helps simplify your life. Most diets involve detailed record-keeping, purchasing expensive foods, counting carbs and calories, taking those special foods with you when eat away from home, etc. Intermittent fasting is simple. You simply refrain from eating during a time period of your choosing. That’s it! There are no special foods to buy, nothing to count or record.
Why Intermittent Fasting Works
First, as we’ve already stated, intermittent fasting is effective because it reduces your calorie intake. This factor alone will help you lose weight, give you more energy, and help you experience many of the benefits listed above. This makes perfect sense. When you’re fasting, you’re allowing your body to burn excess sugar. And when that’s depleted, you burn fat, which is stored energy.
Every day, your body is either in a state of being fed, which increases sugar, insulin and fat, or your body is in a state of fasting, which burns sugar, lowers insulin and burns fat. Unfortunately, most of us live out-of-balance in this regard, so that our “fed-state” far outweighs our “fasting-state.”
The second key element that makes intermittent fasting so powerful is the duration of your “fasting-state.” Because sleep provides a natural way to fast, you probably already fast around 8 hours, plus any hours before bed or after you rise during which you don’t eat.
Researchers have discovered that when you fast from between 12 and 16 hours, your glycogen (sugar) becomes depleted and your liver starts converting fat into ketones. Your body does this in order to provide your various bodily functions with the energy they need. This puts your body into a fat-burning state called ketosis.
This 12 to 16 hour fasting window is crucial for your body to experience the amazing health benefits listed above. There are a variety of ways you can implement IF to meet your personal lifestyle.