Low carb, high fat, Whole 30, Keto, Paleo. The list of diets goes on and on. But intermittent fasting isn't hijacking a new dietary trend, it's based on the ancient principles of fasting applied to our new, modern lifestyles. The benefits of intermittent fasting are both expansive and exemplary. Don't just take our word for it though, explore the list below to see some examples.
Before we jump into the benefits, let's look into the main differences between the typical eating routine and intermittent fasting. Many of us are engrained in eating 3 meals a day. Your every day might look like breakfast at 7 AM, lunch at 12 PM, and dinner at 7 PM. In this model, you're eating window is 12 hours and your fasting window is 12 hours.
Intermittent fasting shortens your eating window and lengthens your fasting window. A popular switch is to the 16/8 method. This means your fasting for 16 hours, and so, if your last meal was at 7 PM, your next meal would be at 11 AM the next day. Because of this flexibility, you can effectively plan an intermittent fasting progress food guide in order to effectively continue your new dietary lifestyle.
When you space out your meals with intermittent fasting, your body has to create energy. Without sugars, fats, and carbs in your system, your body has to look elsewhere for calories to burn. Luckily, your body chemistry takes over and starts looking for other resources. Know what just so happens to be a great fuel for your body? Excess fat.
Intermittent fasting helps people reach a state of ketosis, or fat burning mode, faster than other methods. Just be sure to, as with any changes to your diet, speak to a nutritionist, doctor, or medical professional so you do not do it in an unhealthy way.
You've likely heard the old adage about weight loss: Calories in vs. calories out. Should you choose to Google that phrase, you can easily find proponents and naysayers of this simplified phrase for managing your weight loss.
Regardless of all the opinions out there though, one of the benefits of intermittent fasting is that you cut down eating frequency. Rather than eating multiple meals throughout the day spread out over a longer period of time, you're switching to a small eating window. This means you're likely to experience caloric restriction naturally, unless you over-consumer during your meal time.
So in short, when you switch from the typical 12 hour fasting window (from dinner to breakfast the next day) to a longer fasting window, you may lose weight simply because you stopped eating earlier then you normally would.
Improve Heart Health
There's a number of studies on the health benefits of intermittent fasting. Many of them report improvements in the associated risk factors for heart disease. While there are few conclusive studies with humans, there are a number of animal studies which show possible positive signs. In particular, these studies have shown improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, inflammation, and blood sugar.
Extend Your Life Expectancy
Before you start restricting your eating to only a few hours a day in order to live longer, you should know the studies about increasing life expectancy were done with rats. However, the results were really exciting, as these studies showed rats who fasted lived longer than those who did not. This wasn't a drastic shift in fasting either. It was shown to improve life expectancy in rats who even fasted alternate days of the week.
Simply put, calorie restriction reduces stress on your body by not having you fire up your digestive system, and in turn, may help you live longer as a result.
Improve Cognitive Function
A tangible, yet somewhat anecdotal, benefit of intermittent fasting is improved brain function. Many people who start fasting report feeling like they have a "clear mind" and "better focus."
Believe it or not, there is plenty of evidence to support this. Because of a number of important factors in overall health, like lower insulin levels, reduced inflammation, and reduced oxidative stress, the brain receives benefits. Additionally, there are a few studies which point to fasting inducing neuronal autophagy, a process where brain cells repair themselves, as well as increased levels of protein called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), which helps with learning, memory, and other cognitive functions.
Reduce Oxidative Stress
We're enamored with words like antioxidants and immediately associate them with healthy lifestyles. Have you ever wondered why?
Antioxidants are molecules that prevent oxidation, a process associated with creating free radicals. Free radicals are atoms, particles, or ions which can cause damage or mutations to proteins, membranes, and genes. So in turn, antioxidants can be beneficial to preventing chaos in our bodies by stopping free radicals.
Where does intermittent fasting fit into the equation? Well, periods of fasting have been shown to increase resistance to oxidative stress in the body. Therefore, you get the benefit of antioxidants without having to consume more of them through your diet.
Like many of the studies performed to test the benefits of intermittent fasting, the studies linked to cancer were performed on animals. However, we should not totally discount their findings. These studies have shown that intermittent fasting can slow the growth of tumors, as well as lessening the side effects of chemotherapy. In the latter effect, human patients have confirmed the benefits of intermittent fasting on the side effects of chemotherapy in separate studies.
Obviously, this is an area where we need much more conclusive studies. However, where there's potential for helping prevent cancer, theres hope. That's something worth investigating with more research dollars.
Lower Your Risk for Type Two Diabetes
One of the major benefits of intermittent fasting is its ability to help with type two diabetes prevention. As I'm sure you know, type two diabetes is on the rise at alarming rates in children and adults. In fact, one out of three adults is at risk for this disease.
The good news is that blood sugar levels and insulin levels have been shown to be reduced by intermittent fasting. This could be a game changer for anyone who is at risk for type two diabetes, which is a huge percentage of the population. The best news is that intervention may be possible with only a small modification in eating habits.
Improving your energy by eating less may seem counterintuitive; however, do you remember the last time you went out for a huge lunch during work hours? You probably wanted to crawl under your desk and nap.
Well, digestion is taxing on your body. It requires energy and effort to breakdown your meal. Because of this, it's possible that by eating less, you can gain more expendable energy as a benefit of intermittent fasting.
Think about the opposite of eating a big meal: Your body doesn't have to fire up the digestive system for a massive undertaking because you have consumed a lot of food frequently throughout the day. In addition to that, your digestive system gets a longer break between your last and first meals of the day.
After reading through the above benefits of intermittent fasting, you can see there are many potential and positive side effects. From preventing disease to improved organ function, you have a lot to gain by switching eating habits to intermittent fasting.
While the shift to intermittent fasting may be difficult at first because of habit, try to think about the last time you waited or delayed eating.
When we're in grazing mode, we tend not to enjoy food. When we look forward to eating a meal and actually "feel hungry," we can create a more positive relationship with food. One of the benefits of intermittent fasting is that you feel better both physically and emotionally. If this article inspired you to give intermittent fasting a try, make sure to read up on Intermittent Fasting 101 so you know how to start your new health journey.