We have heard a lot about fasting and how it has an impact on our health. There are definitely some nay sayers out there, but we think that may be a result of a whole lot of misinformation. Come to find out that when it’s done right, fasting can have some amazing health benefits.
For those that may not be familiar to the term, intermittent fasting is just taking “intermittent” times of fasting (no food) and working them into your lifestyle. This can be either daily or a couple times a week.
The most accurate definition is the simplest and easiest one to understand- Intermittent fasting, or IF, is simply the alternation of intervals (intermittent) of not eating (fasting) with times where you are allowed to eat.
Or, if you choose to use IF parlance, you will alternate a fasting period with a feeding window, or time frame. The length of each will be varied depending on which type of the IF programming you select — and there are several to choose from, but all have very similar benefits.
Here’s a quick video that explains some of the benefits of intermittent fasting…
Now read the article below for an in depth look at the health benefits of this radical meal plan.
Fasting for your health’s sake never seemed smart to me. Why starve for a day or so in the interests of detoxing, for instance, when there’s no real evidence that it works? Then there’s those sinking blood sugar levels – a cause of grumpiness, energy dips and wavering concentration.
But what if short regular bursts of fasting could do us some good in other ways – by shoring up our defenses against heart disease, diabetes or Alzheimer’s? Fasting might carry the taint of fringe medicine but it’s also the subject of serious research, with some scientists suggesting it may reduce chronic disease, a theory stemming from studies that underfeeding leads to a longer life – at least if you’re a rat.
“We forget that three meals a day with snacks in between hasn’t exactly been the norm throughout human history..”
In the US, researchers at the National Institute on Ageing in Baltimore have found that restricting food – again in rats – is good for their brain cells. It helps boost levels of a substance called BDNF – short for brain-derived neurotropic factor – thought to help protect human brains from Alzheimer’s disease. (Exercise may have the same effect too – but that’s another story).
Meanwhile at the University of Adelaide’s Discipline of Medicine, research scientist Leonie Heilbronn is trying to find out if fasting every other day can help reduce cardiovascular disease in humans. The story so far is that intermittent fasting, as it’s known, lowers levels of cholesterol and other blood fats called triglycerides. What Associate Professor Heilbronn wants to nail down is what causes this effect – is it the fasting itself or any weight loss resulting from it?
“Studies are showing that fasting has health benefits in humans, but we also need to find out if people can actually do it – some people can get very grumpy,” says Heilbronn who, as her own guinea pig in a previous study, tried fasting herself. While she coped, some found it challenging.
What this first part of the article is saying is that there are proven benefits and studies have shown the exact why and how- however, the regime can make some people ‘grumpy’ or moody. We think that’s a likely side effect for many folks, but it should pass. Our suggestion for the down feeling is to stay focused on the reasons you decided to fast to begin with. Try doing some calming exercises like yoga or tai chi to center yourself and take your mind off of your hunger.
In her study, fasting means eating just one meal a day – an early breakfast before 8am. These fasting days alternate with days of eating normal meals. If this kind of food restriction seems extreme, it’s because we forget that three meals a day with snacks in between hasn’t exactly been the norm throughout human history, especially for our hunter gatherer ancestors.
“We’re more geared for feasting and famine,” says Heilbronn.
Nor was it unusual – and still isn’t in some communities –for people following religious calendars to fast or at least eat less at certain times of the year.
So could old fashioned fasting turn out to be an antidote to modern over eating?
It wouldn’t surprise Katherine Samaras, head of Diabetes and Obesity Clinical Studies at Sydney’s Garvin Institute of Medical Research.
What they are saying here is that fasting isn’t that ‘weird’ if you think about it. Our ancestors were hunters and gathers- they didn’t have three square meals a day from a drive-thru like we do now. Fasting also has some deep roots in religious communities…
Are we the ‘weird’ ones now for modernizing meal schedules like we have?
“There’s evidence that people who follow seasonal fasting, such as that embedded in the older faiths, live longer –
this is after controlling for other factors like alcohol consumption, smoking and other lifestyle factors,” she says.
Still, it’s early days with this research and we’re a long way off prescribing regular fasting for anyone for the sake of their heart or brain but it does give food for thought – or should that be less food for thought?
“There are a number of important messages we can take from these research findings,” says Associate Professor Samaras. “The first is that we shouldn’t chronically overeat, even if we are maintaining a healthy weight. The second is that it’s not unreasonable to periodically eat a bit lighter than usual.
“The third and perhaps most important is that studies in humans suggest that the health benefits of fasting were obtained by light, restricted eating, and not the sort of faddish longer term fasts of three days or more which can result in dangerous shifts in blood minerals and excessive loss of muscle mass.”
Most people could stand to eat less, but is fasting right for everyone? Maybe…What do you think?
My Top 3 Intermittent Fast Programs
1) Eat Stop Eat