You’ve probably heard about Intermittent Fasting (IF) – there are a few variations going around like the 5:2 diet, the 4:3 version, or just plain old fasting, anyway, it’s been around for a while and I’ve got people wondering whether it works, whether its safe, and whether they should try it.
Usually, as a scientist and generally sensible bugger I err on the side of caution, I look at the pros and cons and present the whole story – which usually results in an answer like “well, you could try it, it works for some and not for all, and here are the risks involved…”.
Not this time! I just flat-out support IF and really suggest you give it a try! Yep, I’ve spent a long time researching this topic over a few years now, and yep there are internet BS artists out there trying to take your money for fancy programs who will overstate the impact of IF, but I’m saying that it’s worth a try. I’ve read tons and tons of written pieces from people who have had remarkable success with IF, and I’m yet to find any scientific evidence of harmful effects. If I was a type II diabetic I’d probably be careful and certainly talk to my doctor about it, but even doctors are at the point where they’ll give different ideas a go to get our OBESE population lean again. Anyway – I’ve got a list here of 8 great reasons to try Intermittent Fasting:
1: Fasting helps with fat loss. It’s not just because you are missing a meal and therefore consuming less calories, it’s mostly because a long period without food sees the body switch from burning sugars and glucose into accessing fat stores. Your body will always burn up carbohydrate first, it’s just how body cells work. Given time, you’ll start to access those fat cells and the energy will be released. The numbers people out there will probably claim that missing say 2 meals each week will simply reduce total calorie intake therefore helping weight loss, I say it’s got more to do with allowing our body to burn up the free sugars floating in the blood stream and thereby accessing fat stores.
2: Fasting improves insulin sensitivity. What this means is that your body gets better at using the insulin when it’s released therefore clearing out the blood sugar and putting it into muscle cells and other cells to get used up. If you are always eating carbohydrate, and you therefore have blood sugar levels up often, your body gets used to the insulin that is around, and that’s not good because it means more is needed to do the same job. What you do want is a nice efficient system that releases the right amount of insulin when required, and does the job required. Obese people are usually insulin resistant, fasting would help them to improve blood sugar levels and then obviously help the body to get into some fat burning instead, clearly helpful!!!
3: Rests the digestive tract. This is good. Our digestive tract was designed for our hunter gatherer days when we didn’t eat all the time. Colon cancer didn’t exist, nor did obesity. Our digestive tract needs a rest, that way the body can clear out the toxins in there, allow our body to spend energy doing other things, which can lead to improvements in skin (toxins have been removed), as well as a host of other benefits. Many health leaders in the world will promote fasting and resting the digestive tract.
4: Improves hunger management. If you are eating every 4 hours of the day, you probably aren’t really listening to your body’s messages that well. Sometimes you just need a drink of water, sometimes you are just craving sugar because you are so used to eating sugar. Our bodies are quite fine for periods without food, and our society now has a habit of panicking when not eating all the time. Real hunger kicks in after about 16 hours or so, when we had been stalking our prey for a day in the wild! Missing breakfast or lunch a couple of days per week will teach you that life goes on, you can still manage, your brain will access energy and you’ll manage.
5: Improves immune function. Animals when sick will avoid food so that their body can focus on getting well, not using up energy on digestion. Long term advocates of fasting will almost always claim better health, or should I say lack of illness. Reducing inflammation has been reported as a by-product too.
6: Spiritual! Many spiritual processes have used fasting as a method of clearing the head, getting into a better state, and enjoying some special time. I’m not going to discuss this much, I’d suggest you do your own research on this, but suffice to say that fasting has got some high powered support!
7: Increase in HGH (Human Growth Hormone). HGH helps us to build and maintain muscle, as well as burn fat. That’s why it’s been used as an athletic aid for a long time. It’s naturally occurring, and the 2 best ways I’ve found to boost it are through Fasting and High Intensity Interval Training.
8: Brain Function. Yep, fasting has been shown and heavily reported to improve brain function.
How do you do it?? 16 hours or more is what’s needed, and you don’t want to do it every day otherwise your body will adjust and down regulate the basal metabolic rate, not good. My recommendation is to simply do the following:
1 – once or twice per week, no more, only have green tea, or water, or black coffee up until 10am, then have a high protein snack as your first food. Avoid all carbohydrates until at least 1pm on these days.
2 – on most other days focus on high protein foods at breakfast, and low Glycaemic Index carbohydrates after that. I personally will have an omelette for breakfast. What I’ll do from now on is have 1 day off from breakfast to allow my body to access fat stores and also for the mental clarity it provides. If it gives me a half day of high powered thinking, I’m in.
Hope you enjoyed the read and please feel free to ask questions.
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