People will go to great lengths to lose a little weight. Losing weight and keeping it off isn’t about following a fad diet, it’s about changing your lifestyle to improve your metabolism and control your intake of food in a lasting and consistent manner.
Of course, what you eat isn’t the only factor that goes into weight loss, it’s just as important to stay active and stay positive.
The Wonders of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is the act of restricting your food intake during certain times of the day of days of the week.
Most people do so by eating normally 5 days a week and fasting (eating only about 500-600 calories a day) for two days. This causes the body to burn fat instead of glucose for energy (1).
People who are overweight or obese don’t get that way by eating healthy foods in reasonable portions. Since they typically eat large portions of processed foods, their bodies adapt to burn sugar as their primary source of fuel.
Not only does this down-regulate the enzymes that help their bodies burn fat, but it also encourage glucose to be stored as fat since their calorie intake is astronomically higher than their calorie expenditure (2). These eating habits eventually cause the body to become insulin resistant, leading to complications like diabetes and heart disease (3).
Fasting has many great benefits, but doing it for long periods of time can cause mental confusion and fatigue, which is why experts are recommending a different way to fast on a day-to-day basis.
It’s quite simple: the time of day during which you eat is limited to 8 hours.
If you consider that there’s 24 hours in the day, and you most likely spend 8 hours of your day sleeping, then you simply need to fast for 16 hours. Here’s an example of what this might look like:
- 6am – Wake Up (coffee, tea, water)
- 11am – Apple fruit (optional)
- 12pm or 1pm – Lunch
- 7pm – Dinner (meat and veggies)
- 9pm – Last meal (mostly carbs such as rice, oatmeal and so on…)
For those wondering, eating a fruit like an apple won’t cause your blood sugar levels to spike. Also, eating the majority of your carbs for the day closer to bedtime will help you sleep better.
Intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone, so be sure to consult a nutritionist and general practitioner before giving it a try.
Why it’s Worth Trying
Intermittent fasting helps reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol, fight inflammation, prevent type 2 diabetes, prevent heart disease, and lower the risks of degenerative brain diseases in later life (4).
But that’s not all, fasting has been shown to improve biomarkers of disease, reduce oxidative stress, and preserve learning and memory function (5).
Mark Mattson, senior investigator for the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health explains:
“The one that we’ve studied a lot, and designed experiments to test, is the hypothesis that during the fasting period, cells are under a mild stress,” he says. “And they respond to the stress adaptively by enhancing their ability to cope with stress and, maybe, to resist disease.”
Other studies have shown that intermittent fasting improves glucose sensitivity and promotes weight loss. It can even reverse obesity and metabolic syndrome (6).
“Meal times have more effect on circadian rhythm than dark and light cycles,” theorizes Dr. Satchidananda Panda, an associate professor at the Salk Institute, who oversaw one such study. “And circadian rhythm in turn affects the function of many genes in the body that are known to involve metabolism.”
Working out while fasting can enhance these effects, since the less glucose you have in your body, the more fat it has to burn to supply energy (7). Exercising on an empty stomach also keeps you in fat-burning mode for up to 45 minutes, so it’s great to do before a meal.
Last but not least, intermittent fasting can improve longevity by starving off disease. Studies have shown that reducing typical calorie consumption, usually by 30 to 40 percent, extends life span by a third or more in many animals. Although the results in humans and primates haven’t been so clear-cut, researchers are still enthusiastically exploring the phenomenon.