The Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Rather than eating three square meals a day, you should consider an eating schedule that revolves around periodic fasting. Why? Because fasting is linked to a decreased risk for diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. Not only that, but it’s also an excellent way to fight obesity, which as you may know, is a huge problem in the United States. Intermittent fasting, combined with regular exercise, will allow you to live a longer, happier, and healthier life.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a type of fasting that cycles between periods of fasting and non-fasting. Unlike traditional forms of fasting, which often require the individual to go days to weeks without eating, intermittent fasting has specific periods when you’re allowed to eat, and specific periods when you aren’t. Basically, it requires that you set an eight hour “window” each day for eating.
Here’s an example of what intermittent fasting might look like on a day-to-day basis:
- Wake up at 8 A.M.
- Skip breakfast
- Eating window from 1 P.M. to 9 P.M. (the eight-hour non-fasting window)
- Go to sleep at midnight
- No eating again until 1 P.M. the next day
- Continue cycle
In a nutshell, you will have an eight hour window each day in which you’re allowed to eat. Before and after this window, you’re not allowed to eat. Pretty simple, wouldn’t you agree? You might be thinking, “This actually sounds like quite a challenge!” It’s easier than you think. You see, since you’ll be sleeping for eight of the 16 hours you’ll be fasting, 50% of your hunger feelings will be gone (since you won’t be awake to experience them).
Basically, you’ll only need to put up with eight hours of those hunger feelings each day. And after a while, your metabolism will slow down and you won’t feel nearly as hungry as you did when you first started. This is actually a friendlier version of traditional fasting than can offer just as much, if not more, of the benefits.
Fasting Decreases Susceptibility to Diabetes
According to this 2012 article published in Scientific American, intermittent fasting can reduce your chances of getting diabetes significantly. The article mentioned a mouse study that took place in 2003 by a researcher named Mark Mattson. He, along with his team at the National Institute of Aging, set up two groups of mice: one group would serve as the “control” group and be allowed to eat as much as they wanted.
The second group would have their calories restricted. At first glance, it might seem like the mice who virtually starved would be less healthy than the mice who ate as much as they wanted. But actually, the opposite happened – the mice that were on the verge of starvation were actually much healthier.
They had more energy, their exterior appearance was cleaner, and more importantly, had lower levels of insulin and glucose in the blood (suggesting that the risk of diabetes was dramatically decreased). These same types of studies have been conducted on all types of animals – from primates to household pets – and all of them show similar promise. Mattson, who has more than 700 scientific papers published under his name, concludes that there’s no reason why humans can’t experience the same benefits.
Fasting Gives You More Energy
Have you ever eaten a huge meal only to feel extremely tired afterwards? Well, this was no accident. The body expends a lot of energy digesting food, and because of this, you’ll often feel lethargic and tired after a big meal. Also, as something hardwired in our DNA, the body will activate various cellular pathways specifically designed to give us more energy when there’s a lack of food available. So essentially, fasting can be an effective way of “tricking” your body into giving you more energy.
Fasting Decreases Your Chances of Becoming Obese
Few can argue that obesity is a huge issue in the United States. But intermittent fasting can change that. Remember that the “three meals per day” mindset is something that we as humans came up with, but this doesn’t necessarily make it an optimal eating pattern. Eating less will decrease your chances of obesity, which in turn, will prevent or prolong things like heart disease and stroke. And since fasting will make you feel less lethargic, you’ll feel more inclined to go out and do something physical.
It Becomes Easier Over Time
If you’re someone who’s guilty of eating more than you need to, you’ll probably have some trouble fasting – at least in the beginning. But you have to give your body time to alter its metabolism. At first, you’re probably going to experience many cravings (which is completely normal).
The best way to avoid succumbing to a juicy desert would be to find some sort of distraction (like exercise, a support group, or something else that you enjoy doing). After 30 to 60 days, you’ll find that these cravings will become less intense, at which time you can then adapt this new eating pattern forever and experience all of the wonderful health benefits listed above.