The “Fast” Way to Better Health
Traditional weight loss diets have historically followed a few basic rules:
- Limit portion sizes to reduce calories.
- Space your meals evenly throughout the day to prevent hunger.
- Always eat breakfast.
But recently these time-honored concepts have been turned head-over-heels by a radical new approach to eating…where you may actually skip breakfast, or not eat at all for an entire day or longer (!)
What’s exciting is this technique has allowed many people to lose weight successfully where conventional diet programs have failed. It has also enabled many people to reverse type II diabetes.
We’re talking about “intermittent fasting”.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
The concept is simple.
Rather than eating three or more meals spaced out during your waking hours, you limit your meals to specific parts of the day (or even specific days of the week).
Following are three common approaches to intermittent fasting:
- 16-8: with this plan you restrict your meals to an 8-hour period during the day and fast for the remaining 16 hours. The most common way to accomplish this is to skip breakfast and fast from 8 p.m. until noon the next day.
- 24-hour fast: on this plan, during certain days of the week you eat nothing for 24 hours, and then eat normally on non-fasting days.
- 5-2: with this approach, you consume only 500-600 calories per day for two days (not consecutive) and eat normally during the remaining days of the week.
But these are just a few examples. There are myriad options, with different approaches to fasting working for different people. What is most effective for you will depend upon your goals, your physiology, and your lifestyle.
Regardless of the approach you choose, when fasting you’ll want to consume plenty of fluids, but only zero-calorie beverages like coffee, tea, and water. Whether or not zero-calorie sweeteners (like Splenda) are OK depends on which expert you ask. Some say zero-calorie sweeteners are OK; others say that even tasting something sweet can trigger the release of insulin (which is the opposite of what you want while fasting).
Why Does It Work?
To understand why intermittent fasting works, we actually have to take a look at how our hunter-gatherer ancestors lived.
The idea of three meals a day didn’t exist back then. Our early ancestors ate when they could find food…and then they had to wait until they found more food to eat again.
Believe it or not, your body is genetically built for a “feast or famine” kind of existence. It responds really well to short “fasts” by doing the following:
- HGH (human growth hormone) levels increase.
- Insulin levels drop and insulin sensitivity improves.
- Cell repair begins.
- Longevity and disease prevention genes are turned on.
These changes have a significant impact on body composition. Specifically, when in a fasted state, your body will have an easier time metabolizing stored fat, and it will be easier to build and maintain lean muscle.
In other words, intermittent fasting kind of tricks your body into burning fat.
Also, if you stick to a normal diet during your eating windows (rather than trying to compensate for the meals you didn’t eat) you’ll consume fewer calories on a daily and weekly basis. Furthermore, if you stick to a Keto diet during your eating windows, benefits will be amplified even further.
The bottom line:
Fewer calories consumed + more fat burned = weight loss.
Other Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Aside from weight loss, intermittent fasting has been linked to numerous health benefits including:
- Reduced incidence of type 2 diabetes (and reversal of the disease for patients who already have it).
- Improved cardiovascular health (including a healthier lipid profile).
- Less systemic inflammation (and lower risk factors for disease and illness as a result).
- Reduced cancer risk.
- Improved brain health (thanks to increased BDNF hormone production and nerve cell growth).
- Increased autophagy (which is how your body cleans out damaged cells to make way for newer, healthier ones).
Should You Try It?
If you have failed to lose weight with traditional diets, or you just want to be healthier, you might want to give intermittent fasting a try. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you do…
First…always consult with a doctor before making major changes to your diet. Intermittent fasting is generally safe, but you may have specific issues that make other diets a better choice.
Try the 16:8 plan to start. It’s the easiest plan for most people to follow when they’re new to fasting. In fact, many people aren’t natural breakfast eaters anyway. And then depending on how the 16:8 plan works out, try other plans to see what yields the best results for you.
Remember to maintain your fluid consumption during your fasting periods. You’d be surprised how much liquid you get from the food you eat. When fasting, it’s important to compensate with plenty of zero-calorie fluids.
Don’t overeat during your non-fasting periods. Just eat healthy, reasonably portioned meals.
Want to know more? We often recommend “The Complete Guide to Fasting” by Dr. Jason Fung for those who want to delve more deeply into this topic.
Or give us a call. We can be reached at 800-859-7511 or use our contact form to set up your free 30-minute consultation.