5 Min Read
How Intermittent Fasting Promotes Wellness and Long-Term Vitality
Have you heard about the latest fad diet? We know it's tough to keep up with what we should and shouldn't eat. There have been some crazy diets in the last century. From the cigarette diet (yeah, that was actually a thing) to the grapefruit and then cabbage diets, they all have one thing in common - they don't work and are impossible to maintain.
Even the old calories in, calories out diet is a recipe for a lifetime of struggle and doesn't really work. Maybe a diet isn't the answer. It does have the word die in the title, after all.
What if we told you that there's a timeless recipe for optimal wellness that has nothing to do with what you eat? This way of eating has been around since the first human walked the earth, and only in the last century has it fallen out of fashion. Today we call it intermittent fasting, and it's becoming popular again.
Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating where a person cycles between periods of eating and fasting. It is not a diet but a way of eating that you already practice. It's called breakfast because it's the meal that breaks your overnight fast. Most people who practice intermittent fasting extend the fast by not eating a few hours before bed and waiting until lunch to eat. Others practice intermittent fasting by choosing a day or two each week to go without food.
The best part of intermittent fasting is that you can but probably still shouldn't eat whatever you want. The trick is to devour the same amount of calories you normally would, just in a 6 to 8-hour window every day. You're not eating less. You simply limit the timeframe for your meals.
What happens when you fast intermittently, and why does it work?
Can you think of any animal other than humans that eats three meals per day? Except for humans and our pets, every creature on this earth is unable to eat on a schedule. Wild animals only eat when food is available through a kill or seasonally.
Our early ancestors only ate after a successful hunt, and it didn't happen all that regularly. Because of the scarcity of food, humans developed the ability to go days or weeks without sustenance.
An interesting physical transformation occurs after a few days without food. Food marketers lead us to believe that if we don't eat regularly, our bodies weaken. In reality, the opposite happens. Our senses become more acute - vision sharpens, the sense of smell heightens, and hearing becomes almost superhuman. The humans who became weak without food are not our ancestors because they starved to death.
Today, many big game hunters fast before venturing out into the wilderness. The increase in awareness makes them more skilled hunters.
Over the last century, food became readily available, 24-hours a day, in every first world country. Today, if we want a pineapple in Chicago with a foot of snow on the ground in January, no problem. How about a nice ribeye or rack of lamb? No need to go hunting, just head to the meat counter at your local grocery store. If you live in America, for most of us, food is almost always within reach.
Not only has continuous access to food made us fat, but it's also made us too comfortable. Most Americans don't know how actual hunger feels. We confuse craving for hunger. If you get headaches and shaky after going a while without food, that's not hunger. It's low blood sugar. Your body is likely addicted to carbs and needs an energy boost.
Everyone feels hunger without food eventually, but not every couple of hours. The next time you feel weak from lack of food, think about what your body wants. Will a few bites of steak satiate your hunger, or do you need a carb fix of bread, sweets, or a glass of juice?
The human body evolved to fast intermittently. Unfortunately, our lifestyle made the need for food less about starvation and more about comfort. It's okay to be hungry. Your body needs it!
At the Cellular Level
When you fast, several things happen at the cellular level that promotes wellness and longevity:
- Repair - Think of cellular repair like taking your car to the shop. As a mechanic can't fix the car while it's cruising down the road, your cells can't repair themselves while working to process nutrients. During a fast, your cells initiate a process where they digest and shed dysfunctional proteins.
- Insulin - When you fast, insulin sensitivity increases, and the amount of insulin in your body drops significantly. A low insulin level allows your body to process stored fat. Type-2 diabetes occurs when your body processes too much insulin for an extended period, and the system shuts down.
- Hormones - If you go to the gym trying to build muscle and lose weight, fasting increases your natural level of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) as much as five times.
- Genetic - Fasting activates genes related to longevity and disease prevention.
Several significant studies in both animals and humans produced results outlining the amazing benefits of intermittent fasting.
As we mentioned earlier, intermittent fasting doesn't involve calorie restriction. You will lose weight and body fat by eating the same food you always have. Improving your quality of food will likely enhance your results. Caloric restriction during intermittent fasting may have a negative effect since your body will transition to storing fat to avoid starvation.
Along with HGH, intermittent fasting also increases the brain hormone BDNF that aids in forming new brain cells. Initial research points to intermittent fasting as a protection against Alzheimer's disease.
Intermittent fasting shows a reduction in several inflammation markers known to cause chronic disease. Fasting reduces bad cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, and insulin resistance; key drivers in heart disease, cancer, and type-2 diabetes.
Studies conducted on rats show intermittent fasting can increase lifespan up to 83% longer. Check out this study of rats who ate every other day! Not only did they outlive the other rats, but they continued to grow for a 75% longer duration.
Keep It Simple
It's no secret that eating healthy is vital for long-term wellness. Every single one of us has tried to diet at some point in our lives, and we mostly failed. A diet is challenging to maintain, requires a lot of planning, and takes incredible willpower at times.
Intermittent fasting is simple! You’re already doing it, so why not do it a bit longer?
Consult your doctor before beginning any diet. Intermittent fasting is not for everyone, especially women who are pregnant or those with eating disorders. This article should not be considered medical advice.