(BeWellBuzz) Intermittent fasting, also known as “IF”, is an eating pattern that involves alternating between fasting and non-fasting. The most obvious benefit of intermittent fasting is calorie restriction, which studies have shown to improve longevity. However, long life is not the only benefit of this way of eating, it also improves overall health and, by extension, the quality of life.
Most popular intermittent fasting is 16/8 scheme. The numbers 16 and 8 stand for the fast and feast durations, so you fast for 16 hours and feast for 8. Most opt to break the fast at 12:00PM and eat until 8:00PM, but you can move the eight hour window to better fit your lifestyle. The key is to be consistent, so if you pick 12:00PM – 8:00PM, stick with it daily.
Studies link caloric restriction to increased longevity
Over the years, several scientific studies have proven that reduced caloric intake increases longevity in animals. In one such study, scientists found that rodents lived for almost twice, as long when their food intake was reduced severly. Another elaborate study involving rhesus monkeys, which are closely related to humans, reveals that reduced caloric intake improved resistance to cancer, age-related decline in cognitive abilities, and heart disease besides increasing longevity.
Before we look into some of the most important benefits of intermittent fasting, it is necessary that we get past some of the common myths surrounding it once and for all.
What is not true about intermittent fasting?
- It entails several days of fasting at one go
Many fear intermittent fasting involves going without sustenance or food for several days at a stretch. This fear is baseless. Intermittent fasting, at the most, involves a fasting period of 24 hours, during which you can have one main meal. If this appears challenging to you, you can adopt an intermittent fasting protocol that involves shorter fasting period.
- It is just a fad and its benefits are not scientifically proven
Above, we saw a couple of scientific studies that support the positive claims made by the proponents of intermittent fasting. We will see results of more scientific studies later when we discuss the benefits of intermittent fasting. So, the claim that benefits of intermittent fasting are not backed by scientific studies is wrong and baseless.
As far as consigning intermittent fasting to ‘just-another-new-fad’ list goes, the following news, published on several websites, should end the debate permanently: NASA has revealed that it is contemplating exploring fasting as a means for improving the cognitive functioning of its pilots.
- You should not exercise during the fasting period of an intermittent fasting program
Counterintuitive as it may appear, moderate exercise for 40 to 50 minutes accentuate the benefits of intermittent fasting.
With common myths explored, let us now take a look at it’s the many benefits of intermittent fasting:
Benefits of intermittent fasting
1. Weight loss
As you may know, glucose, or sugar in the blood, is the fuel source of our body. However, during fasting state, when glucose is not available, the body gets fuel by burning fat. This, needless to say, promotes weight loss.
It is necessary to understand that the short periods of fasting do not involve any breakdown of muscle tissue. Contrary to it, the muscle-molding hormone is produced in greater amounts during a fasting state. So, you stand to gain more benefits from a strength training exercise program if you exercise during your fasting state. Similarly, weight loss enthusiasts can increase their body’s fat-burning potential by doing moderate cardio exercise during fasting periods.
A Note: If you are new to intermittent fasting, you are more likely to binge on high-caloric food during the eating period following a fasting period. While the tendency to binge after the end of a fasting period is natural, the pattern can be counterproductive. Mindful eating during your eating period can help you curb your binging tendencies, allowing you to get the maximum benefit from your intermittent program. Mindful eating, in short, entails following components: knowing that you have the power to choose the type of food you want to eat, exercising this power all the time, valuing quality over quantity, eating slowly and becoming aware of the sensual capacity of food, and becoming aware of your personal triggers for mindless eating.
Moderate exercise, strength training, cardio, or a combination of both, for reasonable duration – 40 to 60 minutes – during fasting state is safe and beneficial but not intense exercising or exercising for extremely long duration.
2. Prevents Cancer
According to the research conducted by the Mount Sinai hospital, Chicago, the University of Southern California, and the University of California at Berkeley, the act of fasting may kill cancer cells as well as precancerous cells – cells that lead to cancer.
During the fasting state, the cancer and precancerous cells are not able to get the fuel they require to grow and survive – glucose. Fasting, it is believed, starves cancer and precancerous cells to death.
3. Increases longevity and protects against neurodegenerative diseases
According to the National Institute on Aging, fasting promotes neutral activity in the brain that improves our response to degeneration from aging and stroke. A few studies have also hinted that ketones – chemical compounds formed when the body needs to burn fat – produced during fasting may reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as modern autism, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s.
Warning: Intermittent fasting is recommended to healthy adults. It is always best to consult your doctor before starting on intermittent fasting. Do not adopt an intermittent fasting program if you have health problems, such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, or if you are pregnant.