Intermittent Fasting: 13 Amazing Benefits and a Getting Started Guide

Would you be interested to know that it is possible to gain the benefits of fasting? And, achieve it without doing the often stressful other forms of fasting? Enter intermittent fasting (IF), the ideal way to fast without making yourself miserable in the process.

IF is the process of cycling between eating and not eating. To properly do this fast, dieters consume all foods within a six- to twelve-hour period. Many people find this process helps them lose unwanted pounds. Indeed, they consider it more of a lifestyle than a diet plan.

There are several different methods you can fast intermittently. The first one is the 5:2 method. Using this formula, you will eat as you usually would for five days out of a week. You will drastically restrict your caloric intake to between 500 and 600 calories for two out of seven days.

The most common intermittent fasting (IF) method is the 16:8 or the 18:6 process. Using this formula, you will eat all your calories for the day within a six- to eight-hour period. Then, you fast for the remaining 14 to 16 hours. You can use this method daily or a couple of times per week.

13 Amazing Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

1. Boost Brain Function and Physical Health

You can dramatically boost the health of your brain and body by abstaining from food for a set time each day.

Before the Industrial Revolution, food was neither mass-produced nor easily accessible. Thus, human beings did not consume as much food.

In most situations, the family’s women spent vast amounts of time each day in the kitchen or the garden. There, they preserved and prepared food for the household. The menfolk spent the day in the fields tending the crops and the flocks. The American lifestyle has since changed from that of a farming standard to a consumer standard. And today, pre-packaged meals are the norm.

We no longer spend that time burning calories working in the garden or cooking meals. Instead, we are sitting at a desk, on a bus or train, in the driver’s seat of a car, or behind a counter or register all day. The human body is not meant to be sedentary and will eventually begin to break down dramatically if enough movement fails to take place.

The toxins we consume

The additives, colorants, and artificial ingredients in most prepared foods are not suitable for you. And, they only add to the toxic load your body is being forced to carry. IF helps compensate for these weaknesses of the American lifestyle and can bring balance back to your physical systems.

2. Lose that Weight!

Finding ways to lower hunger while still burning calories is a win-win situation for those who are looking for ways to remove extra padding from around their middles. According to a study done by the University of Alabama at Birmingham, curbing the appetite allows the body to dip into the fat reserves to provide energy rather than using the additional calories converted into fat if they are not burned off.

In the study, researchers assigned 11 overweight adults one of two eating schedules for four days before switching to the other. These schedules included:

Time-restricted feeding:

Participants ate only between a six-hour window of 8 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Typical American feeding times:

The study allowed eating any time during a 12-hour window between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

After following each regimen for the allotted period, the participants were evaluated in a respiratory chamber for 24 hours to measure the number of calories, fat, carbs, and protein they were burning. The participants also rated themselves on how full or hungry they felt during those three-hour fasting blocks. Blood tests provided an additional layer of information on hunger levels and satiety hormones.

Those who fasted for 18 hours a day and were finished with their meals by 2 p.m. reported lower levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin and higher levels of the “fullness hormone” peptide YY. Those who completed their meals earlier in the day also reported a decreased urge to eat and helped them feel fuller during the rest of the day.

In addition, intermittent fasting appeared to help boost the ability of the body to switch between burning carbs and fat for fuel. This is an important discovery, as people who are obese tend to have difficulty burning fat. The most reported problem was the difficulty of getting the required number of calories each day. Participants reported feeling full during this eating program.

Women and this lifestyle

Women may be able to do a slightly shorter fasting period than men as their bodies burn through fat at a slightly faster rate. As a result, women might have a more difficult time following a more extended fast of more than 16 hours or so, especially if they are pregnant. For most people, it will take about two weeks for the body to adjust to a new eating routine, after which time you should start to see some results.

3. Reverse and Prevent Insulin Sensitivity

Insulin resistance takes place when your body is unable to metabolize glucose properly. Insulin is secreted by the pancreas and allows cells to properly uptake glucose in the bloodstream. Thus, insulin resistance means that the cells cannot properly absorb the glucose, allowing sugar to build up in the blood. When blood levels are higher than ideal yet not high enough to indicate diabetes, the condition is prediabetes.

With a prediabetic individual, the pancreas is producing a massive amount of insulin. That helps to overcome the body’s insulin resistance and ensure that blood sugar levels remain optimal. Over time, the pancreas becomes exhausted and fails to produce the necessary insulin level to keep blood sugar from spiking.

When this occurs, a person is said to have type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance can be prevented and possibly cured using an IF program that helps the body reset itself to a more natural state.

4. Decrease and Prevent Inflammation

inflammation can take many forms, from arthritis to gout to joint pain to mental health problems. Inflammation triggers an increase in white blood cell count and additional substances that the body makes to protect you from infection from foreign organisms.

However, in some cases, the body launches an inflammatory response when there is no foreign invader to fight off. Autoimmune diseases take place when the body starts to attack itself. Arthritis is one of the most common autoimmune diseases and includes rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and gouty arthritis.

Other autoimmune conditions caused by inflammation include osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and multiple sclerosis. Inflammation can either be short-term (as when you get a minor scrape or cut) or long-term (as in autoimmune diseases).

Intermittent fasting can help reduce oxidative stress that can lead to inflammatory conditions by providing a healing environment for the body to repair itself with minimal effort.

5. Boost Heart Health

Following a fasting routine can have beneficial impacts on your heart by reducing your risk of heart disease. Some people follow a strict 24-hour fast one or two times a week. However, it is possible to achieve similar results with the IF method.

Studies on mice seem to reveal that intermittent fasting can have a positive influence on health as well. The 2012 study involved two groups of mice. One group ate all the high-sugar, high-fat foods they wanted to in a 24-hour period; the others were permitted to eat the same foods but only in a restricted eight-hour window. Both groups ended up eating the same number of calories during the test. However, the mice that ate around the clock became overweight and sick, while those whose eating was restricted to the eight-hour window remained healthy.

Another study involving fruit flies that were placed on a time-restricted eating plan had hearts there were 20 to 30 percent younger than fruit fly hearts that ate on a non-restricted diet. Because fruit fly and human hearts are similar in specific ways, the humble little fruit fly can be a key to determining how the strengthen the human heart of those whose hearts are weak using IF.

6. Prevention and Treatment of Cancer

Intermittent fasting can have a positive impact on those who are dealing with cancer. The research appears to suggest that fasting can help fight and prevent cancer by lowering insulin resistance and inflammatory markers. Chronic conditions that increase the risk for cancer, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, can also be improved by IF.

IF works against cancer by making the cells more responsive to chemotherapy while maintaining the integrity of healthy cells. Fasting can also help boost the body’s immune system to overcome a cancer diagnosis.

Autophagy is when old and damaged cells are broken down and replaced with new, healthy cells. The body produces membranes to promote autophagy. These consume old cells and remove any viable molecules to use for energy and building new cells. Lack of autophagy can lead to weight gain, lethargy, increased cholesterol levels, and impaired brain function.

Fasting also helps improve the body’s response to cancer treatment by reducing the impact of side effects, including fatigue, nausea, headaches, and cramps. A study done in 2018 on women found that the participants had a high quality of life in those undergoing treatment for breast cancer or ovarian cancer when using a 60-hour fasting period beginning 36 hours before the start of chemotherapy.

Those who fasted reported a higher tolerance to the treatment, fewer side effects, and higher energy levels than those who did not fast.

7. Anti-aging Benefits

People who have been looking for the secret to prolonging their lives have found intermittent fasting to be a helpful practice to follow. The aging process begins in the integrity of the blood vessels. As people age, the vessels supplying the body’s organs are the most sensitive areas to the degeneration process.

study done on mice who underwent induced starvation revealed that a molecule called beta-hydroxybutyrate was produced. Beta-hydroxybutyrate is a ketone that the liver produces and is an energy source when glucose is not available.

Ketones are more prolifically produced when the body is on a low-carb diet, during fasting, and after extended periods of exercise. This ketone can also promote the division and multiplication of new cells in blood vessel walls that can delay the onset of vascular aging.

8. Enhances Cell, Hormone, and Gene Function

IF positively affects the production of human growth hormone. Human growth hormone (HGH) is a substance that the pituitary gland produces. It helps in the building and maintenance of muscle and the regeneration of all the body’s cells. Human growth hormone increases as much as 500 percent during intermittent fasting, making this an excellent option for those looking to improve muscle tone while losing weight.

HGH is also secreted in response to stress, exercise, and sleep. Our bodies produce more HGH during the night than during the day. Using the practice of IF can help boost the amounts of HGH that the body secretes overall for an increase in youthful looks and vitality. IF can also have a positive impact on genetic expression and can help reset the body’s metabolism and circadian rhythms.

9. Reduction of Oxidative Stress and Inflammation

Oxidative stress is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your body. Free radicals are unstable molecules containing an uneven number of electrons. This allows them to react easily with other molecules, resulting in large chain reactions called oxidation.

On the other hand, antioxidants are molecules that can “donate” an electron to a free radical without becoming unstable themselves. The free radical then does not have to “steal” from other molecules and becomes stabilized.

Oxidation is a normal part of the metabolic process. However, when there is an imbalance between free radical activity and antioxidant activity, damage can occur to many areas of the body, including DNA, proteins, and tissue. IF can reverse the action of free radical damage and restore the body to a more balanced state.

10. Jumpstart Cell Repair and Cleanup

When the body is denied a portion of its daily caloric intake, it makes a switch over to burning fat for fuel and breaking down old or damaged cells in a process known as autophagy. This process helps reduce age-related symptoms and can reduce the risk of developing certain diseases in the future.

When the body consumes its dead or malfunctioning cells, it emerges more robust than it would if it allowed the old cells to remain floating around. IF can also have a positive impact on stem cells, the cells responsible for rebuilding and restoration of the body and its systems.

11. Potential Treatment/Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a debilitating condition affecting nearly six million Americans. Symptoms of this disease include the loss of memory, behavioral changes, and thinking problems. The brain also undergoes physical changes related to the areas responsible for memory and cognitive function. Although drugs are available to help treat the condition, none slow the progression or offer a resolution. However, IF could be a way to help reverse or prevent the disease from occurring in the first place.

12. Extended Lifespan

The possible health benefits of caloric restriction have been studied in depth for years. One theory for the extended lifespan noted that animals fed less than their total daily requirement in calories resulted in reduced age-related deaths in rhesus monkeys at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center. Using caloric restriction also helped delay the onset of age-related diseases. Specifically, it fought cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and atrophy of the brain. This data can potentially benefit human beings as well.

13. Increased Physical Stamina

It can also have a positive impact on your performance as an athlete. In a six-week study, researchers studied the effects of IF on 12 male athletes using the 5:2 method, where the participants ate four days and fasted three days out of seven. At the end of the study, the researchers discovered that the athletes had lower heart rates. The athletes’ bodies were also more energy-efficient and less susceptible to fatigue.

A Beginner’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting

When deciding how to fast, you have the option of choosing between several different options: the 12:12 fast, the 5:2 fast, the Eat-Stop-Eat (ESE) fast, the One-Meal-A-Day (OMAD) fast, and the 16:8 fast.

12:12 Fast

The 12:12 fast is the easiest to follow and is the most gravitated toward by beginners. This fast limits eating time to a 12-hour block, followed by 12 hours of fasting. One of the reasons for the ease of this fast is that a good chunk of the fasting time will be spent sleeping.

5:2 Fasting and ESE

The 5:2 fast is a little different. You will eat within a set period of time for five days out of the week. Plus, you’ll severely limit your calories to 500 – 600 per day for the other two.

Some people like to do 5:2 fast back-to-back days. However, others prefer to allow a day or two in between. Eat-Stop-Eat fasting is when a person abstains from all food for 24 hours once or twice a week. This is an option that most people would need to build up to succeed at it.

OMAD, 16:8 and 18:6 Fasts

The One-Meal-A-Day fast is just as it sounds. You can enjoy your single meal at any time, but make sure it’s as nutrient-dense as possible. The 16:8 fast involves eating all your meals within an eight-hour period and fasting for the remaining 16 hours. A variation to this fast is the 18:6 fast. This program enables you to eat all your meals within a six-hour timeframe and fast for the remaining 18 hours.

Extended Fasting

Only participate in extended fasting under the supervision of a medical professional. The most extended recorded fasting period was over a year at 382 days. And, it showed how the benefits of intermittent or extended fasting could improve and greatly enhance the health of the human body.

Final Thoughts

IF is one of the easiest ways to jumpstart a weight loss program. And it benefits your health in a myriad of ways. The benefits of intermittent fasting are many. They include cancer prevention/treatment, physical endurance, cell rejuvenation, decreased inflammation, and an increase in energy.

Are you evaluating the reasons to and benefits of Intermittent Fasting (IF)?

Perhaps you feel a sense of unease or discomfort at the thought of depriving yourself of food. If you are the type of person who must eat or get “hangry,”  consider the typical 16:8 fast. This means you don’t eat anything from dinner the day before until lunchtime the next morning.

Some people choose to supplement their fast with keto coffee with grass-fed butter and MCT oil. Combining these healthy fats with caffeine will give you a boost of energy without stimulating your digestion. That way, you will still be able to power through your morning. And, you’ll remain productive until it’s time to eat solid food again at lunchtime.

You may drink during fasting. Of course, you should choose either water, tea (no sugar), black coffee, or other unsweetened non-caloric beverages. Don’t add sugar substitutes, either. That’s because the sweet taste will turn on your digestive juices and might negate the benefits of intermittent fasting.

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