The Advantages of Using Intermittent Fasting / Feeding (IF)
Many in the mainstream hear the word “fast” and immediately think “starvation”. Heck, I used to think that way too until I started to dig deeper and understand more about how the body works (and was designed to survive all this time).
Nowadays we are sold on the idea that we need to eat more often in order to have a faster metabolism, but as disputed in the past articles we know that is not true. So that means that there can be other ways, and this is where “IF” comes into play. For those that may not be familiar to the term, “IF” just taking “intermittent” times of “fasting/feeding” and working them into your lifestyle, which has many benefits as you will see below…but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Living Longer by Eating Less
Scientists have known since the 1930s there was only one real proven way in which you can extend the lifespan of an animal in laboratory conditions (up to 30-40% longer). That way was through reducing the daily calorie intake dramatically (up to 40%) compared to others fed at the normal calorie level. This is known as calorie restriction (or CR for short)*.
*Editor Update: New CR study results (2012) casts doubt on guaranteed longevity benefits and is discussed in more detail here.
The CR groups were noted to have decreases in blood pressure, fasting insulin, inflammation, triglycerides, total cholesterol, and body mass. All markers to say that the aging process is slowed down including more protection at the cell level against diseases.
Unfortunately there is also downsides to the CR approach including loss of lean muscle (and getting really skinny), loss of energy, being hungry, loss of mental focus and well-being, increases in anxiety/depression/irritability, and just nothing that any of us would really want to go through.
So it seems the old sarcastic line is true, “Calorie Restriction is a great way to live a long and miserable life!“. Luckily there does appear to be another option.
Intermittent Fasting / Feeding
Later on it was discovered that another protocol involving fasting/feeding reduced calories every other day could be used to mimic the health benefits seen in a fulltime CR approach. There was also seen an added feature of lean body maintenance while lowered fat mass (vs more bodyweight reduction in CR). These alternating days is also known as “Intermittent Fasting” and/or “Intermittent Feeding” (“IF” for short).
Since May 2003 we have experimented with alternate day calorie restriction, one day consuming 20-50% of estimated daily caloric requirement and the next day ad lib eating, and have observed health benefits starting in as little as two weeks, in insulin resistance, asthma, seasonal allergies, infectious diseases of viral, bacterial and fungal origin (viral URI, recurrent bacterial tonsillitis, chronic sinusitis, periodontal disease), autoimmune disorder (rheumatoid arthritis), osteoarthritis, symptoms due to CNS inflammatory lesions (Tourette’s, Meniere’s) cardiac arrhythmias (PVCs, atrial fibrillation), menopause related hot flashes. We hypothesize that other many conditions would be delayed, prevented or improved, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, brain injury due to thrombotic stroke atherosclerosis, NIDDM, congestive heart failure.
Source: The effect on health of alternate day calorie restriction: eating less and more than needed on alternate days prolongs life. Johnson JB, Laub DR, John S. Med Hypotheses. 2006;67(2):209-11.
The extent of how all the systems in CR and IF work is still a mystery to many researchers. It also appears that while they both seem to share health benefits, the way in which they are done and systems involved can vary (as seen with the big difference in body mass).
From what I have read/seen so far on reduced calorie intake and IF research (*studies listed at end), the conclusion is that using short-term fasting may be effective when it comes to:
- Reducing blood glucose and insulin levels (improving the state of the overall glucose metabolism)
- Increasing fatty acid oxidation with increased FFAs (through increasing lipolysis hormones GH, glucagon and adrenaline)
- Sparing and preserving muscle tissue (lean mass)
- Increasing various health factors (lower inflammation, lower blood pressure, reduced oxidative stress, increased protection against neuro-degenerative diseases, and more)
- Keeping the metabolism strong/healthy
But that is just the “science-y” aspect of it, as there are even more “lifestyle” benefits just as important to possibly come.
Emotional Freedom from Obsessive and Mindless Eating
The biggest benefit that many embrace once they begin their own IF eating lifestyle is the sense of freedom from eating never experienced before. Most people are mindlessly being slaves to the clock, eating specific times, eating all day long, and constantly worrying about food.
It can be a breath of fresh air to just mentally unburden yourself from the constant stress of food worries. This is what happens when you can accept that something so simple and yet so natural can work for you.
“To lengthen thy Life, lessen thy meals.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
“Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.” ~ Mark Twain
This is not to be confused with people who hardly ever eat, such as anorexics or any other eating “disorders”. Instead, IF becomes a freeing yet accepting choice on more natural terms which you eat. This is “mindful” eating, eating to enjoy and eating when it feels right by listening to your body.
With all the “fasting” talk with IF it is important to remember that there is nothing wrong with eating. However many people obsess over it way too much nowadays and create all these eating disorders from their own sense of worry and compulsion. Time to break free from those burdens and enjoy life the way it was meant to be (on your own terms).
No More Calorie Counting Again
People are way too focused on calories all day long. Diets are the ones forcing people into this obsessive compulsive action. Of course knowing that eating less is the way to lose weight (calorie deficit) is key, but should you have to waste mental energy worrying about the calorie load of 5 almonds and a carrot stick?
I know you don’t want to live your life this way, and you shouldn’t have to. The body really doesn’t care so much about calories per meal or hour, it thinks in longer terms such as days and weeks. This means even if you overeat calorie wise one day, by using something simple (like IF) to lower calories the next, you can help balance the overall calorie equation.
Using IF you can easily lead a life that will requires NO calorie counting…and who wouldn’t want that?
It is Flexible to React to Anything that Comes Up
Life is always changing (as it should), so your healthy lifestyle plan should be able to change with it. Flexibility that is based on your goals, activity, daily work schedule, business travel schedule and even social/family events.
This is where most diets fail. They are too strict, inflexible, and most people just give up on them once it becomes too hard to maintain with an ever changing lifestyle. What good is a diet if you can’t stay with it for long-term results?
IF on the other hand is flexible, not a diet set in stone (heck it’s not even a “diet” by the modern sense), and you have the power to make it work for you each and every day. No matter what happens in life, you can always use IF to fit into your schedule however you see fit. You have the power and control, something all these other modern diets take away and never give you back.
Reset your Natural Cravings
Wouldn’t you like to have a renewed appreciation for good tasting foods again? Fruit never tastes so good like when it’s the first thing you have to eat that day. Your taste buds become more receptive to the natural flavors that we were meant to live on.
Instead of craving soda or candy (loaded with processed sugar), you will crave and enjoy natural flavors in fruits, vegetables and healthy fats and protein. The body knows what it needs, if we only give it time to take a break, reset and then really listen.
Ditch Your Unhealthy Cravings
“(on water fasting) ‘You re-tune the body, suppress insulin secretion, reduce the taste for sugar, so sugar becomes something you’re less fond of taking,’ Neufeld says. Eventually the body burns up stored sugars, or glycogen, so less insulin is needed to help the body digest food. That gives the pancreas a rest. On juice diets recommended by some spas, you may lose weight, but your digestive system doesn’t get that rest.”
Source: “Retune The Body With A Partial Fast”; by Patti Neighmond; National Public Radio (NPR) online; November 21, 2007
More Mental Clarity and Concentration
This is the biggest (pleasant) unexpected surprise that you may notice all day long. To have more energy, more mental clarity, more creativity, more focus and just a better mood all day long.
Compare this to most people who probably eat a huge breakfast (and then lunch), are groggy, have less focus, need to snack in fear of a blood sugar crash, overload on stimulants and just feel like taking a nap most of the day.
It is no wonder most of society is full of walking zombies looking for the next shot of energy. All you do is have to look at the ever increasing coffee and energy drink sales to back that up. Time to break that cycle and have more natural energy that lasts. IF can help you get there.
Performance levels are still High (if not Higher)
Most people (including myself) wouldn’t have kept using IF if we had seen a drop in performance during exercise, work or other activities. So you can still go play tennis, hike, bike, lift weights or whatever you enjoy and should not see negative effects with IF (assuming activities are also not excessive).
As long as you are still eating to recover overall (as well as focusing on other recovery parts of your lifestyle such as getting sleep), IF should not interfere with your daily activities. In fact, many have reported increased performance /endurance when exercising/active in a fasted state!
Since your digestive system is not demanding blood flow and energy during IF, that can go to other parts of your body (like your muscles). You may feel lighter, faster, and more explosive while fasted.
It Can Save You Money….Part I
Even though you still eat plenty of food, you will most likely still tend to spend less overall. Take into consideration that most people are usually not cooking at home all day, so they spend more money buying their multiple meals/bars/ shakes or food from other vendors.
By eating less often (but still eating enough calories), you will be less forced to spend your hard earned money on snacks and other quick meals that you don’t really need.
Additionally, with a cleaned up digestive system and improved nutrient utilization/absorption (more efficient), it seems that many are reporting they require fewer calories to maintain their bodyweight/health/performance. After all, the body is only concerned with what it can absorb and utilize as raw materials (such as amino acids) and not so much the total calorie content you put into your stomach.
It Can Save You Money….Part II
You can also save money just by staying healthy! A much overlooked but very important factor. With the ever-rising costs of health care and medical treatments (including drugs), your best bet is to not get sick in the first place.
Using IF, you can benefit from the ongoing research that shows how short periods of fasting may help decrease the risk factors for diseases (fasting insulin, inflammation) and increase the protective response of cells (against oxidation, free radicals and other stressors).
All in all a body that is healthier, has stronger defenses at the cellular level, recycles and rebuilds proteins, less stress on the immune system and improved quality of life with aging. Sounds like a health plan worth choosing!
Intermittent Fasting Better for Cancer Prevention?
“The researchers conducted several trials with a control group of mice that ate “ad lib,” or freely. They compared the control group with mice that ate 5 percent fewer calories but were fed three times a week with mice that were given 33 percent fewer calories.
As expected, the researchers found that mice on the 33 percent reduced calorie diet exhibited significantly decreased proliferation rates for skin, breast and T (lymphocyte) cells. The greatest effect was seen after one month on the regimen, when proliferation of skin cells registered only 61 percent of that for mice fed freely.
The surprising finding came with the results of the more modest 5 percent reduced calorie diet that was fed intermittently. Mice in this group had skin cell division rates that were 81 percent of those for mice fed freely.
Fasting every other day may decrease the chances of breast cancer the most. In all cases, division rates for breast cells were reduced the most. Mice with the lowest calorie diet had breast cell proliferation results that were only 11 percent of those for the control group mice, and mice fed intermittently had results that were 37 percent of those for the control group.”
Source: “Every Other Day Fasting May Reduce Cancer Risk”; American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine online; 2005-03-23
A Realistic Solution for (most) Anyone
Now you can see why IF is such an exciting option for anyone to try. Why would anyone really want something complicated back into their life with eating, when something so simple could work? A solution that is flexible enough to fit practically any lifestyle demands, while also giving something other diets do not…an enjoyability that can be maintained for a lifetime. That is where lasting results really come from.
So whether you use an alternate day/daily IF approach (like detailed in the 2 Meal Solution) or just like an occasional longer fasts (such as 24-32 hours), it is important to find what works for you.
You can keep believing in the same mainstream ideas that may be keeping you from getting better results, or you can give your body the natural stimulus it needs to start healing and burning more stored fat. Oh yeah…you can get back to having a fun eating experience and social life too! As life is about living!
*Disclaimer: IF is meant for healthy individuals and may not be suitable for everyone. If you have any concerns you should talk with your physician before attempting. Use at your own risk.
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