Intermittent fasting is becoming popular and for good reason.
What if I told you that not only what you eat but how often you eat could influence your productivity? What if your life could be improved by simply skipping breakfast or lunch, leading to more focus and energy? What if you could spend less time on cooking, cleaning, and meal prepping and more time on the things you want to get done?
All by not eating less often.
I'm not suggesting you should stop eating (quite the contrary), I'm simply suggesting that eating constantly isn't necessary.
We have all been there, we eat a big breakfast in the morning thinking we will eat less during the rest of the day, but we either:
A: Find ourselves hungry anyways
B: Get in a hurry and end up consuming high calorie fast food or over snack
C: Have a social event with far too much food to turn down
How about feeling tired after dinner? Or breakfast? Have you ever noticed that energy drop right after consuming a real meal?
I use to nap frequently until I discovered the correlation. Eating was making me tired.
But what if you saved most of your calories for later in the day?
- You'd have more room to eat bigger meals.
- Your energy would be high during the most important parts of the day.
- You would have saved up enough calories to enjoy large meals, even eating out, without it influencing your weight.
- Losing weight becomes easier because overeating in 4, 5, 6 or 8 hour winder is harder then over eating over 16 hours.
Many speculate that our ancestors didn't eat as often. Lets face it, we have a Mc Donald's and Convenience store on every corner, which means temptation is ALWAYS there and ALWAYS availability.
But with a growing obesity and diabetes rate, maybe we should try to approach eating from a different angle.
Science says it can do more then help you maintain weight, it can benefit your health significantly.
I use to think to eat constantly kept my "metabolism up" but I eventually realized the more often I ate, the more I ate.. and the heavier I became. The result? I was feeling sluggish and getting fatter.
So I made a simple change.. and stopped eating all the time. That was it.
I didn't stop what I was eating, I just told myself I would only eat during a specific window of the day and still enjoy my favorite foods.
I'm not the first one, or only one, to do this. It's on the rage right now.
Not only are many individuals utilizing this simplified lifestyle, but more businesses are adding it to their tool set to increase productivity in their workers.
Both use intermittent fasting for more than just a diet.
Heck, if they are using it to gain more money, I'm certain there has to be something beneficial about it.
I could name off numerous individuals who utilize this method, including my own family. There are a number of celebrities, bodybuilders, and even famous medical practitioners who advocate on the side of intermittent fasting.
However, most importantly, simply understand that this lifestyle isn't new. Up until recently, it just happened that you didn't hear the media discuss it (funny how the media works like that). Thankfully, it appears that intermittent fasting is finally getting the recognition it has so long deserved. Theoretically speaking, it was practiced by our ancient ancestors and melded into our human biology to promote survival. Our bodies are made to live through famine and stress.. just like other mammals... and our body will evolve to support it.
If we don't put our body through challenges, how can it change? Isn't that the purpose of resistance training and bodybuilding? To change our body for the better?
Ask any figure athlete.
They didn't achieve that weight from sitting on the couch and eating potato chips all day. No, they hit the gym and hit it hard... stressing their muscles for growth and adaptation.
Why wouldn't challenging our bodies through consumption yield results as well?
Here is how it works.
Intermittent fasting consists of periods of eating followed by periods of fasting. For example, everyone fasts at night (unless you wake up every 3 hours to eat which is highly unlikely). Intermittent fasting is simply prolonged periods fasting followed by periods of scheduled eating. It has been well researched.. and there have been multiple "plans" on how to be successful. Popular examples include the 20:4 fast which consists of 20 hours of fasting followed by 4 hours of eating, 18:6 which is 18 hours of fasting followed by 6 hours of eating.. and also methods such as alternate day fasting (self explanatory) and the famous 5:2 fast - 5 days of regular eating and 2 days of calorie restriction.
These aren't rules. These are methods. Methods in which people have practiced and in return marketed.
Therefore, find which method works best for you.
As far as my personal experience goes? Well, it has been highly positive. I lost 20 pounds initially, adjusted to the habit, and loved the flexibility it gave my diet. It has been a fantastic tool in my health regime, and I've managed to put on over 10 pounds of lean muscle mass utilizing it (with resistance training), which throws out the entire theory of intermittent fasting and lacking muscle gains.
My Mom even had blood work done to see how it was effecting her. The result? Her metabolic profile came back as "amazing". Doctor's words.. not mine. Her body is responding exceptionally well to food.
To get a better understanding, read 5 of the MANY benefits of fasting I have written below.
1. Increase in human growth hormone
If you aren't aware, human growth hormone is a key component in the development of children and adolescence, doing exactly what it's name implies - growth. This is a hormone sent from the pituitary gland and is also important in the health of adults. With age, human growth hormone decreases, and research suggests that the lower growth hormone, the higher the muscle loss, higher body fat and a loss of bone mass. Natural growth hormone's main feature may be that it plays a key role in nutrition partitioning... meaning that after a fast, growth hormone increases the amount of protein in your muscle and organs. In fact, historically, some fitness fanatics would go as far as receiving human growth hormone shots from a practitioner in attempt to improve their strength and physique... but they soon came to find out that synthetic growth hormone isn't the same as natural growth hormone, as the case with many synthetic substitutes.
Our hormones are naturally released in small bursts to stay sensitive to it. That may be why natural growth hormone is so beneficial where synthetic growth hormone can be linked to health issues. Getting a large dose in one shot influences many other hormones - such as insulin.
Thankfully, we can make growth hormone naturally through fasting (who would have thought). As your body enters a state of no eating... it gives us a good shot of HGH (human growth hormone) to prepare our bodies to burn fat (or stored food) and gain energy to "go find food." Your body is kicking into survival mode and operating at a higher efficiency. Your body is smart... it isn't going to burn its greatest assets in a time of need... it'll burn its storage (aka fat)... and this hormone will help you and your muscles were at their highest capacity.
My brother is big into body building and he chooses to fast religiously. He swears by it, both for keeping him lean and fit, as well utilizing the release of growth hormone to sustain muscle mass. You can also look up body lifters such as Brad Pilon and Martin Beckham or Sara Solomon (ladies) as they are all fantastic examples of intermittent fasting and body building success.
2. Lowers Insulin and Cholesterol Levels
This goes hand and hand with growth hormone. A fantastic way to combat pre-diabetes (Type 2 diabetes only) is to keep your insulin levels low and steady, therefore; staying sensitive to it. In a nutshell, insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas to aid in the absorption of glucose into the body (muscle, organs, etc). Glucose is simply sugar (take note that carbohydrates are sugar) that eventually get stored in the body as glycogen. People who have diabetes (Type 2), or are on the verge of being diabetic, no longer have enough of a sensitivity to insulin to have it react properly with glucose. The more you continue to eat (crap), the more your body becomes insulin resistant and the less your body is able to handle glucose. In latent terms, your body receives sugars and doesn't know what to do with it, or what to do with it fast enough. This leads to weight gain and a and subsequent health problems. That's why your practitioner usually recommends cleaning up the diet (likely losing weight as well) and increased physical exercise..
Essentially when you fast regularly, you become highly insulin sensitive and therefore when your body receives food, it partitions it appropriately.
- Please note that type 1 diabetes is not represented in this post.
3. Weight Loss
All of that information that I just passed along about insulin and growth hormone? Well that all plays a key in the weight loss. If you fast long enough your body will tap into fat... that's biology 101. In addition, pushing your calories back to the end of the day is a fantastic tool in keeping your calories in check. The simplest way to understand weight loss is to know that calories out needs to be greater than calories in.
It can take a lot of effort to eat your 1500 calories (or whatever your resting metabolic burn is - note if you weight lift or train your metabolic rate is likely higher) in the span of 4 hours then in 12.
Calories In < Calories Out = Weight Loss
However, there have been some studies that show that fasting is more efficient at preserving muscle mass while in a caloric deficit than just restricting calories throughout the day. Again, this relates to increased growth hormone during fasting. Theoretically, that wonderful growth hormone is being used to reserve your muscle so you can "go find food".
Please take note that most of us who are looking into intermittent fasting have plenty of fat as spare fuel... however, if you are bone thin... I obviously don't recommend this. Nor am I a health provider.
One of the greatest benefits of fasting is the simplicity it can bring to your life.. especially if you are an adult, living alone, or relatively independent. As a regular intermittent faster myself, I have found not dealing with meal planning, breakfast and packing a lunch has saved incredible time. Between meal prepping and eliminating the two designated meals, I have literally added hours onto my life.
5. Improve Your Brain and Productivity
Many people who intermittent fast do it for the increased productivity. I'm not suggesting this is for everyone... but many, many people who choose to do some version of intermittent fasting find this to be the case. However, from both personal experience and second-hand knowledge, many people need a "break in" phase.. but its well worth the initial discomfort and here is why:
Intermittent fasting promotes autophagy, which turns over damaged cells. It can almost be considered as a cellular cleansing that makes our body (at the cellular level) more efficient. In addition, this "recycling" not only benefits our aging process but has also been shown to benefit our brains. Finally, recent research has suggested it doubles as a defense against diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer's.
Fasting (and vigorous exercise) has been shown to increase the ability of nerve cells to repair DNA... as well as promote the growth of neurons and strengthen synapses. Crazy huh? This information can be expanded upon in Mark Mattson's Ted Talk (Something I enjoy listening to on long drives). It is well worth the listen.
Eventually (if not right away) fasting will lead to increased energy and exceptional focus.
I once listened to a doctor encourage everyone to try a test of one. If the health and weight loss benefits aren't enough to encourage you to give it a try, then perhaps you want to do it simply to prove you can.. or maybe even to prove it wrong. Why do you need permission from someone else to try it out on you?
Below are some fantastic fasting sources, from real world practitioners, scholarly research and fitness professionals. These all support and encourage fasting from different perspectives. However, you know your body better then anyone else and don't do anything you think will negatively impact you. Only try it if you are a looking for a healthy change and traditional diet methods haven't proven successful for you.
Sharing is caring... so please share below.
"Fasting Cures Diabetes." Intensive Dietary Management. N.p., 04 Dec. 2015. Web. 22 Dec. 2016. <https://intensivedietarymanagement.com/fasting-cures-diabetes-t2d-4/>.
Ho, K. Y., J. D. Veldhuis, M. L. Johnson, R. Furlanetto, W. S. Evans, K. G. Alberti, and M. O. Thorner. "Fasting Enhances Growth Hormone Secretion and Amplifies the Complex Rhythms of Growth Hormone Secretion in Man." Journal of Clinical Investigation. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Apr. 1988. Web. 30 Dec. 2016.
Additional Resources for Valuable Fasting Information:
Kinobody.com | Youtube.com/kinobody |The beginners guide to intermittent fasting by James Clear ?