I recently came across an article by Emma Watson about the benefits of intermittent fasting. Her biggest takeaway from her fasting experience?
I really wasn't expecting to have such a profound experience when I did a five-day water fast back in April. But after doing the water fast myself, I'm now recommending it to anyone who is medically able.
Please: Try it at least once in your life.
Don't let this scare you. Emma did a five-day fast.
You don't need to do that. But to see what fasting did for her, listen to Emma's story, and why she did it.
My primary reason for doing the fast wasn't weight loss. I had done a ton of research on the benefits of doing an extended fast and I'd been practicing intermittent fasting for years. I've also known friends who have done extended fasts and recommended it to me.
I did this because I wanted to reap the benefits of autophagy—the bodily process of removing bad cells and replacing them with healthy new ones—and ramp up the production of human growth hormone, which helps to repair damaged muscle tissue.
And I'd heard amazing things about the spiritual experiences and mental clarity that people have received from doing a fast. I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could do it and get those same results.
If you are interested in her results from a 5 day fast, you can read more here.
But even short fasts can help your body renew and recover. You don't have to fast for days on end to see the benefits of fasting. Even fasting for small periods of time can have positive health effects.
Consider "intermittent fasting."
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting isn't so much a diet, but more of an "eating pattern." It involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting, with the most common method being the 16/8 method, where you fast for 16 hours and eat during an 8-hour window.
During the 16-hour fasting period, you should avoid consuming any food and limit your intake to non-caloric beverages like water, black coffee, or tea. The 8-hour eating window is when you consume all your daily calories. It's important to focus on nutrient-dense foods during this period to ensure you're getting all the necessary nutrients. This includes lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats.
The best time to start and end your 8-hour eating window depends on your personal schedule and lifestyle. Some people prefer to eat between noon and 8 p.m., as this means they only need to skip breakfast but make sure they finish eating a few hours before bedtime.
So, why are people raving about it?
Here are some potential benefits from intermittent fasting:
- Weight Loss and Belly Fat Reduction:
Intermittent fasting can help you lose weight, particularly around the belly area. By eating fewer meals and enhancing hormone function, it can lead to a reduction in body fat. here is why the 8-hour fast can help reduce belly fat:
- Caloric Deficit: By limiting the eating window to 8 hours, many people naturally consume fewer calories. This can lead to a caloric deficit, which is necessary for weight loss.
- Improved Metabolic Function: Fasting periods can lead to various changes in your body that promote fat burning. These include increased metabolic rate, improved insulin sensitivity, and enhanced hormone function.
- Fat Burning: During the fasting period, your body needs to find an alternative energy source, so it starts to use stored fat for energy, which can lead to fat loss.
- Reduced Inflammation: Some research suggests that intermittent fasting may help reduce inflammation, a key driver of many chronic diseases, including obesity.
- Gut Health: Emerging research suggests a potential link between intermittent fasting and gut health, which could indirectly influence weight management.
- Improved Mental Clarity:
Some people report improved concentration and mental clarity during fasting periods. This could be due to several factors:
- Improved Blood Sugar Control: By reducing the eating window, this diet can help regulate blood sugar levels, preventing spikes and crashes that can affect cognitive function.
- Enhanced Autophagy: Fasting periods can stimulate autophagy, a cellular cleaning process that removes waste materials from cells. This could potentially protect against neurodegenerative diseases and improve brain function.
- Increased BDNF Levels: Fasting can increase levels of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), a protein that supports the survival of existing neurons and encourages the growth of new ones. Higher BDNF levels are associated with improved memory and learning.
- Ketosis: After several hours without food, the body starts to use its stored fat for energy, producing ketones. Some research suggests that ketones can provide a more efficient source of energy for the brain, potentially improving mental clarity.
- Cellular Repair and Longevity
When you fast, your cells initiate a process called autophagy, where they digest and remove old and dysfunctional proteins. This could potentially lead to increased longevity and protection against diseases. Specifically, this has to do with a couple of factors.
- Autophagy: this is a cellular process where the body cleans out damaged cells and regenerates new ones, a kind of 'self-cleaning' for the body. This process is believed to be triggered during periods of fasting.
- Insulin goes down, HGH goes up: insulin levels drop and human growth hormone increases. Your cells also initiate important cellular repair processes and change the expression of genes. These changes in hormone levels, gene expression, and cellular function during fasting can have benefits for longevity and overall health.
- Heart Health
Intermittent fasting may reduce risk factors for heart disease such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglycerides, and inflammatory markers. Here are the ways the 8-hour diet may help with heart health.
- Blood Pressure: Fasting may help lower blood pressure, which is a significant risk factor for heart disease. High blood pressure makes the heart work harder to pump blood, which can lead to heart failure or stroke over time.
- Cholesterol Levels: Intermittent fasting may help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol can lead to a buildup of cholesterol in your arteries, increasing your risk of heart disease.
- Triglycerides: These are a type of fat found in your blood. High levels can increase your risk of heart disease. Some studies suggest that intermittent fasting can reduce triglyceride levels.
- Inflammatory Markers: Chronic inflammation can lead to heart disease. Some research indicates that intermittent fasting may reduce inflammation, thus potentially reducing the risk of heart disease.
- Insulin Resistance: Intermittent fasting can reduce insulin resistance, lowering blood sugar levels, which in turn could protect against type 2 diabetes, a risk factor for heart disease.
- Weight Loss: Intermittent fasting can help with weight loss and fat loss, both of which are beneficial for heart health.
- Insulin Resistance
Intermittent fasting can help reduce insulin resistance and can help with lowering blood sugar levels, which could be beneficial for those at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Insulin resistance is a condition where the body's cells become less responsive to the hormone insulin, which is responsible for regulating blood sugar levels. When insulin resistance occurs, the body needs more insulin to keep blood sugar levels in check, which can eventually lead to type 2 diabetes.
How does 8-hour fasting specifically help lower insulin resistance and blood sugar levels?
- It gives the body a break from producing insulin: During the fasting period, insulin levels drop, and the body switches from burning glucose to burning stored fat for energy. This process, known as ketosis, can improve insulin sensitivity and help lower insulin resistance.
- It can help regulate the body's circadian rhythm: Circadian ryhtym is the internal clock that regulates various biological processes. Eating in sync with our circadian rhythm, which naturally favors daytime eating, can improve metabolic health and further enhance insulin sensitivity.
However, it's important to note that while the 8-hour diet can help lower insulin resistance, it's not a magic bullet. A balanced diet, regular physical activity, and maintaining a healthy weight are also crucial for managing insulin resistance.
There are products available, by the way, that are specifically geared to helping your body deal with the pervasive problem of insulin resistance, such as a product called Glucoberry.
What do the experts say about fasting and its health benefits?
You need to see the video below. If you grasp the concepts Dr. Jamnadas discusses in this video, it could be transformative for your health.
Dr. Pradip Jamnadas on the benefits of fasting
Dr. Jamnadas discusses fasting in this video. It's worth the time to watch it. He talks about how our culture has gotten us used to the idea of eating all the time, and the trememdous toll it has taken on our health.
He discusses intermittent fasting in this video as well as the benefits that can come from fasting for longer periods of time.
Remember, while intermittent fasting can be beneficial, it's not suitable for everyone.
Also, please note that while these benefits have been observed in various studies, individual results may vary.
Always consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new diet or lifestyle change. Listen to your body and make sure any changes you make contribute to your overall well-being.