What if there was a simple way to live longer, be happier, and beat some types of cancer? Too good to be true, right? You may have heard of Intermittent Fasting (IF) before, but how it actually works often gets misunderstood. IF is a fast growing trend in the fitness and nutrition industry. Now before we begin, I want to disclose that I am not a doctor, and this is not advice. Always talk to your doctor about any workout or nutrition program first. Now, to the facts we go! IF is not really a diet at all, but just a specific schedule of eating. The most common form IF takes is only eating between the hours of noon and 8pm every day. This means that from 8pm until noon the next day, zero calories are consumed. So really, you are doing less than you would normally do when it comes to the diet. There are other approaches, such as 24 hour fasts once or twice a week, as well as varying fasting times throughout the day or even fasting every other day. The main idea is that your body goes into a fasting state for a period of time each week. Now, why on earth would anybody deprive themselves of food like this? Read on to discover some interesting facts about IF.
Serious Weight Loss
Obesity is a major problem in the United States, with 68.8 percent of adults considered to be overweight. More than 35.7 percent of adults are considered to be obese. Obesity can make people more likely to have numerous health conditions, including: heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, gout, and breathing problems. This is considered a serious health epidemic in our nation, and one for which there is not a simple solution. One way to address being overweight is through IF. Due to the nature of IF, people naturally eat less calories, just because they have less time to eat during the day. This results in accidental caloric restriction, which causes IFers to lose weight. Traditional wisdom says that less calories in means lower body weight. In one experiment, overweight individuals with moderate asthma performed IF by eating only 20% of their standard caloric intake every other day, resulting in an 8% loss of initial body weight. Not only did they lose weight, but most of the weight loss came from fat.
Mood disorders are a very common thing this day in age. Approximately 9.5% of US adults have a mood disorder, which encompasses things such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and much more. Most people turn to prescription medication to address their mental health issues. These medications often have severe side effects, sometimes even worse than the disorder you are supposed to be treating. Instead of relying on medication, herbal supplements, or even exercise, what if there was a way to do less and improve your mood? According to a study from 2013, clinicians found that fasting participants often experienced an increased level of vigilance and mood improvement, and sometimes even euphoria. The mood improvement was measured subjectively as simply being a feeling of well-being. It is believed that this mood improvement is due to a variety of factors, including changes in neurotransmitters, improved sleep, and increased synthesis of brain growth factors relating to feelings of well being. It is not fully understood exactly how fasting causes this incredible result.
Loss of Fat Mass (Not Muscle)
People typically diet to lose fat, but they don’t want to lose any muscle. Well, conventional wisdom says this is extraordinarily hard to accomplish, but what if conventional wisdom was wrong. IF is so effective at targeting mostly fat loss, due to a simple mechanism the body enters when it is not receiving any food. Basically, if you do not eat for anywhere between 10-16 hours, your body will enter survival mode and start using its fat stores for energy. This causes fatty acids known as ketones to enter the bloodstream and be used as your body's primary fuel source. As we learned earlier, lower levels of fat, within a healthy range, can reduce the risk of a host of diseases, the major ones being heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Lower body fat also increases the metabolic rate, helping turn you into a fat burning machine.
Don’t Get Hangry
Hangry is defined as when you are so hungry that your lack of food causes you to become angry, frustrated or both. This is a result of the body not being able to properly regulate your blood sugar, via insulin. More specifically, insulin sensitivity is to blame. First off, what the heck is insulin sensitivity in the first place? Well, this basically means how well your body responds to insulin. Insulin is used to help regulate your blood sugar, and thus having a standard response to insulin is key to a healthy life. Some of the problems caused by low insulin sensitivity include the need for insulin injections to keep your blood glucose stable. Insulin resistance is also dangerous, resulting in things such as high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It is a delicate balance to achieve the proper insulin sensitivity, and IF can drastically help your body do its job right. With improved insulin resistance from IF, your body is better able to stabilize blood sugar levels, preventing your hangry alter ego to emerge. Think HULK NEED FOOD NOW!
Improved Memory & Learning
If you are not yet convinced that IF can be incredible, check this out. Not only does IF help you lose fat, feel great, and avoid the hangries, but it can actually ward off brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s while also actually improving your memory! This is thought to be due to several factors. One of which is improved neural connections in the hippocampus and protecting neurons against amyloid plaques, which are typically common in Alzheimer’s patients. The mechanism is not certain, but is believed to be that by slightly stressing your body through calorie restriction, the body starts producing a host of survival hormones which are extremely healthy and regenerative. Remember those pesky ketones from above? Well, those guys are at it again, this time promoting changes in the structures of your synapses that improve learning.
Slow Down Cancer
Treating cancer via chemotherapy can be one of the most painful and difficult therapies in existence, and yet it is still the primary method of treatment. As it turns out, there is another way, but only for certain types of cancer. In a recent study from the UT Southwestern Medical Center, it was found that IF inhibits the development and progress of leukemia, which is one of the most common forms of childhood cancer. The mechanism is believed to be the fact that fasting does a one-two punch on leukemia by both inhibiting the initiation and reversing the progression of two specific types of leukemia, B-cell ALL and T-cell ALL. However, it is not all daisies and roses, as a separate type of leukemia did not respond with the same result. Further research is needed into other forms of cancer.
In addition, in animal models, it was found that a fasting regimen activates the immune system to reveal both skin and breast cancer cells to the immune system more effectively. This simply just makes these cancer cells more vulnerable to attack by the immune system. Also, a prior study found that a short-term fast actually starves cancer cells of their typical nutrients and facilitates chemotherapy drugs to target cancer more effectively. Of course, the study was done in mice.
Turn into Wolverine
In preparation for his role as Wolverine in X-Men: Days of Future Past, Hugh Jackman began following an IF plan to help maintain the muscle he gained for The Wolverine. More specifically, Jackman followed the 8-Hour Diet, as created by David Zinczenko, Men’s Fitness consulting editorial director. This form of IF means you can only eat during an eight-hour time frame, followed by a 16-hour fast. Now, this may sound crazy, but let us hear what Jackman himself had to say: “I haven’t put on nearly the amount of fat I normally would. And the great thing about this diet is, I sleep so much better.” Hugh Jackman also had an intense workout regimen and strict diet during this time.
Save Your Heart
One of the most important aspects to living a long and healthy life is maintaining a happy ticker. If you do not take care of your heart, it will not take care of you, as the old saying goes. Now, I do not mean to sound like a broken record here, but nothing could be easier than doing less and getting amazing health benefits. In the case of IF, studies have found that it not only facilitates weight loss, but it also improves cardiovascular risk. The exact way this is accomplished is not fully understood, but it is believed to be a powerful combination of reduction of bad cholesterol, lowered inflammation, and even initiation of stem cell regeneration.
Studies in mice also exhibit cardiovascular benefits of IF, including improved blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and reduced arterial thickness. There are also many benefits related to making the heart more resistant to some diseases. The “reset” IF seems to provide impacts all of the body in good ways.
One of the most important hormones for staying young is the human growth hormone. This is naturally produced in the body, but slowly starts to decline with age. The reduction is especially prominent if you are sedentary and over the age of 30. This reduction in growth hormone results in a loss of muscle mass, loss of bone density, and increased body fat. Ever heard of “Dad Bod?” The official definition is, a guy who has kids and was once in shape and still has guns that can crush beer cans but also with a belly that says I drank those beers and I can eat 6 slices of pizza in one seating. One way to combat this is via IF. With IF, it is possible to promote the production of growth hormone naturally. In one study, participants conducted a 24-hour fast, during which time they had their HGH measured. Astonishingly, HGH increased, on average 1,300 percent in women, and almost 2,000 percent in the male participants! IF seems to drastically increase HGH production naturally.
People are always looking for a way to extend their lives. The search for the Fountain of Youth by Ponce de Leon is proof of that. One way to achieve a longer, healthier life is with IF. Studies conducted in nematodes, fruit flies, and mice have found that reduced calorie consumption resulted in at least a third or more extensions of lifespan! Now, just living longer is not as desirable as living longer and healthier. It turns out that is exactly what IF can help with. According to the data, limiting food intake reduces the common risks of disease found in old age, thereby extending the amount of time spent in good health throughout life. Now, most of the studies done on longevity and fasting focus on animals, especially mice. All hope is not lost, though. A study at USC that attempted to mimic the effects of fasting found that participants experienced reduced body weight, lower risk factors for cardiovascular disease and an increase in certain stem cells in the body.
I hope you enjoyed reading this piece and learned something new! If you want to learn more about this topic and additional ways to change your life, then OPTIMIZE YOUR LIFE to start the journey towards a better you!
The MM Family