Why try intermittent fasting? How many writers and creatives do you know who wouldn't want more energy, mental clarity, focus, and creative ability?
Those are four things people like you and I want an endless supply of, right? And, intermittent fasting, or IF, might be just the thing that unlocks the best version of YOU.
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What is intermittent fasting?
It's simple. Intermittent fasting restricts when you can eat or how much you can eat within a specific time frame.
Variations include time-restricted eating. I'm currently doing this, only eating between 5:00 pm and 10:00 pm daily, putting me into a fasted state for 19 hours each day.
Whole-day fasting typically involves choosing one or two days (non-consecutive) each week and eating nothing for 24 hours.
5:2 is an example of whole-day fasting. You eat nothing for 24 hours on two non-consecutive days each week and a regular eating pattern of breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the other five days.
Another variation is alternate-day fasting, which limits caloric intake to 400 - 600 calories every other day. Otherwise, you're eating as you would on a typical day.
Why is intermittent fasting good?
Imagine if you could turn your body into a fat-burning furnace. What would you look and feel like if, instead of burning sugar (glycogen) for energy, your body was burning fat? That's the secret behind IF. You allow your body to get into a fat-burning state, called lipolysis.
Another benefit of intermittent fasting is fat-loss without counting calories. Not that you can eat like a glutton when it's time to eat, but IF lets you eat anything you like, within reason, while still burning off unwanted fat. Not counting calories and feeling deprived every day is a much easier way to lose weight.
Dr. Eric Rimm, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, says:
"People who try whole or alternate-day fasting quickly realize how many calories are in certain foods. That helps them choose foods that are more filling but lower in calories."
How does intermittent fasting affect your brain?
Many individuals report the following effects from IF:
- Increased alertness.
- More mental and physical energy.
- Increased focus.
- More creativity.
- Improved memory.
The New England Journal Of Medicine published an article on the Effects of Intermittent Fasting on health, aging, and disease. Based on their preliminary findings, researchers suggest that IF could benefit brain health.
A multi-center clinical trial conducted by the University of Toronto on 220 healthy, nonobese adults showed that two years of calorie-restricted eating resulted in improved memory.
In the video below, Dr. Mark Mattson explains why fasting bolsters brain power.
How does intermittent fasting affect overall health?
Human and animal studies reveal that IF improves cellular health, likely triggered by metabolic switching.
Cells exhaust their stored sugar and begin converting fat into energy. In essence, your body becomes a fat-burning furnace.
The switch from burning sugar to fat improves blood sugar regulation, increases resistance to stress, and suppresses inflammation. However, since most people eat three meals plus snacks daily, they don't experience the health benefits of metabolic switching.
Four studies in animals and humans found that IF also decreased blood pressure, blood lipid levels, and resting heart rates. Additionally, there's mounting evidence that IF reduces the risks associated with obesity and diabetes.
What are the dangers of intermittent fasting?
According to the Mayo Clinic website, the long-term effects of intermittent fasting are unknown. We need more research on the subject to determine if there are any long-term dangers.
Will you feel hungry when intermittent fasting?
If you're doing intermittent fasting for the first time, you might feel some initial hunger pangs. It's not uncommon because your body needs to adjust to this new way of eating. But most people find their bodies and stomachs quickly adapt.
Drinking water or any other zero-calorie beverage throughout the day, whether fasting or not, keeps you hydrated and might help curb hunger pangs, too. Some experts suggest adding a little salt to your water to replace potentially lost salt from fasting.
How long should I fast?
I'm not a doctor, so before you try IF, be sure to consult yours. You should confirm that you don't have any existing health problems that intermittent fasting might exacerbate. If your doctor gives you the green light to try IF, I would recommend easing your way into it.
You could try a 16:8 protocol, where you have an 8-hour "eating window" each day. For example, you only eat between 12 noon and 8:00 pm daily.
If you're gung-ho about jumping into the deep end of the pool and you have the mental strength to carry you through, you might try a 19:5 protocol, like the one I'm currently following. The eating window is 5 hours each day.
Whichever protocol you choose, make sure you're mentally prepared to follow it through. Once you're into intermittent fasting for a few days, it'll become easier to do.
What happens if I fast too long?
There's a possibility of becoming malnourished if you fast too long. Remember, intermittent fasting is not a starvation diet but a healthy alternative to typical dieting for fat loss. The idea is to improve your health, not harm it.
With that said, some individuals have fasted for long periods without any unhealthy side effects.
What should I eat to break my fast?
You can eat whatever you like to break your fast. The idea is to eat normally during your "eating windows." Currently, I eat a healthy dinner to break my fast, including some protein (chicken, beef, fish, or pork), some brown rice, and a coleslaw salad.
Can I eat anything and as much as I want during my eating window?
You can, but practicing IF doesn't give you license to throw all caution to the wind and eat like a glutton during your eating windows. To get the most benefit from IF, you should still eat as healthy as you can so you get the best results possible.
The Botton Line
Intermittent fasting is an easy and effective way to switch your body into a fat-burning mode. You'll lose unwanted fat and not just weight.
Remember that IF is not a license to eat like a glutton or eat nothing but junk. Intermittent fasting can help give you more energy, mental clarity, focus, and creative ability.
Who doesn't want more of those things?
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