Why You Should Practice Intermittent Fasting
In today’s article, we’re going to cover what intermittent fasting is, the benefits, the different types of fasting, and finally my experience with fasting.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, I’d like to first explain what intermittent fasting is.
Intermittent Fasting is the practice of abstaining or reducing consumption of food, drink, or both, for a specific period of time.
Everyone fasts for at least some part of the day, generally the eight or so hours that one spends sleeping every night.
Fasting is not a new concept. It’s been around since the conception of time.
Throughout history, fasting is a common practice in many religions including Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism.
But what’s interesting is intermittent fasting has just recently surfaced into the mainstream.
But despite that most people today consider intermittent fasting to be this radical idea.
Our society encourages us to be eating all the time.
We’re constantly being told things like breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
Or that we need to eat six small meals to lose weight and stoke our metabolism.
But eating 6-8 small meals a day is a nightmare.
You’re never full, tiny meals don’t satiate you as big meals do.
You’ve got to eat every 2-3 hours or you’re feeling irritable and angry.
It’s a never-ending cycle.
I, on the other hand, like to eat just one or two giant meals per day.
I skip breakfast. I think breakfast is overrated and is not the most important meal of the day. The slogan “breakfast is the most important meal of the deal” was actually invented in the 19th century by John Harvey Kellogg to sell his new breakfast cereal.
I think breakfast slows down your mental acuity, overall cognition, and energy
It takes a lot of energy to digest food, energy that could be used for more useful things throughout your day.
To illustrate this concept of fasting, I want you to paint this picture in your head.
Imagine yourself as a lion.
When a lion is hungry or in a fasted state, they are quick & alert… motivated to hunt and kill.
But then once a lion captures and kills their prey, they’ll feast for hours on end on huge loads of meat in just one sitting.
And once the lion is done feasting, what do they do?
They’ll probably hang around and slow down a bit. They’re no longer motivated to push forward as they did when they were on the hunt.
The lion is satisfied & content…in fact, they probably want to nap and rest for a few days before they go out on the hunt again.
And that’s the entire premise of fasting.
It is hunger that motivates a lion to move, hunt, and to expend energy.
And this wild animal energy is accessible in humans as well.
When I’m fasting, I notice that I’m hungry for more than food. I get this strong drive to attack everything from my daily goals and work to my to-do list.
Fasting a great way to tap into what I call this hunger derived energy.
But aside from the energy to hunt and kill, fasting provides us with loads of other benefits so let’s go ahead and jump right into these benefits.
The root cause of all diseases today is inflammation.
Excessive inflammation is the cause of many chronic diseases that we face today including Alzheimer’s, dementia, obesity, diabetes, and more.
Intermittent fasting has been shown to significantly reduce inflammation in the brain and body. [R]
One of these ways it does so is through the promotion of autophagy.
Autophagy is like “spring cleaning” for your cells.
As waste material and damaged cells and stress accumulate over time in the body, they create inflammation.
Intermittent fasting stimulates autophagy, helping the body to cleanse itself, get rid of any junk or waste material that may have built up, and repairs the damage of old cells and proteins.
Another way fasting reduces inflammation is by protecting us against the risk of developing diabetes.
Insulin is an essential hormone for controlling blood sugar and energy absorption.
When the body becomes resistant to insulin, glucose builds up in the blood, creating inflammation and later increasing the risk of developing diabetes.
Fasting has the power to decrease insulin levels and improves glucose variability, allowing your body to acquire energy from stored body fat,
This reduces your dependence on sugar, decreasing your risk of developing diabetes.
And for diabetics looking to reduce their dependence on insulin medications, fasting is a great way to increase insulin sensitivity naturally.
Lessens Cancer Risk
Constant eating elicits the body to generate new cells. And any time your body generates new cells, you increase the probability of your body stimulating cancerous cells.
On the other hand, fasting allows your body to rest from generating new cells, decreasing the chance of cancerous cells forming.
Not only that but by depriving current cancer cells in your body from food, you starve them to death.
And because research has shown fasting to increase the production of growth hormones while also lowering blood glucose levels, those both can lessen your risk of developing various cancers.
Helps You Live Longer
According to some researchers, intermittent fasting can increase a person’s lifespan by up to 30% (if animal studies are an indicator) (R).
A study was done in mice way back in 1945 that confirmed these findings. (Here’s the study).
But then there was another study done recently that found that alternate-day fasting increased a person’s lifespan (this study).
Scientists have long known that restricting calories is a way of lengthening life.
When you’re hungry, your body undergoes a mild stress response.
This stress response increases your body’s cellular defense mechanisms and strengthens its stress resistance response.
This ability to fight stress is what increases longevity in humans.
From a rational viewpoint, this makes sense. Your body looks at it as a challenge.
When you’re hungry or on the verge of life-threatening starvation, your body finds ways to extend your life.
Helps You Lose Weight
In 1965, an extremely obese 27-year-old male, weighing in at 456 pounds fasted for 382 days (one year and 17 days) and lost 275.5 pounds.
The only thing he was able to consume was water, black coffee, and multivitamins.
So, you might be thinking, how on earth was this guy able to not eat for that long and still survive?
Well, you see, This guy didn’t actually stop eating – he was still eating, but now from the insides.
As soon as you eat something, your body enters this state known as a fed state.
When your body is in a fed state, which can last for three to five hours, it is processing food.
When you enter this fed state, it’s hard for your body to shred fat because of the fluctuation of blood sugar levels.
After the fed state, your body goes into a state known as the postabsorptive state, which is when your body is no longer digesting food.
The post–digestion state lasts up 8 to 12 hours after your last meal, which is when you finally enter the fasted state.
When you are in this fasted state, your body begins to tap into its fat stores for energy until you finally run out of fat.
So in this experiment, because this guy was extremely overweight, he had enough food stored in his body to tap into for fuel for a year.
Because our society has been conditioned to eat 2-3 meals a day, it’s rare that our bodies are in this fat-burning state.
We don’t enter the fasted state until about 12 to 14 hours after our last meal.
This is why I love fasting. I can lose fat without changing what I eat (although, I still eat healthy majority of time because I feel better mentally), how much I eat (yes, if you consume more calories than you’re burning, you’ll gain weight but what you’ll find is, over time, fasting reduces the body’s hunger response, stabilizes your hormones, and so as a result, you end up eating less because of the satiety effect it induces), or how often I exercise.
It puts your body in a fat-burning state that extends to even the stubborn areas like your belly fat or love handles.
Moreover, fasting has been shown to boost growth hormone levels as much as 5x and increase noradrenaline — that’s a perfect combination of hormones that are known to break down body fat, build muscle, and increase energy.
Heals Your Gut
If you suffer from chronic digestive issues such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, food allergies/sensitivities, or constipation, or even suspect that maybe stomach lining was damaged – perhaps from eating toxic foods, taking medications, stress, lack of sleep, etc. then you should consider intermittent fasting.
Fasting is an incredible way to repair your gut and decrease intestinal permeability. Studies have shown fasting to improve abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, and other commonly reported digestive issues (R).
It also increases Ghrelin, which is a powerful gut hormone that helps synchronize your digestive tract, stimulate intestinal movement, and secret key digestive enzymes (R).
80% cent of our immune system is in our gut. 95% percent of your feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin produced in your gut, so if your gut is out of balance, your mood & health are probably also out of balance.
Superhuman Brain Functioning
Fasting has been shown to quite literally increase the number of brain cells.
Fasting is a challenge to your brain, and your brain responds to that challenge by promoting the formation of new brain cells.
Fasting has been shown to increase levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) by as much as 50–400%, a protein that regulates memory, learning, and higher cognitive function). BDNF helps existing neurons survive while stimulating the growth of new neurons and synaptic connectivity.
Low levels of BDNF are linked to Alzheimer’s, memory loss, and depression.
Fasting has also been shown to decrease the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. It promotes neuronal autophagy. When you’re fasting your brain quite literally eats itself by recycling waste material and repairing damage.
Research has also shown that fasting has been associated with the growth of the hippocampus, which is responsible for emotion, learning, and memory (R).
Most individuals who participate in intermittent fasting typically stop eating past 7-8 pm.
This is a major benefit because our digestive systems need time to wind down before going into sleep mode.
Constantly digesting food puts a lot of stress on your body and if you’re spending energy digesting food, you aren’t allowing your body to fully rest and reach deeper levels of sleep.
One study found that not only did fasting reduce the number of sleep arousals & leg movements, but it helped promote better quality of sleep, concentration, overall energy, in non-obese individuals.
Not only will you feel amazing when fasting on a consistent basis, you’ll look great, too.
Constantly digesting food throughout the day puts a lot of strain on your body and that stress can trigger flare-ups and reflect on your face as acne.
Fasting promotes the release of human growth hormone, which has been found to make your skin look younger and more vibrant. It also improves your hair and nails, help them grow healthy and strong.
Combined with proper nutrition, it will do wonders for your skin, hair, and nails.
But not only can fasting improve your appearance physically, but it does so characteristically. In other words, when you’re living a life of self-control, it shows in your interactions with others.
You naturally feel more vibrant, more confident, and are more empathetic of others.
Additional Physical Health Benefits
Fasting helps recalibrate correct hormones so that you can experience what real hunger is. If neuro-chemicals and hormones are all out of whack due to improper eating, over time our bodies don’t receive correct signals letting us know when we are full. Fasting helps balance your hormones so you can get full quicker.
Fasting has the capacity to renew the entire immune system by generating new white blood cells, the cells responsible for combating infection, viruses, and invaders. It removes the waste and junk of the immune system and swaps them with freshly produced white blood cells.
There is also evidence signifying that fasting has the potential to speed up the healing process when it comes to certain injuries and wounds.
Simpler than dieting
The reason most diets fail isn’t because we switch food choices, it’s because we don’t actually follow the diet over the long term.
It’s not a nutrition problem as much as it is a behavior change problem.
Fasting isn’t a diet. It’s not about calorie restriction. It’s not about food restriction either.
It’s about time-restricted eating. Fasting allows your body to undergo profound changes that last after the fast is ended.
Improvements can be maintained by making fasting a normal part of life without making drastic changes to what you eat.
I would still recommend eating healthy, but my point is you can undergo massive changes solely through fasting.
And that’s exactly while I love fasting. It gives me leeway to eat almost anything I want. I don’t have to stop eating some of the foods that under today’s standards would be considered unhealthy. Most diets restrain you from eating certain foods.
I still eat healthy a majority of the time because I feel like crap when I don’t do, but when practicing intermittent fasting, I can occasionally overindulge in desserts and sweets, and be just fine.
Food is a huge part of my Mediterranean culture. It’s a means of bringing my family friends and me during social gatherings. Intermittent fasting grants me the ability to enjoy the foods I love, with the people I love, without having to be that boring “guy” at the dinner table.
The other reason fasting is easier than dieting is that diets are much harder to incorporate into our daily routines compared to Intermittent fasting.
Diets are based on deprivation, restriction, and starvation. None of that stuff is sustainable in the long term.
I mean take a look at all these 30-day clean eating challenges. After the 30 day food-based challenge, what will happen?
Well if you’re like most people you’ll revert back to your old habits.
In fact, research has shown that 95% of people who lose weight by dieting will regain it in 1-5 years.
Since dieting, by definition, is a temporary food plan, they often don’t work in the long run.
I’ve fallen under the spell of these diets in the past. They work temporarily only to end up leading you down a cycle of overeating and binge eating.
The majority of diets are not balanced and are based on extreme measures.
Most of them do not consider your unique needs and genetic variants & susceptibilities. They rarely tackle the core issues of balancing overall health, centering attention mainly on physical health and often neglecting spiritual, cognitive, and mental health.
That’s why I stay away from diets.
I don’t count calories, I don’t do crazy detoxes or cleanses.
I try not to use the word diet in my Vocabulary anymore.
Improves your focus and productivity.
Fasting makes your day simpler.
The less time you spend trying to prepare food or think about food, the more time you have to work on things that matter.
Eating 1-2 meals a day as opposed to your typical 3 meals with snacks in between, means you’re stressing less and saving time on meal prepping, which includes shopping, cooking, and clearing up afterward.
Or even if you eat out a lot, thinking about what you’re going to eat next, driving, waiting in line for food. This all takes time, energy, and willpower that could be used to focus on important things that matter in your life like learning, working, exercising, etc.
I follow the intermittent fasting schedule, where I skip breakfast and don’t eat my first meal till midafternoon.
This allows me to start my day right away as I wake up.
I can work on my most important tasks in the morning where my energy levels are at the highest.
During my fasting window, I get a lot more work done than I ever do if I had breakfast when I woke up.
Not only am I saving time on shopping, cooking, preparing, eating, and clearing up afterward. I’m also saving energy.
I don’t have to worry about experiencing a ‘‘food coma’ after breakfast or brunch which also means, I don’t need to take naps in the middle of the day because of fatigue.
My energy levels are consistently high.
Research has also found that being on an empty stomach helps you think and focus better.
In a fasted state, your mind can narrow in on your work and allow you to achieve these deep states of flow that you wouldn’t have otherwise reached in a fed state.
Fasting also gives you a feeling of a physical “lightness,” you feel more agile, quick, mobile, and alert which gives you this amazing boost of energy.
When your stomach is full, particularly on processed & refined foods, your energy levels drop off and your mind becomes dull. You feel lethargic.
The reason we feel mentally foggy after we eat something is that blood flow increases to your digestive system, robbing some of the vital blood flow that would have supplied your brain with energy.
Fasting stabilizes your emotions
Fasting removes our emotional dependence and addictions to certain things.
Most of us when we’re stressed out or feeling anxious or depressed or confused, we look to food or certain things to comfort ourselves. These things could range from sweets and drugs to tv, social media, and our phones.
These all can negatively affect our emotions.
Fasting can help kill off some of our self-destructive emotional patterns and behaviors. We all get locked-up in weird infatuations, and fasting can help us break free of them.
Superhuman Clarity, Direction, Spirituality
Not only is fasting a physical and cognitive reset, but it’s also an emotional and a spiritual reset.
Fasting is practiced by almost every religion around the world – it’s no surprise, then, that a lifestyle that includes intermittent fasting could lead to a deepened sense of holiness.
People have reported feeling more calm, mindful and connected to nature and the world during their fasts.
When you remove yourself from the constant addictions whether its food, video games, mind-altering substances, phones, bad habits, you gain proper perspective and clarity on what matters most in your life, and it helps pave the way to your guiding truth.
When I’m fasting, I quickly become aware of the incongruences and poor habits in my life.
I become more introspective and honest with myself and the direction of my life.
I tap into higher realms of consciousness that I never tap into when I’m not fasting.
Intermittent fasting is a great way to understand the cycle of hunger.
For a long time, I didn’t understand that there was a difference between physical hunger and psychological hunger.
This emotional desire for food is confused with physical hunger all the time.
When you’re fasting, you’re deliberately choosing to refrain from eating. What this allows you to do is sit and observe yourself.
As you sit and reflect, you’ll feel pangs of “hunger” that can usually be attributed to psychological cravings. That is not true physical hunger.
Physical hunger presents itself in the stomach usually through noises and other sensations in the body. If your stomach is growling, or if you feel super light headed you probably need some food.
But most of the time that’s not the case.
Most of the time you’re probably hungry because maybe you’re stressed, distracted, bored, etc. or even because of your environment… someone brought in great smelling food into the office so now you’re feeling hungry.
To determine if you’re truly hungry or not, ask yourself, are you open to eating a salad right now. If not, then know you’re not truly hungry because if you were, you would be open to eating salad, but if not, then most likely it’s because you’re craving some sweets or something comforting out of boredom or stress (unless of course, salad is your comfort food).
Most people expect to be starving when fasting but actually find that their hunger hormone gradually fades over time.
This is because hunger is regulated by hormones like ghrelin and it comes in waves.
This is why many people say that the first four days are the hardest and most uncomfortable on adapting your eating time.
But if you persist and resist the urge to eat, over time, your hormones will acclimate to your new eating schedule and you find that you will be less and less hungry.
Appreciation of food
If you’re eating all the time, your taste buds become dull and desensitized.
If you’ve ever eaten after a period of “true hunger,” you’ll know what eating is supposed to feel like.
Each bite tastes rich, intense, and delicious, it almost feels like it’s your first time ever eating. Food tastes 100x better.
Fasting allows you to experience a sensation of deep contentment and pleasure and regain appreciation of the foods you took for granted.
And if you’re a sucker for fast food and junk food like I am, fasting can help you recalibrate your taste buds and dissipate your cravings for unhealthy foods. It resets them and trains them to seek more healthy food choices over the long haul.
Not only that, but by sacrificing food, it increases your compassion and sympathy for those who are poor, hungry, and less fortunate in this world..
Statistics show that more than one billion people around the world are undernourished.
That’s roughly one in 7 people and a large percentage of those people are children.
Superhuman Willpower & Mental toughness
Regular fasting has given me this mental strength that has translated to other areas in my life.
Because of today’s digital age and our never ending access to resources, our lives have never been easier.
Our lives have slowly turned from a battle against suffering into a battle against pleasure.
Back in ancient times, where we were fighting for survival and hunting/gathering to see another day, now we are, quite literally, pulled in thousands of cognitive directions daily, seeking that next hit of dopamine.
There’s nothing more fundamental to survival than food so when you learn to control your own eating, you develop the muscle to control other less fundamental obsessions.
And so by choosing not to eat, you will find it easier to break free from other compulsions.
In fact, medically, it’s been shown that fasting has been found to rapidly dissipate the craving for alcohol, and other drugs.
Fasting is one of my favorite ways to increase willpower and mental toughness.
If you get good at fasting, it’s easier to control every other aspect of your life.
I’ve been intermittent fasting on and off for a couple of years now.
As an athlete, sometimes it’s a bit hard for me to fast because of the heavy demands of being an athlete, the constant travel, and the frequent changes in schedules.
But most of the time, when I do fast, I follow the most popular model of intermittent fasting, which uses a 16–hour fast followed by an 8–hour eating period.
Like I said earlier, I tend to skip breakfast and begin my eating window at 4 pm and end at around 10 pm. I find that works best for me.
During my fast i’ll drink water and take brain-boosting supplements. You may consume coffee or tea as long as there’s no sugar or milk. Caffeine is a great appetite suppressant, provides great energy, and also helps boosts fat loss.
Sometimes I’ll also chew sugarless gum while fasting to help curb my appetite. Chewing gum tricks your brain into thinking you are eating something since the act of chewing itself signals your intestines to secrete digestive enzymes and acids to prepare for oncoming food.
But then sometimes if I’m feeling brave, I’ll do a dry fast. A dry fast is when you can’t consume food or any beverages, even water. It’s been said 1 day of dry fasting is the equivalent of 3 days of water fasting. Inflammation cannot exist without water. Microorganisms need water to survive. Dry fasting helps your body and detox quicker.
So when it comes to the 16 hours on and 8 hours off intermittent fasting schedule, it doesn’t matter when you start your 8–hour eating period. You can start at 8 am and stop at 4 pm. Or you start at 2 pm and stop at 10 pm.
You could play around with the times, but I would recommend a minimum of 16 hours to see major benefits.
The other option you have is to try the Alternate day eating – where you eat for one day and then fast for one day. The benefits you will get with that 24 hour – 36 hours fast model far outweigh the benefits you will get with the other popular 16:8 fasting schedule.
If you can’t fast consistently, you also have the option to do 24-hour fasts once a week, or once a month for a quick mental and physical refresh.
You’ll be surprised to see how even one day of fasting can reset and refine your mind body and soul.
It resets your relationship with food and helps you break free from patterns of emotional eating or indulging.
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