Humans have been practicing intermittent fasting (IF) for hundreds of thousands of years. Our Paleolithic ancestors went through regular cycles where food was either readily abundant or extremely scarce. So it makes perfect sense that IF may benefit us in our modern lives as well. Here are some of the biggest benefits based on the latest research.
There are many ways in which people can lose weight but intermittent fasting allows more freedom and produces similar results.
A recent study of 107 premenopausal women compared intermittent fasting (a fast of 2 days a week) with a standard calorie counting diet and found that a weekly fast was just as effective in weight and fat loss as the standard calorie restriction approach.
New research on IF and longevity revealed that fasting can delay the development of disorders that often lead to death. So people who practice IF, as part of their lifestyle, can enjoy a longer, healthier life.
One reason is that intermittent fasting causes oxidative stress within the body, so the body responds by producing a surge of free radicals, the molecules associated with aging. This stimulates the SIRT3 gene (the longevity gene) to produce sirtuins. Researchers suggest that the increase in free radicals is actually beneficial because it triggers protective pathways. The idea is that if the body is intermittently exposed to low levels of oxidative stress, it can learn to build a better response to it.
Boosted Immune System
Another benefit is that fasting can regenerate the immune system by producing white blood cells that help the body fight off infection. Recent research has found that fasting on a regular basis causes the body to get rid of the old, damaged parts of the immune system. It then replaces the damaged parts with new healthy immune system cells.
Stimulated Brain Function
Fasting has also been shown to increase the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which supports overall cognitive function and can improve things like memory and reaction time. BDNF also promotes the growth of new neurons, and helps existing neurons resist neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Improved Insulin Sensitivity
Many metabolic problems stem from resistance to insulin from excess carbohydrate consumption which can lead to the development of Type 2 diabetes. When you fast on a regular basis your body reduces IGF-1, glucose and insulin and this can help promote insulin sensitivity, meaning a better metabolism and lower risk of Type 2 diabetes
How do you do an intermittent fast?
Intermittent fasting involves a period of fasting alternated with a period of eating and may be done in a number of ways.
This type of fast generally involves a feast day where you eat all you want of your healthy, nutritious Paleo diet and then fast the next.
Similar to the alternate day fast, a single twenty-four hour fast can be done once a week, once a month, or whenever you decide on a less planned schedule.
Within-Day Fast (AKA Time-Restricted Feeding)
This is my favorite version and it involves eating during an 8 hour window and then fasting for the remaining 16 hours.
This fast, which is very effective for fat loss, can be done by eating for five consecutive days and then fasting for two.