Intermittent Fasting — The New Lifestyle That Can Improve Your Life
Intermittent Fasting, it is considered the new diet fad, but is it this overblown fad that your colleagues or friends likely laugh about? Or this there something more to it?
What if I told you that not only what you eat but how often you eat could influence your productivity? What if I told you your life could be vastly improved by simply skipping breakfast or lunch, leading a more simple and rewarding life? Therefore, leaving more time for you, your family, friends and personal projects.
I’m not suggesting you should stop eating, I’m simply suggesting that eating constantly is perhaps not as healthy as society likes to make us think it is. Maybe we should start eating more like our ancestors did.. like how we were made to eat before there was a convenience store and McDonalds on every street.
What if I told you that science says it can benefit your health…significantly.
I use to think eating constantly kept my “metabolism up” but after time I realized the more often I ate, the more I ate.. and the heavier I became. This, of course, led to me feeling sluggish and self conscious constantly.. which literally affected my everyday life.
So I made a simple change.. and stopped eating so often.
And I’m not the first one, or only one to do this.
Not only are many individuals utilizing this simple lifestyle change, but more and more businesses are adding it to their tool set to increase productivity in their workers. Take this Silicon Valley startup for example here. Or even this Facebook executives lifestyle that can be read here..
If they are utilizing it for business productivity; obviously their must be some benefit to it, right?
You’ve been hearing it on the news, on Youtube and from any fitness magazine that has been published in the last year.
I could name off an extraordinarily large number of individuals who utilize this method as well, including my family, celebrities (Hugh Jackman people), body builders and even a few famous medical practitioners. However, historically, (like way back in history…historically) human’s use to fast all of the time. Therefore, simply understand that this lifestyle isn’t new (unlike what the media leads you to believe). Up until recently, it just happened that you didn’t hear the media discuss it (funny how the media works like that). Thankfully, it appears that intermittent fasting is finally getting the recognition it has so long deserved. Theoretically speaking, it was practiced by our ancient ancestors and melded into our human biology to promote survival. Our bodies are made to live through famine and stress..not die if we haven’t had a cheeseburger in the last hour.
Funny that society forgets to inform you of this. Even more so that it doesn’t tell of you the mental, health and aging benefits associated with intermittent fasting and a restricted calorie diet (but that wouldn’t fit their 5 trillion dollar industry now would it)? The more you eat, the more money you spend and the more money there is to be made. Period.
So lets back up a few paragraphs and explain the basics:
If you aren’t already familiar… intermittent fasting consists of periods of eating followed by periods of fasting. For example, everyone fasts at night (unless you wake up every 3 hours to eat — which is ridiculous). Intermittent fasting is simply prolonged periods of this fasting. It has been well researched.. and there have been multiple “plans” on how to be successful. Popular examples include the 20:4 fast which consists of 20 hours of fasting followed by 4 hours of eating, 18:6 which is 18 hours of fasting followed by 6 hours of eating.. and also methods such as alternate day fasting (self explanatory) and the famous 5:2 fast — 5 days of regular eating and 2 days of very low calorie eating. Keep in mind there is not set rule book for this.. just ideas, for those of you who need someone to tell you what to do.
As far as my personal experience goes… it has been highly positive. I lost 20 pounds initially, adjusted to the habit and loved the flexibility it gave my diet. However, it wasn’t a miracle by any standard either. Although it has improved my lifestyle in so many ways… my body shape was still the same. It can’t completely replace a healthy diet and it most definitely doesn’t replace an effective resistance workout routine.
As far as my family goes, my Mom went as far as even getting blood work done. The result? Her metabolic profile came back as “amazing”. Doctor’s words.. not mine. The meaning of this? Her body is responding exceptionally well to food.
So in a nut shell… when you regularly fast.. your body gets food and it knows exactly what to do with it. The exact opposite that happens when people have conditions such as type 2 diabetes. You become incredibly insulin sensitive (which is the hormone that controls the use of your macro nutrients (i.e. Carbohydrates).
So what are the benefits of fasting?
There are 5 MAJOR benefits featured below… but we are only scraping the surface on the power that fasting can have on human health and appearance.
1. Increase in human growth hormone
If you aren’t aware, human growth hormone is a key component in the development of children and adolescence, doing exactly what it’s name implies — growth. This is a hormone sent from the pituitary gland and is also important in the health of adults. With age, human growth hormone decreases, and research suggests that the lower growth hormone, the higher the muscle loss, higher body fat and a loss of bone mass. Natural growth hormone’s main feature may be that it plays a key role in nutrition partitioning… meaning that after a fast, growth hormone increases the amount of protein in your muscle and organs. In fact, historically, some fitness fanatics would go as far as receiving human growth hormone shots from a practitioner in attempt to improve their strength and physique… but they soon came to find out that synthetic growth hormone isn’t the same as natural growth hormone, as the case with many synthetic substitutes.
Our hormones are naturally released in small bursts to stay sensitive to it. That may be why natural growth hormone is so beneficial where synthetic growth hormone can be linked to health issues. Getting a large dose in one shot influences many other hormones — such as insulin.
Thankfully, we can make growth hormone naturally through fasting (who would have thought). As your body enters a state of no eating… it gives us a good shot of HGH (human growth hormone) to prepare our bodies to burn fat (or stored food) and gain energy to “go find food.” Your body is kicking in to survival mode and operating at a higher efficiency. Your body is smart… it isn’t going to burn its greatest assets in a time of need… it’ll burn its storage (aka fat)… and this hormone will help you and your muscles were at their highest capacity.
My brother is big into body building and fasts religiously. He swears by fasting, both for keeping him lean and fit as well as well as its benefits is sustaining muscle (aka the growth hormone). You can also look up body lifters such as Brad Pilon and Martin Beckham or Sara Solomon (ladies) as they are all fantastic examples of intermittent fasting and body building success.
2. Lowers Insulin and Cholesterol Levels
This goes hand and hand with growth hormone. A fantastic way to combat pre-diabetes (Type 2 diabetes only) is to keep your insulin levels low and steady, therefore; staying sensitive to it. In a nutshell, insulin is a hormone released from the pancreas to aid in the absorption of glucose into the body (muscle, organs, etc). Glucose is simply sugar (take note that carbohydrates are sugar) that eventually get stored in the body as glycogen. People who have diabetes (Type 2), or are on the verge to being diabetic, no longer have enough of a sensitivity to insulin to have it react properly with glucose. The more you continue to eat (crap), the more your body becomes insulin resistant (and deficient) and the less your body is able to handle glucose. Essentially, your body receives sugars and doesn’t know what to do with it, or what to do with it fast enough. This leads to weight gain and a whole laundry list of issues associated with it. That’s why your practitioner usually recommends cleaning up the diet (likely losing weight as well) and increased physical exercise to combat and prevent type two diabetes.
Essentially when you fast regularly, your body receives food and knows what to do with it.
Please note that type 1 diabetes is not represented in this post.
3. Weight Loss
All of that information that I just passed along about insulin and growth hormone? Well that all plays a key in the weight loss. If you fast long enough your body will tap into fat… In addition, pushing your calories back to the end of the day is a fantastic tool in keeping your calories in check. The simplest way to understand weight loss is to know that calories out needs to be greater then calories in. No matter any of the other information. It can take a lot of effort to eat your 1500 calories (or whatever your resting metabolic burn is) in the span of 4 hours then in 2.
Calories In < Calories Out = Weight Loss
However, there have been some studies that show that fasting is more efficient at preserving muscle mass while in a caloric deficit then just restricting calories throughout the day. Again, this relates to increased growth hormone during fasting. Again, hypothetically, that wonderful growth hormone is kicking into drive to reserve your muscle so you can “go find food”.
Please take note that most of us who are looking into intermittent fasting have plenty of fat as spare fuel… however, if you are bone thin… I don’t recommend this.
One of the greatest benefits of fasting is the simplicity it can bring to your life.. especially if you are an adult, living alone or relatively independent. As a regular intermittent faster myself, I have found not dealing with meal planning, breakfast and packing a lunch has saved incredible time. Between meal prepping and eliminating the two designated meals I have literally aded hours onto my life (at least an hour of prep and an hour between the two meals, if not more). I wake up, go to the gym, come home and quickly shower and get to work.. no meal, meal prep or cleanup. I also work through lunch shortening my work day… more fun time for me.
5. Improve Your Brain and Productivity
Many people who intermittent fast do it for the increased productivity. I’m not suggesting this is for everyone… but many, many people who choose to do some version of intermittent fasting find this to be the case. However, from both personal experience and second hand knowledge, many people need a “break in” phase.. but its well worth the initial uncomfortable feeling… and here is why:
Intermittent fasting promotes autophagy, which turns over damaged cells. It can almost be considered as a cellular cleansing … it’s almost like a recycling routine that makes us more efficient. In addition, this “recycling” not only benefits our aging process but has also been shown to benefit our brains. Not to mention, they say it is a defense against diseases such as dancer Alzheimer’s (sold on it yet?)
Fasting (and vigorous exercise) has been shown to increase the ability of nerve cells to repair DNA… as well as promote the growth of neurons and strengthen synapses. Crazy huh? This information can expanded upon in Mark Mattson’s Ted Talk (Something I enjoy listening to on long drives). It is well worth the listen.
Eventually (if not right away) fasting will lead to increased energy and exceptional focus.
I once listened to a doctor to encourage everyone try a test of one. If the health and weight loss benefits aren’t enough to encourage you to give it a try, then perhaps you want to do it simply to prove you can.. or to prove this wrong. Why do you need permission from someone else to try it out on you?
Below are some fantastic fasting sources, from real world practitioners, scholarly research and fitness professionals. These all help support the idea of fasting. However, it is truly something everyone needs to determine for themselves, if its a lifestyle change that can improve their life for the better.
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“Fasting Cures Diabetes.” Intensive Dietary Management. N.p., 04 Dec. 2015. Web. 22 Dec. 2016. <https://intensivedietarymanagement.com/fasting-cures-diabetes-t2d-4/>.
Ho, K. Y., J. D. Veldhuis, M. L. Johnson, R. Furlanetto, W. S. Evans, K. G. Alberti, and M. O. Thorner. “Fasting Enhances Growth Hormone Secretion and Amplifies the Complex Rhythms of Growth Hormone Secretion in Man.” Journal of Clinical Investigation. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Apr. 1988. Web. 30 Dec. 2016.
Additional Resources for Valuable Fasting Information:
Kinobody.com | Youtube.com/kinobody |The beginners guide to intermittent fasting by James Clear ?
Originally published at www.perfectingproductivity.com on December 19, 2016.