Intermittent fasting is on many people's radar these days as it’s becoming more and more popular as a part of a healthy lifestyle. Research shows that it may provide a lot of health benefits such as decrease inflammation, improve heart health and make you feel a lot more energized and several researchers say that it increases longevity because it slows down the body’s aging process. But what exactly is Intermittent fasting? We’ll explain it all and let you know how you can apply it in your life and experience all the benefits for yourself!
Intermittent fasting; a way of eating through history
Intermittent fasting has been with us throughout history, one could say it’s an ancient tradition. Going back in time, humans had to hunt for food and could never count on a steady food supply. Because of this, humans evolved to be able to function without food for longer periods of time. And this is the way we’re still designed to eat.
In the Western world, we have grown used to eat at least every third hour. We have been told to never skip a meal and that eating regularly is good for us. But, this is not how we’re biologically adapted to consume food and calories.
Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating where you voluntarily stay away from food for a set period of time that is longer than the typical overnight fast. You alter between periods of eating (also known as feeding windows) and periods of fasting, and it can be done in different ways. A popular way is time-restricted eating, which means that you fast for 12-20 hours every day, with maybe the most common being for 16 hours. An example of how that could be done would be to have your last meal of the day at 8 pm and then have your first meal the next day at 12pm. Another way that you might have heard about or may have come across, is fasting for 24 hours. This can be done every other day, once or twice per week or several times throughout the month.
In other words, there are different ways to do intermittent fasting. Regardless of approach the point is to let your body rest from consuming food during a longer period of time. It is a way of living that dictates when you eat and not what you eat – which can have positive effects on how you feel and improve your overall health.
What are the health benefits of intermittent fasting?
Studies show that restricting your energy intake to a specific period of time may be a great way to improve and optimize your health. Two important findings are that Intermittent fasting has been shown to decrease inflammation and cause cellular repair.
Today we suffer from cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and inflammatory bowel syndrome among other things. These conditions are oftentimes caused by inflammation (inflammation is used by the body to fight infection, but too much inflammation may cause various diseases and damage our cells). Intermittent fasting has been shown to increase the immune response and reduce oxidative stress in the cells, which in turn may lower the inflammation in your body. This may decrease the risk of getting a chronic disease or any other inflammatory condition. As oxidative stress also causes aging, less oxidative stress in your body may slow down your body’s aging process. Oxidative stress is caused by many things with one being during the natural metabolic process when the body breaks down glucose, in other words when we consume food.
During the periods of fasting, your body gets a chance to rest and repair. Your body starts to repair your cells and break down the damaged ones. This is called cellular recycling (autophagy) and may lower the risk of getting diseases such as cancer.
Restricting your energy intake to a specific time period may also:
- help with weight loss
- stabilize your blood sugar
- make you feel more energized throughout the day
- make your body produce more growth hormones
- lower your insulin levels
- have a profound effect on muscle mass
With that said, intermittent fasting may not be for everyone. We are all individuals, meaning that we all have unique needs. This in turn may affect whether this kind of lifestyle is for you or not. If you feel uncertain, go easy and start small. Even a small intermittent fasting-step may make you feel better and provide you with some great benefits.
Sara Åhlund, Holistic health coach