For those of you who have yet to see the documentary, Eat, Fast, and Live Longer, Dr. Michael Mosely, author and journalist, goes about describing his journey as he takes on a habit of intermittent fasting to see if it might improve his not so great health.
In the beginning, you learn that Dr. Mosely’s blood work shows that his cholesterol is very high and he is a borderline diabetic, both of which are generally treated with medication. However, Dr. Mosely, concerned about his own health issues, sets out to try alternatives to medication.
He travels the across the US, where he interviews people who are healthy and come from families where long lives are common, to learn their secrets. He discovers that many people who are healthy and tend to live longer lives practice intermittent fasting.
Fasting has numerous health benefits, as Dr. Mosely soon discovers everything from reduced cancer risks, gene repair, cardiovascular health, and longevity.
You may have heard that severe calorie restriction will, of course, result in weight loss and longevity, but living on what is virtually a starvation diet is not something most people are willing to adopt.
New research shows, however, that you can get many of the same benefits of a starvation diet by something called intermittent fasting, where you eat normally on some days and dramatically cut your caloric intake on other days.
This type of fasting mimics the eating habits of our ancient ancestors who did not have food available to them 24/7/365.
They frequently went through periods where there was a great deal of game (meat) and fruit available to times when there was very little to eat. By altering your diet in this way, you dramatically alter the way in which your body operates, and improve your health at the same time.
Most people think of fasting as something that is done as a part of a spiritual practice. Now, modern science confirms that fasting has many benefits including (but not limited to):
- Prevents Insulin Resistance
- Normalizes Leptin and Insulin
- Encourages Your Body to Use Fat For Energy
- Promotes Human Growth Hormone Production
- Lowers Triglyceride Levels
- Reduces Oxidative Stress
This type of fasting is perhaps the most effective way to burn fat and eliminate your sugar cravings. Since most of us have at least some fat that we simply cannot seem to get rid of, this is a super important benefit.
Also, for those of you who can’t seem to stop your sugar addiction, you will find that when sugar is no longer needed as a primary fuel source, your cravings should subside dramatically, if not entirely.
Lastly, intermittent fasting has been identified as an ally for the prevention, and perhaps even for the treatment of, dementia. When you burn fat, ketones are released as a byproduct, and it is ketones, not glucose, that is the preferred fuel for the brain.
Intermittent fasting is a broad term that covers a number of fasting schedules. Generally, fasting involves cutting calories in whole, or partially, either a few days per week or every other day, sometimes even daily.
Most people practice a routine that allows them to eat normally for 5 days per week, then cut your caloric intake to about 500 calories per day two days per week. Using this method, Dr. Mosely claims he lost 19 pounds in two months. Read more about how to do intermittent fasting right.
Another method is the alternate day fast. It works exactly how the name implies, with one day eating normally, the other day fasting for about 32 to 36 hours (including the time your sleep).
The only problem with this method is that it requires you to go to bed on an empty stomach every other day, which is not something many people enjoy. However, once accustomed to it, this schedule does have the highest compliance rate than other fasting schedules.
When all is said and done, it really doesn’t matter which schedule you decide to try, the perfect fasting routine is the one you will stick to.
Alternate day fasting is where you eat anything you like one day, then eat no more than 500 calories on the next day. This program also works well for weight loss, the same as other programs.
An interesting note from one study, where subjects participated in an alternate day fasting; those who ate just one meal, all 500 calories, in one meal, were more successful in sticking to the diet than those who ate tiny amounts of food throughout the day.
For some reason, those who ate those tiny meals several times per day, say that they only wanted more food as the day went on and the cheat rate dramatically increased in those subjects.
Another fasting method is to simply restrict your eating to a specific timeframe, such as 8 hours. In other words, you can eat anything you like, eat as you always do, no caloric restrictions, but you can only eat between the hours of 10 AM and 6 PM, for example.
This program is quite successful as there is rarely a need to cheat because you don’t have to restrict calories and you can eat in the evenings with your family and not have to go to bed hungry.
Sticking to a fasting program is always the key stumbling block and many people find it difficult to go on such as calorie restricted diet, even for just two days per week. There is always that co-worker who brings in their leftover cookies from their kids bake sale to kick you right off the fasting wagon.
This is why the set timeframe fasting plan works so well for many people. Eat one of those cookies if you must, as long as it’s between the hours you have set for eating.
For most people, this simply means eating a bit later in the morning than usual and forgoing your evening snack, something most people can become accustomed to rather quickly.
Now although when people say you can eat “anything you want” on your non fasting days ( or during non-fasting hours) but since the very reason you are adopting this new way of eating is to be healthier, it doesn’t seem to make sense to eat tons of junk food and sugar, simply because you can. You should still make healthy food choices, whether you are fasting or not.
Eating one cookie on occasion won’t kill you, but thinking that it’s OK to hit up the fast food drive through and eat burgers, fries, and ice cream shakes every day, or every other day, just because it’s your non-fast day, simply kills the healthy ideals you are trying to undertake by following a fasting routine to begin with.
If you begin any type of fasting program and find that you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Vision problems, such as double or blurred vision
- Confusion or abnormal behavior
- Fainting spells or loss of consciousness
- Severe headaches
- Muscle weakness
These are all symptoms of hypoglycemia, a condition where you have abnormally low levels of sugar in the blood. You can be hypoglycemic even if you are not a diabetic. Should you expense any of the above symptoms, eat some fruit or some coconut oil and see if the symptoms subside.
If these symptoms continue, or if they should continue to return day after day, see your doctor as soon as you can. If you are hypoglycemic, you should not be on a fasting program and will need to find other solutions to your overall diet.