Unlocking the Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Let’s face it, the idea of voluntarily going hungry isn’t an appealing one. But when long-term symbols of health and strength like Hugh Jackman and Chris Hemsworth endorse a fitness trend, it’s probably worth paying attention.
So why is there a sudden interest in the idea of intermittent fasting?
Intermittent Fasting, An Evolutionary Necessity
Intermittent fasting has been around for a while. Millennia in fact. Previously, it was just called “being human”.
Contrary to our modern lifestyles of food on demand and snacks never being more than ten feet away, our bodies are specifically adapted to be able to work, sleep, and even exercise on very low amounts of energy.
This was because the first hunter-gatherers could never be sure where their next meal was coming from, so our ancestors’ bodies adapted to deal with this reality.
The Stated Health Benefits
The health benefits for intermittent fasting, or caloric restriction as it’s sometimes known, are only now being scientifically studied in detail.
Some of the benefits currently being investigated include:
- increased human growth hormone production, which has obvious advantages for kick-starting fat loss and muscle gain
- repair of cells, where the renewal of old and diseased cells are accelerated by regular fasting
- diabetes prevention, where the sensitivity of the body to insulin is improved resulting in positive effects for preventing type 2 diabetes
- weight loss in 4 weeks via an increased resting fat-burning rate as your body consumes its energy stores (fat).
Your Choices: Types of Fasting
Fasting can be done in a variety of ways, but each has some evidence to suggest the health benefits above can be achieved by using them.
The 5:2 Fast
If you know the work of Dr Michael Mosley of the BBC, then you may have already heard of the 5:2 fast, or the 5:2 diet.
The method here is fairly simple: choose two days of the week that don’t follow each other.
For these two days, consume just 500 calories, with a bias towards protein like fatty fish or lean red meat.
In layman’s terms, that’s about a quarter of what you would consume if you were to have three full meals plus a couple of small snacks throughout the day.
The downsides to this method are that if you have a physically demanding job, you might need more energy than this calorie level provides, but the benefits are the flexibility to choose your days at your leisure.
The 16:8 Fast
On a normal day you are already fasting for about eight hours. It’s the time when you are sleeping.
The 16:8 fast involves not eating for 16 hours each 24 hour period, and consuming all of your calories for the day within an eight-hour window.
In practical terms, this might involve waking at 6:30 am, but not eating your breakfast until 10:00 am, with a slightly later lunch than normal, followed by dinner at around 6:00 pm.
Others may opt for an eating window between midday and 8:00 pm.
This method of fasting is far more achievable for most men as it doesn’t require heavy calorie restriction or huge amounts of willpower to resist “normal” amounts of food for a whole day.
As the name implies, this style of fasting is simply one day of 500 calorie intake followed by a day of “normal” eating. This cycle repeats every two days. This option works well for people who prefer a simple method to follow.
Intermittent fasting has really good long term health benefits, keeping our blood sugar stable reduces inflamation in the body and helps prevent against long term illness.
Getting started with Intermittent fasting can be tough, so I would recommend that you start gradually and don’t go straight in with a 16:8 every day for the first week.
I would start with a few days at a time until you have got used too the way if makes you feel and eating less
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