Considering Intermittent Fasting for Health and Longevity?
Fasting seems to be a hot topic of discussion and like all new fads it probably has you wondering if it’s safe, effective, or sustainable. There is a lot of information out there so we have decided to weigh in on some of the benefits and mention some variations that may feel less intimidating when it comes to trying fasting. Now, to be clear, fasting is NOT starving yourself. If you have a history of an unhealthy relationship with food and/or an eating disorder it may not be the best idea. Also, if you have metabolic conditions such as diabetes it’s always best to discuss major changes to your diet with your doctor in order to safely monitor the effects. That being said, fasting has been around for centuries, many cultures use it as part of religious practices today, and most of us are already performing a short period of fasting if we are sleeping at least 6-8 hours/night anyway.
The benefits of fasting include: reduced inflammation throughout the whole body, reduced blood pressure, increased mental clarity, improved sleep quality (if you stop eating more than 2 hours before bed), improved hormonal responses, decreased LDL cholesterol, and decreased body fat. Besides these things, it gives your digestive system a rest. We are not designed to be digesting food constantly and this allows for a process called autophagy. Autophagy is your body’s way of cleaning up shop and clearing cellular waste. You don’t want damaged cells or cell material lingering as it can contribute to health issues and even chronic pain. There are many ways to experiment with intermittent fasting as well, so choosing a style that is manageable for you is probably an option.
Some common types of intermittent fasting are as follows:
- 5:2- This is where 2 days a week you adopt a 500-600 calorie diet. The rest of the week you eat as you normally would.
- 16:8- You eat all of your calories within an 8 hour window and fast for the other 16 (this includes the time you sleep!); This can be modified to 18:6 or 14:10, whichever feels best to you. You usually get the benefits of fasting if you do it for at least 12 hours.
- Alternate Day- Fasting for 24 hours alternately with eating regularly the next day.
- OMAD (One Meal a Day)- You eat all of your daily calories at one meal, this may be hard to do for someone who trains heavily multiple days a week.
We always encourage people to choose whole foods versus packaged, highly processed foods, but you may be able to reap many health benefits without even changing your current diet when you fast. It also saves you money, it’s easier to eat less calories, and it’s fairly simple in contrast to many other diets that require weighing food out or counting macros. Giving your digestive system a rest and allowing your body time to clear lingering toxic material and damaged cells alone is a good reason to try it, as this will likely also help with chronic health issues including pain.