How to Benefit the Body with Intermittent Fasting
It seems like for ages—or for at least as long as the modern world can remember—people have been looking for an easy way to lose weight.
Better yet, people have looked for a way to lose weight that doesn’t involve diets, specific foods (good or bad), or even exercise.
Scientists have searched, but a magic solution to weight loss hasn’t been discovered yet that yields success without these staple weight loss approaches. Supplement companies are likewise yet to find such a magic bullet in herbs, botanicals, and other ingredients to miraculously help those pounds slip right off.
There’s no way around it: losing weight is only possible through diet and exercise.
Except there is one thing scientists have discovered in the past couple of decades: and it’s called intermittent fasting.
WHAT IS INTERMITTENT FASTING?
More than any weight loss approach yet discovered, intermittent fasting may be the closest thing to “miracle” weight loss out there—without diets and exercise.
Since the turn of the century, research has explored the beneficial effects of intermittent fasting on many aspects of health.
These include benefits to brain health, heart health, and—yes—weight loss, and most notably in people with the hardest time losing weight.
In the last 7 years, stunning research by Dr. Satchin Panda into how intermittent fasting works has been unraveled. Namely: how to use it and dial it in for health and weight loss.
What successful intermittent fasting requires: strict time-restricted eating and adhering to what’s called an “eating window.”
THE KEY TO INTERMITTENT FASTING: THE EATING WINDOW
Intermittent fasting isn’t just about fasting occasionally. It’s not about prolonged episodes of fasting, either.
Rather, it’s about adhering to certain windows of eating time every day; or, fasting for a set number of hours regularly.
Dr. Satchin Panda recommends one basic approach based on his research: fasting 12 hours every day while limiting one’s “eating window” to only 12 hours within the same 24-hour cycle.
There’s some wiggle room on this, too. People may choose to fast even more, sometimes around 14 to 16 hours per day, while limiting their eating window to periods as short as 6 or even 4 hours.
Dr. Satchin Panda and Dr. Rhonda Patrick even recommend 9-hour eating as likely to benefit muscle endurance.
EVERYTHING BUT WATER: THE RULES OF FASTING
We know what some people might be thinking: “Great! I fast that much already.”
While that’s possible, it might not be the case. According to Panda’s research, intermittent fasting means that a person only consumes water during their fasting periods. No other beverage, no food, and no supplements or medicines.
Water-only fasting ensures that the benefits of the fast are as optimal as they can be since they take a load off the liver.
So, even if someone only drinks coffee in the morning or takes their medications or supplements in the evening during their fast, this is still “breaking the fast.” It’s putting the liver to work, which is a process that can reverse all the benefits of intermittent fasting in the first place.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF INTERMITTENT FASTING?
What are all the benefits of intermittent fasting in the first place? Why is this weight loss approach—which is well on its way to becoming a popular fad and supported by groundbreaking research—so effective and good for health?
Intermittent fasting’s benefits all hinge on one major concept: the fact that the gut and the liver, for a certain time period each day, need a break.
Our culture and schedules encourage eating habits that are constant throughout the day, with three meals and tons of snacking in between. But this isn’t natural.
Our primal ancestors subsisted more realistically on a feast or famine existence, very likely going without food even for days at a time. In all likelihood, the body is equipped to function better without food for certain occasional time lengths.
And while it doesn’t have to be as extreme or as often as our ancient ancestors, intermittent fasting can very likely be incorporated into one’s regimen to provide the same natural benefits (including weight loss) that our ancestor’s experienced.
Here’s what scientific research shows these benefits might be.
INTERMITTENT FASTING CAN SUPPORT WEIGHT LOSS
This first one is a given, especially since it’s already been discussed in this article and is also one of the main reasons people try intermittent fasting.
A legion of studies (including this one) show that various fasting approaches have benefits for weight loss. But how can fasting work in this way?
Studies show that when the body fasts for a certain period, it starts to switch gears. Instead of burning immediately available glucose from food, for example, it instead starts to access “storage” sources: namely, body fat.
In this way, intermittent fasting can kick-start better metabolism and support weight loss, especially in people dealing with stubborn body fat that just won’t go away.
INTERMITTENT FASTING CAN JUMPSTART MITOCHONDRIAL FUNCTION
Here’s where we start to delve into the deeper health benefits of intermittent fasting, beyond just superficial weight loss.
Apparently, even at the deepest cellular level, intermittent fasting has lasting and significant health impacts.
More specifically, studies show this practice may improve the health of mitochondria, which are microscopic organelles in our cells. Even better, further studies also show intermittent fasting can stimulate autophagy, an important “clean-up” process in our bodies that mitochondria are known to do.
In less scientific-sounding words: intermittent fasting improves the body’s ability to clean up natural damage built up in cells, which in turn renews health, energy, tissue strength, and creates a domino effect of health benefits in many other areas.
INTERMITTENT FASTING HELPS REGULATE BLOOD SUGARS
One of these other areas that intermittent fasting improves via mitochondrial health and autophagy? Helping to better regulate blood sugars.
The implications are obvious for weight loss, but they’re even more obvious when it comes to helping those with type 2 diabetes and those that are pre-diabetic.
Type 2 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder that is often diet-triggered and genetically driven as well, and occurs when the body’s ability to respond to insulin and blood glucose drops to dangerous levels. Optimistically, intermittent fasting is shown to improve this.
One study showed that intermittent fasting (combined with calorie restriction) impacted blood glucose levels for the better, and thereby reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes. Yet another study showed similar benefits.
INTERMITTENT FASTING CAN WORK LIKE AN ANTIOXIDANT
What’s more, intermittent fasting’s impacts on the cellular level can work just like an antioxidant. Meaning: following an intermittent fasting regimen can protect against cellular damage, degeneration, and disease caused by free radicals.
Feel like there aren’t enough antioxidant-rich foods in that diet? Add some intermittent fasting to the menu.
This stimulates autophagy, which is basically the same process antioxidants help support to complete the routine “cleanup” in cells. One of the biggest targets of this cleanup, after all, is possible free radicals.
INTERMITTENT FASTING CAN HELP SOOTHE INFLAMMATION
More than anything else, free radicals are known to cause “chronic inflammation” in much of the population.
Chronic inflammation can be the source of many diseases and illnesses.
Intermittent fasting—in the way it supports mitochondrial function, autophagy, and reducing free radicals—can thus be an added support for chronic inflammation itself, as well as many inflammation-involved issues.
It could never be considered a total remedy, but some could consider it a jumping off point or one of many tools in one’s health-boosting arsenal (like an anti-inflammatory diet) to fight inflammation.
INTERMITTENT FASTING IS GREAT FOR THE HEART
If intermittent fasting has antioxidant-like effects, then the next logical thing to know is that it can be one of many great self-care tactics for heart health.
Studies show and support this possibility, too.
Because the practice’s antioxidant-like effects can reduce inflammation, this, in turn, can subtly support the lowering of high blood pressure. Branching out from this too (with the help of yet another study), intermittent fasting could play a role in reducing the risk of stroke, which also occurs due to high blood pressure.
INTERMITTENT FASTING COULD HELP PROTECT THE BRAIN
Is stroke risk the only threat to brain health that intermittent fasting could possibly protect against? Not so.
Studies show that the catalytic changes intermittent fasting causes could make it effective against a whole spread of brain-related issues.
Neurological disorders, such as those relating to age, are a prime territory. But this can also move the dietary practice’s effectiveness into the realms of being protective against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease as well.
For the average person who isn’t sweating age-related conditions or neurological disorders quite yet (or at all), there may also be perks in intermittent fasting for improving memory or putting a halt to brain fog, which is non-serious but still troublesome issues nevertheless.
INTERMITTENT FASTING COULD HELP REGULATE HORMONES
If the list of health issues that intermittent fasting could support isn’t impressive enough yet, it may be time to take stock of the fact that it could have an amazing impact on hormones.
In one study, intermittent fasting increased sex globulin binding hormone (SGBH) in female test subjects, which then helped improve levels of female hormones.
For women, this can be an immense game-changer by improving many levels of quality of life.
On the other hand, for men, the benefits of intermittent fasting may be more indirect but just as useful. Men who keep off body fat by staying fit and building muscle can help boost testosterone levels (and thus boost fertility).
And we all now know that intermittent fasting can be very effective for weight loss.
INTERMITTENT FASTING COULD REDUCE CANCER RISK
Could intermittent fasting be helpful for reducing the risk of one of the deadliest illnesses of all time: cancer?
According to studies on its antioxidant functions, the answer is yes.
A study in 2011 suggested that fasting, because of how it “reboots” the system and stimulates autophagy and cleanup, could be a great natural support to cancer therapies. This is because it may help sporadically “starve out” nutrients that certain cancers need to thrive.
Could it be the cancer remedy we’ve been waiting for? Unfortunately, intermittent fasting is quite far from that outcome—but that’s not to say it isn’t promising.
Dr. Satchin Panda on Time-Restricted Feeding and Its Effects on Obesity, Muscle Mass & Heart Health
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