What is intermittent fasting?
Put simply, it’s cycling between periods of fasting and eating, like fasting for 16 hours at a time while eating all of your food within an 8-hour period each day.
When we eat all day every day, our bodies burn glucose for energy, which is not efficient and our mitochondria become exhausted from constantly having to produce energy to process food. Normally, our regular consumption of food provides the brain with glucose for fuel. In between meals, our brains are supplied with this glucose by breaking down glycogen from the liver and muscles.
However, glycogen stores run out eventually. Our metabolism shifts and we create new molecules of glucose through amino acids of protein in our muscles. This process is called gluconeogenesis. Sure, this might create new energy for your body, but it comes at cost: breaking down muscle.
On the flip side, when you go long periods without eating, your body turns to fat for vital fuel (meaning you burn fat for energy). Your body breaks down fat into specialized molecules referred to as ketones. Among the various types of ketones, there is beta-hydroxybutyrate (beta-HBA), which is far superior in terms of energy production when compared to glucose. In fact, beta-HBA improves antioxidant function, increases quantities of mitochondria, stimulates the growth of new brain cells, and suppresses inflammation¹. Think of ketones as super fuel. What’s even more incredible is that tumors cannot grow when your metabolism shifts to ketones as a source of fuel, as they are designed to feed off glucose for growth². For this reason, it is a good idea to go 16-18 hours without eating every day. You’re essentially training your body to burn fat just by being strategic about when to eat.
Now I know what you’re thinking… 16-18 hours is a ridiculously long amount of time to go without eating! Actually, it’s not, think about it like this: if you have dinner at 5:00 pm, then that means you shouldn’t eat again until 9:00 am… that’s not so bad!
In addition to an increase in energy and a decrease in body fat, my father, a doctor, has observed in his patients throughout his career that those who use the digestive system the least, or eat less often, generally live longer than those who continuously pound food down. In fact, studies prove this in dramatic fashion – in one of them, rats that fasted every other day lived 83% longer than rats that did not fast³.
I’m not saying you should restrict calories too much, but just be mindful of when and how often you eat; don’t count calories, just eat the right foods at the right time and you will thrive. Fasting for just 16 hours and eating within an 8-hour window for as little as 8 weeks has been proven to decrease fat mass, maintain and build muscle mass, and increase some critical biomarkers of overall health when paired with resistance training⁴.
No, this does not mean you can eat burgers, fries and the like within that 8-hour window; this only works when paired with the right diet.
Fasting decreases the risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s⁵,⁶,⁷. Further, in a study, short-term fasts helped to significantly reduce Alzheimer’s symptoms in 9 out of 10 patients⁸.
Intermittent fasting may also help prevent cancer⁹,¹⁰,¹¹,¹².
Gene expression is altered in several genes and molecules related to longevity and disease prevention¹³,¹⁴.
Human growth hormone (HGH) may increase five fold¹⁵,¹⁶. HGH improves the body’s ability to burn fat, build muscle and more¹⁷,¹⁸.
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To maximizing health,
Jordan Paris, NASM CPT