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Intermittent Fasting: 16/8 Method

 

Food clock

Food clock

Fasting is not as difficult as it sounds

Intermittent fasting is a term for a cycling eating pattern between periods of fasting and eating. It does not say anything about which foods you should eat, but rather when you should eat them. In this respect, it is not a “diet” in the conventional sense. It is more accurately described as an “eating pattern.”

Humans have actually been fasting throughout evolution. Sometimes it was done because food was not available, and it has also been a part of major religions, including Islam, Christianity and Buddhism.

If anything, fasting from time to time is more “natural” than constantly eating 3-4 (or more) meals per day. If you think of your digestive system as a machine, you would understand that the less often you use a machine, the longer it will last. Our digestive machine will last longer if it is not overworked.

There are many different types of intermittent fasting. For the purpose of this blog, I will focus on my favorite and the most popular type, which is the 16/8 method. It involves skipping breakfast and restricting your daily eating period to just 8 hours, for example from 10 am to 6 pm, 11 am to 7 pm, or from 12 pm to 8 pm. (The actual 8 hour window can be during any time of day but makes the most sense for a majority of people at these times) Then you “fast” for 16 hours in between. I’ve personally found the 16/8 method to be the simplest, most sustainable and easiest to stick to. Timing it so that most of your fasting is done while sleeping works great!

When you fast, several things happen in your body on the cellular and molecular level. For example, your body changes hormone levels to make stored body fat more accessible. Your cells also initiate important repair processes, and change the expression of genes. This is a wonderful discovery in the area of epigenetics.

Here are some changes that occur in your body when you fast:

  • Human Growth Hormone (HGH): The levels of growth hormone skyrocket, increasing as much as 5-fold. This has the benefit of fat loss and muscle gain. Another great way to boost your HGH is to practice High Intensity Interval Training.
  • Insulin: Insulin sensitivity improves and levels of insulin drop dramatically. Lower insulin levels make stored body fat more accessible. This provides answers to those struggling to manage their blood sugar levels and are labeled pre-diabetic.
  • Cellular repair: When fasted, your cells initiate cellular repair processes. A natural and healthy occurrence where cells digest and remove old and dysfunctional proteins that build up inside cells. Cleansing and “taking out the trash” so to speak.
  • Gene expression: There are changes in the function of genes related to longevity and protection against disease. Less stress on the system allows for longer life span. Ask your body to express healthy genes, not flawed ones.

These changes in hormone levels, cell function and gene expression are responsible for the health benefits of intermittent fasting.

Here are the main health benefits of intermittent fasting:

  • Weight Loss: Intermittent fasting can help you lose weight and belly fat, without having to consciously count calories.
  • Insulin resistance:Intermittent fasting can reduce insulin resistance, lowering blood sugar by 3-6% and fasting insulin levels by 20-31% which is protective against type 2 diabetes.
  • Inflammation:There is a significant decrease in the lab work markers of inflammation, a key driver of many chronic diseases.
  • Heart Health:Intermittent fasting may reduce LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood sugar and insulin resistance. These are all risk factors for heart disease.
  • Cancer:Animal studies suggest that intermittent fasting may help prevent cancer.
  • Brain Health:Intermittent fasting increases a brain hormone called BDNF, and may aid the growth of new nerve cells. It may also protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Anti-aging:Intermittent fasting can extend lifespan in rats. Studies showed that fasted rats live as much as 36-83% longer.

What if I don’t want to lose any weight? Intermittent fasting is not just for those who hope to lose weight. While it is a very effective way to do so, many people who practice IF are doing it to sculpt lean muscle and provide preventative healthcare benefits while maintaining a healthy body weight.

I invite you to give intermittent fasting a try for a few days. You will likely enjoy the benefits as much as I have and be surprised at how efficiently the body is capable of working.

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