The idea of intermittent fasting has been getting a lot of buzz lately. As weight loss methods go, it’s one of the oldest, whether used intentionally or not. For most of human evolution, intermittent fasting has been a natural part of our lifestyle simply due to the boom and bust nature of hunting and gathering our own food. It’s a modern phenomenon — some would say a modern problem — to have constant access to snacks, allowing us to eat whatever we want, whenever we want, twenty-four hours a day.
And so, the recent interest in intermittent fasting can almost be considered a back-to-nature movement, with touted benefits ranging from weight loss to treating chronic pain. But does it really work? What does science say? And what’s the best way to fast?
The Best Diet is the One That Works for You
We always say that a diet doesn’t work if you can’t stick with it. And the beauty of intermittent fasting is that it’s intermittent — you only have to do it for a while, then you can go back to your regular eating. Some people will fast for 24 to 72 hours, while others will fast only during certain hours of the day.
- Eating normally five days a week while fasting or restricting calories on the other two.
- Fasting every other day
- Eating only during a set block of six to eight hours a day (usually morning to early afternoon) while fasting during the other sixteen to eighteen.
Still, just because you’ve completed a fast doesn’t mean you should go wild when you’re eating again. Try to pay attention to these healthy diet tips to keep yourself on track outside your fasting hours.
The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting can be an effective weight-loss tool, with additional claimed benefits ranging from reduced inflammation to improved brain function. Here are a few things intermittent fasting might be able to help you with.
Reduce insulin resistance
Intermittent fasting resulted in a significant decrease in blood sugar levels in one study, while others have shown intermittent and alternate-day fasting to be effective at reducing insulin resistance.
Inflammation is suspected to be involved in developing conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and heart disease. Intermittent fasting over the course of a month is associated with a significant decrease in inflammatory markers.
Improve blood pressure, triglyceride, and cholesterol levels
Intermittent fasting has been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol and triglycerides by up to 32%.
Prevent neurodegenerative disorders
Studies in mice — but not humans — show an improvement in brain function, structure, and the generation of nerve cells related to intermittent fasting, leading to hope for conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
Any form of calorie restriction can lead to weight loss, but intermittent fasting has also been shown to boost metabolism, increase fat loss, and preserve muscle tissue.
Increase growth hormone secretion
Fasting for just twenty-four hours is enough to significantly increase human growth hormone levels, which is important not just for growth but also for metabolism, weight loss, and muscle strength.
Animal studies point to the possibility of delayed aging and longer life associated with intermittent fasting.
Increase effectiveness of chemotherapy
Other studies limited to animals suggest that intermittent fasting might help block tumor formation, delay tumor growth, and increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy on cancer formation.
Is Fasting Safe?
As with any diet or attempt at losing weight at home, it’s best to consult with your doctor first. Especially if you are affected by diabetes or low blood sugar, crashes and spikes in blood sugar levels related to intermittent fasting could be dangerous for you. Likewise, ask your doctor about how fasting might affect any other underlying health conditions you might have.