You’re probably familiar with the concept of fasting, and perhaps you’ve heard about dietary fasting for health benefits as well. Some people fast for religious reasons, or for medical ones (e.g. fasting before bloodwork or surgery).
But what is an intermittent fasting diet? Is it safe? Is it effective?
Basically, intermittent fasting means making a change in your eating patterns every day: for example, only eating in an 8-hour window, and not for the other 16 hours.
And the effectiveness speaks for itself once you learn that Beyoncé, Victoria’s Secret model Miranda Kerr, and Ben Affleck all do IF (we’ll use the acronym to keep it brief!).
The reason these celebrities can shed pounds so quickly for a movie, or after having a baby, is because IF burns fat for energy and speeds up your metabolism.
After you eat, your body produces insulin because insulin allows you to use sugar for energy. However, if you eat several times a day, you become less “insulin sensitive” because your body is so used to making insulin all the time.
That’s no good —your body is now less effective at using one of its main fuel sources for energy, and less effective at losing weight and gaining muscle (because being insulin sensitive helps with both of these things!). So much for the common theory that eating six small meals over the course of the day is the best way to lose weight! That just isn’t true.
We hear “eat less to lose weight” and immediately sense a bit of “danger.”
Absolutely not! You’re still eating the same amount of calories as you would normally, but just changing when you eat. In the example we used above, where you pick an 8-hour window to eat within, you can still eat 3 large meals.
While you may find it difficult at first to, let’s say, only eat between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. every day, consuming a low-carb diet can help…Because good fats are satiating! Continue to eat 2,000 calories (or whatever your proper calculated calorie goal is, depending on factors like gender and height) every day, and you won’t get hungry after 5 p.m. Protein and good fats are keeping you full!
So, is fasting healthy? Yes, if you’re getting all your macronutrients (in which case, counting calories isn’t even necessary…just make sure you’re listening to your body and eating foods loaded with nutrients).
If you’re still hesitant about the idea of not eating early in the morning or late at night (again, you aren’t eating fewer meals with IF, just eating them in a smaller time frame!), let’s look at the science again.
Take it from evolutionary biologists. They study what cavepeople did in order to see what’s most natural, and thus healthy, human behavior. These biologists know that ancient peoples wouldn’t have had the time or resources to eat six small meals a day — they would have eaten when they could get it. Feasting, then fasting.
Mark Mattson, head scientist at the National Institute of Aging, says that (based on his studies on mice) fasting saves neurons from dying.
Yep, it’s better for your brain. So, the question isn’t “Is fasting healthy?” It’s, “How can you afford not to try such an amazingly healthy diet pattern?”
The slight “stress” IF triggers in your body is perfectly normal and natural. Cavepeople were totally used to it, and used to the fat burning triggered by lowered insulin and heightened HGH (human growth hormone).
So, you’ll burn even more fat with an IF diet, and you’ll have more neurons than the average Joe or Jane. But are you nervous you’ll still feel hungry at dawn and dusk? One tactic is to take it slow, as I mention in my previous article on IF. You don’t have to reduce your daily eating window to (for example) 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. straight away. Instead, you can gradually narrow it down so your body has time to adjust.
“If” you want to look like Beyonce or Ben Affleck, you need to match your eating patterns to those of our low-fat, high-muscle ancestors. Eating breakfast at 9, lunch at 12, dinner at 6, and snacks in between is very much a modern invention.
Why not squeeze all that awesome food into a smaller amount of time, and then use the rest of your day for, well, the important stuff?
Is fasting healthy? Absolutely, and it isn’t difficult at all once you acclimate to the pattern and, more importantly, fuel your body with the right, low-carb foods that keep you full all day.