I’m going to try and keep things as simple as possible and if this is something that interests you, there is plenty of research out there that explains the benefits in further detail.
Intermittent fasting (a.k.a. IF) is where you don’t eat for a period of 24 hrs once or twice a week (also called 5:2 IF). The rest of the days, you eat at maintenance calories. Not only will this give you a 1-3 lbs lost every week there are other great health benefits as you’ll see below. There’s other methods that are considered IF, one of them is called 16:8 IF, where you eat for an 8 hr period everyday and fast for 16 hours. For example, eat from noon to 8 pm daily, then fast till noon the next day. As you can see, this method would be easy to adopt as a lifestyle – less meal planning and food decisions to be made.
This doesn’t mean that you can eat whatever you want when you’re not fasting. You still have to eat healthy, nutrition dense foods and stay at or just below you’re maintenance calories.
IF also offers the following benefits;
- Increased insulin sensitivity and mitochondrial energy efficiency – Fasting increases insulin sensitivity along with mitochondrial energy efficiency, and thereby retards aging and disease, which are typically associated with loss of insulin sensitivity and declined mitochondrial energy. This is also a great benefit for those with Type 2 Diabetes (like myself) and pre-diabetic.
- Reduced oxidative stress – Fasting decreases the accumulation of oxidative radicals in the cell, and thereby prevents oxidative damage to cellular proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids associated with aging and disease.
- Increased capacity to resist stress, disease and aging – Fasting induces a cellular stress response (similar to that induced by exercise) in which cells up-regulate the expression of genes that increase the capacity to cope with stress and resist disease and aging.
Other research that points to similar conclusions;
- Research by Valter Longo1 at the University of Southern California’s Longevity Institute shows that intermittent fasting has a beneficial impact on IGF-1, an insulin-like growth factor that plays a role in aging. When you eat, this hormone drives your cells to reproduce, and while this is good for growth, it’s also a factor that drives the aging process. Intermittent fasting decreases the expression of IGF-1, and switches on other DNA repair genes. In this way, intermittent fasting switches your body from “growth mode” to “repair mode.”
- Krista Varady with the University of Illinois has been researching the impact of fasting on chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. Her work also compares the effects of intermittent fasting with caloric restriction, which is known to benefit health and longevity. Animal studies using alternate-day fasting2 have shown it lowers the risk of diabetes, at rates comparable to caloric restriction. Alternate-day fasting has also been shown to reduce cancer rates by reducing cell proliferation.
- Research by Mark Hartman and colleagues3 indicates short-term fasting can trigger production of human growth hormone (HGH) in men, and reduce oxidative stress that contributes to disease and aging; benefits brain health, mental well-being, and clarity of thought.
As you can see, this can be another useful tool in the fat loss arsenal but it’s definitely not for everyone. This is why I’m going to try it for the next 2-3 weeks and see how it goes.
Here’s a great article from a guy that did it for 2 years.
What I’ve Learned from 2 Years of Intermittent Fasting
Monday – Eat 2 meals and 1 snack. Start fasting after lunch (noon).
Tuesday – Fast until noon, then lunch, dinner, and 2 snacks. – Weight training in the PM.
Wednesday – Eat at or close to maintenance calories.
Thursday – Eat 3 meals and 2 snacks. Start fasting after dinner (6 PM). Weight train in the AM.
Friday – Fast until 5 PM, have dinner and a snack before bed.
Saturday and Sunday – Eat at or close to maintenance calories. Weight train Saturday.
Results will be reported in a couple weeks.