Intermittent Fasting, it may sound self-explanatory yet kind’a complicated to digest at first glance for this words. So what is intermittent fasting and why this becomes a trend for people looking for ways to lose weight?
Intermittent – adjective
occurring at irregular intervals; not continuous or steady.
Fasting – verb
Compound words with different meaning but if mix together will mean “abstinence of consuming food or drink or both for a period of irregular intervals of time”. This technique is actually very common and almost all of us are doing it already but may not be aware. Our usual eating pattern is breakfast > lunch > snacks(optional) >dinner, the time in between those major eating events is the “fasting” and we allow our body to digest, process, and utilize the food it takes.
Intermittent fasting is a disruption from the usual pattern because it could be that you will extend your fasting phase, for example, you’ll skip your breakfast and eat twice a day only. This common intermittent fasting has 16 hours “fasting” window from dinner to lunch then 8 hours window from lunch to dinner also known as 16/8 method or Time Restricted Method (TRF).
Another method is Alternate-Day Fasting (ADF) which means the fasting window is higher up to 24 hours and followed by a normal fasting or 24hr-non-fasting time. You can choose whichever is your preference and can handle but for me, TRF is safer than ADF. Consult your doctor if you are diabetic before taking this eating pattern.
There are other methods like 5:2 diet (2 days of the week with 500 to 600 calories consumption), then there’s Eat-Stop-Eat, Warrior Diet (usually done during religious fasting), and Spontaneous Meal Skipping or skip meals whenever it’s convenient (this is what I usually do every weekend).
Is it safe and healthy?
Fasting is practice and even mandated (religious events) in some religion like Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism and been doing this for a thousand of years; some animals and humans are doing this to self-heal.
Fasting will help to lose fats, however, it must be carefully taken if you don’t want to lose your muscles or muscle atrophy. Overdoing it could lose your muscles instead of fats because our body will retain fats than muscles to survive. If done properly, the body will burn your body’s fats instead of sugar. A controlled fasting allows the body to burn fat cells more effectively, it uses fat as its primary source of energy instead of sugar.
Intermittent fasting can change your metabolism and hunger resistance. Metabolism is a process which the body converts the food and drinks into energy that the body will use to fuel the functions of the organs. Intermittent fasting will schedule your digestive system to rest and burn calories efficiently and promote a healthy bowel function.
Image from Hormone Kazusuke
Training your digestive system with longer window will alter or train the body’s “hunger hormone” ghrelin. Ghrelin stimulates our appetite, though this is not the sole factor of why we eat but at least we work-out the things that we can control. However, if you’re frail based on your self-assessment or physician’s assessment then you need to make sure to consult your doctor first and seek medical advice before doing the intermittent fasting.
Fasting Promotes Longevity and Improves Brain Function
According to studies fasting improves brain function and promote longevity. If you want to live more and reach beyond the expected human lifespan then fasting could help you. Dr. Joel Wallach listed cases to support that humans should live up to 120 or 140 years old. Dr. Joel Wallach is a recipient of Klaus Schwarz Award, he is a biochemical research, a naturopathic physician in 1982 and renowned for his groundbreaking research on the health benefits of selenium and other minerals. In addition, the researchers at the University of Southern California’s Longevity Institute have found that the blood chemistries of the “starved” patients showed a jump in the number of circulating bone marrow stem cells (a good effect) and a decrease in the levels of IGF-1 and PKA, which are two molecular bad actors that contribute to the development of cellular injury and cancer [http://www.worth.com/fasting-for-longevity/]. This finding was published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.
In the study conducted by the scientists at Buck Institute for Research on Aging on fruit fly larvae, they have found that the brain responds to nutrient scarcity by reducing synaptic activity, probably brain’s way of conserving energy and quick reboot. According to Dr. Pejmun Haghighi, a professor at the Buck Institue and lead author of the study that high utilization of energy generates waste including reactive oxygen that could lead to oxidative damage in cells including neurons. Moderate fasting could be effective in preventing neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Improves Immunity and Helps Clear the Skin
As I mentioned earlier, fasting is used by animals and humans to self-heal; Intermittent fasting reduces free radical damage, detoxify the body, regulates inflammation and starving off cancer cells formation. Starving the body will kick-start the production of new white blood cells according to the scientists at the University of Southern California. Prof Valter Longo, Professor of Gerontology and the Biological Sciences at the University of California said “When you starve, the system tries to save energy, and one of the things it can do to save energy is to recycle a lot of the immune cells that are not needed, especially those that may be damaged.”
Intermittent fasting will slowly detoxify your body because you let it rest and continue to utilize the chemicals it needs to burn, which means eventually you will reach the normal levels of necessary body chemicals, hormones, and unwanted byproducts and stabilize your well-being. It will be visible through your skin and mood, skin acne caused by food allergies or toxins in the body will be gone. Skin problems caused by hormonal imbalance could be addressed but there are other factors that change or fluctuate hormones level. I would like to make a disclaimer on this area that it would be effective only if you have a stable or tolerable hormone fluctuations. This is what I do after big life or yearly events like fiesta, birthdays, Christmas, and New Year where I ate a lot of fatty and sugar rich foods.
Intermittent fasting is a wonderful technique it may look harsh to your body but in contrary, it has more benefits if properly executed and monitored. This is not recommended for stressed and with sleep problems as well as malnutrition individuals or sick and needs nutrition to recuperate.