by Alejandra "Alex" Ruani — Get free science updates here.
Intermittent fasting (IF) promises to teach you how to control your hunger and drop unwanted pounds.
Studies show that our organs and immune cells can be regenerated by practising intermittent fasting. And by choosing not to eat, some people use IF to actually bump up their commitment to health and wellness.
If this all sounds outlandish, continue reading to learn about the amazing changes IF can trigger in your own body.
What is intermittent fasting?
The elemental definition of intermittent fasting is to ‘take a break from eating’. That covers the ‘fasting’ part of it. The ‘intermittent’ part refers to how you vary the frequency of fasting.
But, is it really a healthy choice to not eat?
When you restrict calories by timing your food intake, you set up major scenarios to trigger big changes in your body.
Humans are predisposed to fast, according to Dr. Marc Hellerstein, Ph.D., a professor of human nutrition at the University of California, Berkeley. He reminds us that our ancestors didn’t have the option to eat every couple of hours. “…the two things we do best are pass on our genes and starve,” he says.
However, keep in mind that intermittent fasting is not a diet; it is a lifestyle choice.
There are several ways to slice out an intermittent fasting plan. The two most frequently used are referred to as a longer fast and a shorter fast. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? In a moment, I’ll share the details of each and explain why you might want to choose one over the other. But for now, I’ll teach you what intermittent fasting can do for your present health and future longevity.
Disclaimer: Medical supervision is recommended for any fast over 24 hours. Fasting is not recommended for pregnant/lactating women, diabetics, active athletes and those following a structured training programme, individuals under 18, persons with an eating disorder or a BMI under 18.5, and anyone with an illness, a medical condition, or following a medical treatment.
Intermittent fasting can:
1. Regenerate your entire immune system
When you fast for as little as three days, which should only be done under medical supervision, there can be a significant shift in how your body produces new white blood cells (the very base of your immune system).
Professor Valter Longo, Professor of Bio-gerontology at the University of California, tells us that when you stop eating, the body uses up stored glucose, fat and ketones, and also recycles worn out and damaged immune cells.
Once you resume eating, your white blood cell count gets a boost. The result is similar to a trigger switch that regenerates brand new white blood cells to invigorate and reinforce your entire immune system.
We are not promoting the idea of a three day fast; rather, simply providing the information from what scientists recently have found in a breakthrough described as “remarkable”.
2. Provide a robust anti-aging intervention
Our cells will adapt to fasting.
This can have a remarkable enhancing effect on autophagy and thus anti-ageing.
Studies show that autophagy – a response present in all of our cells to basically clean out and recycle – is an essential part of the anti-ageing mechanism of caloric restriction.
Essentially, we need autophagy – or our cells will become sluggish and less efficient.
When you fast intermittently, the autophagic response is bumped up. You’re giving your cells the space and time needed to get DNA debris and waste products out. It has been identified that the calorie restriction via fasting is the most robust anti-aging intervention known so far.
3. Help you break unconscious habits around eating
Undoubtedly, meals, snacking, and emotional eating can go unchecked during the day.
If you took a big pause, you might find the sensation of hunger can be more about habit than anything else. Sometimes we’re not even listening to our body signals because we’re mindlessly stuck in our habits around eating.
So take something like intermittent fasting where you take a break from eating. Skipping a meal or two every now and then isn’t a bad thing and intermittent fasting can help you re-route your track and tune into the hunger signals your body is sending.
Sure, you might love to eat, but think about the simplicity of fasting or missing a meal. You’ve removed that possible stressful combination from your day altogether. This opens space for relaxing. Some people have even referred to it as relieving.
Imagine the freedom in being able to mentally and emotionally unplug yourself from food woes and do something else instead.
Professor Valter Longo, considered one of the world’s foremost experts on prolongation of lifespan and longevity, says that one of the toughest parts of fasting is being away from food. He says, “we are so used to having food all the time that we cannot conceive separating from it. This is one of the most important factors.”
An additional side benefit from choosing an intermittent fasting plan is that it might change your relationship with food. When it’s time to eat again, take notice of how you respond, and relish the enjoyment gained through eating. Even the most ‘bland’ health foods can taste delicious when you experience true hunger.
What plan fits your lifestyle?
There are quite a few varieties of intermittent fasting. For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to briefly share two popular ones.
The first is: restrict your daily eating to a specific window of time. For instance, choose an eight-hour window and plan your meals within that time-frame.
Another one is called the 5:2 plan, popularised by BBC’s health journalist Dr. Michael Mosley in his book The Fast Diet. You can eat whatever you want for five days, and then restrict your calories to 500-600 per day for the remaining two.
Before considering fasting, learn more from my interview with Professor Valter Longo HERE.
So what do you say? Are you up for the intermittent fasting challenge?
Let us know in the comments below! Please share this with anyone who might be up for it, too.
And for those of you who have already tried intermittent fasting: how did it work out for you?
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