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5 Reason's to Try Intermittent Fasting: and How to do It


Plato said: “I fast for greater physical and mental efficiency”.

Fasting has been around since the beginning of time. The Bible references it as well as other ancient texts and it has a place in many different cultures. At this point most people have heard of the term or know someone that practices fasting or even a more specific form of it which is intermittent fasting. For the purpose of this article it will focus on solely intermittent fasting and longer term fasts will be covered in the future. Intermittent fast is a short term fast that is repeated on a regular basis that has shorter eating windows combined with longer times of fasting. The most common version of this is fasting for 16 hours in a day then having an eating window of 8 hours which is when all of your meals would be eaten. This is something that I have been doing for about five years and have really enjoyed. There are many different benefits for your physical and mental health.



Intermittent Fasting and Weight Loss

The first one that people know of is how it can benefit one loosing weight and maintaining a healthy body mass index. There is increasing evidence that those that follow intermittent fasting or time restricted feeding are more likely to lose weight if previously overweight as well as maintain a healthy weight (1,2). Through the process of intermittent fasting your body switches from using sugars and glucose as energy and begins to use fat to burn as energy. Hunger levels also change when someone does intermittent fasting. When I started intermittent I could hardly go a few hours in the morning without thinking about how hungry I was. Now I can got a lot longer and my ideal fast is 19 hours with a 5 hour eating window which works well with my job. Research supports this idea and is linked to leptin levels which trigger one feeling hungry and ones that practice intermittent fasting have lower levels and get hungry less often (3).

In regards to mental health research suggests that a link between mental health and being overweight does exist (4,5). Although it is a bit of a chicken and the egg phenomenon of which came first being overweight or having mental health issues in regards to a holistic health approach it can be inferred that taking care of your body is an important part of taking care of your mental health.



Intermittent Fasting and Inflammation

Inflammation is something that I have talked about in different videos and articles now and is a big problem with many different chronic health problems (6). One of the problems linked to inflammation is depression and poor mental health (7). Inflammation is something that should be dealt with or prevented as much as possible. The good news is that intermittent fasting has been shown to lower rates of inflammation (8,9,10). This is related to how the body is able to slow down, lower overall stress and workload on the body, and heal itself in other ways since it does not have to focus on digesting food.

This is something that will continued to be touched on and makes a lot of since. If your body is constantly digesting food from 7 in the morning to 9 or 10 at night then that is where a lot of your body energy is going. If instead you were to spend less time eating and digesting your body can do other things that it needs in order to function at its best such as healing itself or fighting off potential problems.



Intermittent Fasting and Immune Function

In the SARS-CoV-2pandemic that we live in it is never a bad idea to focus on your immune system and increase your bodies ability to fight off sickness. There are ongoing studies examining the effects of intermittent fasting and other fasting approaches specifically on its’s effects on fighting SARS-CoV-2 (11). Even outside of Covid no one likes being sick; you don’t feel good, have to call off work, or cancel time with friends. Not only that but your body is not able to take care of other things it may need to do or work to reach physical or mental goals you set for yourself since your body has to focus completely on trying to get better. One great benefit of intermittent fasting is that it helps increase your body’s immune system function (12).



Intermittent Fasting and Brain Health

As I have already said being in a fasted state helps your body work to repair and heal and do the things it is needed instead of digesting food. One of those things is focus on brain health and mental health issues. One way in which this is accomplished is through neural autophagy (13). This is basically when the body (in case the brain) gets rid of or reconfigures cells that may not be functioning correctly in order to grow, heal, and function better. Studies in rats have also concluded that intermittent fasting has been shown to provide better cognitive function and lower inflammation in the brain (14). This is promising research and suggests that intermittent fasting has promising results for the brain in many different areas including its development, functioning, and having positive outlook on mental health.



Other benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting has been linked too many different benefits as well that are notable and impressive. Included in this is healthier cardiovascular health (15) as well as lowering blood sugar levels and possibly helping patients manage diabetes more efficiently (16). With all the different areas in which intermittent fasting can effect it is no surprise that there is growing research that is linked longer lifespans and are less likely to get life threatening diseases (17,18).


How to Begin Incorporating Intermittent Fasting into Your Life

If you are like most people that follow a standard diet you are used to intake some sort of calories within an hour of getting up and eating up until bed or close to it. If this is the case limiting your feeding window can be a big change. This may get even complicated if you have a job or schedule in your life that has very little wiggle room. Instead of waking up and going straight into intermittent fasting window of eating 8 hours or less it is a good idea to take baby steps. This may look like eating an hour later each day or stop eating an hour earlier each day. Then making that more strict each week.

The biggest benefit of intermittent fasting is the flexibility so make it what fits you and your schedule. Don’t stress if you typically start your fast later in the day and your friends invite you to breakfast go and enjoy the time and the meal shared with friends! Play around with it some. Every person is different and has different needs or goals. I do think the most important thing is ending your eating time a few hours before bed in order to wind down and so your body can heal and grow instead of digest food when sleeping.

There are other options to the typical 16 hour fast with the 8 hour eating window as well, although not all of them have as much research for them. One is the warrior fast which is eating one meal a day. Another is an every other day approach where you fast for one 24 hour period then have no restrictions the next day, which is just alternative which days you fast and eat. Then another is fasting for 24 hours twice a week. These are just examples; try on out, change it around and figure out something that works well for you!

Intermittent fasting has been something that I have enjoyed to feel better both mentally and physically. The research supports it in many different ways but remember that it is not a magic formula to fix all problems or an unhealthy diet or lifestyle. Try it out and see what might work for you and enjoy the flexibility and health benefits that it has to offer. It can be an easy change to help you live a healthy and meaningful life!



References

  1. Moro T, Tinsley G, Bianco A, Marcolin G, Pacelli QF, Battaglia G, Palma A, Gentil P, Neri M, Paoli A. Effects of eight weeks of time-restricted feeding (16/8) on basal metabolism, maximal strength, body composition, inflammation, and cardiovascular risk factors in resistance-trained males. J Transl Med. 2016 Oct 13;14(1):290. doi: 10.1186/s12967-016-1044-0.

  2. Tinsley GM, La Bounty PM. Effects of intermittent fasting on body composition and clinical health markers in humans. Nutr Rev. 2015 Oct;73(10):661-74. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuv041. Epub 2015 Sep 15.

  3. Alzoghaibi, M. A., Pandi-Perumal, S. R., Sharif, M. M., & BaHammam, A. S. (2014). Diurnal intermittent fasting during Ramadan: the effects on leptin and ghrelin levels. PloS one, 9(3), e92214. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0092214

  4. Assari S. (2014). The link between mental health and obesity: role of individual and contextual factors. International journal of preventive medicine, 5(3), 247-249.

  5. Avila C, Holloway AC, Hahn MK, Morrison KM, Restivo M, Anglin R, Taylor VH. An Overview of Links Between Obesity and Mental Health. Curr Obes Rep. 2015 Sep;4(3):303-10. doi: 10.1007/s13679-015-0164-9.

  6. Chen L, Deng H, Cui H, Fang J, Zuo Z, Deng J, Li Y, Wang X, Zhao L. Inflammatory responses and inflammation-associated diseases in organs. Oncotarget. 2017 Dec 14;9(6):7204-7218. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.23208.

  7. Maeng, S. H., & Hong, H. (2019). Inflammation as the Potential Basis in Depression. International neurourology journal, 23(Suppl 2), S63-S71. https://doi.org/10.5213/inj.1938226.113

  8. Youm, YH., Nguyen, K., Grant, R. et al. The ketone metabolite β-hydroxybutyrate blocks NLRP3 inflammasome–mediated inflammatory disease. Nat Med 21, 263–269 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/nm.3804

  9. Wegman, M. P., Guo, M. H., Bennion, D. M., Shankar, M. N., Chrzanowski, S. M., Goldberg, L. A., Xu, J., Williams, T. A., Lu, X., Hsu, S. I., Anton, S. D., Leeuwenburgh, C., & Brantly, M. L. (2015). Practicality of intermittent fasting in humans and its effect on oxidative stress and genes related to aging and metabolism. Rejuvenation research, 18(2), 162-172. https://doi.org/10.1089/rej.2014.1624

  10. Faris MA, Kacimi S, Al-Kurd RA, Fararjeh MA, Bustanji YK, Mohammad MK, Salem ML. Intermittent fasting during Ramadan attenuates proinflammatory cytokines and immune cells in healthy subjects. Nutr Res. 2012 Dec;32(12):947-55. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2012.06.021.

  11. Hannan, M. A., Rahman, M. A., Rahman, M. S., Sohag, A., Dash, R., Hossain, K. S., Farjana, M., & Uddin, M. J. (2020). Intermittent fasting, a possible priming tool for host defense against SARS-CoV-2 infection: Crosstalk among calorie restriction, autophagy and immune response. Immunology letters, 226, 38-45. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.imlet.2020.07.001

  12. Buono, R., & Longo, V. D. (2019). When Fasting Gets Tough, the Tough Immune Cells Get Going-or Die. Cell, 178(5), 1038-1040. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2019.07.052

  13. Alirezaei M, Kemball CC, Flynn CT, Wood MR, Whitton JL, Kiosses WB. Short-term fasting induces profound neuronal autophagy. Autophagy. 2010 Aug

  14. Vasconcelos AR, Yshii LM, Viel TA, Buck HS, Mattson MP, Scavone C, Kawamoto EM. Intermittent fasting attenuates lipopolysaccharide-induced neuroinflammation and memory impairment. J Neuroinflammation. 2014 May 6;11:85.

  15. Malinowski, B., Zalewska, K., Węsierska, A., Sokołowska, M. M., Socha, M., Liczner, G., Pawlak-Osińska, K., & Wiciński, M. (2019). Intermittent Fasting in Cardiovascular Disorders-An Overview. Nutrients, 11(3), 673. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11030673

  16. Grajower MM, Horne BD. Clinical Management of Intermittent Fasting in Patients with Diabetes Mellitus. Nutrients. 2019 Apr 18;11(4):873. doi: 10.3390/nu11040873.

  17. de Cabo R, Mattson MP. Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Health, Aging, and Disease. N Engl J Med. 2019 Dec 26;381(26):2541-2551. doi: 10.1056/NEJMra1905136. Erratum in: N Engl J Med. 2020 Jan 16;382(3):298. Erratum in: N Engl J Med. 2020 Mar 5;382(10):978.

  18. Ulgherait, M., Midoun, A.M., Park, S.J. et al. Circadian autophagy drives iTRF-mediated longevity. Nature (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03934-0

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