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Fasting 101: The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

by Daraab Kiani October 30, 2021

 

While fasting has been a practice for many in history, intermittent fasting specifically has become a hot topic of conversation in the health, longevity, and fitness world in recent, and for good reason.

If you don’t already know, intermittent fasting is a type of fasting (not to be confused with a diet) whereby you have a window of eating, typically 8 hours, and a window of fasting, typically 16 hours. This is the most common method of fasting known as 16:8 Fasting. 

Throughout this article, we’ll be reviewing all of the benefits of I.F, the pro’s and cons, and some other frequently asked questions about this pattern of eating. If you want to dive deep into the world of intermittent fasting, look no further!

The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

While most of the studies have only reached the experimental phase on rats, the results are astounding. Additionally, the anecdotal evidence from those who partake in fasting is undeniable.

Below are many of the benefits of intermittent fasting: 

  • Assists in weight-loss
  • Burns fat
  • Improves brain function & cognition
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Linked to extending lifespan
  • Improves blood markers (blood pressure, sugar, & cholesterol)
  • Disease prevention
  • Cellular cleansing via autophagy

 

Weight Loss and Fat Burning

The most common reason for someone to partake in intermittent fasting is usually to lose weight and/or to burn fat. When one doesn’t consume food for a prolonged period of time, their insulin levels drop. Simply put, when ones insulin levels are low (i.e. during a fasted period), they’re able to burn off more fat. In short, I.F is an extremely effective tool for losing weight and burning fat.

Brain Function and Cognition

Intermittent fasting may provide positive implications for ones brain health. It’s been studied the affects that I.F has on the growth of new nerve cells and metabolic pathways. This can protect and improve the brains functionality immensely.

Additionally, the carry-over benefits of having a reduced inflammatory response, less stress, and improved bio-markers can give the brain an extreme boost in cognition. Mental clarity, focus, memory, and improved mood are just some of the benefits of improved brain function.

Anti-Inflammation

Inflammation is a wide-spread problem in western society. A lot of it can be attributed to overeating in conjunction with not eating the proper healthy choices.

By intermittent fasting, one can reduce inflammation in the body. This is an incredible finding because inflammation is heavily linked to the onset of diseases such as diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis, among others.

Lifespan and Healthspan

While the literature on this is premature, promising studies have come out to suggest that prolonging eating restrictions may have an impact on extending animal lifespans.  Although it is uncertain as to why, the most recent assumption is that intermittent fasting being a minor stressor produces a hormetic response that turns on our bodies defence pathways.

At its most basic, hormesis is a process by which a minor stressor causes a positive biological response, and in this case, may be that of longevity.

Blood Markers 

Intermittent fasting is strongly correlated to the improvement of blood markers such as blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and cholesterol levels. This is a HUGE positive because these factors are strongly associated to heart disease - the leading cause of death globally! While more research needs to be done on the subject, there is no denying that based on the premise that there is even a CHANCE that this could be true, that intermittent fasting should be given a shot.

Disease Prevention

Intermittent fasting may be able to prevent, or at least reduce the risks of many diseases and chronic conditions such as cancers, Alzheimers, M.S, Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, and more. While this benefit may be outstretched a little, there’s no doubt that there is a correlation worth testing further.

Cellular Regeneration

Fasting is a form of hormesis that encourages a process in our cells called autophogy. Autophogy is a cellular bodily process that which cleans up damaged cells, and replaces them with newer, healthier cells. In other words, its a regeneration of the new and recycling of the old. 

There are many benefits to autophogy, however, to keep it short, it protects our organs and inner biology from contracting such diseases and illnesses, and it in essence keeps our bodies young and healthy.

 

The Pros and Cons of Intermittent Fasting 

So, we’ve reviewed the vast number of benefits from the implementation of intermittent fasting. As you can see, the positives are plentiful.

In what follows, we’ll be offering a comparison of the pros and cons of intermittent fasting. While it’s largely discussed the positives of fasting, it must not be ignored the downsides of it as well. With that being said, intermittent fasting can be incredibly useful to the majority of individuals or partake in it.

PROS OF INTERMITTENT FASTING

CONS OF INTERMITTENT FASTING

Easy to follow

Potential to interfere with social life

No calorie counting involved

May be difficult to implement long-term

No macronutrient ratios required

May interfere with hormones (women)

Reduces the daily stress of decision making

Could lead to insomnia-like symptoms

Improves overall body composition

May not be suitable depending on medical history (consult with doctor)

The simplicity

 

The lifestyle flexibility

 

It can be quite convenient

 

Can create a sense of empowerment

 

Can be implemented on any diet plan

 

Will likely result in a cheaper grocery list

 

 

Important disclaimer: While intermittent fasting can be beneficial and is safe for the vast majority of people, if you are concerned or do have a previous or current medical history (i.e. health conditions, predisposed health concerns, are pregnant, may become pregnant, etc.) it’s important to consult with your doctor or other medical professional prior to implementing any type of restricted eating procedure into your life.

 

What to Look Out for When Intermittent Fasting

While this method of time-restricted eating is largely safe and beneficial for pretty much everyone, there are a couple of exceptions.

With that said, it must be understood that if you’re generally healthy and properly nourished, a minor stressor like time-restricted eating is not dangerous, and is in fact potentially beneficial.

  • If you have a history of eating disorders or are chronically underweight, fasting should not even be a consideration for you. 
  • If you are a woman with a prior medical history of low blood-sugar, infertility, or are simply pregnant or trying to become pregnant, fasting may not be for you either. 
  • if you are someone who has given intermittent fasting a fair shot and you simply didn’t enjoy it, it may not be for you either. At the end of the day, if you don’t enjoy something, it won’t last anyways.

As far as side effects go, the most obvious is, of course, hunger. While you typically adjust to this over time, it does have the potential to lead to mood swings, lethargy, temporary weakness, and poor brain function. However, studies widely show that many experience the exact opposite. 

Conclusion

All-in-all, intermittent fasting is an incredible tool for many things. With that being said, it isn’t absolutely necessary and it’s certainly not for everybody. If you do decide to take part, be sure to do your research, and even consult with a doctor or nutritionist prior to the initiation phase.

Daraab Kiani
Daraab Kiani



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