Fasting! It's What's For Dinner!
I try not to date my posts but as I sit here post-Hurricane Irma in New Orleans, which by the way has been a very hospitable city to us during this time(Thank you, New Orleans). As I've been scrolling through social media I see friends and family without power and therefore without easy access to food. This made me think of a recent podcast I heard with Dr. Rhonda Patrick on the Tim Ferris Show. I will be repeating what I understood heavily from this episode in an attempt to show that fasting is a huge blessing in disguise.
Nature has an interesting way of playing out. Isn't it interesting how when we're busy going stir crazy during the storm most default to overeating? I'm going to go out on a limb and hypothesize that this occurs because in the aftermath we know that food will be tougher to come by. In other words, our bodies stock up on energy before it knows it won't have that much.
Here is where I'd like to shine a light on some fasting. I do a form of fasting called intermittent fasting, where every day I fast between 12-16 hours and eat in an 8-hour window. I've been doing this for quite some time now, and really enjoy it. It's great feeling liberated from thinking that I have to eat. It's taught me to identify true hunger over the habit of just eating which many of us have just fallen into.
For my people in Florida, let's come together for when this moment has passed we will celebrate how we came together to overcome. In the meantime here are some great reasons why don't have to eat all the time.
Time-restricted eating(fasting): What is it? fasting is this idea that by constraining eating within a certain time window during the day ranging from only 8 hours to up to 12 hours per day, usually earlier in the day to align better with our circadian rhythm, we stand to benefit from a variety of different angles.
On the more extreme end of 8 hours, you’re engaging in a slightly more extreme type of time-restricted eating which is more well-known in the fitness world in particular as 16:8 intermittent fasting. This is the one I've been doing for some time now. Simply maintaining a slightly more conservative time window than you usually might has started to show advantages as well, potentially functioning as a lifestyle intervention that may be able to protect people from obesity, metabolic-related disease, and more at a population level. For example, even an 11-hour eating window has been associated in one study with a reduced risk of breast cancer and potential recurrence by as much as 36% in women.
In recent years, numerous studies have suggested that intermittent fasting - abstaining or reducing food and drink intake periodically - can be good for us, making it one of the most popular trends worldwide. A study suggesting periodic fasting - defined in the study as 1 day of water-only fasting a week - may reduce the risk of diabetes among people at high risk for the condition. Another study, conducted by Dr. Valter Longo and colleagues from the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, found longer periods of fasting - 2-4 days - may even "reboot" the immune system, clearing out old immune cells and regenerating new ones - a process they say could protect against cell damage caused by factors such as aging and chemotherapy. Detox anyone? Yes, I'm suggesting that if you'd really like to detox your body, a good one to two days fast will get you a lot further than juices.
The potential benefits of intermittent fasting
Since the body is unable to get its energy from food during fasting, it dips into glucose that is stored in the liver and muscles. This begins around 8 hours after the last meal is consumed.
When the stored glucose has been used up, the body then begins to burn fat as a source of energy, which can result in weight loss.
As well as aiding weight loss, Dr. Razeen Mahroof, of the University of Oxford in the UK, explains that the use of fat for energy can help preserve muscle and reduce cholesterol levels.
When the body has used up glucose stores during fasting, it burns fat for energy, resulting in weight loss.
"A detoxification process also occurs, because any toxins stored in the body's fat are dissolved and removed from the body," he adds, noting that after a few days of fasting, higher levels of endorphins - "feel-good" hormones - are produced in the blood, which can have a positive impact on mental well-being.
As mentioned previously Dr. Rhonda Patrick in speaking of the study by Dr. Longo and colleagues suggests prolonged fasting may also be effective for regenerating immune cells.
"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," Dr. Longo explains.
In their study, published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, the team found that repeated cycles of 2-4 days without food over a 6-month period destroyed the old and damaged immune cells in mice and generated new ones.
What's more, the team found that cancer patients who fasted for 3 days prior to chemotherapy were protected against immune system damage that can be caused by the treatment, which they attribute to immune cell regeneration.
"The good news is that the body got rid of the parts of the system that might be damaged or old, the inefficient parts, during the fasting," says Dr. Longo. "Now, if you start with a system heavily damaged by chemotherapy or aging, fasting cycles can generate, literally, a new immune system."
With the potential health benefits of fasting widely observed throughout some cultures worldwide, it is no wonder many of us are putting our love of food to one side in order to give it a try.
Intermittent fasting isn't for everybody all the time though. Knowing when to use this tool in your toolbox is a skill worth developing.
The potential risks of fasting
According to the UK's National Health Service (NHS), there are numerous risks that could be associated with intermittent fasting.
People who fast commonly experience dehydration, largely because their body is not getting any fluid from food. As such, in the Muslim culture during Ramadan, they consume plenty of water prior to fasting periods. Other individuals following fasting diets should ensure they are properly hydrated during fasting periods.
If you are used to having breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks in between, fasting periods can be a major challenge to adapt to. As such, If not in the proper mindset fasting can increase stress levels and disrupt sleep. Dehydration, hunger or lack of sleep during a fasting period when one does not eat quality foods can also lead to headaches.
Many nutrition professionals claim intermittent fasting is a good way to lose weight, some health professionals argue that such a diet is ineffective for long-term weight loss.
"The appeal is that [fasting] is quick, but it is quick fluid loss, not substantial weight loss. If it's easy off, it can come back quickly - as soon as you start eating normally again. So what you're normal is really does matter. If you're going back to the standard American diet, then you will get the results of what that type of diet has to offer, which is usually gaining all the weight back. My experience has been that If you can consistently stay on an intermittent fasting schedule it will stay off.
Some health professionals believe intermittent fasting may steer people away from healthy eating recommendations, such as eating five portions of fruits and vegetables a day. Many fear fasting may also trigger eating disorders or binge eating.
While there is no evidence to suggest that fasting is associated with eating disorders, i will stress that people who have eating disorders should not engage in intermittent fasting or any type of dieting until they can come to peace with their relationship with food. Other people who should not follow this diet include people who are underweight, pregnant women, people with type 1 diabetes, and individuals recovering from surgery.
Could we reap the benefits of fasting without fasting?
While intermittent fasting may have risks, nutrition professionals claim it can be good for us if individuals consult with a professional before adopting such a diet and adhere to it correctly. Could there be a way to reap the potential health benefits of fasting without actually having to fast? Dr. Longo believes so.
A fasting-mimicking diet could simulate the effect of fasting without food deprivation and side effects. Dr. Longo and colleagues from USC published a study in the journal Cell Metabolism revealing how a fasting-mimicking diet (FMD) triggered immune cell regeneration and extended the lifespan of mice.
What's more, on testing the diet in humans - who adhered to it for only 5 days a month for 3 months - they found it reduced the number of risk factors associated with aging, cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, and cancer.
The FMD is low in protein, low in unhealthy fats, and high in healthy quality fats, according to the researchers. It stimulates markers linked to fasting, such as low glucose levels and high levels of ketone bodies, in order to mimic the effects of prolonged fasting. Dr. Longo and colleagues say this diet could promote immune cell regeneration and longevity associated with fasting without the need for food restriction and the potential adverse effects that come with it. "Although the clinical results will require confirmation by a larger randomized trial," they add, "the effects of FMD cycles on biomarkers/risk factors for aging, cancer, diabetes, and CVD, coupled with the very high compliance to the diet and its safety, indicate that this periodic dietary strategy has high potential to be effective in promoting human healthspan."
The team hopes that professionals will one day have the ability to prescribe this diet. "This is arguably the first non-chronic preclinically and clinically tested anti-aging and healthspan-promoting intervention shown to work and to be very feasible as a doctor or dietitian-supervised intervention," says Dr. Longo. It may be a while before the FMD receives approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for clinical use. In the meantime, Sweat Nation Pros are learning about it, trying it on themselves, and learning how to use this powerful tool that's in our tool box, so that we may be able to help you on your journey.
Here's to your health!
Video of The Day - Valter Longo Ted X
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