There’s compelling new science in support of the ancient practice of intermittent fasting popping out of labs left and right. Dave Asprey of Bulletproof is a big fan and functional medicine pro, Dr. Josh Axe, is a proponent too. Here Dr. Axe walks us through the basics and why it could be worth a try…
Fasting — whether it’s to detox or lose weight — is one of the most popular health and wellness trends today. But the problem with fasting, especially for people who haven’t tried it, is that it often brings two words to mind: “hungry” and “dangerous.” I am actually a firm believer in the benefits of fasting. I also know that it doesn’t have to deprive you of food or push you to the brink of malnourishment in order to be effective.
Enter intermittent fasting.
Traditional fasting requires forsaking all food for days or even weeks. But intermittent fasting only involves avoiding food for 12 to 16 hours a day, thus limiting the amount of time you eat to a window of 8 to 10 hours. According to research, avoiding solid food for about half of the day appears to have significant health benefits.
an Ancient Practice That’s Still Effective…
Although we are often told that we need to constantly eat (several small meals a day, every few hours), the human body actually responds quite well to periods of fasting. And that’s probably because humans have been fasting — voluntarily or not — for thousands of years. After all, dinner wasn’t always guaranteed when it needed to be hunted before it could even be prepared. Additionally, practitioners of ancient healing systems like ayurveda and Chinese medicine discovered that planning regular fasts could impact mental clarity, emotional stability and overall wellness.
Our bodily functions operate best on a schedule, preferring to conduct cellular repair, maintenance and “system backup” during planned downtimes. (This is why getting enough sleep at night is so important). Thus, when our bodies understand that there will be a long period of time without food, our hormones kick into gear. And the benefits of those hormones are pretty impressive:
Because our bodies aren’t busy with the business of digesting food, they have more time to tend to cellular functions. That includes the removal of waste and toxins from the body. Sipping on nourishing liquids like water, bone broth or vitamin-rich vegetable juice might even assist this process
Without food, insulin levels in the blood decrease dramatically, keeping the body sensitive to insulin. Since insulin resistance is a pre-cursor to diabetes and other health issues, this is major. Bonus: Better blood glucose control can encourage fat burning.
Too much cholesterol in your diet increases your triglyceride levels, increasing your risk for heart disease. But intermittent fasting has been found to actually lower bad cholesterol levels. And if you’ve been adding avocados and olive oil to everything in an attempt to increase your good cholesterol levels, don’t sweat it: Fasting doesn’t affect the good kind.
How to get Started with Intermittent Fasting…
If you’re ready to try your hand at intermittent fasting, here are a few ways to make it a success:
Start out slowly. As you ease into intermittent fasting, try adding it to your routine just once or twice a week, and on non-consecutive days. It takes time to get out of the habit of constantly eating. You also don’t want fasting to cause you added stress or anxiety. This can have their own negative effects on your health.
Plan Smartly. You can technically schedule your fasting window for any 12 to 16-hour block during the day. I recommend starting it two to three hours before bed, and then extending it for another two to three hours after you wake up each morning.
The potential problem with eating as soon as you wake up (especially if you’re an early riser) is that you will need to stop eating pretty early in the day. That’s often well before it’s time to go to bed. Going to bed hungry will make it more difficult to fall asleep and get the rest you need. Try fasting from 7 or 8 p.m. until 9 or 10 a.m. Scheduling meals during the remaining 8 to 10 hours.
Consume Mindfully. When you do eat, stick to lean meats, organic dairy, quality carbs and fruits and veggies. These are all components of what I call a healing diet. While some fasting enthusiasts say you can consume whatever foods you want during your eating hours, providing your body with the proper fuel it needs to function at its best will allow you to reach your health goals more quickly and allow your body to take advantage of those non-eating times.
The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health related program.