Fasting has been around for as long as humans could make a record of it. The way that food is available to us in modern times is the anomaly in human history. We don’t know how to control ourselves when it comes to food consumption. The past is often venerated with regards to human health. This concept of why we need to eat and move like our ancestors is often overlooked as we progress into the future of humanity. There is no stopping progress or technological advances, but through science and a better understanding of the human body, we must honor what it is and where it came from. This means that we can enjoy all the modern luxuries, but we need to maintain our bodies the way they were originally designed to be. I have studied diets for the past 15 years, and there is one common thread that most diets adhere to. One way or another they restrict calories. This is usually what allows people to drop weight. Don’t get me wrong, weight loss is great, but it doesn’t have the physiological effect of fasting.
What is fasting?
Simply put, fasting is the period of time that you are not eating. Researchers Cabo and Mattson focus their studies on three different types of intermittent fasting. These include daily timed restricted feeding, the 5:2 intermittent fasting and alternate day fasting. Daily timed restricted feeding is where you eat during pre-determined time windows. A popular split is 16 hours of fasting with eight hours of being in a “fed” state. For example, you would eat your entire day’s calories from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Then from 6 p.m. to 10 a.m. you would abstain from taking in calories. Another regimen is 5:2 intermittent fasting where you fast for two days out of the week. On the two days that you fast, you can achieve the benefits by reducing the calories to 500 to 700. Alternate day fasting is what it sounds like. You alternate days of normal caloric load with days of reduced calories.
What are the physiological effects of fasting?
Some of the benefits that can be seen through intermittent fasting include improvements in glucose regulation, blood pressure and heart rate. Studies have shown that cells thought the brains of animals maintained on an intermittent fasting regimen showed improved function. Cabo and Mattson found a meta-analysis of data available from 1934 to 2012 showed that caloric restriction increases the median life span by 14% to 45% in rats, but by only 4% to 27% in mice. Fasting makes our bodies more resilient, which may extend life span.
I have done several different types of fasting ranging from the typical intermittent fasting to an all-out water-only fast for several days. I can tell you that the beginning is difficult; you begin to realize how much food is more of a habit than a necessity. Personally, I like the daily timed restricted feeding style for intermittent fasting. The 16 hours of fasting with eight hours of feeding works well for me. I don’t do much as far as caloric restriction, so my meals get to be bigger (which I like). It helps stop the excessive eating in the evening. Some things that I have found that can help, especially early on, is to try and make your last meal by 6 p.m. When 9 p.m. rolls around and you are getting hungry, have a cup of hot herbal tea. It works well
to curb hunger. Sleeping for half of the fast is a plus. The following morning, I like to have a cup of black coffee. This also helps stave off the feeling of being hungry. If you stop eating at 6 p.m., then you get to eat again at 10 a.m. The last hour or so can be difficult. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. When doing the 5:2 split, for the two days you drop your calories to around 1,000, I have found it helpful to eat something small in the middle of the day and then have a big dinner for the rest of the calories. Believe it or not, this style of eating makes life easier, you’re not scrambling around to find something for breakfast or opting for fast food.
This style of eating isn’t for everyone; some people are unwilling or unable to adhere to the protocol. Being “hangry” is a definite side effect as you are adapting to intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is a great way to gain control of your hunger rather than having it control you.