Intermittent fasting is a habit the vast majority of Americans can benefit from. It helps with digestion and increases energy levels. New data shows it may also extend the length of a person’s life.
I have fallen into the category of being “Middle-Aged” for a few years. During this period, I have seen the ease of maintaining a proper fitness level diminish greatly. I consider the period around 40 to be the key period where it became more difficult for me to maintain a healthy weight without lifestyle adjustments. This article goes over the scientific benefits of a feeding window, but also my own experience adopting it.
I’ve seen many changes over the last two months while keeping my feeding window to around six hours a day. I feel like this habit has helped me lose the worst twelve pounds I had on me. I’m still eating the foods I want. This enjoyment just happens over a shorter period during the day.
The type of intermittent fasting I have been practicing is time-restricted feeding. This involves eating during just a certain number of hours each day. Caloric intake is restricted to a 4–8-hour time window. This schedule helps food intake with Circadian rhythm, the internal process that regulates sleep–wake cycles.
Intermittent Fasting Defined
Intermittent fasting is the practice of restricting caloric intake for set schedules. These schedules range from restricting caloric intake to a set twelve hour period every daily, to going for 48 hours without consuming calories. Anything longer than two days is considered prolonged fasting. Intermittent fasting is also categorized as a diet plan where the participant is trying to lose weight. While prolonged fasting is more for deep clensing and celular regrowth and regeneration.
Intermittent fasting has gained popularity in the twenty-first century. The basic rules of it do not specify which foods someone should eat, but rather when you should eat them. The American Heart Association says intermittent fasting may produce weight loss, reduce insulin resistance and lower the risk of cardiometabolic diseases. The group also says it may protect the heart by controlling inflammation.
Fasting has been experienced throughout history, though mostly not by choice. A popular name for feeding windows today is called the Warrior Diet. This references how our ancestors were hunters and gatherers and did not have anything remotely like what we have in the developed world. Tasty foold comes right to billions of people every day. And that’s a big part of modern health issues in the west. Modern humans have far too much access to food, especially sugar. Modern Americans especially live in a commercialized world where countless advertisements promote consumption of empty calories nonstop.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
It is important to think of your body as being dropped off at the cleaners while you are in the eighteen hour period of not eating. Your body comes out cleaner, and the only cost is hunger. Holding your feeding to a few hours a day means less opportunity to eat poorly.
During fasting, the body is repurposing or removing proteins which helps the body run more effectively. Cells initiate a cellular “waste removal” process called autophagy. This involves the cells breaking down and metabolizing broken and dysfunctional proteins that build up inside cells over time. It is a way of cleaning out damaged cells, in order to regenerate newer, healthier cells. Increased autophagy may also provide protection against cancer and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Benefits of a Limited Feeding Window
Studies in both animals and humans have linked the practice to longer lives, healthier hearts and improved cognition.
One study looked at the lifespans of residents of Okinawa, Japan. This is region of low calorie, high nutrient diets where people live extra long on average. The region naturally has many residents with brief feeding windows. Asia and Africa both have many areas where this is a habit out of neccessity historically.
Fasting helps control what we now know are longevity-related molecules. Fasting and eating less often help regulate sirtuins. These are a family of signaling proteins involved in metabolic regulation. Fasting also helps decrease mTOR activity, which has been found to increase life span in several species. Fasting also helps increase AMPK, an energy sensor that, when activated in certain tissues, can stimulate the metabolism, improve muscle performance and decrease inflammation. It also improves insulin sensitivity. This helps stabilize blood sugar levels.
A recent study showed the switch can increase resistance to stress by optimizing brain function and neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to modify, change, and adapt both structure and function throughout life and in response to experience. Older adults who were put on restricted-calorie diets showed improved verbal memory compared to two other groups who hadn’t fasted,
Changes I’ve Seen with Intermittent Fasting
I started limiting my feeding schedule during the end of the winter. While I was hungry the first five to ten mornings, I now feel as though I do not need food in the morning. In fact, I have been able to go for five mile runs in the early afternoon after having nothing but coffee in the morning. A modern, three meal diet is simply not necessary.
After a while, your body adjusts to the span of not eating for the majority of the day. I not eat a late lunch as my first meal. But around ten days into the diet I was not feeling hungry before this point.
One of the clearest indications of improvement I have seen has been jogging times. This past month I have been able to look at my running app and see many statistical surprises. A sub eight minute mile has always been possible this last decade. But it was only accomplished with special effort. Short, timed runs. But now I can see sub eight minute times that come during runs where I was not pushing myself for a certain rate. These quick miles can also come during the later portion of a 10 kilometer run (6.2mi). My body feels like it is not stressed on jogs now. I have been on slow, uncomfortable jogs these past couple years. Too many calories has been a reason for this lethargy. The modern American diet is based on advertisement saturation, not energy needs.
If you’re thinking of intermittent fasting, check with your doctor first. Any type of fasting could be dangerous if you’ have certain conditions or are on specific medicines, especially diabetes. A health care provider can go over your history and lay out the best options. Eating the right foods during your allocated feeding window is also extremely important