Discover the Science of Intermittent Fasting

August 03, 2015 | 3,960 views

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Discover the Science of Intermittent Fasting

By Dr. Mercola

If you’re looking for a powerful and efficient intervention to help you deal with weight management and other related health issues, look no further. I believe I’ve got the solution that you’re looking for – and it’s none other than intermittent fasting.

Some people think that intermittent fasting is all about binge eating for one day, and then following it up with a period of starvation. But there’s more to this technique that sets it apart from other diet fads out there. Keep on reading this article to discover just how effective a strategy intermittent fasting is.

Intermittent Fasting: It's About Timing Your Meals

If done correctly, intermittent fasting can have a very beneficial impact on your health and longevity. One of its primary advantages is that it helps shift your body from burning sugar or carbs to burning fat as its primary fuel. You can do this by appropriately timing your meals and allowing for regular periods of fasting.

I believe that intermittent fasting should be viewed as a lifestyle, and not a diet. It means making smart and healthy food choices every time you eat. This means swapping carbs for healthful fats like olive oil, coconut oil, eggs, butter, nuts, and avocados. It may take a few weeks or so before you shift to fat burning mode, but once you do, the benefits are endless.

For one, your cravings for unhealthy foods and carbs will disappear automatically. This is because you’re now burning your stored fat and do not need to rely on new fast-burning carbs for fuel.

Mounting Research Show Intermittent Fasting’s Many Benefits

There are numerous reports on the advantages of doing intermittent fasting. For example, research presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 2011 annual scientific sessions, held in New Orleans, found that fasting triggered a 1,300 percent increase in human growth hormone (HGH) in women, and a 2,000 percent increase in men. HGH is known as the “fitness hormone,” and plays an important role in fitness and longevity. It promotes muscle growth and improving your metabolism, which boosts fat loss.

Other benefits of intermittent fasting include:

  • Normalizing your ghrelin levels, also known as the hunger hormone
  • Normalizing your leptin and insulin sensitivity, which is essential for optimal health
  • Improving the biomarkers of disease
  • Lowering triglyceride levels
  • Reducing inflammation and lessens free radical damage
  • Promoting memory functioning and learning

Even your brain benefits from intermittent fasting, as it can boost the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is a protein that activates brain stem cells to convert into new neurons. BDNF also triggers numerous other chemicals that promote neural health, and protects your brain from changes associated to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

BDNF also protects your neuromotors from degradation. Neuromotors are critical elements in your muscles, and without it, your muscle works like an engine without ignition.

This connection between your muscles and brain explains why a physical workout can have such a beneficial impact on your brain tissue, and why going on intermittent fasting while doing high-intensity interval exercises is a winning combination.

Try Intermittent Fasting Now: Here’s What to Do

I’ve previously experimented with different types of scheduled eating, but now I’m restricting my eating to a six- to seven-hour window each day. However, I advise you to be cautious against intermittent fasting versions that give you free reign to eat all the junk food you want, as this is actually counterproductive to your health.

I prefer daily intermittent fasting, although you can also do it by fasting for a couple of days a week, or every other day – the variations vary, depending on your level of fitness. If you’re planning to do daily intermittent fasting, I advise you to keep the length of your fast at least 16 hours long. For example, this means eating only between the hours of 11am until 7pm. This entails skipping breakfast and making lunch the first meal of your day.

You can even restrict it even further, down to six, four, or even two hours. However, most of the rewards of intermittent fasting can be reaped if you limit your eating to an eight-hour window. This is because your body takes about six to eight hours to metabolize your glycogen stores, after which you start to shift to burning fat. This is why if you eat every eight hours or sooner, your body will not easily use your fat stores as fuels, since you’re continuously replenishing your glycogen stores.

Additional Tips for Beginners

I recommend skipping breakfast and to stop eating or drinking anything (except water) three hours before going to bed. Restrict your eating to an six- or eight-hour time frame per day, and during the six to eight hours that you can eat, opt for healthy protein while minimizing carbs like grains, pasta, bread, and potatoes. Instead, switch to healthy fats like eggs, avocado, nuts, raw butter, coconut oil, and olive oil (use it cold, as heating can oxidize the oil).

Once your body has switched from burning carb to burning fat, you’ll notice that your cravings will disappear. You may feel "hunger" at first, but this is typically because your body is craving for sugar. It takes a few weeks to adjust to this lifestyle, and it has to be done gradually. But once you switch to fat burning, you will notice the improvements. Even your gut bacteria will benefit from intermittent fasting, which will immensely uplift your overall health.

I believe that doing intermittent fasting is a phenomenal experience that absolutely complemented this high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout. For more information on this strategic eating plan, read the article "What the Science Says About Intermittent Fasting."