5 Reasons Why Intermittent Fasting Is Better Than Other Traditional Diets
July 27, 2015 | 10,452 views
By Dr. Mercola
Intermittent fasting, a type of scheduled eating plan, has been gaining a handful of good reviews from the mainstream media not only because of the incredible health and weight loss benefits it brings, but also because of its unbelievably simple and practical application.
Unlike other traditional diets that involve strict calorie restriction and limited food options, which oftentimes deliver very little to no results and in the end only awaken feelings of deprivation and uncontrollable cravings, intermittent fasting can be as easy as skipping breakfast, making lunch your first meal, and having your dinner as early as 7:00 in the evening. Sounds too good to be true? Not really.
It only takes eight to 12 hours to burn the sugar stored in your body as glycogen. But because you're used to eating three or more meals a day, you rarely ever empty your glycogen stores, unconsciously teaching your body to burn sugar as your primary fuel and effectively shutting off your ability to use fat as fuel.
That said, limiting your eating time from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm means you'll be fasting for more or less 16 hours each day – twice the minimum time required for your body to drain your glycogen stores and start shifting into fat-burning mode.
Here are five more reasons why intermittent fasting is a cut above other existing diets:
- It gets rid of stubborn weight and nasty sugar cravings. Studies have shown that compared to daily calorie restriction, intermittent fasting is more effective in improving insulin resistance and achieving weight loss. In addition, people who've successfully activated their fat-burning mode because of intermittent fasting found that their sugar cravings have disappeared without a trace afterwards.
- It builds muscle and promotes overall health and wellness. According to the research presented at the 2011 annual scientific sessions of the American College of Cardiology in New Orleans, intermittent fasting triggered a whopping 1,300 percent increase of human growth hormone (HGH) in women and 2,000 percent in men.
Dubbed as "the fitness hormone," HGH is known for the crucial role it plays in maintaining optimal levels of health, fitness, and longevity; revving up the fat loss process; and stimulating the production of muscles. HGH's amazing ability to help you lose weight without sacrificing muscle mass is one excellent reason why serious athletes should consider incorporating intermittent fasting into their training regimen.
- It enhances brain health and prevents neurological disorders like Alzheimer's. Dr. Mark Mattson, a senior investigator for the National Institute on Aging, which is under the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), has dedicated a significant part of his career researching the health benefits of both intermittent fasting and calorie restriction. Based on his study, fasting every other day can boost the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) anywhere from 50 to 400 percent, depending on the brain region.
BDNF is a brain-boosting protein that activates brain stem cells to convert into new neurons and triggers numerous other chemicals that encourage neural health. This protein also protects brain cells from changes associated with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
- It reduces oxidative stress and fights stress, aging, and disease – including cancer. Intermittent fasting increases insulin sensitivity along with mitochondrial energy efficiency, thereby retarding aging and disease, which are typically associated with loss of insulin sensitivity and declined mitochondrial energy. Intermittent fasting is also being linked to cancer treatment and prevention, given the fact that cancer cells cannot use fat as fuel and require sugar to thrive.
- It delivers an array of physiologic benefits, such as:
|Normalizing your insulin and leptin sensitivity
||Improving biomarkers of disease
|Normalizing ghrelin levels, also known as "the hunger hormone"
||Reducing inflammation and lessening free radical damage
|Lowering triglyceride levels
||Preserving memory functioning and learning
How to Get Started with Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is simple. For starters, you can skip breakfast and avoid eating anything at least three hours before bedtime every day. Doing so will automatically restrict your food consumption to an eight-hour window.
To maximize the benefits of intermittent fasting, I highly recommend:
- Limiting or totally avoiding carbohydrates like bread, pasta, and potatoes
- Loading up on healthful fats like butter, eggs, avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, and nuts
- Choosing high-quality, pasture-fed, and organic protein sources and limiting your intake to about one gram of protein per kilogram of lean body mass
- Doing high-intensity interval training, as exercising in a fasted state will produce more benefits
It's important to understand that intermittent fasting doesn't work overnight. You'll need to be patient and determined to stick to the routine. While most people successfully switch to fat-burning mode after only several weeks of intermittent fasting, you may need many months to train your body to turn on the fat-burning enzymes that allow your body to effectively use fat as its primary fuel.
Once you have become fat-adapted, have reached your ideal weight, and have normalized your blood pressure, sugar, and/or cholesterol levels, you can go back to eating three meals a day and only do intermittent fasting occasionally for maintenance.
A little caveat: Intermittent fasting may not be recommended for everyone. If you are hypoglycemic, diabetic, pregnant, and/or breastfeeding, or have been diagnosed with chronic stress and cortisol dysregulation, I suggest that you consult your doctor first to prevent any untoward incident.
Read more reasons to try intermittent fasting from my article "Intermittent Fasting Beats Traditional Diets and Even Chronic Calorie Restriction for Weight Loss and Other Health Benefits."