Intermittent Fasting: A Powerful Strategy for Your Fitness Routine

August 24, 2015 | 675 views

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Weight Management

By Dr. Joseph Mercola

Looking for a way to take your fitness plans up a notch? Intermittent fasting may be just what you need. Simply put, this fitness-enhancing strategy dwells on the idea of timing your meals. It’s very much different from fad diet plans that require you to eat one or two types of food for several days in a row.

What’s great about intermittent fasting is that the human body is optimized for this type of eating schedule. Take our ancestors, for example: they did not have access to food 24/7 and regularly went through periods of feast and famine. However, doing intermittent fasting does not mean having to starve yourself. Instead, it may even be as simple as delaying your eating.

Fasting is a concept that I did not advocate many years ago, but once I’ve discovered the benefits of intermittent fasting, I since have changed my views. I've now revised my personal eating schedule by eliminating breakfast and restricting the time I eat food to just six to seven hours each day – typically from noon to 6 or 7 pm.

Intermittent Fasting May Be Ideal for Weight Management

More and more studies are now confirming the potential benefits of intermittent fasting for weight loss, especially when combined with exercise – meaning exercising in a fasted state. If you’re stuck in a fitness slump, then this may be what you need to push your exercise program to the next level.

Exercising on an empty stomach has been found to help keep your body biologically young. It actually complements your sympathetic nervous system (SNS) along with your capacity to burn fat. Remember, your SNS, which is activated by exercise and lack of food, controls your body’s fat-burning processes.

Another reason is that fasting triggers the release of human growth hormone (HGH). Studies found that fasting can increase HGH by 2,000 percent in men and 1,300 percent in women. By combining fasting and exercise, you are maximizing the impact of catalysts and cellular factors, forcing your body to break down fat and glycogen for energy.

Another boon of fasting while exercising: it can yield acute oxidative stress, which helps keep your muscle’s mitochondria, neuromotors, and fibers intact. Note: do not confuse chronic oxidative stress with acute oxidative stress. The former can lead to disease, but the latter can actually benefit your muscles.

Keep in mind, though, that regardless of when you choose to exercise, you must break your fast 30 minutes after your workout. For example, if you exercise in the late morning or early afternoon, consume a fast-assimilating protein source, like 20 grams of high-quality whey protein, 30 minutes before you start exercising, and then have another recovery meal 30 minutes after.

Is Intermittent Fasting the Key to General Health and Longevity?

Animal studies have found that intermittent fasting may be a major contributor to longevity. I believe that one major factor is how this strategy can normalize insulin sensitivity. Insulin sensitivity can actually activate the mTOR pathway, which is crucial for repairing and regenerating your tissues, counteracting the aging process. Intermittent fasting also helps improve many potent disease markers, such as:

  • Lowering triglyceride levels
  • Reducing inflammation and free radical damage
  • Normalizing your ghrelin levels, also known as "the hunger hormone"

I believe much of the research on intermittent fasting is showing positive results. However, there have been some questions on why results in human subjects have been less than ideal.

For more about this topic, I invite you to read my article "The Power of Intermittent Fasting." It features a guest commentary by Ori Hofmekler, author of The Warrior Diet, and delves into the pitfalls of intermittent fasting human studies, and why they may not be as reliable as they seem.