I think already, it is becoming quite obvious that Intermittent Fasting can be an effective and beneficial lifestyle choice for people looking to recover and/or maintain their health. While I tried to focus only on the history and science of fasting in the first two chapters, it became increasingly difficult to explore these two elements of intermittent fasting without touting at least a few of the benefits – as a form of spiritual communication, as an alternative health therapy throughout history and as a caloric regulator and physiological cal detoxifier.
In this chapter, I want to expand upon the list of the potential benefits of intermittent fasting and include as many lenses as possible through which to view the opportunities and rewards of this popular and effective health and wellness regime.
- Weight loss – intermittent fasting, when paired with clean, organic nutritious food eaten in moderation and the added bonus of physical activity, can result in steady, consistent weight loss that stays off!
- Targeted Belly Fat Loss – this harmful abdominal cavity fat can deposit around your internal organs and release proteins and hormones, which causes inflammation and may affect how well you break down sugars and fats. Intermittent fasting is the ideal solution for this stubborn weight gain, when paired with sugar reduction, increased healthy fats, sleep and stress reduction.
- Maintenance and potential gain of lean muscle mass – Many weight trainers and other elite athletes swear by intermittent fasting when training to help them maintain lean muscle mass and decrease total body fat.
- Improved metabolism, which is beneficial to Brain Health, Metabolism is the name for the crucial chemical reactions that happen in your cells. We talk about having a fast or slow metabolism all the time, without really understanding how vital it is to conversion of food to fuel, composing the building blocks for proteins and carbohydrates and the elimination of cellular waste.
- Improved Ketone production. Ketone is a chemical that protects the brain when there is a decrease of available glucose.
- May reduce symptoms of depression by regulating insulin and blood sugar levels.
- Enhances performance on memory tests in the elderly
- May play preventative role in those suffering from anxiety through regulation of glucose and decreased oxidative stress. Oxidative stress happens when the body can’t detox the harmful effects of free radicals (uncharged molecules) fast enough.
- Cellular Repair – through autophagy, which is given more focus in a FASTING State.
- Hormonal Rebalancing – Insulin Levels and Insulin Resistance; Leptin; Ghrelin Also, Human Growth Hormone increases and facilitates fat burning and muscle gain
- Gene protection – Related to longevity and protection against diseases, including promising research on cancer
- Reduces Oxidative stress, damage and inflammation in the body
Quality of Life Benefits
- May improve sleep patterns – If your intermittent fasting schedule includes eating a meal 3 to 4 hours before sleeping, and includes carbohydrates, your sleep quality and quantity could improve due to increased production of serotonin, a chemical in the body that helps regulate cyclic body processes, such as the sleep cycle, as well as contributing to feelings of happiness and wellbeing.
- Increased stamina – Athletes who exercise on an empty stomach have experienced more energy and stamina. It is believed that the combination of fasting and exercising triggers internal catalysts that force the breakdown of sugars and fat into energy, without sacrificing muscle mass.
- Improves appetite control – Intermittent Fasting allows you to discern between mental and physical hunger
- Helps with food cravings – As your Leptin and Ghrelin levels reset to your intermittent fasting schedule, old triggers to eat certain foods at certain times will be erased. Also, intermittent fasting doesn’t ban certain foods; only the time period in which you can consume them!
- Develops an appreciation for high quality food—when you learn to eat within a certain time frame, and fast through another, you learn to appreciate the gift of eating good quality food. You may notice that you savor food more, eating it more slowly, and that you have a much keener sense of when you are becoming full. You will also discover certain, high quality food sources such as whey protein, green vegetables and berries are ingested and incorporated faster into your system, due to their nutritionally dense makeup.
Fiscal and Time-Saving Benefits
- Save money – Depending on your intermittent fasting schedule, you could end up skipping 7 meals or more a week. As long as you don’t add the caloric totals of these meals to the meals you DO consume during intermittent fasting, you are basically cutting at least a day’s worth of food out of your budget. Take a page from the Mormon faith and add up how much money you save by not purchasing and preparing these meals. Whether you pay that savings forward or save it for a rainy day is up to you!
- Save time – This particular benefit personally resonates with me. As a former dieter, I can say with the voice of an expert, that many of the miracle diets and fads I tried, in my quest to lose weight, not only included lots of really expensive ingredients in little quantities that resulted in even more waste, but the elaborate preparation required of these meals, took hours away from my life that I would never get back. When you choose to fast intermittently, you automatically save a certain percentage of weekly food prep basically because you SKIP the entire process. It’s up to you how plain or fancy your remaining meals are. The important thing is to eat a balanced, clean, organic nutritious menu of food. And if you overindulge a day or two on vacation? Tomorrow is truly another day.
Personal Growth Benefits
- Taking a on a physical and mental challenge and being rewarded with the ability to balance health and nutritional needs.
- Acquiring a great tool for strength training or other athletic challenges.
- Experiencing consistent balanced control over important life choices.
- Gaining the flexibility and freedom to choose when you eat socially with friends and family, and when you take a planned break.
- Experiencing Mind/Body connection in a visceral manner that regulates when, why and how you eat.
- Learning how to be mindful when eating
- Experiencing delayed gratification rather than immediate gratification
- Developing resilience in a controlled setting
- Learning how to respect boundaries and how to be nutritionally creative within them
As I hope you can see by the diverse spectrum of benefits I’ve included above, I personally believe that the practice of Intermittent Fasting offers you much, much more than a diet. As I’ve stated before, it’s an important, valuable life choice – the rewards that will be gained from incorporating it into your health regime can easily be scaffolded into many other parts of your life. I am a big advocate of connecting mind, body and spirit into a cohesive, healthy, balanced whole, transforming us all into empowered individuals; ready to take on all the opportunities this world has to offer!