We have been trained to eat throughout the entire day. Intermittent fasting goes against this and tells you to eat only a limited amount of time a day, usually 8 hours. There are many types and variants, but the essence is that people fast (don’t eat) the majority of the day. A popular form is not eating before 2PM and then being allowed to eat until 10PM.
There are more extreme forms where one can not eat entirely for 1 day and eat the next day. This however is a less chosen form due to the fact that is is hard to stick to. The principle however stays the same. IF is not a once in a while thing, it is a lifestyle you adopt for longer periods of time.
Why do IF?
Traditional wisdom tells us breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Research actually shows that statistically people are grumpier and thus less liked if they skip breakfast. Of course that is with people who normally do have breakfast, luckily IF practitioners do not have this problem. On the note of traditional wisdom, keep in mind:
“When you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect” ~ Mark Twain
The effects on intermittent fasting are varied and often counter intuitive. They include health benefits and increased cognitive functioning like being able to focus longer periods of time. It also has a relaxing component since you don’t have to worry about getting food all day. And when the day is done you can just sit down and feast.
The Health Effects of IF
For a detailed description on the health benefits of being an intermittent faster have a look at the intermittent fasting science page. Be warned that it is rather dense but worth the read if you have the patience.
Stress defenses without the stressor
In the body stress is defined much more generally than the every day word. Stress is anything that can cause damage. It can be heat, radiation, poison, oxidative stress and so on. The body is constantly bombarded with stressors but is usually capable of dealing with them.
What intermittent fasting does is activating stress defenses without the need for actual stress. This means for example that it activates proteins that keep your DNA in good shape (e.g. against stress on your genetic code). There are many and varied benefits, but the principle is quite accurate. Of course it is a generalization, so if you are interested in the actual science, have a look at that page.
If the terms above make little sense to you, have a look at the simplified list below:
IF both increases brain cell survival and the making of new connections in the brain. There have been indications that it protects against brain diseases like Alzheimer.
- Better insulin sensitivity and blood sugar levels
Glucose and insulin levels are low during fasting. This causes the body to use different energy sources like fatty acid metabolism. This changed metabolism results in an improved insulin sensitivity.
- Increases fat metabolism
Instead of a very glucose based metabolism the body changes to a more fatty acid metabolism. This is a much more stable source of energy.
- DNA Stability
The upregulation (means larger activation) or sirtuins has a protective effect on DNA.
- Longer life span
This follows from the other effects, but is worth adding to the list. Due to the above factors many age-related problems are prevented. In addition things like Sirtuin activation have lasting effect on the DNA.
- Much much more
The problem is that all effects are linked. Please read through the science page to have a deeper overview of the effects.
Cognitive Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
The effect of IF on the mind is profound. Before we go into the effects you will notice in your own mind, there are two interesting biological effects to keep in mind:
- Neuroplasticity: it is easier for brain cells to make new connections
- Fat metabolism: much more regular that glucose (sugar)
On of the things many people notice is being able to focus much better than usual. This may have to do with the easier forming of new connections in the brain, but is also most definitely linked to the fat metabolism.
The downside of a carbohydrate based metabolism is that it fluctuates a lot. This is the reason that many people become tired after eating. This is especially true when eating carbohydrates that are quickly absorbed. These cause an insulin spike which messes with your ability to focus.
Makes the Day more Simple
Intermittent fasters do not have to worry about getting food every 3 hours. There is no productivity dip in the afternoon due to being hungry. From personal experience I can say it is just very convenient once you get used to it.