It's well-known that there are many different behaviors that help trigger weight-loss and that some work much better than others. Not only are some combinations of diet and exercise better at safely and quickly bringing the body into a healthy weight range, a smaller set of techniques and practices consistently result long-term stability. An important component of establishing a healthy weight that's sustainable over the long-term involves restricting not only WHAT we eat, but WHEN we eat or don't eat. That's right; simple calorie-restriction seldom results in a stable healthy weight after the initial period of health-conscious focus. Those with long-term success reaching and maintaining their goal weight often integrate some form of intermittent fasting into their lifestyle and studies show there are benefits to this practice. One exciting result of intermittent fasting is that the benefits are not only physical, but also mental!
One of the foundations of intermittent calorie-restriction, as intermittent fasting is more properly called, is that your body gets a much longer rest period during which it's not constantly digesting an abundance of food. This is particularly beneficial in our body's natural healing and self-maintenance, a process known as autophagy. This process involves things like flushing toxins and dead cells from our system and re-building and replacing old cells to keep tissue healthy. While your body is spending energy on the rather complex process of digestion of food and the distribution of those nutrients, autophagy is restricted. This is one reason why, even if you don't engage in more extreme fasting, it's a bad idea to eat within several hours of bedtime and a terrible idea to wake up and eat a ‘midnight snack'.
Besides promoting weight-loss, intermittent fasting also promotes production of more human growth hormone (HGH), especially if, at the end of your period of fasting, you do a vigorous resistance workout. This is a natural chemical produced by the body that begins to diminish as we age and boosting this natural production by habit, rather than via outside influence or additives is a safe and healthy way to prolong health as the body ages.
It can help stabilize blood sugar levels, reduce inflammation and increase heart health. There are many varieties of intermittent fasting, from alternate-day fasting, to 16:8 or other ratio-based calorie restriction, but all of the methods require some determination and self-control. One huge benefit for people who follow a ketogenic diet is that, once their bodies are ‘keto-adapted,' burning fat for energy rather than carbohydrates, they tend to not experience hunger pangs triggered by the ‘carb roller-coaster'. With virtually no carbohydrate intake, those on a keto diet will find it much easier to pick when they eat or do not eat. Don't worry, though. Even if you have not started on a ketogenic diet, just the practice of intermittent fasting will tend to balance levels of the hormone called leptin, which is part of the signalling process your body uses to determine when it's time to stop eating.
Perhaps one of the most exciting benefits of intermittent fasting is that it helps protect your brain! An animal study demonstrated that intermittent fasting protected against changes in memory and learning, enhancing cognitive function. Another study showed that intermittent fasting influenced proteins known to be involved in brain aging. Alzheimers disease studies also show that intermittent fasting slows the disorder.
Naturally, fasting is not for everyone and if you have any health conditions you should consult your health-care provider before trying it. Those who suffer from low blood sugar, have a history of eating disorders, women who are pregnant, those with thyroid issues or who have a history of gallstone disease should certainly seek professional advice before trying intermittent fasting.
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