You know how important eating the right foods is to your health. But so is the timing of your meals. Intermittent fasting (IF) can lead to some major health benefits. But before you get scared off by the idea of “fasting,” there are some important things you should know. Not to mention the fact that it isn’t nearly as painful or difficult as you probably imagine.
Here are five reasons to try intermittent fasting:
1. Improves Brain Health: IF can help protect your brain against injury and disease. One way it does this is by stimulating neurogenesis. That’s the process of creating new brain cells. IF also helps shield your neurons from oxidative damage and resist brain aging. This may be especially important in the prevention of degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
2. Lowers Blood Sugar: One study found that a 20-hour fast every two days improved glucose uptake by about 15% in healthy men after only two weeks.
It’s important to understand that these men didn’t give up food for days at a time. They just ate during certain hours. Doing this helped their bodies better process glucose—an important factor in preventing insulin resistance. Just be sure not to jump right into a drastic IF protocol if you have major issues controlling your blood sugar.
3. Burns Body Fat: The goal isn’t to starve yourself. You just want to limit the amount of work your metabolism has to do in a day. Your cells use this time to carry out functions that may be lagging behind…like fat oxidation.
One study found that non-obese subjects lost up to three percent of their bodyweight—and five percent body fat—after IF every other day for 22 days. By limiting meals to a certain window, subjects were able to increase their body’s ability to burn fat for energy. And this effect may be even more dramatic in people carrying a significant amount of extra body fat.
4. Fights Aging: Researchers in one study found that IF can raise human growth hormone (HGH) levels by as much as 1,300% in women. The men in the study raised their HGH levels by 2,000%. You need HGH as you age to help keep lean muscle. But it can also help reduce wrinkles and stored body fat. It may even boost your libido.
IF is not like the expensive—and dangerous—anti-aging “treatments” out there. It’s a safe way to ramp up your body’s own natural production of HGH. But it doesn’t mean just looking better. Another study revealed that even moderate IF may even help people over 65 live longer.
5. Protects Your Heart: A review of multiple studies on IF concluded that it helps prevent heart disease by improving blood lipid profiles and decreasing inflammatory response. It may also help curb oxidative stress that contributes to heart disease. Another study looked closer at the inflammation issue and found that IF may even help increase the proportion of large to small LDL-particles by 11% in just a month. The bigger and “fluffier” your LDL-particles, the less likely you are to develop heart disease.
The best way to start experiencing the benefits of IF is to allow 12 full hours between when you finish dinner and when you start breakfast. It may sound like a lot… But it’s not. If you finish dinner by eight o’clock, don’t eat again before eight the next morning. It’s really that simple. From there you can work your way up to a 16—even 20-hour—fast.
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