The obesity rate in America is now 41.9%, a staggering number that has caused great concern in the last few years. People are becoming more health-conscious and seeking ways to get and stay healthier. Changing up your diet, of course, is the best way to do that, but eating healthy foods can be quite costly, depending on where you live.
There are other effective ways to lose weight and achieve optimal health that don’t cost a thing, such as intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting (IF) has gained popularity in the last decade for its weight loss benefits, but that’s not all it can do. Today, we’ll discuss the other benefits of intermittent fasting that may surprise you.
First, let’s discuss exactly what IF is.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Simply put, intermittent fasting (IF) schedules times to eat and fast during the day. The most popular IF schedule is 16 hours fasting, 8 hours eating, or 16:8.
Some may find this a bit challenging when getting started, so they will opt for a time frame of 14 hours fasting and 10 hours eating,14:10 or even 12:12.
The exact time you stop eating and start fasting isn’t as important as the fasting itself.
If this is your first time fasting, you may want to try a 14:10 schedule and see how you feel. Most people note that once you get comfortable fasting, it’s easy to do a 16:8 or even an 18:6. The longer fasting periods will trigger higher levels of fat burning.
With anything, it’s important to always listen to your body.
The science behind IF is that it puts the body in fat-burning mode. By restricting food, our bodies will more quickly and efficiently tap our fat stores for energy. But there are many more benefits of intermittent fasting besides weight loss.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
There are nine other remarkable and surprising benefits of intermittent fasting besides weight loss. If you’ve been on the fence about trying IF, these benefits may give you the push you need to start.
1. Improves Brain Health
You are what you eat, and this also applies to when you eat. Intermittent fasting is beneficial for brain health. Research has shown that it may increase the growth of new nerve cells, which could improve brain function. One of the main functions of IF is that it cleans out old cells and replaces them with new ones, even the ones in your brain.
2. May Prevent Cancer
Animal studies have suggested that IF may help prevent cancer and reduce the side effects caused by chemotherapy. Cancer cells feed on glucose, and fasting may reduce glucose levels in the blood, making it harder for cancers to grow.
3. Changes in Body Functions
When we fast, our bodies undergo many changes. Our cells change, and our stored fat becomes more accessible for fuel. Old damaged cells are flushed away, and new cell regeneration takes place. Our insulin levels also drop, which promotes fat burning.
4. Reduce Blood Sugar Levels
A recent study showed that intermittent fasting reduces insulin resistance and insulin levels in people with prediabetes. When insulin is reduced, this helps lower your blood sugar levels and protect against type 2 diabetes. However, another study showed that it was most effective for men, and some women had the opposite reaction.
5. Helps Reduce Inflammation
Intermittent fasting helps improve conditions that cause inflammation, like arthritis. There are several diseases caused by chronic inflammation, so it’s good to know that fasting is one way to reduce it. Many foods cause inflammation, so limiting intake of these foods and fasting can greatly reduce inflammation. Switching to a keto diet will also help reduce inflammation.
6. Promotes Autophagy
Autophagy means “self-eating” and happens when the body is in repair mode, which is only possible through fasting. During autophagy, your body cleans out all the old damaged cells and replaces them with new healthy ones. This process is not only good for your whole body but especially your skin. Goodbye wrinkles!
7. Prevents Alzheimer’s
A recent study has shown that fasting can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and perhaps even reduce the severity of it. We already know that fasting flushes out damaged cells and regenerates new ones. IF can be especially beneficial to older adults who are concerned about getting dementia or Alzheimer’s.
8. Improved Heart Health
Because IF reduces inflammation and aids in weight loss, it naturally improves heart health at the same time. Intermittent fasting improves your overall health by lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, insulin, and blood sugar levels, all issues that can affect heart health.
9. Better Sleep
For those who snack at night before bed, sleep is often interrupted, and you may feel groggy in the morning with little to no energy. With intermittent fasting, it’s advisable to close your eating window at least 3 hours before bed, and you’re almost guaranteed a much better sleep at night.
Important Side Note on Intermittent Fasting
During your feeding window, it’s important to maintain a healthy diet. Some people may be prone to gorging on food for 6-8 hours simply because that’s the only time allotted to eat. This is not healthy or advisable.
Try sticking to a healthy diet of lean proteins, healthy fats and carbs, and fruits and vegetables. Intermittent fasting is often coupled with the keto diet (or the low-carb diet) for better results.
Intermittent Fasting FAQ’s
Is Intermittent Fasting Safe?
Yes, intermittent fasting is safe, but it’s not an ideal lifestyle for everyone. If you have pre-existing health conditions, consult your doctor before trying it. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is not advisable to do IF.
What Can I Have While I’m Fasting?
You are only allowed clear liquids like black coffee/tea (no cream, sugar, sweetener, honey, etc), water, and herbal teas. They must be calorie-free liquids only.
What Do I Do if I Get Dizzy or Light-Headed While Fasting?
This is quite common and normal for those just starting IF. If you start feeling this, add salt to a glass of water or drink some electrolytes. You can also shorten your fasting window and slowly increase it to a higher number. For example, if you are starting out with a 16:8 window, try decreasing that to 14:10 or even 12:12 and gradually build from there.
What Are Some of the Side Effects of Intermittent Fasting?
When you are first starting, IF does come with some less-than-desirable side effects, including nausea, insomnia, constipation, and irritability, just to name a few. They usually go away after the first month. The key is to stay hydrated and eat a well-balanced and healthy meal during your eating window.
Is Intermittent Fasting Your Wellness Answer?
It’s clear to see that the benefits of intermittent fasting are quite amazing, but before making any changes to your daily regime, you should check with your healthcare practitioner first. What works for some doesn’t always work for all.
With anything, ease your way into it and don’t have high expectations in the beginning. Intermittent fasting can be tough, but it will get easier once you adapt a good IF routine, and this will become your new, healthier way of life.
This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.