Rather than being the latest fad diet kid on the block, intermittent fasting is, in reality, the world’s oldest medical treatment. In fact, the father of medicine, Hippocrates, advocated fasting over medication, once saying . . .
“Instead of medicine, fast for a day.”
When they are unwell, every animal, apart from humans, refrains from eating. They do this in the instinctive knowledge that not eating, has a powerful healing effect on the body. This has been known by humans, too, for thousands of years. Yet, it is only within the last few decades that researchers have been able to produce the science to prove it.
Intermittent fasting has emerged as a very popular means of weight loss in recent years. Yet, the more research focus that it receives, the greater the benefits for overall health and longevity that are being discovered.
As a result, fasting is being recognized as a legitimate breakthrough in the fields of weight loss, lean muscle increase, anti-aging and overall well-being.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating plan that revolves around strategically not eating for periods of time either every day or several times a week. This is done in order to develop metabolic flexibility and promote positive adaptations in the body that lead to specific outcomes. It is not a diet in that it does not stipulate a reduced daily caloric count (though this usually results anyway). Rather, intermittent fasting is a lifestyle pattern that is designed to be followed over the long-term.
There are many variants of intermittent fasting, which we will detail in the next section. Each of them is based on the concept of going for a set length of time without, then eating during a short ‘feeding window.’ This is then repeated. It is intended as a long-term lifestyle choice rather than a short-term diet.
The body of any living being can be in one of two states:
These two states are, obviously, counters to one another. Modern life allows many of us to never experience the fasted state during waking hours, and that, turns out is not all beneficial. To borrow a Chinese concept, the two states are the Yin and Yang of your body. You need both to balance each other, and an optimal balance may promote your healthy longevity.
How Intermittent Fasting Keeps You Young
Growth hormone, also known as somatotropin, is a protein hormone that is made up of 191 amino acids. It is released by somatropin cells located in the anterior pituitary gland. Growth hormone is an important component of human development, making it vital for the muscle building process. It is also an important fat burning hormone. Just check out what optimized levels of growth hormone can do for your body:
- Increased muscle strength
- Enhanced fracture healing
- Boosted weight loss
- Increased bone strength
- Lowered risk of cardiovascular disease
- Enhanced virility
- Improved cognitive functioning
- Better sleep
When you have high levels of glucose in your blood, the pancreas releases a chemical called somatostatin. It has the effect of suppressing the production of human growth hormone. So, the more times that you eat through your day, the less growth hormone you will release into your body. The opposite is also true – the fewer times you eat, the more growth hormone your body will produce.
Growth hormone release decreases with age, but when you practice intermittent fasting, your body releases growth hormones and slows down the aging process. (1)
Brain Boosting Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Our understanding of the human brain has undergone some profound changes in recent times. It used to be thought that the brain was static and unable to be changed. Now we know differently. The brain has the ability to constantly adapt and change.
The term neuroplasticity has been coined to describe the ability of the brain to form new connections. The brain can also heal itself. New brain connections are facilitated by a family of proteins known as neurotrophic factors. One specific neurotropic factor has been identified as being most crucial. It is called brain derived neurotropic factor (BDNF).
BDNF activates brain stem cells to produce new brain cells. So, the more BDNF you have, the greater your potential to increase the number of brain cells. So, what can you do to maximize your body’s production of BDNF?
And not just by a little bit!
Intermittent fasting has been shown to increase BDNF production by between 50 and 400 percent! (2) (3)
The benefits of intermittent fasting, as we are starting to discover, go well beyond fat loss. It will encourage the body to dramatically increase the production of hormone and neural factors that will improve the functioning of our bodies and our brains. But there is far more to the IF story than that.
In Part Two, we drill down on the life enhancing benefits of intermittent fasting.