Benefits of Fasting That Surprise you, Backed by Science
Benefits of Fasting:
- In Benefits of Fasting Intermittent fasting is an incredibly popular health trend that’s been making waves in the nutrition world as of late, with good reason.
- It can improve insulin sensitivity, help you live longer, and even improve your cognitive function and mental clarity!
- While intermittent fasting can be a positive addition to your routine if done correctly, it’s important to avoid common mistakes so you don’t wind up doing more harm than good.
- Here are 8 benefits of intermittent fasting backed by science so you can start fasting on the right foot (pun intended).
It’s important to understand that fasting isn’t an all-you-can-eat buffet. That means you can still eat (in small amounts) during your fast.
In fact, as long as you don’t go overboard with your meal sizes, it is possible to get even more nutrient dense calories when you refeed after a fast.
Make sure that when eating within an 8 hour window—you are eating real food and not going over your total caloric intake for the day.
This will ensure that weight loss is occurring without hindering muscle gain or other health benefits from intermittent fasting.
When following these guidelines, make sure to have some leeway in case some extra food falls into your mouth. The goal is zero sacrifice so be mindful if you use too much of your allotted daily calories on extra meals!
Just because they fit into your macros doesn’t mean they aren’t adding up in other ways! Focus on quality foods instead. You may also want to consider drinking bone broth during your fast as well since it contains many beneficial nutrients.
2) Fight Inflammation
Fasting can reduce a variety of systemic markers linked to aging and disease. One animal study in Cell Metabolism found that every-other-day fasting slowed cellular aging in mice—there was less age-related damage to crucial DNA when they fasted.
And another group found periodic fasting helped reduce inflammation in mice fed a high-fat diet—which is key for reasons we’ll get into later in our series on intermittent fasting. There are similar findings in humans.
One paper published by Time magazine earlier this year noted that one group of people who regularly practiced time-restricted feeding (where all food is consumed within an 8 or 10 hour window) saw a drop in markers linked to aging, diabetes and cancer.
3) Feel Good
When you fast, your levels of dopamine and serotonin rise. That’s why you’ll often feel happier when you start fasting.
You can think more clearly and concentrate better—and that makes it easier to stick to your fast. Imagine spending a day working or studying with a clear head!
People who do intermittent fasting report that they don’t get as distracted while fasting either—and they also report feeling less irritable.
If fasting helps decrease anxiety for some people and make them calmer generally, it might just be because their brains are operating at peak efficiency.
Researchers have also found that meditation helps increase concentration levels during a fast (probably due to another type of hormonal change).
4) Manage Stress
One of fasting’s purported benefits is stress reduction. Fast for a few days each month and you’ll be amazed at how much more focused and calm you feel.
The main reason: When fasting, cortisol (the stress hormone) production decreases while blood circulation increases, bringing more oxygen to your brain and helping you think with clarity.
Once again (as if we really needed convincing), science says intermittent fasting is good for us! So give it a try—you don’t have to do it every day.
If you do, just make sure you still eat healthily during your eating window. It can help reset unhealthy eating habits too.
Here are five healthy habits that work in tandem with intermittent fasting so you can enjoy them together—alongside improved health and longevity!
5) Lower Cholesterol
In a 2003 study published in The Journal of Applied Physiology, researchers found that intermittent fasting (IF) led to decreases in cholesterol and other blood fats.
IF is also associated with lower body weight and an improvement in cardiovascular health. In fact, research suggests that IF may be a potential treatment for type 2 diabetes—perhaps even better than traditional diets.
These effects are likely due to IF’s ability to help regulate insulin levels and improve insulin sensitivity. So next time you’re about to eat, consider skipping breakfast or waiting until lunchtime to break your fast instead.
This can help normalize your insulin response and potentially reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes.
When it comes to health benefits, IF appears to have some powerful benefits: A 2007 study conducted at Uppsala University Hospital in Sweden revealed that those who practice IF have improved glucose tolerance compared with those who don’t.
6) Improve Brain Function
Studies show that when people fast, their brain activity lowers and they become more mindful. In one study published in PLOS One, researchers found that both meditation and fasting increased brain plasticity—the brain’s ability to change and adapt—and these effects lasted even after people stopped fasting.
What’s more? Fasting seems to lower risk factors for diseases that affect cognitive function, like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
To get started with intermittent fasting (IF), begin with small changes in your eating patterns. For example, skip breakfast one day a week or swap out dinner for a salad on another night.
Work up to longer periods of time without food as you become accustomed to it. For some tips on how IF can help improve your health and performance at work, check out our guide: How Intermittent Fasting Can Improve Your Health & Productivity at Work .
7) Boost Energy
Skipping meals or fasting causes our bodies to go into starvation mode. When you go too long without eating, your body slows down and starts using energy more efficiently—this translates to a decrease in caloric burn. This can be helpful if you want to lose weight (or fat), but it’s not an ideal way to maintain energy levels over time.
In fact, consistently going without food forces your body to slow its metabolic rate so much that there are health concerns associated with calorie restriction for extended periods of time—like reduced bone density and muscle wasting.
8) Lose Weight
While it may not seem like it when you’re first starting a fast, one of the main benefits is that fasting helps your body burn through stored energy (think: fat) and thus jump-start weight loss.
A small pilot study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that obese adults who practiced time-restricted feeding lost nearly double the amount of weight after 10 weeks as those who fasted during other parts of their day.
As long as you don’t go crazy with it, time-restricted eating can help you lose weight effortlessly while also improving your health. The research suggests that fasting even a few hours at night could be beneficial to your health and longevity!