By: Mike Staszak, PT
Fasting and intermittent fasting (IF) have been around for a long time for weight loss and have shown to aid in lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and improvement in blood glucose and insulin levels. Studies in humans, almost across the board, have shown that IF is safe and incredibly effective. However, many people find it difficult to fast. A growing body of research suggests that the timing of the fast is key, and can make IF a more realistic, sustainable, and effective approach for weight loss, as well as a number of other health-related benefits.
Extensive research has been done on animals so far with a more limited amount of human trials, but all of the resulting information points to definite health benefits. Human trials show definitive weight loss, with a loss of body fat, but no loss of lean body mass. Preliminary studies show a reduction of inflammatory markers, leading to a general decrease in inflammation and a reduction in digestive inflammation, equating to improved digestive health and a stronger immune system.
It has also been shown to help with reduced fatigue, improved focus, increased stress resistance, type 2 diabetes, and potentially with autoimmune disorders and even preventing cancer.
So how do we make something that seems so extreme work in our lives?
There are several different types of fasting protocols, from long-duration fasts, fasting for 24 hours every other day to reducing the hours of eating on a daily basis. I recommend a type of IF called time-restricted eating. This involves basically increasing your nightly fasting period, eliminating nighttime snacks, and eating your dinner earlier. Eating dinner by 5:00 p.m. will make it easy to go 12-14 hours without eating. Another positive aspect of this that recent research has revealed is that if you do this five days per week there is no reduction in the positive benefits, allowing us to have two days per week that we can shorten the fasting period.
Additionally, animal research shows another potential positive effect of IF is living longer. Mice that have gone through time-restricted eating protocols have lived 15% longer, but we have not yet done human trials long enough to quantify these types of results for us. The preliminary research, however, is encouraging.
The health benefits of the time-restricted eating are unmistakable if you can make it work in your life. One of the big concerns of a lot of people is being hungry, but once you start, it will only take a couple of days before you will not have those hunger cravings later in the evening.
Remember, even when committing to an eating program like this you still need to make healthy food choices. Oh, yeah, and don’t forget about adequate hydration. Drinking lots of water is imperative to a healthy lifestyle and while intermittent fasting.
About Mike Staszak
Michael Staszak has been an outpatient orthopedic physical therapist for the past 27 years. He is the owner of Staszak Physical Therapy & Wellness Center in Eugene. He and his staff believe that the more people understand about how their bodies work and learn proper body mechanics, the less likely they are to become injured again. With this commitment to patient education, Michael provides wellness articles and presentations for businesses and community members. He also has a passion for nutrition and how it affects our physical health.
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