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Last Updated on February 28, 2019

Understanding Intermittent Fasting Benefits: More Than Just Weight Loss

Understanding Intermittent Fasting Benefits: More Than Just Weight Loss

I’ve had extensive experience with Intermittent Fasting over the years — from utilizing it for significant weight loss, to then gaining muscle, to other health benefits as of late. When I first began fasting, the results were so exciting I felt compelled to produce a youtube video, which is now approaching 1 million views! Since then, I have produced several more videos on intermittent fasting and its benefits, and I encourage you to visit my youtube channel to delve deeper.

In the proceeding article, we will examine Intermittent Fasting (“IF”) from several perspectives including physical health, mental health, and overall well being.

What Is Intermittent Fasting (“IF”)

Simply put, it’s restricting your food and albeit drink consumption to a certain time of the day which is called your ‘eating window’. There’s another term for this approach to eating called ‘time restricted eating’. The two basically mean the same thing, however Intermittent Fasting stresses a bit more on longer fasting periods ranging between 14 hours all the way up to 48 hours in some cases.[1]

Personally, I feel most people would benefit from fasting between 14-18 hours, as beyond that can be stressful on the body if you have not already established conditioning and patterns around fasting.

How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?

Intermittent Fasting focuses on keeping your body in a catabolic state; one whereby your body has no food or resources for energy, so it begins to source energy from excess fat.

This is the opposite of being in an anabolic state, which is when you have consumed food and your body is actively processing and breaking down the nutrients and fats from that food and allocating those resources accordingly.

There is a large body of evidence suggesting that fasting can benefit both the body and brain, but almost all research has been conducted on animals, such as mice and rats. Researchers, such as myself, studying fasting have been calling for and awaiting more human studies to verify the results found while examining animals.

Myths About Intermittent Fasting

Myth #1: Starvation Mode?

Over the years, I’ve heard terms like ‘starvation mode’ thrown around with a lose relationship to IF, and this term is not accurate to how the body handles fasting and time restricted eating. Some people believe that your body will go into some sort of starvation mode, and by the time you actually do consume food, it will all be allocated to fat deposits and cause you to gain weight.

I’ve debunked this myth so many times with people when having conversations about weight loss, and I’m starting to think that the myth is actually going away! In large part due to articles such as this one which are geared towards informing the general public of the benefits of time restricted eating.

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Myth #2: Extremely Low Energy?

Another common myth is that energy levels are extremely low when fasting. This one spawns from the notion that your body needs food constantly for energy and to survive. Let me debunk this by stating that your body is much more resilient than that!

You can technically go several days without consuming food, as long as you are having adequate amounts of water. In my experience, over the years with time restricted eating, energy levels are sustained as long as the proper macro and micro nutrients are consumed during each eating window.

If you leave yourself deficient from each eating window by way of not consuming enough calories or nutrients, then yes, of course energy levels will be down the proceeding day.

However if your focusing on consuming high quality nutrients and hitting all your ‘numbers’ during your eating window, energy will certainly not be an issue.

How and When to Use Intermittent Fasting

All too often I hear people pushing the limits right away and going for 18, 20, 24 hour fasts within their first week of adopting the practice, and to be perfectly frank this is not a good idea.

I understand some people get overly excited about the results and the hype around intermittent fasting, however the best practice is to condition oneself by slowly easing into the process. I’ve suggested starting with 14 hours fasts, utilizing mostly sleeping time, for those starting intermittent fasting.

After a week or so of 14 hours daily fasts, gradually move to 16 hours the second week, then 18hours the third week, and if feeling really ambitious and seeing amazing results, move up to 20 hours fasts on some days. That means consuming all calories for the day within a 4 hour eating window!

Where many fall short with fasting is being able to consume the proper amount of overall calories including adequate volumes of protein, carbs, fats (macro-nutrients), and micro-nutrients. Many do not consume the correct amount of food during the eating window, or they don’t space meals out correctly.

There’s a few issues that can arise when one doesn’t consume proper nutrients within the eating window, let us examine some:

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  1. The body lacking adequate energy to sustain multiple days, or long term fasting
  2. The body is beginning to lose weight from muscle because it does not have enough nutrients to sustain energy levels
  3. When not spacing out meals, the body is not having enough time to digest food properly and thus not fully absorbing nutrients

Another problem which arises from my experience is poor eating habits being carried-over to intermittent fasting.

Someone has a crappy diet and thinks that by implementing time restricted eating or IF, they’ll start leaning up like Hollywood movie stars.. this is simply poor logic!

If serious about getting results in a healthy way, the diet should be cleaned up. This is because your body only has a certain amount of time to consume food (eating window), and if that time is being clogged-up with processing junk food, you won’t be reaping the benefits of IF.

Having said this, I do admit to having fast-food during eating windows at times, and though this can be a quick way to pack daily calories, and macro-nutrients, there is a significant lack of micro-nutrients; so when I go this route, it’s critical that my vitamin and mineral intake be on point!

Lately I have been consuming more carbohydrates and generally more calories during my eating windows because for the past 2 years, my goals have shifted from weight loss and leaning-up, to building lean muscle mass.

Putting on weight and building lean muscle mass while doing intermittent fasting is a tricky en-devour, mainly because the nature of IF is one of weight loss, fat loss, and ramping-up metabolism. What’s tricky is that at this stage of my life, my body has become quite efficient at processing and breaking down foods quickly; metabolic efficiency is quite high.

It didn’t start that way, in fact it was quite slow for the first couple months, but after training steadily and implementing time restricted eating for 6 months, I was well on my way to becoming a metabolic beast.

Now after having implemented intermittent fasting for well over 4 years, my body is quite adaptive and efficient at stripping nutrients from food, and leaving me with necessary fuel (carbohydrates and fats) for training.

My current goals entail acquiring 0.5 – 1lb of lean body mass (muscle) every month, totaling around 10lbs of lean muscle per year. This is very reasonable and attainable, however it certainly is challenging when also incorporating intermittent fasting.

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IF does help with the production of new muscle tissue by way of improving the production of human growth hormone (HGH) and testosterone, however, it also burns up any excess fats very quickly. So at this stage I find myself consuming in excess of 4,000 calories on a given day, and up wards of 6,000 calories on training days – that’s a lot of eating!

The challenge then arises of how does one consume 6,000 calories in a 4 or 6 hour eating window? Lot’s of caloric dense foods helps, however they lack nutrients in most cases as I had noted above.

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

The benefits of fasting are wide ranging, from weight loss (of course), to improved muscle development, to reduced stress levels, to clearer skin, and much more! Of course, this all comes if one is following the correct protocols for intermittent fasting as we have examined earlier in this article.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the key benefits of intermittent fasting in this video first:

Fasting has been proven to improve biomarkers of disease, reduce oxidative stress and preserve learning and memory functioning, according to Mark Mattson, senior investigator for the National Institute on Aging, part of the US National Institutes of Health. Mattson investigated the health benefits of IF on the cardiovascular system and brain in rodents, and like many others, has called for “well-controlled human studies” in people “across a range of body mass indexes”.[2]

Mattson has contributed to several other IF studies and caloric restriction. In one, overweight adults with moderate asthma consumed only 20% of their normal calorie intake on alternate days.[3] Participants who adhered to the diet lost 8% of their initial body weight over eight weeks. The participants also saw a decrease in markers of oxidative stress, inflammation, and improvement of asthma-related symptoms and several quality-of-life indicators.

In another study, Mattson and colleagues explored the effects of intermittent and continuous energy restriction on weight loss and various biomarkers (for conditions such as breast cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease) among young overweight woman.[4] They found that time restricted eating, or intermittent restriction, was as effective as continuous restriction for improving weight loss, insulin sensitivity and other health biomarkers.

Mattson’s research has also been in the direction of determining the protective benefits of fasting to neurons. For instance, if you don’t eat for 10 to 16 hours, your body will seek its fat deposits for energy, and fatty acids called ketones will be released into the bloodstream. This has been shown to protect memory and learning functionality as well as slow disease processes in the brain according to Mattson. From my own person experience of intermittent fasting I can attest to increased mental alertness and acuity.

Something that most won’t consider is the ‘detox’ and ‘cleanse’ aspects to intermittent fasting. I know you must be thinking “oh man, not another cleanse pitch”.. and I hear ya! But you do actually clean up the gut and digestive tract quite a bit with fasting.

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You can do this with dry fasting, or water fasting (which I’m more of a proponent of). I would only recommend dry fasting for a maximum of 24 hours – and this is done by not even consuming water during your fasting period. There are two purposes to dry fasting:

1. You deprive the body of moisture which can clean-up the gut by not allowing moisture-thriving bacteria to form or sustain existence. Any unhealthy bacteria will in essence die-off when there is no food or water to sustain it.

2. Many claim that standard or dry fasting yields mental clarity which can be beneficial for spiritual practices. Personally I have had some experience with this, where during prolonged fasting periods I feel much more in-tune with my sense perceptions, and albeit cognitive alertness.

When I perform my ritualistic meditations such as transcendental meditation in the morning, or any time of the day while fasted, I feel much more deeply connected and dialed-in with the meditation itself. This could be due to a lack of substances/external stimuli such as food or water that the body needs to allocate resources to process.

Perhaps when the body isn’t breaking down nutrients, and left to rest, it has the ability to hone-in on any given task with much more clarity and efficiency.

Conclusion

If you want to lose weight, improve mental health, and overall well being – consider trying Intermittent Fasting, but as mentioned, start gradually and work your way to longer fasting periods as time goes on.

The main benefit of fasting is arguable and varies depending on an individuals goals – Do you want to lose weight? Do you want to improve metabolic efficiency? Or do you want to improve overall energy levels? There’s lots to choose from in terms of overarching benefits.

Featured photo credit: Ethan Sykes via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] CMAJ: Intermittent fasting: the science of going without
[2] J Nutr Biochem 2005;16:129–37
[3] Free Radical Bio Med 2007;42:665–74
[4] Int J Obesity 2011;35:714–27

More by this author

Adam Evans

BioHacker, competitive athlete, researcher in many fields including health and fitness, science, philosophy, metaphysics, religion.

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Last Updated on May 22, 2019

10 Simple Morning Exercises That Will Make You Feel Great All Day

10 Simple Morning Exercises That Will Make You Feel Great All Day

There are lots of studies that show if you do some exercise in the morning, you will be in a better mood all day long. You will have more energy and you will certainly be a better colleague, friend or partner.

One psychologist at Duke University has researched the effects of exercise on depressed patients and he has come to the conclusion that exercise has a definite role in treating this condition and has an important role in preventing people from relapsing.[1] According to the New York Times, scientists have now established that exercise also boosts your brain power.[2]

In addition, there are studies from the Appalachian State University which show that blood pressure can be reduced by doing regular morning exercise.[3]

Here are 10 simple morning exercises that will help you feel great the whole day long. You can include some of them in your morning exercise routine or do them all at home without having to enrol in a gym. Consult your doctor before starting any form of exercise routine if you are new to this.

1. Cat Camel Stretch

Stretching exercises are useful for muscle toning and also preventing arthritis. They can either be dynamic or static.

Dynamic ones such as the cat camel stretch, are particularly useful for doing other exercises in the morning. They are also beneficial at other times of the day, especially after long periods of sedentary work. This one is great for spinal flexibility and is a good warm up exercise.

Kneel down on all fours. Start by rounding your back just like a camel so that your head will try to meet your pelvis. This is the camel position. Then lower and lift your head so that your lower back is arched. This is the cat position. Do these movements slowly and smoothly. About 4 or 5 times.

Here’s a video to guide you through:

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2. Go for a Walk or a Run

This is better done outside so that you can connect with nature but running inside on a treadmill is almost as good. You can time yourself and increase length and time according to your fitness program.

Always have new goals to reach. Start with brisk walking and work up to running. At my age, I am still walking!

The health benefits are considerable. You can build stronger bones and you can help to maintain your weight.

Also, you are helping your heart to stay healthy and keeping your blood pressure low.

Learn more about the benefits of running here: 8 Benefits of Running 5 Minutes Every Day You Didn’t Know

3. Jumping Jacks

Michelle Obama is a great fan of this exercise and has become “Jumper in Chief.”[4] They are great for cardiovascular health and also for toning muscles especially the calves and the deltoids.

Stand with feet together. Jump while spreading your arms and legs. Return to first position and keep going! You can start with doing these for 1 minute and then gradually build up to the number you are comfortable with. Here’s how:

4. Abductor Side Lifts

Watch the video below to see how to do this exercise. These muscles are important because you use them everyday to run, get into the car or onto and off a bicycle. They are very important also for your core stability and prevent the pelvis from tilting.[5]

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Do about 10 to 15 raises for each side like this:

5. Balancing Table Pose

This is a classic yoga pose. It benefits the spine, balance, memory and concentration.

Start with the table pose (hands and knees). Breathe in before starting each movement. As you exhale, raise your left leg parallel to the floor as you raise the right arm, also parallel to the floor. Breathe in as you lower arm and leg. Repeat for the other side. 10 repetitions on each side is a good starting point.

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    6. Leg Squats

    Not just legs are involved but also hips and knees.

    Stand with your feet a bit further out from your hips. Arms are out in front of you. Then lower yourself as if you wanted to sit down until you reach a 90 degree angle. You can go down further if you want to. Then return to the starting position. Repeat 15 times for 2 sets for beginners.

    The benefits are that these exercises help with knee stability and can benefit the leg muscles such as quadriceps, hamstrings and calves.[6]

    7. Push Ups

    You start lying down (face down) but with your body held up at arm’s length. Your hands should be in line with your shoulders. Breathe in as you lower your body. That is fairly easy. Now, as you exhale, you have to get back up to the starting position.

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    An easier version to start with is to bend your legs at the knees so you do not have to lift your whole body.

    Beginners may take up to a month to be able to do 100 push ups so you will have to start with a very small number and gradually increase it.

    This exercise is great for strengthening the chest, shoulders and the triceps. It is a great strengthening exercise for many muscle groups. In fact, most muscles from the toes to the shoulders are being used.

    8. Bicycle Crunches

    There are numerous crunch exercises targeting the abs. The bicycle crunch is a variation where you work more muscle groups. Aim for 15 to 20 reps to start off with.

    Watch the video to see how this is done correctly:

    9. Lunges

    Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Place your hand on your hips. Take one giant step forward with the right leg. Make sure the knee does not go too far forward, that is, past your toes. The left knee will go down to almost floor level. Alternate the legs as you go on.

    Try to do a set of between 8 and 12 reps for each leg. It is important to allow for a day of rest, so this exercise should be done on alternate days, especially if you are using weights.

    This exercise is great for strengthening and toning the quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings.

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    10. Bicep Curls

    You can do this sitting down so if you spend a lot of time on the phone, this is a great exercise to do.

    Choose suitable dumbbells or another household object that you can easily hold. Sit down with the dumbbell in your hand. You need to sit forward a bit so that your triceps can lean on your thigh to give you support.

    Then bring the weighted arm up to shoulder length and then down again. Exhale as you lift the weight and inhale as you lower it.

    Here’re some important notes before you start doing this exercise:

    Try to do one or two sets of about ten repetitions for each arm and then switch arms.

    These exercises are really useful for toning the arm muscles.[7] In addition, they can strengthen and tone the brachioradialis muscle located in the forearm. These are the muscles we use to pick up things when we flex the arm at the elbow so we use these muscles countless times a day.

    You may have to build in a rest day for the heavier exercises, numbers 6–10. On the rest days, you can do gentler stretching exercises and also some walking or running.

    Morning exercise is not only a great mood booster, but will help you keep your weight down and also sleep better![8] Start including one or some of these exercises in your morning routine!

    More Articles About Exercises for Beginners

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

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