7 Heart Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent Fasting (IF for short) has quickly become one of the most popular health and wellness trends. It consists of alternating periods of eating and fasting. It does not specify which foods to eat, but rather when to eat. This is an eating approach that has been practiced for thousands of years.

Recent research has shown that this pattern of eating has some major health benefits including reduced inflammation, improved heart health, slowed aging and sustainable weight loss.

What is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting is a timed approach to eating. It is also known as “time-restricted eating”.  It’s an eating plan that requires you to cycle between periods of eating and fasting. It can look a little different depending on the style of IF that you do.

IF has a multitude of health benefits because it gives your digestive system a break and allows an essential reset of the body. It can drastically improve metabolic outcomes in patients while preserving muscle mass and function.

Top 7 health benefits of intermittent fasting:

  1. Stimulates weight loss

    IF promotes simultaneous reductions in insulin and increases in growth hormone, both of which force the body to switch to burning its fat stores for energy. The result is significant weight loss. Additionally, IF typically results in fewer calories consumed, which can also contribute to weight loss yet a preservation of muscle mass. Fasting is also good for metabolism. Even short-term fasting has been shown to increase basal metabolic rate (Source).

  2. Decreases insulin resistance

    Type 2 Diabetes has become increasingly predominant in today’s society. The cause of diabetes is often insulin resistance. IF has been shown to have major benefits on fixing insulin resistance, lowering hemoglobin A1C levels and reducing blood glucose levels. IF helps the body burn off excess sugar that is stored in the body. Research has shown that therapeutic fasting strategies have been successful in lowering blood glucose levels in patients and getting patients off of insulin medication (Source).

    An important thing to note: if you are on anti-diabetic medication, be sure to discuss with your doctor before beginning any fasting regimen.

  3. Prevents cardiovascular disease

    There are many established health benefits of IF on heart health. IF has been shown to improve numerous cardiac risk factors such as blood pressure, inflammation, blood triglyceride levels, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar levels.

    It has also been shown to improve cardiomyopathy and heart rate variability, making it an effective dietary therapy for cardiovascular health.

  4. Improves brain health

    IF is also good for your brain. It balances metabolic markers that contribute to neurodegenerative disorders like dementia. IF has been shown to successfully lower inflammation, reduce oxidative stress, decrease blood glucose and eliminate insulin resistance, all of which are the major risk factors for deterioration of brain health. Additionally, IF has been shown to increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that protects brain cells and repairs damaged ones.

  5. Heals leaky gut syndrome

    Fasting lets the digestive system rest and ultimately restore itself. During this regeneration phase, the body is able to work on restoring the integrity of the intestinal wall (which equates to healing leaky gut). When the process of digestion is put on hold, the body can use this time to work on healing other biochemical processes in the body. Giving your gut a break is a healthy thing to do each day to prevent or heal leaky gut syndrome.

  6. Optimizes your immune system

    IF triggers stem-cell based regeneration of essential immune cells by shifting them from a dormant state to a state of renewal. During prolonged fasting, the body breaks down white blood cells. This regenerates newer, healthier immune cells and is key to boosting immunity. In fact, IF has become referred to as a molecular “regenerative switch”. Regular fasting also protects against immune system damage.

  7. Achieves autophagy

    Autophagy is a self-cleaning cellular process that clears out damaged, dysfunctional cells and stimulates the creation of new, healthy ones. It is an essential waste removal process by cells. Autophagy is key for slowing aging and promoting longevity. Increased autophagy is imperative for protecting the body against chronic disease. IF stimulates decreased insulin levels and increased autophagy. It should be noted that autophagy is typically accomplished with longer fasts such as those that last 24-48 hours. Most experts agree you won’t start seeing bigger benefits like autophagy until you reach the 24-hour fast mark.

What are the different types of intermittent fasting?

The most common types of IF that are utilized include:

  • 16/8 method

    For most individuals, somewhere between 14-18 hours is the ideal daily fasting window to reap health benefits. This 16/8 method is one of the easiest types to implement. It involves fasting for 16 hours (typically after dinner until lunch the next day) and eating within a constricted 8-hour time window.

  • 5:2 method

    This method involves eating normally for five days of the week and restricting calories to a maximum of 500 calories per day for two days of the week. For example, on your two “fasting” days, you could eat two small meals per day (at 250 calories per meal). 

  • Alternative day method

    This type of restricted eating plan focuses on fasting every other day. There are different variations of this with some methods allowing for minimal calorie intake on fasting days (i.e. 500 calories or less) and some calling for a complete avoidance of all calories. Typically, the fast begins after dinner one day and continues until dinner the next day to amount to a 24 hour fast. 

  • A weekly full day fast

    The full day fast can be done 1-2 days per week for health purposes. It involves an avoidance of food for 24 hours straight. This method is also called the Eat-Stop-Eat method. It can be difficult for many people, so often it is something to work up to by starting with 14-16 hours of fasting.

Interestingly, switching up your fasting plan can also be beneficial to your health. 12 hours seems to be the minimum amount of time required to achieve a successful and beneficial fast that impacts health in a positive way.  

Should I take any supplements in conjunction with intermittent fasting?

While intermittent fasting is healthy, one should also ensure adequate nutrition to avoid deficiencies. A good multivitamin is essential to take in conjunction with IF to ensure proper vitamin and mineral support. Nutrients are more easily depleted during fasts, especially prolonged fasts. Additionally, it is good to ensure proper amino acid (protein) intake.

We recommend our Daily Defense shake, which is a complete protein and contains all the essential components of a multivitamin. Take 2 scoops daily (during the eating portion of your fast), or as directed by your physician.

Otherwise, if your protein intake is adequate during your IF regimen, then a quality multivitamin would suffice and cover your bases. For our multivitamin, take 4 capsules daily with food or as directed by your physician.

Anything else I should know about IF before I begin?

  • Be sure to drink enough quality water (minerals) daily to support IF.
  • During your fast, you will be able to drink water, tea, or black coffee. Some fasting methods also allow for bone broth to sip on.
  • Again, ensure adequate protein intake while doing IF.
  • Always take a multivitamin supplement to ensure adequate vitamin and mineral support.
  • Check with your doctor if you are on specific anti-diabetic medications to prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) while doing an IF method.
  • Also, be sure to check with your doctor if you’re on any other medication to verify IF is okay with your plan.
  • There are so many benefits to fasting. IF makes your life simpler and it helps you live longer!

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