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Fasting has been practiced for centuries to heal a sick body, promote longevity, and rest, balance, and conserve energy at critical times. Today, the practice of fasting—intermittent fasting (IF), in particular—is being used for the same purposes, but also for:
- improved fat burning and weight loss
- breaking unhealthy eating habits
- boosting cognitive function
- lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugars
- improving overall cellular and metabolic health
- reducing the risk of cancer
- optimizing hormone levels
- improving body composition—body mass index (BMI)
- reducing the risk of diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and other lifestyle diseases
- increasing activation of stem cells—the body’s master cells from which all other cells with specialized functions are generated
Fasting is not a diet; it’s a pattern of eating. The most popular IF protocol today is known as “16:8 Intermittent Fasting.” The ratio refers to how you divide your day between fasting and eating. In this case, reserve 16 hours for fasting and 8 hours for food intake. You can schedule your 8-hour eating window any time of the day, depending on your body’s needs and schedule. But the idea is to eat when you are most active. Some of the more common timeframes begin anywhere from 9 am to noon and end from 5 pm to 8 pm; for example, if you have your first meal at 10 am, you will finish eating for the day by 6 pm.
Most people focus on two big meals within this timeframe with healthy snacks in between; you can also have three smaller meals. The key is to consume as many fruits, vegetables, beans, and greens as possible along with whole grains, nuts, seeds, and only small quantities of high-quality animal protein if you are not vegan.
The potential downsides of fasting…
Restricting your intake to just eight hours per day can cause some people to eat more than usual during eating periods in an attempt to make up for hours spent fasting. This is an unhealthy practice that can lead to weight gain, digestive problems, and the development of unhealthy eating habits. Make a point to plan healthy balanced meals and snacks so that you avoid binging on highly processed junk foods.
Also, drinking calorie-free beverages like water and unsweetened tea and coffee can help control your appetite while keeping you hydrated. Other than this, remember to exercise before your first meal or during your eating period, as exercise increases appetite. 16:8 fasting doesn’t have to happen every day for you to realize improvements in health; you can practice it every other day, or two to three days a week. The important thing is to give it a try, especially if you have been diagnosed with a health condition or are showing trends toward one.