Most people have a negative reaction when they hear the word, “fasting.” They think pain, starvation, fainting and weakness, religious mania…. In reality, fasting is physically and mentally invigorating for most people, and may be exactly the regimen you need to overcome established insulin-resistance.
Glucose and insulin levels drop during a fast, starting within 12-16 hours. For non-diabetics, insulin resistance – an age-related process that potentially lead to diabetes – is likely to diminish dramatically with repeated fasting. While fasting may feel stressful at first – yes, you think about food quite a lot – it’s a good type of stress, what we call the “adaptive stress response” (ADR). The ADR results from your exposure to measured stressors, such as fasting, which stimulates your cells to build up resistance to damage. The fasting-induced ADR is thought to build protection against all kinds of health threats – oxidative damage, inflammation, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative diseases – even age-related illness and cancer. Research in mice suggests fasting actually enhances longevity! It definitely encourages weight loss, particularly loss of belly fat, while lowering blood pressure and resting heart rate and improving your lipids profile.
Notwithstanding these benefits, it’s hard to get excited about going without food. But consider the different fasting regimes that provide many of the same health benefits as full-on fasting.
- My personal favorite, and go-to technique: 16-hour intermittent fasting. I eat between the hours of noon and six pm, period. The other 18 hours of the day, my body is in a fasting state. The exact timing of your eating window doesn’t matter, so long as you fast for at least 16 hours (men) and 14 hours (women).
- Every-other-day technique. You fast every other day and eat normally on the in-between days. This is primarily used by “cronies,” people who are interested in fasting for life extension. It’s tough and can be hard to integrate with family and social life.
- The 5-2 schools. “Straight” 5:2 fasting: You either fast for two consecutive days, or spread them out. Purists consume no food on the fast days. Modified 5:2 fasting allows 500 calories for women, 600 for men, on fast days. It still triggers ADR , and you get the same metabolic, cardiovascular and immune benefits. You may also gain anti-aging and anti-cancer protection, depending on the foods you eat on “fasting” days.