Extend Your Lifespan: The Unbelievable Intermittent Fasting Benefits

May 10, 2019

A woman prepares healthy food at a fast food restaurant
Stephanie Dwilson

Intermittent fasting benefits are so impressive, the practice actually might extend your lifespan. Fasting and longevity go hand-in-hand, and even though fasting isn't easy, it's beneficial enough to be worth trying. Here's a look at how intermittent fasting (IF) works and the benefits it can bring, even beyond weight loss.

How Intermittent Fasting Works

Intermittent fasting is more than just not eating late at night. It involves restricting all your meals to an eight-hour or 12-hour time period, such as between 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. or 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. During off hours, you can have calorie-free beverages like coffee, tea, or water. During the on-hours, you should still try to stay within your recommended calorie limit — it's not a free-for-all to eat as much as you want.

There are some alternate definitions of intermittent fasting that involve eating normally for five days and consuming only about 500 calories two days a week or fasting completely for one or two days a week. This article is focusing on the first example, since it's likely easier to maintain.

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting revolves around the idea that if insulin levels go down far enough, for long enough, you'll burn fat. When you're fasting between meals, insulin levels decrease and fat cells release stored sugar for energy. The benefits of IF can include lower insulin levels, inflammation, and blood pressure. It can outperform other diets in terms of weight loss and reducing body fat. It might even lower the risk of cancer, neurological diseases and other chronic illnesses. It can lower triglyceride levels, increase HGH and boost metabolic efficiency, says Peak Fitness.

There's also a connection between fasting and longevity. Restricting calories may increase the lifespan of animals and improve tolerance to metabolic stress. Calorie restriction might keep mitochondrial networks in a youthful state and slow the affects of aging by rejuvenating connections between nerves and muscles. In fact, some studies have shown that mice with the longest fasting periods had the longest lifespans. More research is needed, but so far the evidence looks promising.

How to Start Intermittent Fasting

You might start out craving sugar more than normal. If you're still trying to eat processed foods, you'll get really hungry because your foods won't keep you feeling full as long. Figure out the on-hours that work best for you based on your lifestyle, such as your work hours and exercise routine. An eight-hour window for eating is recommended, but some people might benefit by starting out at 10 or 12 hours and easing into intermittent fasting. During the off-hours, drink plenty of zero-calorie beverages.

Which Foods Are Best?

If you're trying intermittent fasting, focus on eating nutritious foods and avoiding refined grains. Proteins and whole grains can help sustain you longer while you're not eating. So focus on eating fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean proteins rather than foods with refined grains and sugars.

How to Fast at Work

Intermittent fasting can be tougher during work hours, especially at lunchtime when all your coworkers are eating and you're not. Make sure you have a nutritious breakfast with whole grains and protein to help you stay full longer. During work, indulge in any zero-calorie drinks you want. Frequent glasses of water can help. Some people believe that warm beverages like coffee help them stay full longer. At lunchtime, consider going somewhere and listening to a podcast or streaming a show on your mobile device rather than watching everyone eat. Maybe even go for a casual stroll outside to get some fresh air.

Intermittent fasting benefits are numerous. Of course, it may not be for everyone depending on your work schedule and lifestyle. But when coupled with a healthy diet, it can be a good approach that's worth trying. If you have any health issues or if you're underweight, you might want to talk to your doctor first before starting.

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