The first thing to know about intermittent fasting is that it is not a diet, but an eating plan. A diet characteristically focuses on which foods are eaten; while intermittent fasting imposes a schedule of when to eat.
Its proponents are many, and some of them are world-famous, like the Ice Man, Wim Hof, who takes only one major meal per day, after 6 p.m. We won’t get into the philosophy of cold here. But these are some cogent words about the philosophy of fasting, from Kris Gunnars at Healthline.com:
Our hunter-gatherer ancestors didn’t have supermarkets, refrigerators or food available year-round. Sometimes we couldn’t find anything to eat, and our bodies evolved to be able to function without food for extended periods of time. If anything, fasting from time to time is more “natural” than constantly eating 3-4 (or more) meals per day.
As Childhood Obesity News has discussed, the most common pattern is 16 hours in which only liquids are imbibed, with an 8-hour window in which solid food is eaten. That is known as the 16/8 method, said to be the most sustainable and the most widely followed.
Also popular is the 5-2 method, in which each week includes two non-consecutive semi-fasting days, which means taking in only 600 calories or less during those days, while the other five days continue as whatever is normal for the person. “Eat-Stop-Eat” is more restrictive, with two 24-hour fasts in each week that allow not even those few calories. Actually, Gunnars says, there are at least six accepted methods of intermittent fasting.
This lifestyle is not exclusively designed for weight loss. It seems that the enthusiasts view weight loss almost as a side effect. No, they are after bigger fish, the systemic benefits that start at the molecular level. Human Growth Hormone, or HGH, has been found to increase by as much as a factor of five.
The pituitary gland secretes HGH, which children and adolescents need to grow, and in adults it is connected with fat loss and muscle gain, but there is so much more. It affects the metabolism in numerous ways, and probably even heart function is aided. It definitely helps out with short bowel syndrome, a condition where the small intestine is partly missing or too damaged to absorb nutrients.
Sadly, HGH is one of those substances that attracts charlatans who market a synthetic version based on evidence that it has anti-aging properties. It may very well possess that almost-magical quality, but until those claims are proven with solid science, people are advised against buying it from a TV infomercial. Especially, don’t buy pills, because even if they contain the real thing, the stomach digests orally received HGH before it can do the rest of the body any good.
However, there is no harm when people produce their own HGH through intermittent fasting.
Self-generated HGH helps with cell repair and insulin sensitivity (which is a biggie!) and it stimulates changes in gene expression, related to disease protection and longevity, that are all to the good.
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