Is Periodic Fasting Good for Your Health?

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Periodic fasting (Intermittent fasting) at first glance is very similar to the next “fashionable” diet, which for a short time is destined to capture all the broadcast channels and bestseller lists, and then quickly go into oblivion.

Except for jokes … do not eat anything for 16, 18, 24, or even 36 hours, and then arrange a “feast of your stomach”?And this should help lose weight, gain muscle mass, improve mental performance, slow down aging and prevent disease? It sounds somehow wrong and even stupid. And very uncomfortable.

And for many athletes, and not only, it has become a lifestyle. What is the matter? Is periodic (interval) fasting better for muscle growth and burning fat than a traditional diet? In fact, its scientific justification has helped advance our general understanding of human metabolism and destroyed many nutritional myths.

However, periodic fasting is not necessary. This is not the “secret” of rapid fat loss on the abdomen or the “restructuring of the body” and probably will not increase testosterone levels and will not retain youth forever.

But it helps to lose fat faster, maintain an ideal body composition and can be beneficial for health. Some people say it causes essential vitamin deficiencies like Vitamin b17 etc.

What is periodic fasting?

The name fully explains the essence of the process.This is a diet in which you are starving (do not eat anything for a long period of time) according to a certain schedule.

For example, a very popular food system Lean gains requires fasting 16 hours a day and eat for the remaining 8 hours.

Another (Warrior Diet) provides for 20-hour intervals without food with a 4-hour window for eating food, and there is one that is based on the alternation of days of normal nutrition and a complete lack of food. Fasting means a complete lack of food for a long period of time, but this is not the only point.

What is starvation?

When we eat, food breaks down into various molecules that are necessary for the cells of our body, and these molecules are released into the blood.

Insulin is also secreted, and its task is to deliver nutrients to various cells of our body.Depending on how much food we consume, insulin levels may remain elevated for several hours (from 3 to 6+).

When the body digests and absorbs what we ate, it is in a “full” or “postprandial” state (prandial means “dealing with food”).At the end of digestion and assimilation of food products, insulin level drops to a minimum low (or “base”), and the body goes into a “hungry” or “post absorption” state.

Every day, the body moves between “full” and “hungry” states, and the goal of periodic (interval) fasting is to increase the length of time spent in a state of hunger.Most people start eating around 8 a.m. and finish around 9 p.m., with breaks of several hours between meals.

That is, they eat intermittently for 13 hours, and then do not eat anything for 11 hours. Moreover, part of this time is spent in a truly hungry state (technically, hunger does not begin until the last meal is processed).

With this traditional scheme, a person spends an average of about 6 or 7 hours a day in a “hungry” state.Periodic fasting violates this, allowing you to significantly increase the number of hours of hunger.But why? What is so special about it?

The benefits of intermittent fasting

All “trendy” diets have the same common feature:

They formulate one key idea that should “change everything.”Carbohydrate restriction, for example. Or eat like our ancient ancestors. Or avoid protein from cereal plants (wheat, barley, rye).It turns out there is something special about fasting.

For example, it starts a physiological process known as “autophagy”, which is associated with the destruction and removal of their own “old” cells in the body.Autophagy plays a crucial role in maintaining muscle mass and slowing down some aspects of aging. In fact, it is autophagy that explains the “anti-aging” effect of complete abstinence from food.

Studies have also found that fasting can reduce systemic inflammation, oxidative damage in the body, improve insulin sensitivity and increase growth hormone levels.In many ways, hunger allows the body to clear itself and works almost like a reset button. And the purpose of periodic fasting is to click this button more often. Thus, there is no doubt that hunger is good for your health.

Does this mean that periodic (interval) fasting is inherently more beneficial than traditional diets?
In fact, there is still no final answer to this question, but some studies show that periodic fasting is not as “wonderful” as many claims.

Intermittent fasting versus traditional diet

For example, look at a large systematic review of Intermittent fasting by scientists at the University of Sydney.

After analysing 40 studies (in comparison with traditional diets), scientists did not find significant advantages associated with body composition, fat loss, sensitivity to insulin or hormones.

That is, in theory it looks better than it actually is.However, unfortunately, the studies did not take into account the contribution of physical exercises, which provide many health benefits during periodic fasting.

It would be much more useful to consider this question: is periodic fasting, regular exercise and proper nutrition better than traditional diets under the same conditions?The reason is that exercise is so beneficial for the body that it can compensate for many nutritional errors.

If a person carefully examines each label in a supermarket, eats correctly, but does not exercise, then he will have more health problems than an active “flexible in approach to nutrition” person who spends several hours a week in the gym.