I remember back when I was in grade school, my mother would never allow me to head out in the morning without eating “the most important meal of the day”, breakfast. We literally would not leave the house until I ate something. Sometimes I negotiated with her by telling her I’ll take my food with me and eat it in the car on the way to school. It worked, sometimes.
Mother may know best about some things, but when she tells you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, it turns out she is WRONG. Skipping breakfast can actually be one of the most profoundly powerful strategies you can have to optimize your health. There is now a good deal of research supporting the health benefits of intermittent fasting.
One of the primary reasons for this is because it helps shift your body from burning sugar/carbs to burning fat as its primary fuel. For optimal effectiveness, in the case of daily intermittent fasting, the length of your fast must be at least 16 hours.
Essentially, this equates to simply skipping breakfast, and making lunch your first meal of the day instead. This is because it takes about six to eight hours for your body to metabolize your glycogen stores; after that you start to shift to burning fat. However, if you are replenishing your glycogen by eating every eight hours (or sooner), you make it far more difficult for your body to use your fat stores as fuel. With that being said, there have been studies that show some benefits starting at the 12 hour mark of your fast; but if you are looking for optimal benefits aim for 16-18 hours.
Proper nutrition becomes even more important when fasting, so you really want to address your food choices before you try fasting. This includes minimizing carbs and replacing them with healthful fats, like coconut oil, olive oil, olives, grass fed butter, pastured eggs, avocados, and nuts. It typically takes several weeks to shift to fat burning mode, but once you do, your cravings for unhealthy foods and carbs will automatically disappear. This is because you’re now actually able to burn your stored fat and don’t have to rely on new fast-burning carbs for fuel. According to Brad Pilon, author of ‘Eat Stop Eat’
“Health care practitioners across the board are so afraid to recommend eating less because of the stigma involved in that recommendation, but we are more than happy to recommend that someone start going to the gym. If all I said was you need to get to the gym and start eating healthier, no one would have a problem with it. When the message is not only should you eat less, you could probably go without eating for 24 hours once or twice a week, suddenly it’s heresy.”
Aside from removing your cravings for sugar and snack foods and turning you into an efficient fat-burning machine, modern science has confirmed there are many other good reasons to fast intermittently. For example, research presented at the 2011 annual scientific sessions of the American College of Cardiology in New Orleans showed that fasting triggered a 1,300 percent rise of human growth hormone (HGH) in women, and an astounding 2,000 percent in men!1
Fasting triggers stem cell regeneration of damaged, old immune system
A new study published by the University of Southern California states “In the first evidence of a natural intervention triggering stem cell-based regeneration of an organ or system, a study shows that cycles of prolonged fasting not only protect against immune system damage — a major side effect of chemotherapy — but also induce immune system regeneration, shifting stem cells from a dormant state to a state of self-renewal.”2
Other health benefits of intermittent fasting include:
- Preserving memory functioning and learning3
- Reducing inflammation and lessening free radical damage
- Improving biomarkers of disease4
- Normalizing your insulin and leptin sensitivity, which is key for optimal health
- Normalizing ghrelin levels, also known as “the hunger hormone”
- Lowers risk of coronary artery disease and diabetes5
- Lowering triglyceride levels
Why not give it a try? Consider skipping breakfast, make sure you stop eating and drinking anything but water three hours before you go to sleep, and restrict your eating to an 8-hour (or less) time frame every day. In the 6-8 hours that you do eat, have healthy protein, minimize your carbs like pasta, bread, and potatoes and exchange them for healthful fats like grass fed butter, pastured eggs, avocado, coconut oil, olive oil and nuts. This will help shift you from carb burning to fat burning mode. Once your body has made this shift your desire for sweets and junk food significantly decreases if not disappears entirely.
Remember it takes a few weeks, and you have to do it gradually, but once you succeed and switch to fat burning mode, you’ll be easily able to fast for 18 hours and not feel hungry. The “hunger” most people feel is actually cravings for sugar, and these will disappear, as if by magic, once you successfully shift over to burning fat instead.
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