Last year I discovered a lifestyle choice that I feel everyone should talk to their doctor about. I call it a lifestyle choice and not a diet because I believe this is something that people should incorporate into their daily lives and routines. What I am talking about is intermittent fasting (IF) and in this article, I will lay out the basics of what people need to know about the topic.
Intermittent Fasting – The Concept
There are patterns and routines in everything we do as humans. When someone performs a task enough not to think about it anymore this is generally accepted as a routine. Eating food is more or less a routine unless that weird craving drives us to scour the fridge and cabinets looking for something to satisfy that desire. If we were to step back a minute and think about how we consume food we can break it down into two phases, eating and not eating. The basic concept of intermittent fasting is to increase the window of time that we do not eat anything to a period of twelve hours or more. We still eat the same level of calories on a daily basis, just in a smaller window of time. When someone adjusts their routine to incorporate fasting the body does some amazing things on a biological level.
Intermittent Fasting – The Science
There is a lot of buzz surrounding the IF lifestyle. Several film documentaries and countless research facilities have conducted testing all the way back to World War II and possibly further. If we think about animals in the wild we know of examples of how fasting is built into every aspect of life. Bears can go without eating for months while they hibernate. Emperor penguins sit upon their nest for months without any food in order to incubate their young. If they got up to eat their eggs would not be able to withstand the cold. So if other mammals on the planet can go this long without food there is no reason why humans cannot do the same. The burning question at this point is “What the hell would I want to do that for?” and my answer is broken down into the following benefits:
- Cellular repair – When you are in a fasting state your body can divert energy from digesting food into repairing cells in the body. This biological process the body uses is called autophagy. The cliff notes version is your body uses this process to clean toxins out of cells.
- Key blood markers – Intermittent fasting has been proven to help lower bad cholesterol (LDL), blood sugar, blood pressure, and inflammation of arteries. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has a great article that talks about this important subject.
- Reduced risk of diabetes – One of the top chronic illnesses of the 21st century due to how our diets have evolved. This clinical study shows how we can get our glucose levels in check and help prevent diabetes.
- Brain benefits – Fasting can help the brain produce neural cells and reduce the risk of alzheimer’s disease. The Journal of Molecular Neuroscience wrote a great article about this topic back in 2000.
- Weight loss – I think it goes without saying that if you let your body clean itself out that fat will be one of the items in the “purge” list.
There have been other benefits listed as a result of people adopting intermittent fasting as a lifestyle choice. People report that they have more energy and less pain in their joints. I encourage all our readers here at Life After 65 to conduct their own research and talk to their doctor to see how or if this lifestyle is right for them.
Intermittent Fasting – My Experience
My journey started with me trying to figure out a way to reduce the pain in my knees after years of jumping out of planes for the Army. Ibuprofen will only get you so far and about two years ago I developed an ulcer. I knew I could not pump pills in order to fix this issue and we all know how nasty opioids are so that was out of the question. Our medical system has an amazing way of treating symptoms without fixing the underlying issues that manifest into the symptom. I knew that the best way to manage my pain was to reduce inflammation in my body and reduce the weight that I place on my knees. So my first step was to change what I ate to reduce inflammation. I started eating foods that ranked low on the glycemic index. Basically foods low in sugar and are stacked with nutrients. This reduced the insulin spikes in my body which helps reduce inflammation. Once I made this change the next step was to slowly switch my eating cycle to eat all the nutrients I needed in a day but in a smaller amount of time. I finally decided to fast for sixteen hours a day and eat inside an eight hour window. The 16/8 rule is one of the main intermittent fasting plans. So I start eating around 2 PM and stopped eating at 10 PM, right before I go to bed.
So far I must say that I am happy with the results. I’ve dropped over 10 pounds without losing any muscle mass or strength. Most of my knee pain has ceased to exist and I find I don’t need as much caffeine to function during the day. My cognitive ability has improved and with effective time management I accomplish more at work. After talking with my wife she has also agreed to switch up her diet a little so we can eat the same foods. Her results have also been incredible.
I believe the science on intermittent fasting is in its infancy stages. Mostly because this type of thinking is on the fringes of society. Most of the food industry and even government health organizations still want people to eat throughout the day. It makes me ask the question when will the science behind intermittent fasting become recognized by the very people that regulate the food we eat? Until then I encourage our readers to talk with their doctor and do their own research to see how they can improve their quality of life with food and diet. The team here at Life After 65 would love our community to share their stories and thoughts. We look forward to reading your posts.
Keep living the dream!