This week, I want to continue with part 2 on managing calories. Letís take a look at the positive aspects that come from restricting calories to improve our health. For most of us, our daily consumption of calories almost always exceeds what is required to support our bodies and activity. Changing how much we eat is as critical as eating a well-balanced whole food diet. In fact, our bodies evolved to leverage the most health from our day-to-day feast and famine living that always revolved around seasonal cycles.
One tool that can really benefit your health and nutritional footprint is intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is a powerful way to improve a number of key aspects to your health. The benefits of fasting can have a positive impact on hormone function, better regulation of insulin plus better leptin resistance which controls appetite. Beyond these improvements, fasting can help with brain function, body composition and long-term weight management.
When you couple intermittent fasting with your bodyís natural set point of proper calorie intake, it accelerates your fat burning capability. Another great point with intermittent fasting is its ability to help align proper percentages of low carbohydrates and a better balance of protein and fats, giving you significantly reduced hunger cravings, staying satiated longer.
Incorporating intermittent fasting into your nutritional planning is not an easy feat. This will take time, discipline and a measured approach. The best idea for starting a fasting regimen needs to begin with short time periods. Set your first fasted phase to last 12 hours and practice not eating anything within that window of time. Most people starting out use the evening and overnight hours into morning. Once you can comfortably stop eating or drinking anything but water from say 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. for three days a week, then move to the next level.
The next level of intermittent fasting looks something like this. Two days a week you eat a small, but nutritionally dense meal in the early evening, then ideally stop eating or drinking anything but water at 6 p.m. Then at 10 a.m. the following morning, break your fast with something healthy, tea or black coffee and a small amount low carbohydrate foods like eggs and bacon to break the fast for that day.
Once you have been able to do this for a few weeks, you are likely ready to take on a full intermittent fasting day. This is typically done a few times a month or even one day per week. This micro-fast for a day looks like this. You finish out your day with a whole foods super healthy meal, avoid sugar and heavy carbohydrates, not eating after 7 p.m. Then drinking only water or perhaps a small amount of unsweetened tea or black coffee, you eat nothing until 5 or 6 p.m. the following day. This is roughly a 24-hour fast and once you have trained your body to deal with the physiological aspects of feeling hungry and working through those issues, it becomes very easy to do a few times a month.
Intermittent fasting is not a one size fits all practice. You need to be careful that you do not have health issues that would preclude you from fasting such as diabetes, blood sugar issues or medications that require you to eat regularly. Always check with your primary care physician to ensure you can handle a fasted state. You can enjoy the benefits from shorter 12- to 18-hour intermittent fasting if 24 hours is too tough to dial in.
One common question that comes up a lot is can you work out while in a fasted state. The answer, albeit debated by some fitness professionals, is yes. There is a lot of scientific evidence that moderate short-term exercise while in a fasted state can promote enhanced fat burning, triggering genes, supportive growth factors and promotes brain function.
Here are three standout benefits that studies have shown come from intermittent fasting:
1. First the obvious, fasting forces your body to use stored energy in the form of fat, which leads to weight loss.
2. Studies have shown fasting increases the secretion of growth hormone. Growth hormone increases fat burning among other things. Growth hormone can increase as much as 5-fold during fasting.
3. Fasting improves insulin sensitivity. Insulin resistance is a widespread problem and it is now well established that insulin resistance can lead to type 2 diabetes.
Keep in mind, intermittent fasting is something that only works well if you reduce your daily carbohydrate intake. Fasting will not do much if youíre someone who has a poor nutritional diet and in fact it would be doubtful you could get past the urge to eat. Again, intermittent fasting is not a one size fits all program and it will take a major shift in your daily calorie intake to get the most out fasting.
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Judd Jones is a director for The Hagadone Corporation in Coeur díAlene.