The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Fat loss is great, but it isn’t the only reason to try intermittent fasting.
- Intermittent fasting makes your day simpler: I am big on behaviour change, simplicity, and reducing stress. Intermittent fasting provides additional simplicity to your life that you will really enjoy. When I wake up, I don’t worry about breakfast. I just grab a glass of water and start my day. Intermittent fasting allows you to eat one less meal, which also means planning one less meal, cooking one less meal, and stressing about one less meal.
- Intermittent fasting helps you live longer: Scientists have long known that restricting calories is a way of lengthening life. From a logical standpoint, this makes sense. When you’re starving, your body finds ways to extend your life. There’s just one problem: who wants to starve themselves in the name of living longer? The good news is that intermittent fasting activates many of the same mechanisms for extending life as calorie restriction. In other words, you get the benefits of a longer life without the hassle of starving. Way back in 1945 it was discovered that intermittent fasting extended life in mice. (Here’s the study.) More recently, this study found that alternate day intermittent fasting led to longer lifespans.
- Intermittent fasting may reduce the risk of cancer: This one is up for debate because there hasn’t been a lot of research and experimentation done on the relationship between cancer and fasting. Early reports, however, look positive. This study of 10 cancer patients suggests that the side effects of chemotherapy may be diminished by fasting before treatment. This finding is also supported by another study which used alternate day fasting with cancer patients and concluded that fasting before chemotherapy would result in better cure rates and fewer deaths. Finally, this comprehensive analysis of many studies on fasting and disease has concluded that fasting appears to not only reduce the risk of cancer, but also cardiovascular disease.
- Intermittent fasting is much easier than dieting: The reason most diets fail isn’t because we switch to the wrong foods, it is because we don’t actually follow the diet over the long term proving that it is not a nutrition problem, it’s a behaviour change problem. This is where intermittent fasting shines because it’s remarkably easy to implement once you get over the idea that you need to eat all the time. For example, this study found that intermittent fasting was an effective strategy for weight loss in obese adults and concluded that “subjects quickly adapt” to an intermittent fasting routine. I like the quote below from Dr Michael Eades, who has tried intermittent fasting himself, on the difference between trying a diet and trying intermittent fasting.
Diets are easy in the contemplation, difficult in the execution. Intermittent fasting is just the opposite — it’s difficult in the contemplation but easy in the execution.
Most of us have contemplated going on a diet. When we find a diet that appeals to us, it seems as if it will be a breeze to do. When we get into the nitty gritty of it, it becomes tough though, for example: I stay on a low–carb diet almost all the time, if I think about going on a low–fat diet, it looks easy, I think about bagels, whole wheat bread, mashed potatoes, corn, bananas by the dozen, etc. — all of which sound appealing. But were I to embark on such a low-fat diet I would soon tire of it and wish I could have meat and eggs. In conclusion, a diet is easy in contemplation, but not so easy in the long–term execution.
Intermittent fasting is hard in the contemplation, of that there is no doubt. “You go without food for 24 hours?” people would ask, incredulously when we explained what we were doing. “I could never do that.” But once started, it’s a snap. No worries about what and where to eat for one or two out of the three meals per day. It’s a great liberation. Your food expenditures plummet. And you’re not particularly hungry. … Although it’s tough to overcome the idea of going without food, once you begin the regimen, nothing could be easier.
— Dr. Michael Eades
In my opinion, the ease of intermittent fasting is the best reason to give it a try. It provides a wide range of health benefits without requiring a massive lifestyle change.