The lifestyle ritual that focuses on when, not just what, you eat: Why intermittent fasting could be your answer to a healthier, happier life and what you need to know before you start.
Intermittent fasting is becoming increasingly popular in the health and wellness space, and for good reason. The benefits of the lifestyle ritual and dietary practice extend beyond calorie restriction and weight loss. Intermittent fasting has been shown to reduce inflammation, increase energy, improve metabolic health, and increase longevity.
The health benefits of intermittent fasting are best achieved when our circadian rhythm is aligned and regular. The circadian rhythm is a natural, internal process that occurs in the brain to regulate the sleep-wake cycle. This cycle functions at its best when we maintain a regular sleep schedule. The timing will vary between individuals but essentially going to bed around the same time each night and wake at the same time each morning. Another simple hack you can implement to support this cycle is to expose yourself to the sun upon waking, walk outside, look toward the sun, and let it warm your face, in the evening try to minimise bright lights and avoid screens before going to sleep.
The sleep-wake cycle influences our eating habits, digestion, hormone release, and other bodily functions, here’s how – during the sleep cycle, the brain essentially cleanses and resets by consolidating memory and removing toxic waste products, a vital process that cleanses and resets for a new day. A healthy-sleep wake cycle can influence food selection and the way the brain positively perceives food. The sleep-wake cycle influences our appetite hormones – ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin, often referred to as the ‘hunger hormone’ stimulates appetite and leptin decreases appetite and helps maintain normal body weight. Research has shown that not getting adequate sleep increases ghrelin (hunger hormone) and decreases leptin, which results in, increased appetite, poor food choices and making it difficult to maintain normal caloric intake. Treat yourself to an early night or a sleep in if it’s what you need, prioritise sleep and make a regular bedtime a habit. Your mind and body will thank you and you will begin to look and feel your best.
Benefits of introducing intermittent fasting to your routine:
- During the time without calories, between at least 10-16 hours, the body will begin a process called lipolysis, this is a metabolic process that breaks down and burns fat stores for energy, resulting in a reduction of body fat.
- Fasting allows the body time to eliminate waste and repair cellular damage.
- Fasting causes adaptive cellular stress responses, which result in an increased ability to cope with stress, which let’s be honest – we all could use.
- Enhances the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system – also known as ‘rest and digest’, this results in improved gut motility (the movement of food through the digestive tract), reduced heart rate and lower blood pressure.
- Can influence longevity and reduce the risk of age-related diseases by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation.
Being conscious of when we eat can be as important as what we eat. There are many ways to fast intermittently, it’s important you adopt a timeframe that suits your lifestyle, making it a ritual that will be sustainable for you.
Written by Alex Kingston - Alex is a degree qualified clinical nutritionist based in Sydney, Australia. To find out more about Alex click this link to view her website.
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