Healthy Byte: Intermittent Fasting – Beyond Weight Loss

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7 Intermittent Fasting Benefits That Aren’t Weight Loss

Jeff CsatariMon, August 30, 2021, 7:11 AM·5 min read

Most people try fasting with one goal in mind: losing weight.

But science has also discovered health benefits linked to whole-day, alternate-day, and time-restricted fasting, says Carolyn Williams, Ph.D., the registered dietitian that helped develop the new book The Men’s Health Guide to Intermittent Fasting.

Scientists speculate that the benefits of short-term fasts may come from the structured break they provide to around-the-clock eating.

“Even if you don’t change the content of your diet, by controlling the time period in which your calories are consumed, you give your body a pause from a constant onslaught food,” says Williams.

Maybe you’re skeptical. But Williams says that, at first, she was too.

She studied the research. She looked at the data. She even tried a time-restricted fast herself. “I expected the fast to affect my blood sugar because I’m prone to low blood sugar and I know how I get without eating,” Williams says.

But Williams says she was surprised to find that she had no trouble going 16 hours without eating. Her method: She stopped eating after dinner and fasted from 7 p.m. to 11 a.m., following the popular 16:8 intermittent fasting pattern, which leaves an 8-hour-long window for eating.

“I find I’m really not hungry; in fact, sometimes I have to remind myself to eat lunch,” Williams says.

While more research is needed to determine if fasting is effective for long-term dieting, there’s no debate that it works in the short-term.

By refraining from eating for at least 12 hours (ideally 16), your body starts burning through glucose and can begin tapping fat for fuel, explains Williams. Studies show that you can expect to lose between 3 and 8 percent of your bodyweight in as few as three weeks.

Compared to calorie-restriction diets, intermittent fasting tends to trigger more belly fat loss, the research suggests. Anecdotally, Williams says she senses greater energy and improved clarity of thought.

Here are some other potential upsides of intermittent fasting, each supported by research.

Intermittent fasting may help maintain muscle.

Whenever you restrict calories and lose weight, some of that weight comes from a reduction in muscle mass. That goes for intermittent fasts as well as traditional calorie-restriction diets.

However, at least one study conducted by the Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition at the University of Illinois suggests that intermittent fasting may be more effective for retaining muscle mass.

The study compared overweight and obese adults who followed a calorie restriction diet with similar-weight subjects who restricted calories through intermittent fasting. After 12 weeks, the researchers found both diets to be equally effective in trimming body weight and fat mass, but less muscle was lost by the group that fasted.

Intermittent fasting may target belly fat.

Overweight people who could choose any 10-hour timeframe to eat as long as they refrained from eating the other 14 hours of the day saw a reduction in waist circumference and visceral abdominal fat after 12 weeks, according to a report in the journal Cell Metabolism.

Intermittent fasting may reduce diabetes risk.

The study in Cell Metabolism referenced above also demonstrated the potential of intermittent fasting to reduce risk of metabolic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

All the participants in the study were diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, a cluster of health conditions—including high blood sugar, excess abdominal fat, high blood pressure, and abnormal cholesterol or triglycerides levels—that occurring together boost the risk of type 2 diabetes, stroke, and heart disease.

After 12 weeks, every participant experienced improvement in all of the common markers of metabolic syndrome.

A similar study in the journal Translational Research found that alternate-day fasting, in which participants restricted calories by 75 percent on a “fast day,” followed by a “feed day” without calorie restriction, resulted in clinically significant reductions in blood sugar and insulin resistance.

Intermittent fasting may lower high blood pressure.

A study published in Nutrition and Healthy Aging demonstrated that participants who practiced 16:8 intermittent fasting without calorie counting significantly reduced their systolic blood pressure compared to a control group after 12 weeks.

Intermittent fasting could fight inflammation.

Inflammation is your body’s natural way of fighting off infection, illness, and injury. But there’s another type of inflammation, a chronic inflammation that can silently trigger heart disease and diabetes.

Smoking, mental stress, and a regular diet of fatty, fried, or sugary foods are common causes. Several studies have shown that intermittent fasting may induce an anti-inflammatory effect that reduces risk of those metabolic diseases—and even improve pulmonary function in people with asthma.

What’s more, a reduction in inflammation due to short-term fasting appears to protect the brain from memory disorders and depression, according to a study in Obesity.

Intermittent fasting may reduce oxidative stress.

Even when you don’t lose weight while on an intermittent fasting routine, your cells may benefit from extra protection, according to a study in Cell Metabolism.

The study assigned men with prediabetes to either a 6-hour early eating period, where they could eat only from 8 a.m. until dinner before 2 p.m., fasting the rest of the day, or a 12-hour feeding period.

At the end of five weeks, the researchers found that the men on the early time- restricted fast improved blood pressure and insulin sensitivity (as expected), but also improved resistance to oxidative stress, where unstable molecules called free radicals can damage proteins and DNA.

Intermittent fasting may help you live longer.

Rodent studies suggest that intermittent fasting, which is much easier to maintain than extreme calorie cutting, may boost lifespan, too. In one study comparing rats who were given unrestricted access to food to rats who were fed every other day, the rats who fasted lived 83 percent longer than those who gorged themselves.

Healthy Byte: Holistic Body Love

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4 Parts Of Your Body You Shouldn’t Forget To Exercise

Your arms, legs and abs get enough love. Don’t neglect these other areas if you want to improve your overall health.

By Nicole Young08/31/2021 05:45am EDT | Updated August 31, 2021

It’s time to reshape the full-body workout.

When we think of these types of routines, we typically think of working the core, glutes and legs, and arms. But if we want to really care for our overall well-being, we need to expand beyond those muscle groups. In fact, there are several areas we often forget to “exercise” when we’re working to improve our health, according to experts.

It’s time to reshape the full-body workout.

When we think of these types of routines, we typically think of working the core, glutes and legs, and arms. But if we want to really care for our overall well-being, we need to expand beyond those muscle groups. In fact, there are several areas we often forget to “exercise” when we’re working to improve our health, according to experts. Here are other parts of our body that need love too:

Your Brain

We tend to think of our minds as separate from the rest of our physical health but they serve a vital function, and the brain benefits from training just as much as anything else.

Brain function is known to decline over time, but there are ways to reduce the risk of this happening, explained Rana Mafee, a neurologist in Westchester, Illinois. Though genetics do play a part in cognitive function, Mafee said it’s “environmental factors such as diet, sleep habits or chronic stress that slowly grind away at your brain, making you less sharp over the years.”

The good news is ― much like the way consistent physical exercise can improve our longevity ― exercising the brain on a regular basis can enhance cognition and have lifelong benefits. The idea is to use exercise to strengthen the longevity of neuroplasticity, which, in short, is the brain’s ability to adapt and master new skills, as well as store memories and information.

“A lack of mental exercise will gradually reduce the efficacy of the brain’s neurotransmitters, making it harder to concentrate, make and keep lasting memories or even perform everyday tasks,” Mafee said.

Adults should focus on keeping their brains active. We can do this in a variety of new ways, from learning a new language to navigating a new city. The key is to challenge our minds. We can also try picking up another hobby, like learning to play the piano or a new sport. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to help with this as well.

“In addition to healing and repairing cognitive decline, regular brain exercise can improve mental sharpness, improve your mood and your overall quality of life,” Mafee said.

Your Lungs

Keeping our lungs in good health should be a priority since they transport oxygen from the air we breathe into the blood, according to Alberto L. Rozo, a pulmonary medicine specialist at Northwell Health in New York City.

Exercise is needed for the lungs to function at peak performance and since “lung function declines gradually every year starting at age 35,” Rozo said, it’s important to incorporate habits that help increase our lung capacity.

This includes daily aerobic workouts and doing breath work like diaphragmatic breathing. Lie down on your back, placing one hand on your stomach over your belly button and one on your chest. Inhale through your nose for two seconds, feeling the air go into your abdomen and your stomach pushing out. Then breathe out for two seconds through pursed lips, allowing your stomach to deflate. Repeat several times.

Your Wrists

“It is important to exercise the muscles that control wrist function in order to optimize strength and joint stability,” said Joseph A Gil, an orthopedic surgeon in Rhode Island.

Paying attention to the wrists is especially important for anyone who does sports or exercises on a regular basis. A dedicated warmup that stretches the wrists and forearms could help prevent overuse or injury by “preparing the muscles and tendons to overcome the cumulative stress” that exercise might put on them, Gil said.

Stretching the forearm muscles with “wrist extension and flexion” is one of Gil’s favored techniques for warming up the wrists before working out.

Do this by lying your forearm flat on a table, allowing your hand and wrist to dangle off the edge. Bend your wrist down slowly, then bring it back up. Repeat several times, then move on to the other side. You can also do this with a small, light weight.

He noted that you might want to consult with a trainer to work on wrist range of motion before weightlifting, which “places high stresses on the tendons and ligaments around the wrist,” or yoga, “which requires extreme wrist position that predispose participants to ligament injuries.”

Your Toes

The five bones located just behind the toes, called the metatarsals, bear a great deal of our body weight and need special attention to remain in proper working order. According to Bruce Pinker, a foot and ankle surgeon in New York, there is somewhat of a “springlike quality to the metatarsal region, which helps to create the arch of the foot.” That flexibility requires maintenance to ward off injury and exhaustion.

Pinker said that by neglecting regular foot stretching, “you risk the chance of your feet tightening up or contracting, which can lead to pain.” And since many people experience some level of stiffness in their feet when they first wake up, Pinker also feels “it is important to stretch or exercise the tops of the feet upon awakening.”

To do this, take a page out of a dancer’s playbook: Kelby Brown, a dance and fitness coach in New York City, suggested trying point and flex foot progressions to strengthen and create flexibility in your toes and ankles. Start by sitting with your back against a wall and extend your arms at your side, “with the tip of the middle finger lightly pressed into the ground,” he said.

Then, brace your core and tightly hold your legs together. Point your toes from this point and count to four. Then flex your feet and count to four. Do this a few times. While in the stretched position, your feet should “resemble a cashew or banana,” Brown said.

According to Melissa Wood-Tepperberg, a certified yoga and Pilates instructor, you can also multitask and maximize foot flexibility with a standing quad stretch. Though this move is primarily designed to stretch the front of the legs, “you can bring the attention to your foot by using your palm to pull toes in to stretch the top of your foot,” she said.

“Shift all of your weight onto your standing foot and grab the opposite foot with the coinciding hand,” she explained. Holding a table or stable surface can help with your balance. Then, put your palm on your ankle. Flex your foot, then point your toes. After pointing and releasing the toes about 10-20 times, repeat on the other side.