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The power of intermittent fasting



This might come as a shock to most people because of the misconception that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but no! Breakfast is not the best meal of the day. Current researches have proved that if you want to live longer, while looking younger, have less body fat and reduce the risk of cancer and many other metabolic diseases, breakfast could bet the worst meal of the day. Let us look briefly as to why this bold statement remains true today. Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern where you cycle between periods of eating and fasting! Research on intermittent fasting started as early before the Second World War where it was tested on rats but has never been popularised until very recently. This research proved that rats increase their lifespan significantly and were less likely to develop cancer. It was also found that rats brought up on intermittent fasting had less body fat than other rats which were on a normal eating pattern. But why has this discovery never been endorsed earlier? Nobody makes money when you skip a meal. Not the food industry. Not the big pharmaceuticals. In fact, nobody wants you to find out that the ancient secret of weight loss is intermittent fasting. Not having breakfast is bad for business. One other interesting research began studying the effects of people during the Islamic Holy Month of Ramadan, where Muslims refrain from eating from sunrise till sunset. Scientists have initially believed that this shift from eating throughout the day to restricting the window eating to only a few hours would cause catastrophic health problems. The truth is exactly the opposite as there is no correlation whatsoever between constant eating and good health. Their hypothesis was that people would get fat and ill from gorging without portion control. However, the results have proved opposite. People on intermittent fasting were losing fat, keeping muscle, reducing the risk of high blood pressure, heart diseases and diabetes without any special foods. Tell me any other approach that brings this kind of drastic results and is easy to implement? All you have to do is not to eat breakfast, simple. Intermittent fasting is not a diet. Unlike the many hyped diets, it does not restrict calories. You will only restrict the time you eat throughout the day, typically to 8 hours. It is really that simple. If you eat your last meal around 8pm and skip breakfast the next morning and have your first meal around noon, you would have successfully fasted for 16 hours leaving you with an 8-hour eating window. You can if you wish, within this 8-hour eating window, eat two to three meals. You may ask, what about six small meals a day, to keep metabolism high and avoid starvation mode? Well, if you eat 2 000 calories six meals compared to eating one huge meal of 2 000 calories, you would still burn the same 2 000 calories. If you keep eating six more meals a day, your chances of burning fat are reduced because your body will get its energy from glycogen storage and blood sugar while keeping fat reserves intact and unused. Glycogen and blood sugar will become depleted first after six to eight hours without eating. Once you wake up and have breakfast you would restore that depletion and by eating every two to three hours, you will never allow fat storage to be used as energy. Starvation mode does exist, but does not come into play until 72 to 96 hours after your last meal which is three to four days. The reason for this comes back to our ancestors; they had to hunt and gather food in order to survive. This would often take several days for them to succeed. As humans, we are meant to alternate between fasting and feasting; between going for long periods without food and then to eating huge amounts of food in a short time. It is only very recently in our long history that humans have had access to food all hours around the clock. Unfortunately, this is also one of the reasons so many people are sick and obese. Jason Fung, a doctor and the author of “The Complete Guide to Fasting” has noted that “through the power of advertising, big food companies have slowly changed how we think of fasting. Instead of being a purifying, healthful tradition, it is now seen as something to be feared and avoided at all costs.” Skipping meals, or intermittent fast is extremely bad for business, after all, selling food is difficult if no one is eating. Intermittent fasting also has incredible effects on releasing natural Human Growth Hormone (HGH). Human Growth Hormone is also known as “the fitness hormone”, responsible for a number of benefits such as fat loss, muscle growth, longevity, anti-aging, healing and cell repair amongst others. We have known for ages that when we sleep, that is when we release most of our growth hormone. This is because insulin and human growth hormone are indirectly related and when insulin is elevated you cannot release human growth hormone. Insulin is only released after you have had a meal. So, when you are asleep and you have not consumed food for some time, insulin drops, compelling the body to release human growth hormone. What is so special and unique about intermittent pathway is that you expand the time of fasting which will allow significant amounts of HGH to be released. Another huge benefit that comes with intermittent fasting is the effect it has on the brain. Earlier we have indicated that when you are in a fasted mode, with no glycogen, the body turns to fat for energy and as this happens, ketone bodies are released into your blood stream which your brain prefers over other sources of energy. The release of ketones will increase your focus, concentration, ability to remember while simultaneously reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Many of the metabolic diseases are preventable only if we can just become more proactive. The health revolution has shown that millions in the future will be diagnosed with a chronic condition and our children will die before their parents for the first time in history. This is because we still spend billions on fast foods and on soda drinks. If our current state of affairs continues unchecked, we can expect to see diseases increase in our children and parents who would not be around long enough to see their grandchildren born. If you do not think about your health now, you will opt into thinking about it when it is not on your own terms and that will perhaps come with consequences. Taking responsibility now will not only be for yourself, but also for a generation that is grossly followed into the trap of bad eating habits that we have set for them as a standard. l Tšepang Ledia is a Public Relations Officer at Lesotho Electricity Company. He writes in his own capacity. For feedback, send to: Tšepang Ledia

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