As Millennials, we have a lot of challenges in the sphere of spirituality, physical and mental health. But if one has to give one prescription that can provide relief to many of our physical, mental, and spiritual ailments, it is Intermittent Fasting
In simple words, Intermittent Fasting is the practice of alternating periods of eating and fasting. It comes in many forms but the basic idea is to have a large time block of not eating in a day.
But I would like to be more specific and use the word early time-restricted feeding (eTRF) to refer to IF, which is better supported by scientific research. Early time-restricted feeding (eTRF)—a form of intermittent fasting that involves eating dinner in the mid-afternoon and fasting for the rest of the day
Another reason why it’s high time we consider a lifestyle intervention like eTRF is rising pre-mature deaths due to high blood glucose. The single most important cause of premature deaths across the globe is high blood sugar. It causes a variety of illnesses and organ failures. Diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke and lower limb amputation. As per WHO, in 2019, an estimated 1.5 million deaths were directly caused by diabetes. Also, between 2000 and 2016, there was a 5% increase in premature mortality from diabetes, thanks to our changing eating habits.
We all want to want to live longer, be healthier and slow down ageing. We want to be around to see our children grow up and become responsible adults and go on to have their own families. eTRF is the most promising, affordable and doable prescription to help us here. I am adopting it myself, so I thought I should summarize it in a blog post. This will strengthen my resolve to follow it through for a few months to see how it really works. :-). (Please consult your physician before taking it up yourself.)
Here are Five Key Benefits of eTRF that I have collected for purpose of this article that I think makes a great case to adopt it as a lifestyle choice.
- eTRF increases insulin sensitivity and also improves β cell function. Insulin sensitivity refers to how sensitive the body’s cells are in response to insulin. High insulin sensitivity allows the cells of the body to use blood glucose more effectively, reducing blood sugar. Beta cells are cells that make insulin, a hormone that controls the level of glucose (a type of sugar) in the blood.
- eTRF also lowers blood pressure and oxidative stress. Oxidative stress has gained attention as one of the fundamental mechanisms responsible for the development of hypertension. Hypertension is considered to be the most important risk factor in the development of cardiovascular disease. eTRF is observed to lower oxidative stress.
- eTRF lowers the desire to eat in the evening, which may facilitate weight loss. We are all made of food. The more we eat, the more often we eat, the heavier we become and less we eat, less often we eat, the lighter.
- One of the benefits I have experienced myself with eTRF is that it pacifies our mind and makes us clear & light headed. For a spiritual person, this is a huge benefit.
- And finally what is remarkable about eTRF is that it can improve health even in the absence of weight loss!
(I provide the link to the research paper here. This is really the first that the benefits of eTRF go beyond just weight loss have been demonstrated in a study. In this study, the participants on eTRF were fed enough to maintain their body weight. This was done to ensure that any other effects on health cannot be attributed to weight loss.)
We conducted the first supervised controlled feeding trial to test whether IF has benefits independent of weight loss by feeding participants enough food to maintain their weight. Our proof-of-concept study also constitutes the first trial of early time-restricted feeding (eTRF), a form of IF that involves eating early in the day to be in alignment with circadian rhythms in metabolism. Men with prediabetes were randomized to eTRF (6-hr feeding period, with dinner before 3 p.m.) or a control schedule (12-hr feeding period) for 5 weeks and later crossed over to the other schedule. eTRF improved insulin sensitivity, β cell responsiveness, blood pressure, oxidative stress, and appetite
Evidence is accumulating that eating in a 6-hour period and fasting for 18 hours can trigger a metabolic switch from glucose-based to ketone-based energy, with increased stress resistance, increased longevity, and a decreased incidence of diseases, including cancer and obesity. We need not start with the 18:6 regime right away and take a more gradual route to see the benefits for ourselves. We can start with a 12:12 system, then transition to 15:9 and later if one feels like 18:6 could be adopted. I personally use the 15: 9 discipline for now and am seeing progress already in terms of feeling good about myself, especially with weight loss. I also try to throw in moderate exercise with dumbbells’ on alternate days. Its up to you to decide on how small or big are the steps you take.
Here is some useful expert advice on eTRF which we can all put to use to the best of our capacity:
- Avoid sugars and refined grains. Instead, eat fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats (a sensible, plant-based, Mediterranean-style diet).
- Let your body burn fat between meals. Don’t snack. Be active throughout your day. Build muscle tone.
- Consider a simple form of intermittent fasting. Limit the hours of the day when you eat, and for best effect, make it earlier in the day (between 7 am to 3 pm, or even 10 am to 6 pm, but definitely not in the evening before bed).
- Avoid snacking or eating at nighttime, all the time.
Here is a quote from David Sinclair’s book ‘Lifespan’:
As Benjamin Franklin once said, ‘The best of all medicines is resting and fasting.’ An intermittent fasting routine beautifully blends the two, giving our bodies enough time to rest and recover through the fasting period. The journey of Self-control begins with the simple act of fasting. Fasting helps us understand our relationship with food and our bodies. As our bodies detox, our mind are clear of chatter and peace dawns on our beings. It is no wonder that every religious tradition invariable includes the magic ingredient of fasting as a means to get closer to godliness.