What “IF” you could be healthier and live longer just by eating less?
For a long time, science has known that reducing the number of calories you eat can influence longevity. But there has also long been a downside to calorie reduction alone.
While it could improve lifespan as indicated in numerous animal studies, reducing caloric intake to below that of the daily requirement does not come without a price – specifically, loss of lean muscle, fatigue, difficulty concentrating – and not to mention always feeling hungry.
So in other words, eating less than you should could help you live longer than you would, but who wants to live a long and miserable life?
Recent studies seem to indicate that the answer could lie in Intermittent Fasting, or Intermittent Feeding – both called “IF” for short. IF could give all of the benefits of calorie restriction, without the usual negative aspects.
In a published study on alternate day calorie restriction conducted by the Louisiana State University Medical Center, researchers concluded that “restricting caloric intake to 60-70% of normal adult weight maintenance requirements prolongs lifespan 30-50% and confers near perfect health across a broad range of species.”
Now I know what you are saying – as soon as you hear the word “fast” you think starvation – that is not what was done in the studies, nor suggested by advocates of IF. No one has to starve here. What is suggested by the technique is to eat a normal healthy diet within your required caloric range on one day, and alternate that with eating a significant amount less — 30 – 70% — of your daily caloric requirement the next day.
This is actually how our bodies were and are designed to survive, as early hunters and gatherers in the wild. In those days, where your next meal was coming from was often a literal game of hit or miss. For our ancient ancestors, “feast or famine” was a truism of daily life and not just an expression. A tribal group could be flush with food one day and then go for many days unsuccessful at obtaining food after that. It is only in a modern society that we have indoctrinated ourselves to the idea of “three square meals” every day.
The Skinny on Intermittent Fasting
The exact reasons why IF works are not 100% clear, but they are all related to various pathways and mechanisms that the body uses to deal with times of scarcity. Again, since fasting, not necessarily by choice, was a way of life for our ancestors, our bodies have become well adapted to deal with the stressors of fasting.
Fasting, as it occurred regularly in the ancient past, allowed our bodies to break down tissue without promoting concurrent inflammation. What that means is fasting actually was a “good thing,” a way for the body to do an “in with the good” and “out with the bad” kind of cleanse, eliminating old, damaged cells and replacing them with stronger cells, in effect making us live longer and stronger to hunt another day!
Intermittent Fasting seems to:
Reduce blood glucose and insulin levels thereby improving overall glucose metabolism.
Increase the level of fat burning hormones in the blood, especially HGH, adrenaline and glucagon.
Preserve lean muscle mass.
Increase health in general by lowering blood pressure, improving the immune response, decreasing inflammation and fighting metabolic disease conditions.
“IF” You Really Want to Succeed
There is mounting evidence that if you really want to make IF work to improve overall health, maintain weight, and lengthen your life – you need to couple it with intense physical activity. Again, just as hunting, gathering, and fasting were a way of life for our ancestors, so was high intensity working out, albeit not in a gym! We were born to live a “fight or flight” lifestyle and our metabolism reflects that. Our ancestors had to run constantly to hunt game, or run from it for their lives. Not to mention continuous warfare with other tribal groups – it was a daily fight just to survive! Believe you me; anyone fat and lazy was “culled from the heard” very quickly!
Looking at the skeletal record, anthropologists report that our most recent ancestors were much leaner, taller, and stronger then we are. It was this fight or flight IF way of life that lead to their very lean and strong musculature.
Anthropologists believe that most men of generations past were less than 10% body fat, and even most women – allowing for more natural adipose tissue – were from 10-20% body fat. They believe the chief reason for this is the increase in the levels of HGH – Human Growth Hormone – that are produced in reaction to IF and intense physical activity. HGH not only improves cell growth, but it is also one of the factors that lead to reduced stress and longevity.
Researchers at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute found that Intermittent Fasting for 12 – 24 hours along with a high-intensity work out increased HGH levels in the body as much as 2000% in men and 1300% in women. Those are not typos – you read that right – those are increases in the thousands!
So the bottom line is, if you want to live long and well into the 21st century, you should take a page from our ancestors, and go a little “primitive” and try IF – it’s so simple, a Caveman could do it – and in fact they did!