Back in our hunter / gatherer days, we naturally cycled through a variety of phases throughout the year, long before they had the catchy names we know them by today: keto (during the winter when vegetation was scarce), paleo (during more bountiful months when one could fill themselves with whatever they could catch or pick) and even fasting (during the winter or anytime when food was hard to come by).
First, let's keep in mind that our bodies are built with one primary objective: survive at all costs. Historically, when food was in limited supply, people weren’t dropping like flies, they were adapting. Our cells go through a life cycle, part of which includes dying on command for the greater good of your body. When our bodies are under certain types of duress (like imminent starvation), they go into rapid repair mode, which includes killing off the weakest 10% or so of our cells and replacing them with fresh, healthy ones. This may sound extreme, but it’s actually a process that our bodies need to go through to function optimally.
Fast forward through the agricultural and industrial revolutions and food scarcity is no longer an issue for most people. Great news, right? Yes and no. Without the occasional threat of starvation to spur our metabolisms into action, our bodies don't feel the need to work as hard to expel those pesky suboptimal cells. What happens with a surplus of older cells? Accelerated aging, greater instances of autoimmune disorders and cognitive decline to name a few. The cellular purge and refresh that we used to trigger during times of food deprivation is actually the essence of anti-aging. In other words, the more effectively we remove cellular waste from our bodies, the slower it deteriorates.
Now, let's pause here for a second. This is NOT, I repeat, under NO circumstances a suggestion to put your fork down and allow it to collect dust while you starve yourself. Instead, I want you to channel your inner Oscar Wilde and remember, “everything in moderation, including moderation”.
There’s an easier, far healthier way to instigate this cellular refresh - you guessed it, intermittent fasting. Studies show that 16-18 hours without food is enough time to allow your metabolism to focus it's energy on replacing those worn out cells in lieu of digesting food. This doesn’t even require restricting your calories, just the time frame in which you consume them.
Sound intimidating? Let's break it down into smaller bites. If you finish your last meal three hours before bed and (ideally) sleep for eight hours, you've already clocked eleven fasted hours. Now try foregoing breakfast for an early lunch and POOF - sixteen hours just blew by.
What does this mean for you? To start, better sleep since you stopped eating long enough before bed to fully digest your food and allow your body to truly rest at night. Upon waking, you'll be greeted with a clearer mind (bye bye brain fog) and more energy throughout the day with those new and improved cells you were growing overnight.
Is it for everyone? No, nothing is. That's what makes us so cool, we're all built differently. If you think it's something you might want to dip your toes into though, talk to your doctor and explore some more.
Most importantly, stay curious!