6 Surprisingly Compelling Reasons To Try A Fasting Diet
The buzzword in health and weight loss is fasting. Don't panic: you only have to close the kitchen for short bouts to get the benefits. One version of intermittent fasting is to eat just 500 calories on your fast days and whatever you want on your "feast" days. Another is to fast for 14 to 16 hours everyday, and only eat between the hours of, say, 9 AM and 5 PM (learn more about the two options here). Either way, going without food is surprisingly good for you. Let's count the ways:
1. You burn more fat
If you go without food for six hours or more, your body starts burning fat for fuel. That's probably why researchers at the University of Illinois have found that people who fast every other day lose 90% or more of their weight from fat stores on your thighs and hips. The fat loss is a good 15% higher than what people attain on traditional, diet-every-day plans.
2. You retain more muscle.
Anytime you shed pounds through dieting, you lose a combination of fat and muscle. But with fasting (at least when you do it every other day) you lose less muscle. That matters because your muscle dictates your metabolism: The more lean tissue you have the more calories you'll burn day in and day out, giving you a built-in buffer against weight regain.
MORE:5 Safe Ways To Give Fasting A Try
3. You control your blood sugar.
Although doctors don't know why it happens, a number of studies on intermittent fasting have shown that it increases the body's sensitivity to insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar. As a result, you get extra protection from diabetes.
4. You protect your brain.
Studies by researchers at the National Institute on Aging have discovered that periodic fasting protects brain cells from routine damage. Fasting mice, they've found, have higher levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a protein that prevents neurons from dying.
MORE:The Ultimate 7-Day Workout That Boosts Your Body AND Your Brain
5. You help your heart.
Fasting reduces your risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure, according to a number of studies.
MORE:9 Proven Ways To Lose Stubborn Belly Fat
6. You shed belly fat.
A 2012 study by researchers at the University of Illinois found that after eight weeks of alternate-day fasting, participants lost three inches from their waists, regardless of whether they consumed a high-fat or low-fat diet on their feast days.
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