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For Paleo Fitness, Fast . . . Sometimes

The notion that you need to eat every couple of hours or so is one of the more fatuous delusions of conventional wisdom. No sound scientific evidence supports this idea.

The frequent feeding frenzy was popularized by bodybuilders sometime in the 1980s, when it was proper etiquette to work two twice-baked potatoes, 12 cheesy eggs, and a side of woolly mammoth into your system at any and all junctures.

How this madness ever became convention — or widely accepted as “the healthy thing to do” — or how people came to believe that it “speeds up your metabolism” is not known. Any study attempting to substantiate these claims rings up as “inconclusive,” is as poorly planned, calculated, and executed as a family vacation, or proves the contrary.

And interestingly enough, a lot of evidence supports the contrary — that is, the benefits of fasting and infrequent feeding. By the way, fasting is any lengthy abstinence from food. It’s not eating for a while — anywhere from 16 to 24 hours. Infrequent feeding is equally self-descriptive: Eat less often throughout the day, about two to three meals a day. (Four to six meals a day is considered frequent feeding.)

Fasting helps you lose weight (and keep it off)

Fasting is a safe, effective, and sustainable means for fat loss. Not eating will help you shed pounds. The daft notion of “starvation mode” has been carried out to truly preposterous lengths. True starvation mode — or true adaptive thermogenesis, to be more precise — is a long-term adaptation to severe caloric restriction.

An occasional break from eating, even a break of up to 24 hours, won’t throw you into starvation mode; it won’t “slow down your metabolism,” and it won’t make you gain weight.

To maintain order, all nature ebbs and flows: the tides, the moons, the seasons, and even the economy. In nature, cyclicality is normal, whereas fixity is really quite unnatural. You also need an ebb and flow between hunger and satiety to keep optimum health.

But conventional wisdom fears hunger like a hobgoblin. “Don’t ever get hungry again,” they say. “Keep the belly full,” they say. Hunger is primal. Hunger is the hunt. It’s motivation, activity to energy outflow. Get hungry!

Don’t duck, dodge, or sidestep fasting. Embrace it! Yes, fasting will help you cut pounds, but there’s more to it than that: Fasting has demonstrated to specifically increase lipolysis, or fat burning. Losing weight is all well and good, but losing fat specifically is all the better.

Furthermore, fasting has also been proven effective to prevent re-esterification — taking fat back in after you’ve kicked it out. Losing fat is all well and good, but keeping it off is all the better.

Fasting keeps you young

If fasting hasn’t snagged your interest yet, here’s another benefit: Fasting promotes longevity and keeps the mind biologically young. Eating accelerates the aging process — that is, it speeds up the rate things start to sour biologically. So, then, not eating may slow the aging process.

It was once believed that overall calorie restriction prolonged life, but now feeding frequency plays an equal, if not more influential, role in the mystery of aging — because caloric restriction and fasting have both been shown to promote successful brain aging. Successful aging is aging free of neurological disease, as far as practicable, that is.

Now it may be somewhat premature to cast blame, but evidence suggests that unchecked insulin levels (insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas that regulates blood sugar and the primary nutrient transport hormone) may be mostly to blame for quickening the progression toward death and neurological disease.

For example, certain scientific circles now think that Alzheimer’s may actually be a form of diabetes — some have even gone so far as to call Alzheimer’s Type 3 diabetes. What they’re saying is that Alzheimer’s is brought about by a lack of insulin receptors or poor sensitivity of insulin receptors in the brain.

In short, Alzheimer’s may in fact be a form of insulin resistance in the brain — or to be more direct, diabetes of the brain.

What does this have to do with fasting? Fasting improves insulin sensitivity. So the more you eat, the more insulin you secrete, and the less sensitive you become to it. You then have to secrete more insulin to get the job done.

The only known way to break this cycle is to reverse it — that is, to eat less frequently and, therefore, secrete less insulin. Ultimately, the less insulin you secrete, the better off you are altogether.

Another reason infrequent feeding may promote longevity is because fasting has been shown to increase natural growth hormone, which provides the following benefits:

  • More lean body mass

  • Less fat mass (boosts metabolism by about 15 percent)

  • Reduces stress and anxiety

  • Improves concentration

  • Enhances recovery from exercise

  • Antiaging effects

Growth hormone makes for good health, plain and simple. And fasting increases both growth hormone pulse and frequency. This means you get more growth hormone more often.

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