Hitting the big 4-0 is an important milestone in many people’s lives. They say life begins at 40, and most of us realize that we do have a lot to look forward to during this period. We are older and wiser, more focused and are probably done with the diapers, baby food and all the little things that come with having young children in the house. They are now older, and as the years go by, we can relax and look forward to spending our golden years relaxed, enjoying life and happily looking after our grandchildren. But, this can only happen if we take care of our health.
The moment you hit 40, health issues become important. If you have been looking after your health, keep up the good work. If however, you have been indulging in rich food, cigarettes, alcohol, and other vices, this is the time for change. This is because chances of getting lifestyle-based diseases like hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and cancer increase as we move onwards from this decade. Nevertheless, responsible lifestyle choices like exercise, eating healthily, cutting out cigarettes and reducing alcohol will help you live a healthy life, and prolong your lifespan. Maybe you will live to see your great, great grandchildren after all.
In the recent past, fasting has been touted as an effective way to lose weight and prevent lifestyle and degenerative brain diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Simply put, Intermittent fasting means abstaining from food for a particular period of time. Fasting works from the idea that all we need to lose weight and get other health benefits, is to miss a couple meals per week (which we all do from time to time). The rest of the time, we eat normal portions of food. Doing this, scientists say, will improve our health immensely. There are several types of fasting methods that have been developed
The Periodic fast
This means fasting for 24 hours, for not more than 2 times each week. You can start fasting at whatever time is most convenient for you. However, be sure to take 8-12 glasses of water per day to avoid dehydration.
The LeanGains fast advocates fasting for about 16 hours each day (or 14 hours for women). For example, you can start your fast at 8 PM after dinner and have your next meal the following day at 12 noon. It all depends on what is most convenient for you. During the remaining 8 hours, you can eat up to three meals in that period. If you are also working out, this method recommends exercising just before your first meal of the day.
The Warrior Diet
Like the LeanGains diet, the warrior diet recommends eating every day. However, unlike its counterpart, you are only allowed to eat once every day, mostly dinner.
Alternate day fasting
This diet entails fasting for 24 hours, then eating for 24 hours, every two days. Hence after eating dinner on Monday night, you may fast the whole day Tuesday, and eat dinner that day. You would then eat the whole day Wednesday but then start fasting again after dinner that day.
Despite the fact that fasting is very popular nowadays, the question is, does it work? A lot of studies conducted show that yes, fasting has numerous health benefits. In a study conducted by Stote and others (2007) for example, those who participated in the Warrior diet ate enough food to provide sufficient energy to maintain their normal weight, in that one meal, or the same amount in 3 meals per day. This went on for eight weeks. By the end of the study, those who participated lost weight after eating one meal as compared to eating three times per day.
In another study, Heilbronn and his colleagues (2005) conducted a study where eight men and women of normal weight underwent the Alternate Day Fasting for 21 days. During that period, participants lost about 2.5% of their body weight and about 4% of their fat mass. Hence, a participant who weighed 154 pounds at the beginning of the study ended up losing 3.85 pounds in body weight and 6.17 pounds in fat mass.
Weight loss after hitting 40 is essential because research shows that about 38.1% of all adults aged above 60 years are overweight or obese (Ogden et al, 2014). Obesity is related to many lifestyle diseases like Type 2 diabetes, cancer, hypertension, heart disease and stroke as well as gall bladder disease. Consequently, losing weight, and being able to manage your current weight, (if it is normal) is even more important. This is because as we grow older, it becomes harder and harder to lose weight and what we gain accumulates around the stomach, for men and around the waist and hips for women. Losing weight will help to lower these measurements to healthy sizes, will increase the good cholesterol in the body and will lower both your blood pressure and the resting heart rate. All these are indicators of a healthy heart.
In a different study, conducted on young women who were overweight, Mattson and others (Collier, 2013) found out that not only does fasting aid in weight loss, but that it also helps the body absorb insulin better. This reduces the chance of getting diabetes. Furthermore, the study showed that if you fast for 10- 16 hours, then your body will get the necessary energy from its fat stores. This will also discharge fatty acids called ketones into the body. Ketones help to protect your memory and learning. Additionally, it slows down the progression of disease in the brain.
By missing a couple of meals through fasting (so long as you do not overeat on those times when you are not fasting), you reduce your calorie intake. A study conducted on mice shows that a reduction in calorie intake slows down the progression of diseases like cancer, specifically prostate cancer (Collier, 2013). This is good news for men as prostate cancer only afflicts them.
The study by Mattson and others also showed that reducing your calorie intake also helped diminish symptoms of asthma and reduced inflammation in diseases like arthritis (Collier, 2013). Fasting helps the body be better prepared to handle stress, thus reducing its impact in our lives when stressful situations do arise.
While more studies need to be done to find more benefits of fasting, it is obvious that it is a practice that does have numerous health benefits. Fasting is easier than dieting since you eat normal foods in normal amounts. This is a more attractive choice for most people and it makes fasting sustainable for long periods of time. Unlike other diets as well, your body gets the different nutrients it needs without starving yourself meaning, that if you do not overdo the fasting, and you consistently keep up with the program, then it definitely is an effective way of maintaining our weight and health over the coming years
Collier, R. (2013). Intermittent fasting: The science of going without. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 185 (9): E363-E364.
Heilbronn, L.K. et al. (2005). Glucose tolerance and skeletal muscle gene expression in response to alternate day fasting. Obesity Research, 13 (3): 574–581. doi:10.1038/oby.2005.61.
Ogden, C. L. et al. (2014). Prevalence of childhood and adult obesity in the United States, 2011-2012. JAMA, 311(8): 806-814. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.732.
Patterson, R.E. et al. (2015). Intermittent fasting and human metabolic health. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 115 (8): 1203- 1212. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2015.02.018.
Stote, K. S. et al. (2007). A controlled trial of reduced meal frequency without caloric restriction in healthy, normal-weight, middle-aged adults. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 85 (4): 981–988.