Actress Jennifer Aniston’s intermittent fasting was inspired by the prophet Daniel, one of the Bible’s great nutritionists. The Old Testament tells us that Daniel, exiled in Babylon, designed a diet to be put into practice during 21 days, based on fruit, vegetables, water, meat and bread. He invented it to serve God with a purified soul. Today, intermittent fasting is used to burn body fat and reduce anxiety. We do not know if Jennifer Aniston suffers from anxiety, but she has included intermittent fasting in her anti-ageing programme with help from a specialised doctor. Inspired by the prophet’s teachings, the actress gets up at 8.30 am, drinks celery juice and meditates. She limits her eating window to eight hours of the day and fasts for the remaining 16 hours. Unintentionally, Aniston has become one of the main figures in a type of diet that, day after day, is gaining more and more followers. What is fasting for and why is it so successful? In this blog post, we are going to explain it to you in case you want to get as fit as the star of ‘Friends’.
Intermittent fasting myths and facts
Let’s start by explaining some of its potential benefits. This is what several studies say:
- Promotes weight loss and prevents diseases such as obesity and its co-morbidities.
- Increases insulin sensitivity, lowers blood sugar levels and controls blood lipid profile.
- Helps control blood pressure.
- Decreases oxidative stress and reduces low-grade inflammation.
- Supports digestive wellbeing by reducing acidity, gas, constipation, etc.
All of the above factors are related to ageing. Therefore, we are in a position to tell you that intermittent fasting helps to keep you younger. We will now explain how intermittent fasting can be beneficial to human metabolism. First, it seems that this practice regulates circadian cycles, biological processes that last 24 hours and set the rhythm of our bodily functions. Some lifestyles and diets can be detrimental because they cause disruptions in these circadian cycles. For example, insulin secretion varies throughout the day until it drops to a very low production level in the evening. If you eat dinner after 9 pm, you disrupt this circadian rhythm and predispose your body to diseases such as type 2 diabetes. Avoiding food intake at night, on the other hand, synchronises your next meals with the circadian rhythm. In addition, with the aforementioned limitation of dietary hours, glucose storage is reduced, and the body has no choice but to rely on lipids when it needs to find energy. This reduces body fat. Secondly, recent evidence suggests that intermittent fasting may stimulate the production of a family of bacteria in the gut called Lachnospiraceae. These bacteria promote the production of butyrate – a short-chain fatty acid – in the gut and that is a good thing. This process deploys metabolic processes that promote longevity.
Who should avoid intermittent fasting?
Women who are pregnant or are breastfeeding, children and teenagers. It is also not recommended for people suffering from prolonged stress, chronic diseases, eating disorders, neurodegenerative disorders and type 1 diabetes.
How to fast?
There are different methods. Here we explain the most common ones:
- 12-hour fasting. This is the best option for those who are intermittent fasting for the first time. It involves avoiding all food for half of the day. You will find it easier to do this if you include sleep within the fasting period. An example would be not eating anything from 7 pm until 7 am the next day.
- Fasting 16/8. This is the method Jennifer Aniston uses. It consists of eating within an eight-hour window and avoiding eating for the remaining 16 hours. This action can be repeated as many times as desired throughout the week. How to put it into practice? An example would be to eat from 12 pm till 8 pm. Ideally, we should eat a balanced diet during this period, ensuring that we get all the nutrients and calories our bodies need.
- Fasting 5/2. It has become fashionable among fitness lovers and is suitable for people over the age of 40. This type of fasting suggests restricting calorie intake to just two days a week. When you start, you can approach it in two different ways: Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer, authors of ‘The two-day diet‘ (Urano) suggest that the two fasting days be discontinued during the week. On the other hand, in ‘The Two-Day Diet‘ (Temas de Hoy) Michelle Harvie and Tony Howell prefer the two-day fast to be done in a row and, mainly, based on protein. But be careful. It’s not about not eating for two days either. Rather, it is about reducing your usual calorie burn by 75 per cent. This means that during fasting days women can consume 500 calories and men around 600 calories. How to achieve this? With vegetables, fish, eggs, chicken, turkey and tofu. Broths, herbal teas and water could also be added.
- Alternate day fasting. Alternate day fasting (ADF) is an intermittent fasting method. The basic idea is that you fast one day and eat whatever you want the next day, within the guidelines of a healthy diet. This way, you only have to restrict what you eat for half the time. IMPORTANT NOTE: During fasting, we should keep hydrated. You can drink calorie-free and sweetener-free beverages such as water, black coffee, tea and herbal teas.
Food supplements during intermittent fasting
Micronutrient deficiencies are unlikely to happen during fasting but depending on how restrictive and how long the fast is, some people choose to take supplements to ensure an adequate intake of vitamins and minerals. Which ones can help you the most? Here are some suggestions:
Multivitamin: ensures 100% of the recommended daily amount of all the micronutrients your body needs.
Magnesium: helps maintain key neurological functions and prevents muscle cramps when doing sport. You can take magnesium before going to bed. Thanks to its properties, it is a great ally for hours of restful sleep.
Omega 3: will give you plenty of essential fatty acids that are good for your heart, brain, skin and eyes. Best taken with one of your meals.
What other supplements can help you reinforce the benefits of intermittent fasting?
Green coffee: Inhibits the feeling of hunger when abstaining from food and helps burn fat. Drink it in the morning with a glass of water.
Glucomannan: a fibre that swells in the stomach and has a satiating effect. It reduces cravings. You can take it with plenty of water if you still have a few fasting hours ahead of you and are tempted to eat.
Resveratrol: Numerous studies have shown that this molecule enhances the benefits of intermittent fasting. Take it at night or in the morning.