“Run more, run faster” seems to be the mantra of many ambitious runners. And while it is true that the majority of your training should consist of running, the benefits of resistance training with your own body weight are often underestimated. The following five facts explain how strength training for runners can improve your running performance.
1. You run more efficiently
A stable torso is crucial for efficient running form. In particular, your abs and back muscles (core) play a major role. If these are too weak, your body will be forced to make compensations. A steady upper body guarantees a smooth transfer of the force generated from your arms to your legs. Efficient running form helps you run faster and expend less energy.
2. Your steps are more effective
Unnecessary compensations due to muscle imbalances and unstable joints lead to a loss of power. This decreases the effectiveness of your push off and thus your steps. A strong core and powerful leg muscles ensure an efficient transfer of force directly into the ground.
3. You become more flexible
Bodyweight training exercises are usually complex and strengthen more than just your muscles. If done properly, they also strengthen your mobility and agility. In general, flexibility is always a combination of strengthening, mobilization and stretching.
4. You reduce stress on your spine
Back pain is a common problem among runners. The main reason is weak abs and back muscles. Every time you run, your spine is subjected to small impacts. These cause your intervertebral discs to lose fluid and shrink, thus reducing their ability to absorb the shock from running. When we sleep, this fluid is replenished and the discs return to their original size.
The stronger your core is, the longer your spine can benefit from its stabilizing effect.
5. You lower your risk of injury
Many runners’ problems (runner’s knee, shin splints, Achilles tendinitis, etc.) are the result of muscle imbalances. These are often caused by focusing on only one activity or improper technique. To compensate for these imbalances, you should make strengthening and stabilization exercises a regular part of your running training. These can help improve your form and thus lower the risk of injury. Injury and setback are not fun – that’s why strength exercises for runners are so critical!
So, have we convinced you of the benefits of bodyweight training for runners? Weight training for runners is not necessary – you really can get all the benefits by using your own body weight! You can find a wide range of effective bodyweight exercises in the Runtastic Results app. You don’t need any equipment or a gym membership to do these workouts. Give them a try and take your running performance to the next level.
CELLULITE is lumpy, dimpled flesh that most often develops on the thighs, hips and buttocks.
Cellulite forms just below the skin when fibrous connective cords that tether the skin to the underlying muscle break, stretch or pull down, while fat cells accumulate and push up against the skin.
The reason some people develop cellulite and others do not isn’t clear. Women are much more likely than men to have cellulite, and it tends to run in families, so genetics may play a role.
Cellulite is more common in people who are overweight and in older adults.
It doesn’t pose any health risks, and it doesn’t need to be treated. But if the appearance of cellulite bothers you, there are a few therapies that may help.
A procedure that doesn’t involve surgery called cryolipolysis has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reduce the appearance of cellulite. It uses cold therapy to freeze the lipids in fat cells, causing the cells to die.
Not everyone sees benefits from this treatment. In those who do, it usually requires several treatments, and it can take three to four months to receive the best results.
Another non-surgical approach to treating cellulite uses lasers and radiofrequency systems. These systems improve cellulite after a series of treatments. The results are not permanent however, typically lasting no longer than about six months.
New treatments involving lasers are being developed, and they may offer better long-term results.
Some people try liposuction to treat cellulite. During liposuction, a surgeon inserts a narrow tube under the skin and suctions out fat cells. Though liposuction can be used to shape the areas of the body affected by cellulite, liposuction won’t remove cellulite.
And it needs to be used carefully in people who have cellulite because, in some cases, it may actually make the appearance of cellulite more noticeable.
Laser-assisted liposuction – a newer form of treatment that destroys fat cells while tightening the skin – might be more effective for cellulite, but more study is needed.
Some self-care steps may make cellulite less noticeable. For example, weight loss and exercise keep your muscles toned and make dimpled skin less obvious.
That said, if the skin is stretched, weakened or lays a particular way on the muscle after weight loss – including after bariatric surgery or delivery of a baby – the cellulite can be just as noticeable, which can be frustrating after working so hard to lose weight.
Not smoking and eating a diet centred around fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fibre can improve the appearance of the skin overall.
No over-the-counter remedy has been shown to be effective in treating cellulite. That includes creams marketed to cure cellulite that have ingredients such as caffeine, antioxidants and herbal supplements. – Mayo Clinic News Network/Tribune News Service
IT WAS 9am on a Sunday morning, and you could sense the anticipation on the faces of young (and not-so young), eager and enthusiastic pharmacists gathered at The Oak Hall by iSpace, Petaling Jaya.
After all, the venue was hosting Malaysia’s first Pharmacy Tech and Innovation Summit, Pharmacy Revolution 4.0 Summit 2018, which took place last week.
Pharmacy Revolution 4.0 specifically refers to the digitalisation and automation of the industry, and it is one that encompasses the entire chain of the business, from supply to sales.
Organised by the Malaysian Community Pharmacy Guild (MCPG) in conjunction with its 13th Annual General Meeting, the event was a platform for pharmacists and business owners to learn and network with tech players, entrepreneurs and investors to gain insights into the future of technology, artificial intellegence, big data, internet of things, 3D printing and mobile technologies.
More than 300 delegates were in attendance, and they were treated to indepth insights shared by speakers specially invited to the event: Dr Dzaharudin Mansor, National Technology Officer, Microsoft; Farouk Meralli, CEO and Founder, mClinia; Prof Dr Rofina Yasmin Othman, Faculty of Science, Universiti Malaya; and Mitsuaki Shimada, President, Pfercos Co Ltd and Executive Director of Japan Pharmaceutical.
The speakers touched on a variety of subjects that impact the pharmaceutical industry, from Dr Dzaharudin’s Industrial Revolution 4.0: Challenges and Opportunities in the Pharmaceutical World, Meralli’s Mobile Technology Transformation of Pharmacy Professional’s Conduct to Prof Dr Rofina Yasmin’s 3D Printing in Community Pharmacies – Opportunities & Challenges and Shimada’s Progress of Mechanised Dispensing of Drugs in Japan.
According to Dr Dzaharudin Mansor, National Technology Officer, Microsoft, most of these technologies have existed for quite some time, and it’;s actually the use and application of such technologies that have changed.
Secretary General of the Ministry of Health Malaysia, Datuk Seri Dr Chen Chaw Min officiated the event.
As Organising Chairman of the event, and President of MCPG, Lovy Beh, noted: “Information technology has completely changed our lifestyles and the way we work. We cannot afford to be disconnected from the digital world. In today’s digitalised era, known globally as the 4th industrial revolution, technology can boost businesses by enhancing productivity.”
Beh aptly questioned how we can use such technology to enhance our daily lives as well as businesses, to make use of such advancements for our betterment.
She noted that many small and medium-sized businesses need to explore the opportunities and challenges thrown up by this 4th revolution.
“That’s why we are organising this event, because we see a need and demand for our members. Pharmacies and businesses need to embrace this revolution to remain competitive in the market.”
Beh noted that although the initial cost of automating and digitalising a business could be a challenge for small businesses, there are ways to overcome this.
Her observations were echoed and reinforced by the Health Minstry’s Secretary General.
According to Dr Chen, the Government and the private sector have already started embracing the challenges of the 4th industrial revolution, citing examples that included the ministry’s pharmacy information system. “We have to embrace it. We have to change and cannot remain static,” he emphasised.
Dr Dzaharudin pointed out the relevance of all four industrial revolutions that have hugely impacted our lives.
The first one, which took place in the 18th to 19th centuries, saw societies becoming more industrial and urban, with the development of the steam engine playing a central role.
The second was a period of consolidation for pre-existing industries as well as expansion into new ones, such as steel, oil and electricity.
The third saw the advancement of technology from analog to digital technology with the creation of the personal computer, the internet, and information and communications technology.
The fourth and current one builds on the third, with new ways in which technology becomes embedded within societies.
“Most of these technologies have existed for quite some time,” noted Dr Dzaharudin. “It’s actually the use and application of such technologies that have changed.
“And this has enabled ‘small’ companies to have a big impact, such as Uber and Netflix. They leverage technology to create business models that are now challenging established practices,” he observed.
Garvy Beh, CEO of Doctor2U.
One local example of taking advantage of such technology and using it to create a different business model is Doctor2U. In essence, it’s an app that connects users to doctors.
In a nutshell, Doctor2U offers telemedicine services (consultation or facetime with a doctor), homecare (consultation with a doctor, medication delivery and ambulance service), E-commerce (health products and services) and medical records (manage, upload and view).
According to CEO of Doctor2U, Garvy Beh, “We have over 450,000 users, and it’s currently available in Malaysia, Singapore and the Phillipines.
“Our main feature in Malaysia, for this particular theme of Pharmacy Revolution 4.0, is a pharmacy feature in our app that deals with medication delivery,” he revealed.
“It’s kind of like Uber for medicine,” he said. “You go into the app, select medication delivery and the location it is to be delivered. You need to take a picture of your prescription and key in a few details, and we will deliver the medication to you within the day. The feature is available for the public. Anyone with a valid prescription can use it.”
Garvy added: “These days, consumers want a convenient, fast and cheap service, even in healthcare. That’s the pharmacy portion of the app.
“We also have a very cool feature using AI in the app where the app can remind you when you should take your medicines.”
According to Garvy, the pharmacy portion of the app is just one of the many services that can be accessed. “You can ‘order’ a doctor, physio, nursing, ambulance … anything that can bring healthcare to your doorstep, we can deliver to you.
“We also have EMR (electronic medical records). You can view your lab results, radiology report, etc on the app. After the result is out, you can consult one of our doctors about the result, and what it means.”
It’s clear that the pace of change has certainly picked up with the 4th industrial revolution.
If we don’t adapt, we might well be left far, far behind…
The Pharmacy Revolution 4.0 Summit received support from BP Healthcare and other sponsors.
- Many people say they experience an energy boost while doing intermittent fasting.
- Jacob Lund/Shutterstock
It’s odd to think that depriving yourself of a necessity for life might be one of the most powerful ways to transform your health.
Yet there’s more and more evidence for the idea that fasting could have powerful health benefits for both the body and brain.
There are many different forms of fasting, however, ranging from going extended periods of time without food to consistently eating less (perhaps cutting caloric intake by 20%) to intermittent or periodic fasting.
But of all these different kinds of fasting, intermittent fasting is very likely the most popular and certainly the trendiest one. Celebrity adherents include Hugh Jackman, Tim Ferriss, and Beyonce. In Silicon Valley, whole groups of self-optimization obsessed biohackers meet to collectively break their fast once a week, and executives at companies like Facebook say that fasting has helped them lose weight and have more energy.
The hard part about classifying “intermittent fasting” is that there are a number of different forms of this kind of fast. Intermittent fasting regimens range from only allowing yourself to consume calories within a certain span of the day, likely between six and 12 hours; to eating normally five days a week and dramatically cutting calories on two fasting days; to taking a 36-hour break from food every week.
The different forms these fasts can take mean that much of the research showing benefits might be true for one of these fasts but not necessarily others. But there is good research on several of these fasts indicating that the benefits of intermittent fasting go beyond weight loss. There may be real long-term disease-fighting health improvements.
Here’s what we know so far.
A recent study suggests that intermittent fasting can do more than help people lose weight — it also may improve blood pressure and help the body process fat.
For this small study, researchers had overweight participants either cut calories every day or eat normally five days a week and only consume 600 calories on their two fasting days.
Both groups were able to lose weight successfully, though those on what’s known as the 5:2 diet did so slightly faster (though it’s not clear the diet would always help people lose weight faster).
More significantly, those from the intermittent fasting group cleared fat from their system more quickly after a meal and experienced a 9% drop in systolic blood pressure (the “regular diet” group had a slight increase in blood pressure).
This was a small study and researchers say participants had a hard time following the diet, but these are promising results.
Other studies indicate intermittent fasting could reduce risk for forms of cancer, but more research is needed.
- Dan Kitwood / Getty Images
Other small studies on a similar 5:2 diet and on other intermittent fasting diets have shown that this form of intermittent fasting is associated with physical changes that could lead to reduced cancer risk, particularly for breast cancer.
Much more research on this area is needed, but these are promising results, Mark Mattson, a neuroscientist at the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health, previously told Business Insider.
There may be evolutionary reasons why depriving ourselves of food for some time makes us feel energetic and focused.
- Neanderthal paintings can be seen in a cave in Pasiega
- Thomson Reuters
“Hungry,” from an evolutionary perspective, isn’t lifeless or drained. It’s when our bodies and brains need to function at maximum capacity.
“It makes sense that the brain needs to be functioning very well when an individual is in a fasted state because it’s in that state that they have to figure out how to find food,” Mattson previously told Business Insider. “They also have to be able to expend a lot of energy. Individuals whose brains were not functioning well while fasting would not be able to compete and thrive.”
Periodic fasting may make it easier for us to burn fat and enter ketosis.
Blood samples have shown that people who fast from 12 to 24 hours at a time enter a state called ketosis, when their bodies start to derive more energy from fat, Mattson told Business Insider in another interview.
The more you enter this state, the better your body gets at using fat as fuel. For that reason, some people try to trigger ketosis with “keto” diets that involve consuming a lot of fat. But according to Mattson, fasting is a significantly more effective way of boosting ketone levels.
Intermittent fasting may strengthen neural connections and improve memory and mood.
- human brain connectome
- Human Connectome Project, Science, March 2012.
Many people who fast intermittently say that at times, they feel more clear and focused while fasting.
There’s real science to back up the idea that being “hungry” gives you a sense of focus. Entering ketosis triggers the release of a molecule called BDNF, which strengthens neurons and brain connections linked to learning and memory.
That’s one of the reasons researchers have suggested that ketogenic diets (both the fasting kind and the fat-heavy kind) could be useful for people fighting degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s. That also could explain the clarity or focus some people feel after fasting. It may provide a mood boost as well.
Research indicates that some forms of intermittent fasting may help with diabetes.
Both in mice and in people, there’s evidence that certain forms of intermittent fasting can improve the body’s response to sugar. In mice, researchers have basically been able to reboot the pancreas, which produces insulin, reversing diabetes with periods of fasting like the 5:2 diet.
In people, a form of fasting that involves 25 days of unrestricted eating followed by 5 days of eating a very restricted fasting diet seems to cause big improvements for those with high blood sugar.
Intermittent fasting works at least as well as other forms of dieting for weight loss.
- Shutterstock/Siberian Photographer
No form of restricting food is necessarily easy, and people who get started with intermittent fasting for the first time agree that it’s no picnic. On the one hand, it’s nice to eat whatever your want when your diet isn’t restricted – but it’s also very hard to know you are still hours away from food when struck with a craving.
But research does indicate that intermittent fasting is at least as good as other forms of dieting for weight loss. That plus the other health benefits might make it a preferred candidate for many.
Certain forms of fasting are associated with anti-aging health effects, though it’s not clear whether intermittent fasting does this for humans.
Various forms of fasting have been associated with significantly improved lifespan and healthspan – the time an organism is healthy – in several different studies.
This has mostly been demonstrated with caloric restriction in animals, which cuts the amount of calories these animals are provided by 20-30%. There’s limited evidence that this may work for humans too.
But that sort of fast doesn’t sound necessarily safe or pleasant.
Valter Longo, an anti-aging researcher at the University of Southern California, has published research and written a book about a diet he’s developed that he says provides the health and anti-aging benefits of fasting while still letting people eat normally 25 days a month (the other five are pretty rough).
It’s unclear whether intermittent fasting would trigger the same benefits, though it’s possible.
More research is still needed on the different forms of intermittent fasting.
- Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
It’s appealing to think that fasting might be an ancient survival mechanism that triggers healing processes in the body, as many fasting researchers suggest.
But that doesn’t mean all forms of fasting are the same or that they have the same health effects – many will vary from person to person, and you should always consult your doctor before trying any severe dietary changes.
In his new book, “The Longevity Diet,” Longo cautions against using the term “intermittent fasting” too broadly. We know various forms of fasts – only eating during certain hours, restricting eating one or two days a week – are associated with health benefits. But we don’t know that all these health benefits are the same for all fasts.
But even so, many of these intermittent fasting regimens are considered relatively safe for a healthy person. So if they appeal, they could be worth a shot. And they may come with a host of health benefits.
- Evgeny Belikov/Strelka Institute/Flickr
- Frequent social media use and screen time have been portrayed as universally bad for our health.
- However, a lot of research on this phenomenon has been characterized by poorly done studies and bad science.
- The vast majority of evidence suggests that our smartphones are not uniformly harmful, and in some cases, they may be a force for good.
True story: I once walked headfirst into a pole on my way home from work.
I can’t blame the darkness (the sun had only just begun to set), and I can’t blame my vision (I’d recently gotten new glasses). But I can blame my iPhone, whose vibration had lured me into staring at its crisp bright screen. The text I was responding to was not worth the heart-shaped bruise that I shamefully covered in makeup the next day.
Until my ridiculous injury, I had laughed at stories about the dangers of “walking while texting.” I’d eye-rolled at reports of painful “iPhone neck” from leaning over tiny screens. And I’d never taken the idea of social media addiction seriously.
But that evening, I started to wonder if maybe our generation was screwed – and maybe our smartphones were to blame.
So I did some digging: I pored over scientific studies and talked to researchers who specialize in psychology, sociology, addiction, and statistics. A few experts were emphatic that social media addiction is real and should be added to the DSM IV, long considered the diagnostic bible for psychologists. Others hedged their bets and said more studies were needed.
But the conclusion I gathered was the opposite of what I’ve been hearing in the news. Social media and smartphones are not ruining our brains, nor will either become the downfall of a generation.
The vast majority of the large and well-designed statistical studies on smartphones and the brain actually suggest these technologies are having little to no effect on our health and well-being. And in some cases, the availability of social media and phones may be a power for good.
‘The lowest quality of evidence you could give that people wouldn’t laugh you out of the room’
- Marcos Mesa Sam Wordley/Shutterstock.com
Most of the headlines about social media – the ones that warn us about smartphones destroying a generation, ruining our posture and mood, and eroding our brains – are simply “a projection of our own fears,” Andrew Przybylski, a senior research fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, told Business Insider.
That’s because most existing studies on social media’s effects suffer from the same problems that have plagued the social science field for decades.
For one thing, many of the studies are too small to carry a lot of statistical power, Przybylski said. Researchers also often go into a study with an agenda or hypothesis that they hope their study will support.
Take, for example, the claim that because teen depression and iPhone ownership have been rising at the same time, they must be connected. This is a classic example of correlation, not causation: our phones are not necessarily to blame for cases of depression.
Przybylski has attempted to replicate some of the studies that suggested there’s a strong tie between social media use and depression. When he used larger sets of people in a more well-controlled environment, he failed to find the same results. Instead, he’s found either no link or a very, very small one.
“People are making expansive claims about the link between well-being and tech use, but if this was displayed on a Venn diagram, the circles would overlap one quarter of one percent,” Przybylski said. “It is literally the lowest quality of evidence that you could give that people wouldn’t laugh you out of the room.”
Last year, Przybylski co-authored a study published in the journal Psychological Science in which he examined the effect of screen-time on a sample of more than 120,000 British adolescents. The researchers asked teens how much time they spent streaming, gaming, and using their smartphones and computers. After running the data through a series of statistical analyses, it became clear to Przybylski that screen-time isn’t harmful for the vast majority of teens. In fact, it’s sometimes helpful – especially when teens are using it for two to four hours per day.
“Overall, the evidence indicated that moderate use of digital technology is not intrinsically harmful and may be advantageous in a connected world,” Przybylski wrote in the paper.
Even when it came to those positive results, however, Przybylski said the significance of the effects they observed was tiny.
“If you’re a parent and you have limited resources, the question becomes: which hill are you going to die on? Where do you want to put your limited resources? Do you want to put it into making sure your kid has breakfast or gets a full night’s sleep? Because for those activities the effects are three times larger than they would be for screen-time,” Przybylski said.
Seeing problems everywhere
- Flickr / Robert Couse-Baker
Many parents fear that using social media is universally bad for teens. They get distracted by text messages during class; they miss out on family time because they’re texting at the dinner table; they scroll through Instagram instead of going to sleep.
Once you see a few examples of phone-obsessed behavior – a whole family staring silently at their phones while eating a restaurant, say – you tend to notice it more wherever you go.
This may be partially a result of the phenomenon known as confirmation bias. Essentially, you see one event that supports an idea you already have, then because you are hyper-aware of these types of activities, you find more examples that appear to confirm that idea.
It’s a bit like when you begin shopping for a certain kind of car – a Honda Civic, let’s say – then suddenly notice that everyone appears to be driving a Honda Civic. In reality, that model hasn’t gotten more popular overnight; you’re simply primed to notice them.
“A lot of the research is bound up in these problems,” Przybylski said. “Our concerns or panic about a new thing” – in this case, social media – “guide how we do the research and interpret the results.”
Distorted, negative viewpoints have likely influenced the research on a host of new inventions and activities throughout history.
Unfortunately, paying attention exclusively to social harms makes us blind to the ways a new technology may be help us. In the case of social media, such biases can take attention away from other more serious problems.
“It’s important to think about all the things we’re not talking about here. We don’t talk about things like privacy, advertisements, who owns your data, and all this stuff that’s actually important. So actually it serves the interest of larger companies to be debating things like screen time and usage. When you bring it all together you have a big dog and pony show,” Przybylski said.
When social media may help, not harm
- REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Candice L. Odgers
, a professor of psychology and social behavior at the University of California Irvine, specializes in studying new technologies and adolescent development. She told Business Insider that social media may be having some positive effects on teens and young adults, but many people are not paying attention to that research.
“The digital world hasn’t created a new species of children. Many of the things that attract them to things about social media are the same things that attract them to other activities,” Odgers said. “There are a lot of good things that are happening with social media use today and there’s been a really negative narrative about it.”
A large review of 36 studies published in the journal Adolescent Research Review concluded that instead of feeling hampered by their screens, teens are chiefly using digital communication to deepen and strengthen existing in-person relationships. The authors concluded that young adults find it easier to display affection, share intimacy, and even organize events and meet-ups online.
Similarly, the authors of a 2017 review of literature on social media and screen time published by UNICEF concluded that “digital technology seems to be beneficial for children’s social relationships” and that most young people are using it to “enhance their existing relationships and stay in touch with friends.”
Kids who struggle to make friends in person may even use digital tools to “compensate for this and build positive relationships,” they said. A small 2018 study of British teens in foster care supports that idea – it suggested that social media helped young people maintain healthy relationships with their birth parents, make new friends, and ease the transition from childhood to adulthood.
Other research, including a small 2017 study of Instagram users aged 18-55, suggests that teens also turn to platforms like Instagram as a means of exploring the world and dreaming up potential adventures – a category of people the researchers classified as “feature lovers.”
“Feature lovers want to see something that’s exotic or unique; they’re looking at Instagram and they’re thinking, ‘take me to China or Alaska or some place I can’t afford to go,’” T.J. Thomson, the lead author of the study, told Business Insider.
You’re probably not ‘addicted’ to Facebook or Instagram
- Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty
The researchers behind these studies emphasized that social media and smartphones are not so much an “addiction” as a novel, attention-grabbing platform for enhancing existing activities and relationships.
In other words, social media has similar impacts on the brain as lots of other types of activity – too much or too little can be linked with negative impacts, while moderate use can have positive results.
“Claims that the brain might be hijacked or re-wired by digital technology are not supported by neuroscience evidence and should be treated with skepticism,” the authors of the UNICEF review wrote.
Addiction is a complicated but serious problem that neuroscientists have yet to fully understand. It typically stems from a cache of interconnected factors that include our environment and our genes. As a result, classifying our nearly-universal reliance on digital tools as an “addiction” simply isn’t fair to the people whose lives have been torn apart by things like alcoholism or drug use.
A chief characterizing factor of addictive behavior is that use of a given substance interferes with daily activity so much that people can’t function normally. Studies suggest that social media, by contrast, is often used to enhance existing relationships, and does not decrease real-world interactions or cause uniform harm.
Research does indicate, however, that people who may already be predisposed to depression and anxiety could suffer more as a result of using these types of “compare-and-despair” platforms.
A series of studies published this month in the journal Information, Communication, and Society found that while people’s Facebook use had no impact on their social interactions later that day, scrolling through the platform did appear to be linked with lower feelings of well-being if the person had been alone earlier in the day.
“People who use social media alone likely aren’t getting their face-to-face social needs met,” Michael Kearney, a co-author of the study, said in a statement. “So if they’re not having their social needs met in their life outside of social media, it makes sense that looking at social media might make them feel even lonelier.”
There are plenty of simple, healthy ways to address these risks without resorting to harsh measures like breaking up with your smartphone. I, for one, no longer text when I walk.
It’s a small change, but my forehead is grateful.
- Erin Brodwin / Business Insider
I’ve been ignoring my mother for a week and a half.
For the past 10 days, I’ve stifled the small voice she instilled in the back of my mind to remind me that forgoing breakfast is nutritional doom – all for the sake of a diet known as intermittent fasting.
The diet essentially involves abstaining from food for a set period of time ranging from 16 hours to several days – and surprisingly, it has a lot of scientific backing.
Large studies have found intermittent fasting to be just as reliable for weight loss as traditional diets. And a few studies in animals have suggested it could have other benefits, such as reducing the risk for certain cancers and even prolonging life.
Silicon Valley loves it. A Bay Area group called WeFast meets weekly to collectively break their fasts with a hearty morning meal. The Facebook executive Dan Zigmond confines his eating to a narrow time slot; many other CEOs and tech pioneers are sworn “IF” devotees – some even fast for up to 36 hours at a time.
I opted to try a form of the diet known as the 16:8, in which you fast for 16 hours and eat (or “feed,” as some proponents call it) for eight hours. With this regimen, you can eat whatever you want – as long as it doesn’t fall outside the designated eight-hour window.
Here’s how it went.
Before starting my fast, I checked in with the doctor Krista Varady, one of the first researchers to study intermittent fasting in humans. I also had a standard checkup with my primary-care doctor.
- University of Illinois at Chicago
Varady is a nutrition professor at the University of Illinois and wrote a book about fasting called “The Every-Other-Day Diet” in 2013. She told me the most scientifically supported benefit of intermittent fasting was weight loss.
Most of Varady’s IF research has involved obese people. Study subjects have lost a significant amount of weight – roughly the same amount they would have on a traditional diet that involves strict eating and calorie counting.
I told Varady I was trying out the diet not to lose weight but rather to find out how feasible the plan was. She said that while certain people shouldn’t try intermittent fasting – those over 70, people with Type 1 diabetes, and women who are pregnant or lactating – “most people can give it a try.”
Some research suggests that intermittent fasting has a handful of other benefits, from increased focus to a reduced risk of certain diseases. Some studies even suggest it may help prolong life, but most of that research has been in animals, not people.
- Melia Robinson
Anecdotally, intermittent fasters report that their diets have helped them become more productive, build muscle faster, and sleep better. Members of a Silicon Valley startup called HVMN skip eating on Tuesdays and claim they get more work done on that day than any other.
Varady said hundreds of people in her studies had reported similar benefits. “But we haven’t studied or quantified any of that yet,” she said.
With the go-ahead from my doctor and Varady, I was ready to find out for myself. Based on advice from other IF fans, I chose to break my daily fast at noon and stop eating at 8 p.m., giving me eight hours to eat or “feed.”
- Flickr/Molly Elliott
I wanted the last meal before my first 16-hour fast to be good, so I made one of my favorites: homemade pizza with arugula and chicken breast.
My first day of fasting began with an iced coffee. Intermittent fasters are allowed to drink fluids including tea and coffee during the fast, but no sugar or cream is allowed.
- Getty Images/Justin Sullivan
Then I headed to a morning yoga class. I have to admit feeling a little trepidatious about exercising without my typical morning fuel.
My workout went better than I expected. The hunger pangs I felt during the warmup quickly faded. During class, I felt more energized than usual. At work afterward, I didn’t start to feel peckish until 10 a.m., so I poured myself another black coffee.
The coffee helped curb the cravings for a while, but I started to feel ravenous at about 11 a.m. At 11:45, I set a timer on my phone for 15 minutes.
Finally, it was noon. I ate the lunch I’d prepared: a salad of spinach, chicken breast, cheese, and a banana for dessert. I savored the sweet taste of victory: My first 16-hour fast was over. But I wasn’t prepared for what happened next.
- Erin Brodwin / Business Insider
About 30 minutes after inhaling my meal, I started to feel dazed. I had trouble focusing. My hands and fingers, which are normally a bit cold, felt like ice. I wasn’t hungry, but I suddenly felt as if I hadn’t eaten in days. On a tip from a practiced intermittent faster, I went for a long walk.
- Erin Brodwin / Business Insider
About 20 minutes into my walk, I began to feel slightly better, but I still couldn’t really focus. When I got back to the office, I managed to get a few things done but still didn’t feel like myself.
Later that day, the fog faded and I felt normal again. Soon after that I found myself plowing through work with more energy than usual. Around dinner time, I noticed another change — I didn’t feel as ravenous as I usually do. So I warmed up a couple of pieces of leftover pizza and skipped my usual dessert.
The next day, I woke up determined not to be thwarted by the previous episode of brain fog. For lunch, instead of a container full of lettuce and a bit of chicken, I had a hearty bowl featuring loads of grilled chicken, half an avocado, cheese, veggies, and black beans.
- Erin Brodwin / Business Insider
After lunch, I felt great. I was focused, full, and ready for an afternoon of work.
That evening, however, I encountered my first challenge: dinner with friends.
Luckily, the friends who invited me over wanted to eat at about 7, well within my “feeding window.” We planned to order takeout, but, unfortunately, some of us arrived late. By the time we ordered, it was 8 p.m., and the food didn’t arrive until 8:30 (after I was supposed to stop eating for the day).
It felt weird to refrain from eating with everyone, so I decided that the next day I would break my fast an hour later to make up for it.
But delaying my break-fast was a mistake. By 10:30, my stomach was growling. I couldn’t think about anything other than food. I kept drinking coffee and water, hoping I could quell my appetite with liquids and caffeine.
- Erin Brodwin / Business Insider
By 11:45 a.m., I was ravenous and shaking from all the coffee. I decided to eat at noon again despite the promise I’d made the night before. The rest of the day went all right, and for dinner I heated up a frozen meal from Trader Joe’s.
The next day I faced my second challenge: traveling while fasting. My office had an overnight work retreat planned, and everyone was ready to pile in the car around noon — the exact time I was supposed to break my fast.
- Erin Brodwin / Business Insider
In a rush, I grabbed a Clif bar, a handful of almonds, and some seaweed snacks from my desk. I scarfed it all down as we drove.
When we arrived, we went for a hike in California’s Año Nuevo state park. It was gorgeous and I was feeling energized and happy — despite the fact that I’d also worked out in the morning and had hardly eaten.
- Melia Robinson / Business Insider
Some of the intermittent fasters I spoke with told me they preferred to work out in the middle of their fast since exercising in that state gave them more energy during heavy bouts of training.
The science doesn’t necessarily support this, however. In one large recent study, scientists reviewed several studies of Muslim athletes. They had been practicing one of the oldest forms of intermittent fasting – abstaining from food and drink from sunrise to sunset during the holy month of Ramadan.
The reviewers found that as long as the athletes ate the same number of calories and nutrients when they broke their fasts, their athletic performance didn’t suffer or improve during Ramadan.
After the hike, my coworkers and I met up for dinner at a taco joint. When we arrived, I was famished. Instead of being polite, I marched to the front of the line and was first to order.
- Melia Robinson / Business Insider
I got two chicken tacos, chips and salsa, and a side of refried beans.
When I took a bite, the flavor of the grilled chicken seemed to dance on my taste buds. The corn tortillas were soft, light, and delicious. The beans were hearty and had a kick of spiciness that I loved.
I realized I was tasting the food more intensely than usual – as if my senses were heightened. Perhaps narrowing my eating to a specific window of time made me pay more attention to my food. It seemed to make the act of eating more enjoyable, too.
After the meal, I was stuffed. My coworkers decided to make s’mores, but by then it was 9:30 p.m. — well past my eating time. I didn’t want to miss out, so I headed over to the campfire and helped other people roast their ‘mallows.
That night, I went to bed feeling great about my self-control. When I arrived at the conference center my office had booked for our retreat, however, I couldn’t help staring at the breakfast spread.
- Personal Creations/Flickr (CC)
There was fresh fruit, yogurt, and a plate of whole-grain muffins that looked as if they’d been baked that morning. I was tempted but moved on.
Around 11, I was hungry and decided I’d earned a small cheat, so I added almond milk to my second cup of coffee. It tasted sweet, nutty, and wholesome – and after skipping out on s’mores, I didn’t feel guilty.
The day before, I’d made a mistake in assuming that I’d be able to eat lunch right at noon. This time, I prepared by saving some nuts as an emergency snack.
That turned out to be a good idea. My meetings ran well past noon, but I was able to break my fast with a hearty snack. When lunch arrived, I was still hungry and ate a blackened-salmon burger with salad and some berries. I felt as if I could have kept eating for hours but tried to control myself.
After lunch, someone broke out the rest of the s’mores supplies, and this time I could enjoy the treats.
- Melia Robinson / Business Insider
After a couple of raw s’mores, I was feeling a little giddy from all the sugar.
When I got home after my office retreat, I wasn’t super hungry but didn’t want to miss my window for dinner. So I made some scrambled eggs and smoked salmon on toast.
- Erin Brodwin / Business Insider
The next day, I hit the gym in the morning with more energy than usual. I powered through about twice the miles I normally do on the stationary bike, then ran a few errands. I broke my fast at noon with a small plain yogurt, but then oddly forgot to eat for the rest of the day. I had a few bites of chicken breast and veggies at about 5 but wasn’t hungry. It was a mistake I’d pay for later.
My lack of appetite is one of the reasons I think people would be drawn to intermittent fasting. Though the idea of a “fast” – which implies denying yourself food – sounds tough, I did occasionally experience less hunger overall when I did eat.
The next day started out well. I had pizza, my first meal of the day, around 12:15 p.m. But afterward I had a strong and unusual craving for something sweet, so I stopped by a newly opened bakery.
To celebrate the store’s opening, there were plates stacked high with free alfajores – delicious South American cookies sandwiched together with a layer of dulce de leche. I quickly polished off four alfajores, which I later calculated had more calories than one of my normal meals – and way more sugar and refined carbs than I would normally eat in a day. But hey – I didn’t break my diet!
That night after dinner, my sweet tooth had yet to be satiated. Around 11 p.m. — three hours past my eating window — I was overwhelmed by a craving-fueled urge to make s’mores. Armed with the leftover supplies from my work retreat, I fired up the stove.
- Erin Brodwin / Business Insider
By midnight, I’d eaten four s’mores and some vanilla ice cream, and felt as if I could keep going. Only my lack of supplies stopped me. I love sweets, but this was abnormal even for me. It was as if my stomach had no bottom. All I wanted was more chocolate.
The next day, I felt guilty and went back to my fasting routine. I skipped breakfast and broke my fast at noon with a healthy-but-hearty lunch: turkey breast, cabbage, spinach, a scoop of egg salad, and some hummus.
- Erin Brodwin / Business Insider
Afterward, I felt much better than I had for the previous 24 hours. The problem with sweets (like the ones I’d gorged on) is that they’re high in refined carbs and sugar, neither of which fill you up or fuel your body long term.
My guess is that after I forgot to eat, my body went into starvation mode. Then, when I consumed heavy, rich treats, it went into overdrive and started craving more and more of them.
For the next two days, I ate healthy, filling meals. I made salads full of beans, chickpeas, and lean meats or eggs; whole-grain pasta with chicken breast; and vegetable stir-fry with brown rice and tofu. I also drank a ton of water — sometimes up to 15 glasses a day.
Varady told me that not drinking enough water was a central pitfall of the diet. “Many people who try the diet complain of things like headaches. But the problem is a lot of them aren’t drinking enough water,” she said.
Roughly 20% of our daily fluid intake comes from food, so if you’re fasting, you may need to add a few glasses of water to your day.
Overall, I learned a lot about my body by trying intermittent fasting, but it was one of the hardest things I’ve done.
- Flickr/With Wind
When I stick to a fairly healthy diet full of vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats (avocados and nuts), vegetables, and small amounts of lean meat and dairy, I feel good – no matter when I eat.
And when I eat like that, I can enjoy the occasional sweet treat – be it a s’more or an alfajor. But when I get too rigid with my eating by denying myself certain things, or when I forget to eat altogether, it puts me in a danger zone where I crave unhealthy foods that ultimately don’t nourish my body.
I don’t think intermittent fasting is the right eating plan for me, but I see how it could work wonders for some. It reduced my opportunities to snack, curbed my appetite (at least on the days when I followed it properly), and pushed me to focus on and enjoy my food when I did eat.
- Erin Brodwin
Intermittent fasting also appeared to eliminate my late-night snacking habit and seemed to give me more energy throughout the day. I’m glad I gave it a shot, but for now, I’m back to three meals a day – plus the occasional sweet treat.