Forget the 5/2, it’s all about the 16/8. No, we’re not talking fractions, we’re talking about the new way to do intermittent fasting for maximum wellness.
While the popular 5/2 diet involves fasting for two days of the week and returning to normal eating habits on the other days, the 16/8 diet breaks fasting down into a matter of hours, eating in an 8-hour window within a 24 hour period (the other 16 hours are nil by mouth – except water, of course).
Allegedly, the 16/8 method results in numerous health benefits including a decreased risk of cancer, superior concentration and an overall longer life. Not bad for a few hours of a rumbly tummy.
But before you start any kind of rationing, is fasting just another wellness fad that attempts to magically cure our collective ailments (not to mention a global obesity crisis)? Or is there some method in the madness?
Are we all going vegan because we care about ethics or simply because it’s trendy?
“When practised long-term, intermittent fasting may have anti-ageing effects and actually increase our lifespan, as fasting can switch on ‘repair’ genes and encourage the body to break down old cells and create new ones. It may even help keep our brain healthy,” explains nutritionist, Cassandra Barns.
This repair process is all down to autophagy, a natural process kickstarted by lack of nutrients, which involves breaking down dead and damaged cells and using them as fuel. While a low level of autophagy occurs in all healthy cells, the process slows as we age and the decline has been linked to various cancers as well as the ageing process itself. As well as breaking down old cells, the body also starts chewing its fat reserves as energy – fat reserves that are linked to various health problems like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
But the real key to a successful 16/8 diet is scheduling in your 8 hours of eating to allow for a few hours of post-waking fasting. We usually wake to a bowl of carbohydrates, providing our body with instantly available, easy energy, but, if you are able to prolong the fast for a few hours in the morning and your body will be running on reserves, maximising the benefits of autophagy.