Dr. Myles Spar, MD, MPH, is Vault Health Inc.’s Chief Medical Officer and the author of a comprehensive Oxford University Press book on Optimal Men’s Health.
When it comes to optimizing your health, there are several actions you can take to help you feel great and perform at your best. Whether you’re on testosterone replacement therapy or not, getting adequate sleep, exercising regularly, and eating a smart and balanced diet will go a long way in regards to boosting your performance and well-being.
For many men, optimizing their health starts with diet. What you put into your body can have a significant impact on your quality of life. While what diet you follow can be individualized according to your genetic and personal health histories, there is one effective modification that can be extremely beneficial for most people—intermittent fasting.
Vault providers often recommend intermittent fasting because it’s a simple modification that’s easy to follow and extremely effective. Unless you’re an endurance athlete, younger than 21, or need to follow a specific diet due to medication, you will gain significant benefits from intermittent fasting.
In simple terms, intermittent fasting works by giving your body a long enough break from eating so that it can decrease the toxicity that naturally builds up over time. In this way, it’s kind of like a cellular detox.
One of the easiest ways to implement intermittent fasting into your routine is by fasting for 16 hours every day and compressing your eating window to just 8 hours. For most men, this means skipping breakfast and breaking your fast around 12 o’clock with lunch, after which you stop eating around 8 PM (yes, this means no late-night snacking). Not only will this sixteen hour fasting period give your body the chance it needs to detoxify, but it will also help you lose weight as your system begins to burn fat rather than blood sugar as fuel.
The benefits don’t stop there, either. If you keep intermittent fasting up over time, your body will actually learn how to become more efficient. At a cellular level, this results in cleaning out the junk cells and debris that are pro-aging and pro-inflammatory in a process called autophagy, which ultimately benefits your longevity. In fact, there are lots of studies showing that intermittent fasting and decreasing your overall caloric intake will extend your lifespan.
If a 16-hour fast and 8-hour feeding window just isn’t your jam, you can always do a full-day fast a couple of times a week instead. This method is often referred to as 5:2 intermittent fasting. With this method, you would fast for 24-hours at a time, two days a week, like Mondays and Thursdays, for example.
5:2 fasting schedules are just as effective as 16-hour fasts. Which method is better for you simply depends on which routine better fits your lifestyle and schedule. In practice, both approaches are effective diets for weight loss, reducing blood sugar and blood pressure, and increasing lifespan.
Overall, intermittent fasting is a fantastic approach that almost everyone can benefit from. However, an important note to make is that intermittent fasting does not give you a license to eat whatever you want during that 8-hour window (or during the 5-day feeding schedule if you follow the 5:2 approach).
The point is not to cram three meals into an eight-hours, or seven days worth of food into just five days. Eating normal, healthy meals is a crucial part of the intermittent fasting approach–so make sure to still meet your daily fruit and veggie requirements. If you do, you’re likely to experience its benefits in spades.