The latest diet to catch the attention of Hollywood hunks and scientists alike may be surprising: Simply skip a few meals a week.
According to The New York Times, fasting diets might actually have benefits beyond weight loss. Neurologist Mark Mattson notes that drastically cutting down food intake for controlled periods of time could possibly increase longevity and ward off diseases such as cancer and diabetes.
“From an evolutionary perspective, it’s pretty clear that our ancestors did not eat three meals a day plus snacks,” Mattson told the Times, referencing how hunter-gatherers would only feast sporadically, therefore training their bodies to store and use nutrients accordingly.
One diet in particular, the 5:2 diet, has helped some of Hollywood’s biggest names shed pounds and get into healthy routines. The strategy involves eating regularly for five days of the week and limiting caloric intake to less than 500 calories for the two other days.
“On Monday and Thursday, I eat fewer than 500 calories a day, then I eat like a pig for the other five days,” Jimmy Kimmel told Men’s Journal in January. “You ‘surprise’ the body, keep it guessing. I got the idea from a BBC documentary about this Indian man who seemed about 138 years old, and said his secret was severe calorie restriction. Some people have a photo of Daniel Craig or Hugh Jackman pinned up on the fridge for inspiration. I have Gandhi.”
The regimen has helped Kimmel, 48, lose more than 25 pounds over the course of several years.
Jackman, 47, practices his own version of fasting, following David Zinczenco’s The 8-Hour Diet, which involves eating within an eight-hour window and then fasting for the next 16.
“I haven’t put on nearly the amount of fat I normally would,” the Wolverine actor told Men’s Fitness. “And the great thing about this diet is I sleep so much better.”
According to Mattson, “there is overlap between the way cells respond to exercise, to fasting and even to exposure to some of the chemicals in fruits and vegetables,” which explains why fasting in controlled intervals may improve health.
Not that results will happen overnight, he clarified.
“If you’ve been sedentary for years and then you go out and try to run 5 miles, you’re not going to feel very good until you get in shape,” he said. “It’s not going to be a smooth transition right away. It takes two weeks to a month to adapt.”
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