Fasting has been gaining popularity in recent years. It has been around for centuries, yet it’s remarkable scientists are just now uncovering this possible health cure. With obesity rates at an all time high, many people are looking for ways to lose weight and become healthier. Fasting may just be the solution to their problems. It has so many benefits with more being discovered every day.
Fasting is choosing not to eat for a long period of time, such as 24-48 hours. Intermittent fasting is choosing to skip certain meals and eating during a certain time frame. It’s not a starvation diet.
You eat regular meals, but normally during a 6-8 hour window. You have a lot of options when it comes to intermittent fasting compared to typical diets. There are several different fasting protocols that people can adhere to. Each intermittent fasting protocol calls for following certain guidelines.
Types of Fasts
Partial Fasts- During a partial fast, you exclude certain foods for a specific period of time.
Long Term Fasts- These longer fasts last from 24 hours to 72 typically, but they could be up to 7 days. Most fasts that go on longer than 7 days are of the religious nature. On a long term fast you can’t have any foods or drinks that contain calories.You can drink water, black coffee, bone broth, and some types of tea.
One Meal a Day- During this fast, you only eat one meal a day or during a two hour period and fast the other 22 hours of the day.
5:2 Fast- On this fast, you eat normal five days a week, and fast on the other two.
Time Restricted Fasts- Most intermittent fasting protocols are time restricted. You eat all your meals in during a specific time frame such as a 4,6, or 8 hour period. For the rest of the day you don’t eat and only drink water, coffee, or tea. Examples of time restricted fasts are ‘Eat, Stop, Eat’, Leangains, and the 16:8 Fast. On these plans, you would skip breakfast, eat lunch at noon, then have your last meal before 8 P.M. Obviously, you could change the plan to eat breakfast and lunch, then skip dinner. You could even have snacks during this eight hour eating window. It's really flexible.
Warrior Diet- On the Warrior diet, people eat very little food throughout the day. They can have small portions of vegetables, fruit, nuts, eggs or protein shakes during the day. At night, they have a four hour window to eat the majority of their food.
Religious Fasts- These fasts are done for religious or spiritual reasons. They are longer and call for eating no food, eating at certain times of the day, or restricting what foods and drinks you have.
These aren’t done for weight loss or the health benefits, but they’re just an added bonus. This isn’t the type of fasting we’re referring to when we use the word ‘fasting’ in this article.
There are probably other fasts being developed and implemented right now. The time restricted fasts seem to be the most popular. Many of the entrepreneur elite of Silicon Valley are taking to using fasts.
Possible Benefits of Fasting
Weight Loss and Fat Burning
When you go on a fast, your body has time to use all the food you’ve ate for energy, then it turns to body fat stores. If you eat all day, your body never has to burn fat for energy. That is why fasting is so incredible for fat and weight loss. In theory, it takes 3500 calories burned to lose one pound of fat.
If you consume 500 less calories a day for a week, this equates to about one pound of fat loss in a week. If you did this for an entire year, you could lose up to 52 pounds. You could also do two 24 hour fasts a week and get similar results. That’s pretty exciting news for those looking to fasting for weight loss.
Prevention of Liver disease
Fasting can slow down the absorption and storage of fats in the liver. Too much fat stored in the liver can lead to liver disease.
Improved Brain Health, cognition, and prevention of Neurodegenerative disorders
Fasting has been shown to increase the production of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor. This protein could help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, Dementia, and Parkinson’s disease by reducing inflammation in the brain and protecting the nerve cells from dysfunction and neurodegeneration. Fasting could also lead to neurogenesis, where new connections are established in the brain. All these factors could lead to increased cognitive ability and mental focus.
Fights Aging and Add Years To Your Life
In several studies, lab animals reportedly lived longer their projected lifespans when they were on a calorie restricted diet. This increased life span could be due to several factors. When fasting, you digest less calories decreasing the foods that could clog your blood vessels. When you’re not digesting foods, your body undergoes autophagy.
Autophagy is a cellular cleansing process where your body repairs damaged cells and gets rid of toxins. The process of Autophagy has a lot of benefits. It could help keep you looking younger, fight pathogens like cancer, decrease inflammation, and improve your immune system function.
When you are in a fasted state, your growth hormone levels surge. Growth hormone has been shown to possibly slow down the aging process and promote fat loss.
Lower Insulin and Blood Glucose Levels
When you eat, your pancreas produces insulin. Insulin is the hormone your body uses to transport glucose to your muscle, fat, and liver cells for fuel. Glucose is what your body uses for energy. When you’re body doesn’t need more glucose for energy, it is stored in your liver in the form of glycogen.
When glycogen levels are full, your liver signals insulin to store the excess glucose as fat cells. When fasting you reduce the amount of glucose and glycogen in your system, so insulin levels remain stable and you don’t store body fat. The role of fasting in manipulating the hormone insulin could help in the reversal of diabetes.
Cancer cells feed off simple sugars (glucose) to live and multiply. When you fast, you reduce the amount of glucose available for cancer cells to form and grow. The process of autophagy also helps fight off cancer. During autophagy, the cellular cleansing and DNA repair of your cells makes them less likely to become cancerous.
Improved Cardiovascular Health
Fasting lowers cholesterol, blood pressure, and it burns fat cells which are all important for cardiovascular health. When your body experiences the stress of hunger, it releases cholesterol so your body utilizes fat as energy. Two of the main culprits of cardiovascular disease are excessive body fat and diabetes. Since fasting can significantly reduce body fat levels and your risk of diabetes, you chances of cardiovascular disease are decreased.
Along with these benefits, you will save money on groceries, save time, have less dishes to do and it’s simple to follow.
Negative effects of Fasting
It’s going to require some self control and discipline. You may be tempted to eat some unhealthy foods when you’re really hungry. Your stomach may roll and hurt at times until you get used to it. You may also get dizzy and feel light headed at times. Some people experience hallucinations when on multi-day fasts.
Your workouts are going to suffer when you exercise on a long fast. Even for shorter intermittent fasts, you may have diminished strength. Shorter intermittent fasts don’t have as many negative effects as long term fasts. Some of these symptoms could go away after you get more accustomed to being in a fasted state.
With all the potential benefits of fasting, you might want to give it a try if your goal is long term health and weight loss.