Dietary interventions have been around since ancient times. Fasting, an ancient practice which is associated with the Lenten celebration of the Christians and Ramadan for Muslims, is also practiced in other religions and cultures or philosophies such as Buddhism, Taoism, Judaism, Jainism, and Hinduism.
Fasting is the willingness to abstain from food completely or partially to achieve massive health or spirituality. In the past, it’s used to be the practice of monks and other people of faith. Intermittent fasting, which is a cycle of feasting and fasting, is our ancestor’s way of restoring the body in a natural state. Common fasting periods last for one day to three days.
Today, regardless of their religious convictions, individuals perform fasting to regain back their health. Science starts to embrace fasting to stave off diseases, lose excess weight, and stay healthy. Yet, despite weight loss studies that provide positive results, some people are still baffled whether or not to include fasting in their weight loss regimen. This is because lots of weight loss myths and possible side effects are linked to intermittent fasting. These myths include the slowing of metabolism, not skipping breakfast since it’s the most important meal of the day, and binge eating to avoid a sugar crash or drained energy later in the day.
But scientists insist that fasting, especially intermittent fasting, is the surest and safest way to lose weight. According to them, the absence of food in the body is necessary for biological repair and rejuvenation processes to take place. And that the body has been designed to burn healthy fats as fuel as well as to cycle through fast and famine. They even recommend that 20 to 21 hours of fast gives you the ability to transition to more extended fasts without fearing of side effects.
Since fasting is associated with weight loss, people believed that it’s only for those who have excess weight. But scientists also recommend multiday fasting to people with an ideal weight to help the body regulate autophagy and mitophagy functions and remove damaged senescent cells, including the premalignant ones. Multiday fasting also reduces cancer risks and extends life span.
Lots of people are embracing multiday fasting. Even Silicon Valley considers it as biohacking. Evernote executive Phil Libin who tried fasting described the experience as transformative while losing 90 pounds. Others reveal weight loss, fewer mood swings, and improved productivity. Some of the significant effects of fasting are the following:
Health Benefits of Fasting
1. Boosts brainpower
New research has revealed that fasting changes brain chemistry thereby improving memory and learning. When you fast, levels of a certain kind of protein increase and promote neuron growth-boosting brain function.
2. Fasting helps access your stored energy
Contrary to the old belief, fasting can’t leave you lethargic and drained of energy. Experts say that your basal metabolic rate increases up to 10 percent after 4 days of fasting. It’s because after it has burned food, it starts to burn body fat giving way to access the energy that’s been lodged in your body. The insulin also does its part by telling your body whether to store energy or burn it. Higher levels of insulin urge your body to store energy, while lower levels urge your body to release energy.
3. Fasting improves mitochondrial function
Extended fasting improves your self-control. Knowing you can go on days without food can make you feel at ease when you’re traveling and can’t find healthy food or in a disaster situation where food is unavailable for days.
4. Blood sugar control
Studies show that intermittent fasting decreases blood sugar levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes and also reduces insulin resistance.
5. Improves blood pressure and promotes heart health
Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. High blood pressure, high levels of bad cholesterol and diabetes prevents proper blood flow, which puts a strain on the heart and results in heart problems. Modifying one’s diet is one of the ways to prevent the risk factors for heart disease. Some studies revealed that obese participants who performed intermittent fasting were able to reduce their LDL cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and triglyceride levels.
6. Fights inflammation
Chronic inflammation increases the risk of serious diseases. But intermittent fasting can reduce inflammation, thereby, reducing your risk of developing serious health problems like cancer and rheumatoid arthritis according to research.
Types of Fasting Methods
This method is limited to water intake only. You don’t drink other beverages or eat food for a specific period. Fasting could last a total of 24 to 72 hours. But water fast isn’t recommended without medical supervision to avoid health risks. If you want to try a water fast, you can add a beverage variation like herbal tea and coffee without sweeteners or milk.
Bone broth contains lots of proteins that can trick your body into believing it’s not fasting at all. Add it to water, tea, and coffee.
Healthy fats such as coconut oil or butter added to black coffee or tea is another good variation. Avocado also makes fasting experience a lot easier.
This involves eliminating certain foods or drinks from your diets such as processed foods, animal products and caffeinated beverages for a set period.
Avoiding foods with high caloric content for a few days, weeks or months.
The best way to start intermittent fasting is to follow the “peak fasting” strategy, which is fasting from 14 to 21 hours each day or skipping one meal a day. This is a gradual process of pushing back the time you eat breakfast until you eliminate it completely and have only lunch and dinner.
On the other hand, dinner should be taken three hours before bedtime to prevent mitochondria from producing harmful free radicals and prevent cellular damage from happening.
Once you’re okay with intermittent fasting, you can extend the length of time you’re not taking food. Try it for a month or two. Then increase the period, say fasting for three to four days with water and mineral supplements. Doing this significantly decreases side effects.