Fasting can be a fraught topic in the health and wellness industry. It is often confused with dieting and starvation, but it is neither. Many health practitioners are wary of recommending it due to the stigma of advising someone to eat less. However, that doesn’t change the fact that fasting has a lot of health benefits that are backed by scientific research. In this blog post, let’s take a closer look at fasting, some of the health benefits and two effective fasting methods.
We all naturally fast from dinner to breakfast, but extending our fasting periods has been shown to be a powerful tool in reaching optimum health. Here are just a handful of the health benefits of fasting:
Healthy Weight Loss:
Research studies have shown that fasting as a method for weight loss is a much healthier option than dieting. This is because it causes less muscle loss and more fat loss, especially of the most harmful types of fat like abdominal fat. Naturally, fasting will cause your overall caloric intake to be lowered, unless you overcompensate by eating bigger meals. Fasting also improves your metabolic rate, helping you to burn more calories than you would otherwise.
Improved Insulin Sensitivity:
Studies have also demonstrated that fasting has a positive effect on insulin sensitivity. After a fasting period, insulin levels in the blood drop significantly. This means your body can tolerate sugars better, although this was only true for men. One study showed that alternate day fasting made blood sugar control worse in women, you can read the findings of the study here.
While there have been no studies done on how fasting affects human lifespan, one study did show that alternate day fasting increased the lifespan of a rat by 83%. It makes sense that fasting would have positive effects on longevity though, as fasting increases your metabolism. A slowing metabolism is a part of the ageing process, and obviously the less you eat, the less of a toll there is on your digestive system. Fasting has become a favourite in the anti-aging community because of the link between fasting and the lengthening of telomeres. You can read an in depth article about it here.
Since we automate a lot of our daily lives, many of us are out of touch with our bodies. Hunger is a great example, because many of us eat at set meal times, before we’ve managed to feel truly hungry. It’s impossible to feel true hunger when there’s only around four hours between your meals, so fasting gives your body the chance to regulate itself to release the correct hormones in order to communicate to you that it’s ready for food.
Improved Brain Function:
Studies of rats and mice have shown that fasting could have significant benefits for brain health. These studies have shown that it might increase the growth of new neurons and protect the brain from degenerative diseases like Alzheimers and Parkinsons. Fasting also increases the production of called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which can be protective against depression.
Fasting helps to clear up the skin because once your body is free from digestion, it can regenerate other systems of the body. Even a short fast of sixteen hours can give your body the chance to work on detoxing the liver and kidneys.
There is a variety of fasting methods like alternate day fasting, the daniel fast, the 5:2 fast and the warrior method, but let’s focus on the two most common styles, intermittent fasting and long term (21-40 days of) fasting.
An Overview of Intermittent Fasting:
Intermittent Fasting, also referred to as IF, is a healthy and easy way to add the benefits of fasting into your life. I personally include regular 16 hour fasts into my weekly routine. I finish dinner by 8pm, set my phone’s timer to 16 hours and only drink water or tea until noon the next day. I find it easy to follow this regimen. I recommend trying this out and adjusting until you find what works best for you. Also, please note that women can benefit more from shorter 14 hour fasts. If you feel that 16 hours is simply too long for you, by all means start by doing this. The only difference is you’ll start eating again at 10 am, instead of at noon. To break your self I recommend a fruit meal, my favourite fruit salad at the moment is banana, apple, pear, kiwi and orange topped with thawed frozen berries and some dried cranberries.
An Overview of Longer Term Fasting:
You may have seen our practitioner, Dan recently completed a forty day water fast. If you’d like to read more about his experience, you can start with this post. We don’t generally recommend long term fasts, especially unsupervised. However, if you feel that fasting for an extended period is right for you, please book a consultation with one of our practitioners to discuss before you begin.