Benefits of Fasting: How to Fast for Overall Health?

When people think of fasting, they usually refer to the month of Ramadan.

During this period, Muslims around the world engage in a declaration of faith involving abstaining from food and drink from dawn until dusk.

Nowadays, however, there are many other fasting diets that claim there are numerous benefits of fasting [1].

One of the most popular and well-known fasting diet is the 5:2 diet.

The plan involves consuming the normal and recommended calorie intake for 5 days a week, but then reducing the calorie intake to 25% for two days.

That translates to 500 calories per day for women, and 600 for men.

People that have tried the 5:2 diet, or any other fasting diets, say that there benefits of fasting like improvements in blood pressure levels, improvement in cholesterol level, improvements in their insulin sensitivity [2].

In most cases, people opt for a fasting diet due to losing weight.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at how fasting can help, what are the risks, benefits of fasting, and what are some different fasting diets.

How fasting helps?

benefits of fasting

During fasting period, our body cannot get energy from food.

Therefore, it dips into glucose that is stored in the liver and in the muscles.

Our body will start looking for alternative sources of energy eight hours after the last meal is consumed.

Once our body uses up the stored glucose, it begins burning fat as a source of energy [3].

The result is weight loss [4].

And because our body burns fat for energy, fasting can also reduce cholesterol levels.

During this period, a detoxification process can also occur, because the toxins stored in the fat are dissolved and removed from the body.

What are the risks of fasting?

Intermittent fasting is not all bells and whistles.

There are also potential side effects and risks associated with fasting.

Among the biggest risks is that people who go on a fasting diet often experience dehydration.

That is because you are depriving your body from any fluids.

Therefore, for Muslims, it is recommended that they drink plenty of water prior the fasting period.

Individuals going on a fasting diet should also prepare their body for what follows.

Another challenge is getting used to new habits.

For example, most of us are used to get breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks in between.

Because we are avoiding food, fasting can increase stress levels and disrupt sleep.

Combine dehydration, hunger, lack of sleep, and food craving, and you have a recipe for constant headaches.

On a more serious note, fasting can cause heartburn, because there is a reduction in stomach acid.

The appeal of fasting is that it provides a way for quick weight loss.

But some nutritionists believe it is more of a fluid loss, not weight loss.

Different fasting methods

As mentioned previously, there are different types of fasting diets you can try.

It all depends on your preference.

Intermittent fasting

Known as cyclic fasting, this diet is known for eating and not eating intermittently.

When you think about it, all of the other fasting diets are some form and variation of the intermittent fasting method.

The typical intermittent fast times can range between 14 and 18 hours.

Time-restricted fasting

Practicing time-restricted eating means that you fast anywhere between 12 and 16 hours.

During the period you are allowed to eat, you can consume as much of your favorite healthy foods as you would like.

Because of that, the time-restricted eating is one of the most common and popular methods.

It is pretty simple to implement.

Finish dinner at 6pm, and you shouldn’t eat anything up to 6am.

For those that want to take things to the next level, you can abstain from eating up until 10am, or 11am.

Being that you sleep for most of the fasting period, the time-restricted eating is a great way to introduce fasting in your lifestyle.

The 16/8 fasting

Simply put, a different name for the time-restricted eating.

You fast for 16 hours, and eat for the remaining eight hours.

Alternate days eating

During the alternate day fasting, you restrict amount of calories during fasting days, and then consume normal amount of calories during eating days.

The goal is to restrict your calorie intake during fasting days to 500 calories for women and 600 for men, or 25% of the normal amount of calorie intake.

The 5:2 Diet

This is one of the most popular fasting diets. It is similar to alternate day fasting, but you have a strict rule of two days fasting per week, and eight days of normal eating.

The Warrior Diet

Probably one of the easiest fasting diets for implementing.

For one simple reason, and that is you can eat the entire day.

The trick is you stick to vegetables and fruits during the day.

Once your dinner comes, treat yourself with a well-rounded meal.

The Benefits

fasting

Weight loss

Studies have shown that fasting is a great way to reduce your weight [5].

Some would say it is liquid loss, but it results in weight loss nevertheless.

A study has shown that you can lose up to 12 pounds and 7% of fat with alternate day fasting.

Another study has shown that following a five-day fasting period once every three months can reduce inflammation and help you lose up to six pounds [6].

Promotes human growth hormone production

The human growth hormone is naturally produced by the body.

However, it remains active for just a few minutes and it is effectively used to treat obesity.

Fasting helps your body produce more of the hormone, and keep it in the bloodstream for longer period.

HGH also increases muscle strength.

Helps with insulin sensitivity

As mentioned in the beginning, fasting can help reduce insulin sensitivity levels.

When your body gets too many carbs, it can become resistant to insulin.

Insulin sensitivity is a door to chronic diseases like diabetes type 2.

Intermittent fasting in adults with diabetes type 2 has shown some positive results [7].

Fasting also helps reduce visceral fat mass.

Lower triglyceride levels

Higher level of triglycerides, and you have increased risk of high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Intermittent fasting can reduce the amount of triglycerides in your body, essentially lowering the risk of a heart disease [8].

And while fasting reduces bad cholesterol and triglycerides, it does not affect your good cholesterol.

Slow down aging

Among the many benefits of fasting, slowing down aging is something we all want to do.

This claim is yet to be proved on humans.

However, animal studies have shown link between fasting and increased life span [9].

Help with epilepsy

Diabetes type 2 is not the only serious condition fasting can help with.

Epilepsy is another one.

Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which patients suffer from recurrent convulsions that can lead to a transformation in behavior.

Studies show there are benefits of fasting linked with improved brain function, which translates to reduced risk of epilepsy, and a way to treat the condition as well [10].

Improved mental health

After the fasting period, our blood is filled with better levels of endorphins.

That makes us more alert and improves our mental health [11].

The benefits of fasting include healthy aging of the brain due to calorie restriction.

Treat pancreatitis

We mentioned that fasting can cause some digestive problems.

But that is a risk worth taking if the result is treating pancreatitis.

The pancreas is one of the more important organs in our body, responsible for producing digestive juices.

Pancreatitis, or inflammation to the pancreas, is one of the more severe diseases that can occur.

Fasting is an effective therapy, along with intravenous feeding and fluid therapy [12].

Improve your resistance to stress

Fasting can sometimes make you more stressful because of food depriving.

But that is just the initial shock.

There have been several studies that show fasting can actually help with chronic stress [13, 14] .

Clear your skin

Because fasting is essentially a detoxification process, it can help you get rid of toxins and other waste.

This is especially helpful in removing damaged and dysfunctional cells.

Speeding up the waste removal process will result in improvements in your skin health.

That means no acne, and clear and healthy skin.

And that is just one of the many benefits of fasting.

Top 10 Benefits of Fasting

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Sources:

  1. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/11/intermittent-fasting-may-be-center-of-increasing-lifespan/
  2. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/10/171017110041.htm
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3680567/
  4. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319791.php
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26374764
  6. http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/9/377/eaai8700
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5394735/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19793855
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21021020
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10482210
  11. https://www.cnbc.com/2017/10/20/science-diet-fasting-may-be-more-important-than-just-eating-less.html
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2886461/
  13. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17291990/
  14. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S095528630400261X

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