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Are There Benefits To Fasting?

May 09, 2023 3 min read

Of the many diets and lifestyles revolving around eating, intermittent fasting is probably one of the most recognized today. Intermittent fasting is practicing an alternating schedule between voluntary fasting and eating over a given period of time. The idea of voluntarily not eating for extended periods of time may seem crazy to you, but there are numerous benefits of fasting that have been discovered over the years.

The History Behind The Science

Did you know that humans are actually able to go without food for many hours and even several days? This is because in ancient times, we used to hunt and gather for our food. Searching for animals to hunt or berries and nuts to gather took a lot of time and energy. Before food was readily available at all times our bodies learned to function without food for extended periods of time.

According toJohns Hopkins Medicine, even as soon as 50 years ago, humans more easily maintained a healthy weight because there was not a ‘24/7’ lifestyle. At night, things like television shows and activities ended at 11pm, whereas today, you can stay up scrolling or watching tv all night long. Being awake for longer and sitting sedentary can lead to the urge to snack and eat more frequently.

More calories and less activity leads to a larger increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other illnesses. Many scientific studies are showing that fasting is helping to reverse these trends.

The Science Behind Fasting 

Fasting for longer periods of time between eating allows the body to run through its sugar stores and to start burning fat instead. This process is called metabolic switching. This not only helps you lose weight because you are eating fewer calories, but it also can reduce inflammation and help with healthy cell development.

Different Ways To Fast

Intermittent fasting can be tailored to an individual’s lifestyle needs. While fasting it is extra important to drink a lot of water to keep your body functioning.

The 12/12 Approach:This method is good for beginner fasters or for working your way into more aggressive fasting. This is where an individual will only eat during a 12 hour period each day. For example, from 8 am to 8 pm. The eating window can be any time frame, as long as it is 12 hours. 

The 16/8 Approach: This is where an individual will only eat during an 8 hour period each day. For example, all of their meals will happen between 12 pm and 8 pm. The eating window can be any time frame, as long as it is 8 hours. 

The 5:2 Method: This method is practiced by eating regularly 5 days of the week, but the other two days only eating 1 meal of around 500-600 calories.

Longer Fasting (24-72 hours): This method should only be used sparingly or by experienced fasters. A 24 hour fast should be completed no more than 2 times per week (ideally 1 time) and a fast lasting longer than 24 hours should only be completed once per month. If done too frequently, it could have a reverse effect. Your body could think it is in starvation mode and actually store the fat more easily in response.

Benefits of Fasting:

Improved thinking and memory.

Improved heart health including blood pressure and resting heart rates.

Improved physical performance especially when it comes to fat loss while maintaining muscle mass and endurance in running.

Reduction in risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Improved tissue health.

Is fasting safe?

Fasting may not be safe for everyone and you should consult a doctor before starting it.

Some groups such as the following should not try intermittent fasting:

  • Children under the age of 18
  • Pregnant/breastfeeding women
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • History of eating disorders

According toMayo Clinic It can have different effects on different people such as anxiety, headaches, nausea, insomnia and fatigue in the first month. It usually takes about a month for the body to adjust to the change, but once it does most people have no problem continuing these eating patterns for long periods of time.