Fasting misunderstood – fact and benefits!

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Dinner is served 🙂 water fast…

I have just completed my first 48-hour-fast and I do 16-36 hour fasts throughout the week. You can read about my experience fasting for 48 hours in my next post, I am working on it right now and should post it in a day or so.

Why do I fast and what are the benefits? Personally, I fast because the combination of fasting and a proper diet/healthy lifestyle has helped me cure my autoimmune conditions and to heal my gut. However, I believe the benefits go far beyond the ones I have noticed myself.

Through doing reading and research, I have gathered information from different sources that have allowed me to come up with a comprehensive list of key elements for fasting, as well as the benefits fasting has to offer.

One of the common reactions I get when people hear that I am fasting is, “aren’t you just starving all the time?!”. They feel bad for me and see it as a huge burden. Fasting is very different from starvation in one major way – control. Starvation is the absence of food beyond your control. It is not intentional, you are starving because you have no access to food. Fasting, on the other hand, is when someone chooses to withhold food for health, spirituality, etc., so it is a voluntary and controlled process. And if done properly, with the right tools, and an understanding of fasting, it does not cause a loss of energy, uncontrolled hunger, headaches, or even lightheadedness – I know, because I have done it before without the knowledge I have now and I was miserable. And I never fasted after that first experience. Until now.

Another very important misconception I want to briefly address here is that if you fast, your metabolism goes down. It does not! I quote:

“Studies of fasting show that basal metabolism doesn’t shut down during fasting, it revvs itself up. Four consecutive days of fasting increases basal metabolism by 13%.”

“Studies of alternate daily fasting (ADF) shows the same thing. Basal metabolism is maintained, even over 22 days of ADF. Even with weight steadily decreasing, the resting metabolic rate is statistically identical at the end of 22 days.”

From another study: “RMR (resting metabolic rate) was not significantly changed after 3 wk of alternate-day fasting. The effects of 36-h fasts on RMR have not been previously reported. Horton and Hill (29) observed no differences in metabolic rate (measured for 12 h in a metabolic chamber after a mixed meal) between overnight or 3-d fasts.”

  • Intermittent fasting is the ancient secret of health. It is ancient because it has been practiced throughout all of human history. It’s a secret because this powerful habit has been virtually forgotten.
  • Most conventional diets only consider the total caloric value of their foods. However, weight gain is not the result of excess calories, but hormonal effects of the food that instruct our bodies to gain weight. The primary hormone involved is insulin.
  • At its very core, fasting simply allows the body to burn off excess body fat. It is important to realize that this is normal and humans have evolved to fast without detrimental health consequences. Body fat is merely food energy that has been stored away. If you don’t eat, your body will simply “eat” its own fat for energy.
  • When we eat, more food energy is ingested than can immediately be used. Some of this energy must be stored away for later use. Insulin is the key hormone involved in the storage of food energy. Insulin rises when we eat, helping to store the excess energy.
  • Since dietary fat does not require the liver for initial processing, it does not require insulin as a signaling hormone. Thus, dietary fat has almost no effect on insulin levels. Hence the success of Keto diet in weight loss and ability to burn off stored body fat.
  • The process goes in reverse when we do not eat (fasting/intermittent fasting). Insulin levels fall, signaling the body to start burning stored energy as no more is coming through food. Blood glucose falls, so the body must now pull glucose out of storage to burn for energy.
  • The body only really exists in two states – the fed (insulin high) state and the fasted (insulin low) state. Either we are storing food energy, or we are burning it. It’s one or the other. If eating and fasting are balanced, then there is no net weight gain.
  • With intermittent fasting. We alternate feasting and fasting because it keeps insulin levels and insulin resistance lower. This leads to easier weight management.
  • Periods of very low insulin, as can be achieved with fasting, will prevent the development of insulin resistance and help with weight loss efforts in the long term.
  • Glycogen is the principal storage form of glucose in human cells. Glycogen is the most easily accessible energy source. It is broken down into glucose molecules to provide energy for the other cells. This can provide enough energy to power the body for 24-36 hours. After that, the body will start breaking down its own fat for energy.
  • Ketosis occurs when the body has little sugar to burn for fuel. The body produces ketones from fat to power the brain. This can happen in very low carbohydrate diets such as Keto as well as intermittently with fasting. 

Some of the benefits of fasting:

“Researchers at Yale School of Medicine have found that a compound produced by the body when dieting or fasting can block a part of the immune system involved in several inflammatory disorders such as type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, and Alzheimer’s disease.”

  • Improves Insulin Sensitivity
  • Helps in Weight Loss
  • Improves Brain Function
  • Increases Lifespan
  • Helps Clear Skin and Prevent Acne
  • May Aid in Preventing Cancer
  • Helps Body Maintain Lean Muscle Tissue
  • Increases Body’s Resistance to Stress
  • Lowers Risk of Deadly Diseases

The information above came from a few great sources, I wanted to put it all together in one document for easy reference in the future. If you are interested in more in-depth explanations and details, please refer to the following sources:

Dr. Fung’s Intensive Dietary Management (IDM Program) and his books The Obesity Code, The Complete Guide to Fasting and The Diabetes Code, these are all available on Amazon.

I used excerpts from:

  • Bewell.com – a health and wellness website.
  • DietDoctor.com – the largest low-carb site in the world, curated by doctors.
  • And finally ThriveStrive.com – a blog -on weight loss, exercise, keto.

To your health,

Elena

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