What makes fasting so novel is that, despite all the diet advice out there, the easiest and in moderation, the most healthy thing to do can be fast. Of course, fasting isn't the same as starving yourself which is what many immediately think when they hear the word. And yet, fasting isn't exactly a diet either. The literal definition of fasting is to abstain from food and drink from a specific period of time; it's been around for thousands of years, as spiritual fasting is a part of many religions. But, we should be looking at fasting as simply a change in eating patterns.
In place of 3 square meals a day, or a handful of smaller meal throughout the day, you designate yourself a specific window of time when you will eat, whether it's just a few hours a day or certain days of the week. During that time, you can eat whatever you want.
If you're eating processed foods or potato chips, it's unlikely you'll reap the benefits of fasting. If that's you, I encourage you to examine your diet before trying any kind of fast. But if you practice fasting and stick to a mostly whole food diet, rich in fruits, veggies, lean proteins, healthy fats and raw dairy, you will see some changes... those occasional splurges on chocolates or cheese won't have as big of an impact as they might if you were on a calorie-restrictive diet.
The beauty of fasting is that there isn’t one “right” way to do it. In fact, there are several types that are popular.
#1 Fasting For Weight Loss
There have been studies which support fasting as an excellent tool for weight loss. A 2015 study found that alternate day fasting trimmed body weight by up to 7% and slashed participants body fat by an average of 12 pounds.
Another study from the University of Southern California discovered that when 71 adults were placed on a five-day fast (eating between 750 and 1,100 calories per day) once every 3 months, they lost an average of 6 pounds, reduced inflammation levels and their waistlines and lost total body fat without sacrificing muscle mass. If you lose weight and lose belly fat, fasting even irregularly could be the key.
#2 Fasting As Cholesterol Control
When you consume too much bad cholesterol, your triglyceride levels shoot up which in turn increases your risk of heart disease. Intermittent fasting actually lowers those bad cholesterol levels, decreasing triglycerides in the process. Another interesting thing to note is that fasting doesn't affect the levels of good cholesterol in the body.
When you consume too much bad cholesterol, your triglyceride levels may shoot up, increasing your risk of heart disease. Intermittent fasting actually lowers those bad cholesterol levels, decreasing triglycerides in the process. (5) Another interesting thing to note is that fasting doesn’t affect the levels of good cholesterol in the body.
#3 Fasting Can Slow Down The Aging Process
A bold claim right? Well, it's not exactly proven in humans just yet but studies in animals have demonstrated that intermittent fasting increased longevity too. One study in particular found that intermittent fasting decreased body weigh and increased the life span of rats. Another found that a group of mice who fasted intermittently actually lived longer than the control group, although they were heavier than the non-fasting mice. Of course, it's not clear that the same results would happen in humans but the signs are more than encouraging!
#4 Fasting To Normalize Insulin Sensitivity
When your body gets too many carbs and sugar it can become resistant to insulin which often paves the way for a host of chronic diseases, including type-2 diabetes. If you don't want to go down this route, it's critical that you keep your body sensitive to insulin. Fasting is an effective way to do this.
A study published in the World Journal of Diabetes found that intermittent fasting in adults with type-2 diabetes improved key markers for those individuals, including their body weight and glucose levels. Another study found that intermittent fasting was just as effective as caloric restrictions in reducing visceral fat mass, fasting insulin and insulin resistance. If you are struggling with pre-diabetes or insulin sensitivity, intermittent fasting can help normalize things.
#5 Fasting Promotes The Secretion of Human Growth Hormone
Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is naturally produced by the body but remains active in the bloodstream for just a few minutes. It's been effectively used to treat obvesity and help build muscle mass, important for burning fat. HGH also helps improve your workout through increasing muscle strength... combining these two together and you have an effective fat-burning machine on your hands!
#6 Fasting Is Great For Athletes
Fasting has positive effects on body mass as well as other health markers in professional athletes. This is because fasting can effectively shed excess fat, while optimizing muscle growth, because of HGH production mentioned in the previous point. Traditionall, athletes are advised to consume high-quality protein half hour after finishing their workout (post-workout nutrition) to simultaneously build muscle and reduce body fat. Fasting is advised for training days, while eating is encouraged on match day.