Fasting is the practice of abstaining or reducing consumption of food, drink or both, for a specific period of time. Everyone fasts for at least some part of the day. Generally the eight or so hours one spends sleeping every night. Physiologically, fasting can refer to a person’s metabolic status after not eating overnight or even the metabolic state after the complete digestion of a meal. Once you’ve gone 8 to 12 hours without eating, the body enters a state of “fasting.” Intermittent fasting has many health benefits. Not least of which is weight loss, a better skin, heart health and improved longevity.
The practice of fasting can lead to a number of metabolic changes within the body. These changes typically begin approximately three to five hours after eating, when the body enters a “post-absorptive” state. Rather than the state of ongoing digestion. This is when eating frequent meals means the body is always involved in some sort of digestive activity.
Whether you practice more long-term fasting for health reasons or for spiritual reasons, most people will have to fast at some point for medical reasons. Patients undergoing surgery or other medical procedures that require a general anaesthetic will usually fast prior to the treatment. In fact, ndividuals also practice fasting before undergoing a number of other medical tests. These include cholesterol testing, blood glucose measuring, or a lipid panel.
1. Weight Loss
Instead of running on fuel from the food you just ate, fasting allows your body to tap into reserves. Fat which accumulates in the body is burned whenever food supply grows scarce. This results in a slow, steady weight loss that can be a real benefit.
Since fasting is often incorporated as a lifestyle change instead of a temporary fix, this type of diet is much more sustainable than many other “crash diets.” In fact, many studies support the practice as a valuable, reliable tool for weight loss and weight maintenance. Initially you’ll see a marked weight loss as a result of losing water weight. However, according to the author of Eat Stop Eat, each day you fast will show a loss of 0.5 pounds of true body fat.
2. Improved Tolerance Of Glucose
For diabetics, fasting can be a fantastic way to normalize glucose and even improve glucose variability. Anyone looking for a natural way to increase insulin sensitivity should attempt an intermittent fast. The effects of fasting can make a difference in how your body processes glucose.
Generally, insulin resistance is the result of accumulation of glucose in tissues that aren’t built for fat storage. As the body burns through stored fuel in the form of body fat, that excess accumulation becomes smaller and smaller. This allows the cells in your muscles and liver to grow increasingly responsive to insulin.
3. Boosts Metabolism
Part of the reason intermittent fasting helps you lose weight is due to the restriction of food, followed by regular eating, helps stimulate your metabolism. While long-term fasting can actually slow your metabolism, shorter fasts promoted by intermittent fasting have been proven to increase metabolism. In fact as much as up to 14 per cent, reported by one study.
This is also a more effective tool than long-term calorie restriction, which can often wreak havoc on the body’s metabolism. Weight loss often goes hand in hand with muscle loss. And since muscle tissue is what burns through calories, having less muscle leads to a drop in your body’s ability to metabolize food. Intermittent fasting keeps your metabolism running smoothly by helping you maintain your muscle tissue as much as possible.
4. Improves Longevity
Research from scientists at the University of Chicago revealed that intermittent fasting can “delay the development of disorders that lead to death. There’s evidence that people who fast regularly can enjoy a longer, healthier life than people who eat a regular three meals a day. Or those who follow a traditional restricted-calorie diet.
Head of the National Institute on Aging’s neuroscience laboratory, Mark Mattson, says the mild stress that intermittent fasting puts on the body provides a constant threat. This increases the body’s powerful cellular defenses against potential molecular damage. Intermittent fasting also stimulates the body to maintain and repair tissues. It’s anti-aging benefits, keep every organ and cell functioning effectively and efficiently.
5. Understanding Hunger
It’s important to learn how to accurately decipher the signals your body gives you. Intermittent fasting is a great way to understand the cycle of hunger. Before true hunger sets in and the body, if not fed, enters starvation mode, you’ll feel pangs of “hunger” that can generally be attributed to psychological cravings. This emotional desire is confused with hunger all the time. Fasting will give you the opportunity to experience real “hunger pains” in the stomach, and even withdrawal and detox symptoms associated with our usual consumption of processed foods.
You’ll also develop a deeper appreciation of food. If you’ve ever eaten after a period of “true hunger,” you’ll know what eating is supposed to feel like. Each bite tastes more delicious than the last, and you’ll experience a sensation of deep contentment and pleasure. It’s absolutely worth the hunger you endured to get here.
6. Establishes Routine
Unless you’re following a random fast type of diet, having strict eating times followed by periods of fasting can help your body develop a solid routine. You’ll be able to recognise your own hunger cycles, sleep more soundly and start scheduling appointments during convenient hours. It can be difficult to establish this routine at first, especially if you have a family or an inflexible work schedule. However, once you’ve developed a consistent plan, you’ll soon start to see all the ways a set routine can benefit your life and your health.
7. Stimulates Brain Function
A study, tabled at a meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in 2015, revealed that intermittent fasting may have “enormous implications for brain health.” The study, was undertaken on both humans and animals. It showed fasting stimulates the brain in a number of different ways: promotes the growth of neurons, aids in recovery following a stroke or other brain injury, and enhances memory performance. Intermittent fasting may help decrease a practitioner’s risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. There’s also evidence to show that it may actually even improve both cognitive function and quality of life for people living with those conditions already.
8. Boosts The Immune System
According to scientists at the University of Southern California, fasting has the power to “regenerate the entire immune system” by boosting the body’s production of new white blood cells. This is how your body fights off infection. Fasting in cycles, enables your body to purge the damaged, old, or inefficient parts of the immune system, and replace them with newly generated immune system cells.
Studies showed that a 72 hour fast was even enough to help protect cancer patients from the harmful and toxic effects of chemotherapy treatments. These generally cause significant damage to the patient’s immune system. Though researcher’s need to conduct more clinical trials, many are confident that intermittent fasting could help immunocompromised individuals and the elderly.
9. Rejuvenates Skin
It’s no surprise, then, that if you are a regular intermittent fasting practitioner, the impressive benefits will show all over your glowing, radiant face. Food sensitivities are often the root cause for many of these conditions. Which can lead to inflammatory conditions and acne. After a fast, you should introduce foods one at a time and note any changes to your skin, so that you can accurately pinpoint which foods you should avoid.
Intermittent fasting also has a positive effect on your hair and nails, helping them grow healthy and strong. Not only will you feel good after incorporating intermittent fasting into your lifestyle, you’ll look great, too.
10. Improves Spiritual Well-Being
Almost every religion around the world practices fasting in one way or another. It’s no surprise, then, that a lifestyle which includes intermittent fasting could lead to a deepened sense of spirituality. Regular practitioners have reported feeling at peace during their fasts. And studies have proven that fasting can help regulate mood by reducing levels of anxiety and stress. In fact, fasting is a natural treatment that many healthcare professionals recommend for a variety of emotional and sexual problems.
Whether or not you fast for religious reasons, intermittent fasting will help you feel more connected to nature and the world around you. And importantly you’ll benefit from having a clear mind and a positive outlook.