Fasting, is One of the Latest Health Trends
Fasting has become a bit of a hot topic lately and have probably heard this term recently, since it’s one of the world’s most popular trends. Many might already know what fasting is or have a basic understanding and others might have never heard of fasting. Why has it become much more popular, especially in health and fitness communities? The discoveries of many exciting potential health benefits, these include stabilizing blood sugar, increases insulin sensitivity, triggering autophagy (removal of damaged cells), and even slowed aging. This is not an all-inclusive list and we shall discover more potential benefits later.
But For Now, What Exactly is Fasting?
Fasting is essentially a willing abstinence or reduction from some or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time. In a physiological context, fasting refers to the metabolic status of a person who has not eaten overnight, or to the metabolic state achieved after complete digestion and absorption of a meal. Fasting is one of the oldest dietary interventions in the world. It comes from hour hunter-gather ancestors that didn’t have supermarkets, refrigerators, or food available year-round. Often they couldn’t find anything to eat, so our bodies evolved to be able to function without food for extended periods of time. All sorts of processes in the body change when we don’t eat for a while, due to human evolution, in order to allow our bodies to thrive during a period of famine. It has to do with hormones, genes and important cellular repair processes.1
Is Fasting More Natural, Than What We have Been Led to Believe?
For this reason, fasting from time to time could easily be seen as more “natural” than constantly eating 3-4 (or more) meals per day. Why? Because, as many believe (including me), our bodies simply haven’t evolved to run optimally when continuously fed. Yet this isn’t what we’ve been led to believe. The media, conventional medicine, and the food industry have drilled it into us that we need to eat all day. But we haven’t always lived with food available 24/7. As Dr. Jason Fung, co-author of the Complete Guide to Fasting, describes fasting as “Fasting is the oldest dietary intervention in the world. It is not just the latest and greatest, but the tried and true.
One popular type of fasting is called intermittent fasting (IF). IF describes an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. It should not be thought of as a diet since it doesn’t say anything about what foods to eat, only when you should eat. A common example of intermittent fasting involves, fasting for 16 hours and restricting eating during the 8 hours of the day. This is just one example, but there are multiple different types of intermittent fasting, from consuming nothing but water for two to three day (extreme) to eating a normal amount of calories but during a restricted time window (mild). Before I go over the different types, I want to state that the “right” fast for anyone is the one they actually comply with.
Types of Intermittent Fasting
Let us now go on a tour of the different types of intermittent fasting, these include: 2-3 day water fast, 5-day fast, 1-day (24-hour) fast, alternate-day fasting, 5:2 fasts, and peak fasting. For most healthy people and almost everyone else I am not an advocate of going without food for any period longer than 18 hours.
2-3 Day Water Fast
This is why I’m not a fan of a 2-3 day water fast. A water fast is just what it sounds like. You would consume nothing but water and some minerals for a finite period of time, in this case 2-3 days. This type of fast can provide a shorter transition into a fat burning state because our bodies will rapidly burn through its glycogen stores. I believe, this type of fast should be reserved for those that are obese and have serious health challenges, and should always be done under medical supervision.
5-Day Fast & 5:2 Fast
The 5-day fast and the 5:2 fast are both approaches proposed by Dr. Michael Mosley, author of the Fast diet. For the 5-day fast you spend five consecutive days of each month on a modified fast, meaning you do not abstain from food entirely for these days. On the first day you would consume about 1,000-1,100 calories, followed by around 725 calories on the remaining four days. As with all fasting options, the foods you do eat should be low in carbohydrates and protein, and high in healthy fats. Be wary that it can be quite difficult to go for a full five days with very little food, especially if you’ve never fasted before. Also this fast requires that you track the amount of calories and what type of macro-nutrients you consume, adding a bit of complexity that I think is unneeded. For the 5:2 fast you would cut your food down to one-fourth of your normal daily calories, about 600 calories for men and 500 for women, on two days of your choosing. On the other 5 days of the week you ear normally. This type of fast requires tracking as well, which if that doesn’t bother you then this could be a potential option for you, but I’m not a fan.
1-Day (24 Hour) Fast
I am a fan of the 1-day (24-hour ) fast and often do it myself. For this fast you simply (but not easily) skip eating for one day a week, consuming only water or possibly unsweetened tea or coffee. Fasting for 24 hours can be tough and I would not recommend that someone new to fasting start with this type of fast. I like to do this fast by eating dinner and then fasting until dinner time the next day since I will be asleep for 8 hours and It doesn’t feel like I’ve fasted for a whole day.
Alternate-day fasting is exactly as it sounds: one day off (non-fasting day), one day on (fasting day). On fasting days consume less than 500 calories and on non-fasting days, eat normally. When sleep time is included (as it should), the fast can end up being as long as 32-36 hours. I don’t know about you but I would and do find this quite a difficult amount of time to go without food. This is why I’m also not a fan of this type of fast.
Peak fasting, a name coined by Dr. Joseph Mercola,2 is hands-down my favorite and preferred form of intermittent fasting. I find it the easiest to maintain, in fact I often forget I’m even fasting. Peak fasting is done every day rather than a few days per week or month. However, you can take a break and cycle in off days. This flexibility is one of the main reasons I like this type of fast. So how is it done? All you need to do is restrict eating each day to a 6 – 11 hour window. That’s it, it’s that simple. As a result you will avoid eating for 13-18 hours every day. This type of fast has also just been referred to as time-restricted eating, but I like the name Peak fasting. I have found the simplest way to implement peak fasting is to stop eating about 3 hours before bed and then delay the first meal of the following day until at least 13 hours have passed since you last ate. Although you don’t have to stop at 13 hours, going longer (at least to a point) is only going to increase the effectiveness of the fast. In order to make this schedule work, you need to skip either breakfast or dinner. Which one to omit is up to you. However, if you chose to eat dinner, it can help to avoid eating at least three hours before going to bed. The rationale behind this recommendation has to do with the way your body produces energy. When you’re sleeping, your body needs the least amount of energy, and if you feed it at a time when energy is not needed you end up creating a situation in which your mitochondria creates excessive amounts of damaging free radicals.
Come Back Next Week For Part 2
Whew, this was quite a bit to take in and it’s just part 1 come back next week for part 2. In which, I’ll go over the multiple benefits to fasting , tips for adapting to a regular fasting schedule, contraindications for fasting, and something referred to as “Feast-Famine Cycling.
Fact of the week
Research reveals that a vast majority of Americans eat all day long3, with as many as 15.5 separate eating events in a typical day!
Many also consume the majority of their daily calories late in the evening. This is exactly when the body requires the least amount of energy as calories coming from food. That why many healthcare professionals such as Dr.Mercola, Chris Kresser, and Dr. Mark Hyman (just to name a few) recommend that you avoid eating for a minimum of 2-3 hours before bed. This includes everyone, no matter what kind of diet they follow or don’t follow. The continuous access to food, seen in today’s modern world, prevents the body from undergoing important repair and rejuvenation processes.