Fasting: The Why, The How And The Different Types
Fasting refers to the literal act of abstaining from food and/or drink for a specific period of time. While often confused with the idea of starving yourself or misinterpreted as a fad diet, this process can easily become part of one’s lifestyles and it can result in a number of healthy metabolic changes within the body.
There is no right way to do a fast, yet many have looked to intermittent fasting as their fast of choice. This type of fast occurs when you avoid foodstuffs for 14 to 18 hours. The forms of fasting listed below can all be considered types of intermittent fasting.
1. Time-restricted fast
This form of intermittent fast (also known as the 16/8 method) requires you to abstain from food for a period of 16–20 hours. This period can be applied at anytime during the day and when you finally get the chance to enjoy a meal, you can do so within the four to eight hour windows. Most people implement their fast window during the night, so that they can enjoy their first meal at lunch time (making it the top fasting choice for those who routinely skip breakfast). During the fast period, you are allowed to drink water or any other beverages free of calories.
It is imperative to only consume healthy foods during your eating window as opting for processed, refined and sugary foods is sure to result in negative health effects.
2. Alternate day fast
This type of fasting may be harder for most than the one discussed above.
An alternate day fast requires you to fast every other day, while only consuming 25% of your normal calorie intake on your fast days – which usually only entails plenty of water, vegetables, fruits, healthy fats and protein. On your non-fasting days, you are free to consume whatever foods you desire.
The only concern with this type of fasting is the risk of over-eating on your non-fasting days (and you’ll probably be extremely hangry)
3. 5:2 fast
Similar to alternate day fast, the 5:2 fast has you consuming food for five days out of the week, before only consuming 500-600 calories during the two other non-consecutive days.
Again, like the alternate day fasting, it’s important to incorporate whole and healthy foods throughout your fast days, as not all calories are created equal.
4. Warrior diet fast
Much easier than the previous forms of fasting (and my personal favorite) is the warrior diet fast.
This form of fasting places an emphasis on whole foods by having you consume small amounts of fruits and vegetables during the day before enjoying one large meal in the evening.
5. Daniel fast
This form of fasting is often practiced due to religious reasons. It requires one to consume a diet that heavily consists of whole foods such as fruits and vegetables while abstaining from meat, dairy, processed grains, caffeinated drinks and alcohol. The time period is usually dependent on personal choice.
What are the benefits of fasting?
- Weight management
One common benefit that occurs as a result of fasting is the fact that it can play a role in helping you manage your weight.
The effect of fasting on weight is likely due to the fact that during a fast period, your body has to find other sources of energy and it usually does by focusing on the fat that it has accumulated.
One study published in the journal Nutrition Reviews revealed how fasting led to a significant decrease in body fat. Furthermore, studies have also linked fasting with promoting the secretion of human growth hormone, which is a hormone that plays an effective role in burning fat as well as helping to build muscle mass.
- Helps to maintain insulin levels and encourages insulin sensitivity
Pre-diabetes, aside from paving the way for type 2 diabetes, are a condition characterized by insulin resistance. Insulin resistance often occurs as a result of a heavily processed and refined diet.
Insulin sensitivity is incredibly important for both diabetics and non-diabetics as it helps to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, and one study revealed that intermittent fasting can help to normalize blood sugar levels.
- Improved heart health
With heart disease being the leading cause of death worldwide, it’s important to keep afloat of all the different ways to which one can ensure as well as maintain heart health.
Aside from a decrease in body fat, intermittent fasting can also lead to a reduction in bad cholesterol levels. One study published in the peer-reviewed journal Obesity revealed how alternate-day fasting helped to significantly reduce levels of bad cholesterol, as well as blood pressure.
- Stimulates brain function
Intermittent fasting may help to boost brain health.
While studies have only been done in animals, they have revealed that intermittent fasting may help enhance cognitive function, promote the growth of neurons and some studies have even linked intermittent fasting to protecting one against neurodegenerative diseases and even improving the quality of life for individuals already living with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s.
Tips on fasting
- If it’s your first time doing a fast, you might want to start with something more lenient such as the Daniel fast or the Warrior diet
- Whichever fast you decide to do, be sure that your fridge and cupboards are fully stocked with healthy and whole foods, as this will likely make the process much easier.
- While you can exercise while fasting, it’s best to opt out of any strenuous activities as you will likely feel incredibly weak after each session. Opt for easier forms of exercise such as yoga.
- If you’re diabetic, pregnant or suffer from low blood sugar, doing a fast is not recommended.
Want to find out more?
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