Ask yourself this question…
When was the last time you felt hungry AND allowed yourself to be hungry for a significant amount of time. This is by far the simplest way to describe fasting.
Now you might be asking yourself…
Why in the world would I consciously choose to go without food? The simple answer is to improve your health, but there are many physiological reasons to fast.
Reasons to Fast
- Disease Prevention – Animal studies have shown that fasting can help with disease prevention from various diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Human studies aren’t as inclusive but have significantly proven that fasting improves numerous blood markers of health.
- Weight Loss – Many individuals who practice fasting have shown the ability to lose weight and keep it off with intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is simply an approach to calorie restriction that doesn’t require such extremes as going a whole 24 hour period without food or permanently limiting your calorie intake by a certain percentage.
- Detoxification – After many years of eating all the various foods we eat every day we eventually build up a lot of toxic substances in our bodies, with the majority of them stored in our fatty tissues. When we fast, the body uses energy normally reserved for assimilating food in our bodies to purging our bodies of everything unnecessary. This helps use to get rid of all the heavy metals, chemicals, and toxins that have built up over the years and helps our bodies run more efficiently.
- Improved Energy & Mental Clarity – A little bit of hunger makes you feel more awake and alive. This is your body’s natural signal saying it is time to hunt for food. Once you have eaten a large meal you feel tired. This is your body’s natural response to a large meal because energy is diverted to the process of digesting all that food. If you get the midday “blahs” consider skipping those snacks and/or drinks you have been going to get more energy.
- Improved Athletic Performance – Fasting has been shown to increase Human Growth Hormone (HGH) and improve protein synthesis. These two factors help your body repair itself after it has been damaged. The quicker your body is able to heal itself after a workout the faster you can improve your performance. It is that simple.
So what are the downsides to fasting? Well it is tough for some people, especially those that have developed some serious sugar cravings. However, your body will adjust with some practice. Just take it nice and easy. Maybe skip a single meal at first and see how you feel. Then eventually progress to what people call an 8 hour feeding window. Meaning you can only eat food between noon and 8pm, or whatever time frame works best for you. This translates into a 16 hour fast.
Some people also have problems with how their body feels from an extended fast. For instance, when your body is detoxing your blood fills up with all the toxins your fatty tissues are releasing which can cause a feeling of sickness, grogginess, or just general malaise. You can combat this by shortening your fast, drinking double the water you normally do, or fasting with some type of food such as fruits and vegetables in small amounts.
There are many different ways to fast.
- Single Meal Fast – This is where you pick a single meal out of the day and abstain from it. Many people naturally abstain from breakfast because it doesn’t feel right for them to eat first thing in the morning.
- Intermittent Fasting (IF) – This is where you fast on a regular, perhaps daily basis, for a certain time period. The most common IF fast uses an 8 hour feeding window. This can be increased to a 12 hour feeding window or decreased to a 4 hour feeding window depending on the person’s goals and preferences. A feeding window is simply the time period where you eat the majority (90-100%) of your calories.
- Periodic Fasting – This is where your fast for a determined day and time. Maybe you fast once a week or once a month. This can be by choice or by circumstances. This fast can be for any time period, but is usually from 24 to 48 hours at a time. And during this fast you normally only drink water or small amounts of tea.
- Juice Fast – These fasts are very popular because they give you tons of energy and help people lose weight. Two very visible results of fasting. A juice fast is where you combine fruits and vegetables in a blender and drink the resulting juice, pulp and all. Drinking juice you buy at a store is not recommended because it is lacking in the amount of vitamins, minerals, and fiber you get from whole fruits and vegetables, and because they normally have a higher sugar content then is desired (thereby providing you more calories than makes sense for a fast).
- Salad Fast – This is one of my personal favorites because I know it to work well. I personally started eating salad for breakfast and it helped me lose some fat around my mid section and gave me improved energy levels. You can either replace whole meals with a salad or try and eat nothing but salad (perhaps with eggs, cheese, or chicken on top?) for a few days up to a week.
Fasting has many great benefits along with some difficulties in getting started, but with a little practice you will start to see your health improve. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain by trying some sort of fasting, so think about what you might like to try and go for it!
This is our 6th challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…