Fasting can be done for a variety of reasons whether it be for fat loss, health reasons or for religious practices. You might be wondering if there are true benefits to fasting and how you can fit it into your lifestyle. Read on to find out the truth about fasting and if you are fasting, how to break your fast the right way!
TYPES OF FASTING
There are several interpretations of fasting. A simple fast involves eating no food for a set period of time e.g. seven days. However, such a sustained fast is tough, and will undoubtedly lead to hunger, fatigue, and a temporary loss of physical and mental performance. Intermittent fasting, on the other hand, involves much shorter periods of food abstinence – sometimes just a matter of hours. Intermittent fasting methods include:
Only eat during the early and late evening. No food during the day. Of all the types of fasting for weight loss, daylight fasting is probably the most accessible and easy to implement. As the name suggests, you go without food during the daylight hours and only eat at night. This is an ideal way to try out fasting, although some people do report that they suffer daytime fatigue as a result. As with all fasts, water is permitted during daylight and some less severe fasts will permit green tea, plain coffee, and maybe even BCAA drinks to preserve muscle mass during the day. It all depends on how strict you want to be.
Meals are only eaten after 16 hours of abstinence. This would be categorised as an intermittent fast.This allows relatively unrestricted eating for 8 hours, normally beginning with a pre-exercise meal. The main advantage of this approach is that you get to consume the majority of your calories before and after exercise which helps you fuel up and then recover from your workouts respectively.
Eat normally for five days per week, eat no food for two non-consecutive days per week. This approach sometimes can lead users to binge on the days they are not fasting, and is only recommended for experienced fasters.
Standing for every other day, eat one day, fast the next. Another form of fasting that is very simple to undertake. This involves eating normally on one day and then not eating the next. The longer period of not eating should facilitate significant fat loss but it’s all too easy to overeat during the feeding days and undo some of the benefit of forgoing food. This type of fasting for weight loss requires LOTS of self-control and is not for the faint-hearted.
Religious fasts are any fasts that are required by a specific religion.These types of fasts are usually undertaken to get a closer spiritual connection to a God. To name a few, this includes Ramadan where Muslim’s will fast from dawn until dusk for a month long period; and Lent for Catholic’s which involves a 40 day fast where individuals abstain from wine, meat and some other animal products. With all fasts, water intake should not be restricted as dehydration can be very unhealthy. Some so-called fasts actually allow you to eat small amounts of fruit while others do not. It all depends on how strict you want your fast to be.
EAT LESS TO LIVE LONGER?
Some people believe that periodic breaks from eating can help you live longer. It’s suggested that fasting reduces metabolic stress, helps the body eliminate toxins more effectively, lowers blood glucose levels, increases insulin sensitivity, and lowers many of the markers of inflammation.
Some believe that periods of fasting also help to ‘reset’ the immune system helping us to deal better with illness or inflammation. Believing this may reduce the incidence of many diseases, leading to a longer life.
It’s no coincidence that populations who purposely restrict food intake, often for religious or spiritual reasons, also live the longest. However, scientific evidence linking fasting to longevity is thin at best.
Eating less can undoubtedly have a big impact on health, and therefore longevity, if only because doing so means you are less likely to be overweight. That in itself can have a huge impact on lifespan and quality of life.
FASTING FOR WEIGHT LOSS
Fasting is an old weight control method that is currently experiencing a resurgence in popularity. Contrary to what a lot of pro-fasters might think, fasting is not magical. Missing a meal or two will not supercharge your ability to burn fat. Intermittent fasting works, like every other diet, by simply reducing the amount of food you eat.
However, this only works if you don’t overeat when breaking your fast. Any type of intermittent fasting should create a calorie deficit, leading to weight loss. After a fast, your muscle and liver glycogen levels, as well as your blood glucose, will be low, and that means at least some of the food you eat will be preferentially diverted to your liver and muscle cells. This may further enhance fat loss, although that effect is very small.
THE PROS OF INTERMITTENT FASTING
Intermittent fasting is as simple as just skipping a meal. Pick your intermittent fasting (IF) method and then use it consistently, being careful not to overeat when you break your fast. If you binge after a fast, and end up consuming more calories than you saved, it will not work.
This simply means that almost anyone can use IF to lose weight. It’s a very flexible approach to weight loss, and you can easily modify it to suit your lifestyle. You choose which meals to skip, according to your needs and daily routine.
For example, some people might prefer to eat breakfast and lunch only, and then fast for the rest of the day. Others might be more comfortable skipping breakfast and lunch, and breaking their fast in the early evening.
THE CONS OF INTERMITTENT FASTING
Intermittent fasting may leave you feeling tired, weak, nauseous, and hungry. If you have a mostly sedentary job, you should be able to work through these side effects, but if you have a physically demanding job, or exercise intensely, this may be enough to put you off fasting.
Some people do have a tendency to become overly focused on their first post-fast meal, and end up turning it into a feast. This can undo much of the benefit of fasting. This eat/fast/eat cycle may also exacerbate any existing tendencies towards disordered eating. This is not a diet plan for people with a history of any type of eating disorder.
SIDE EFFECTS OF FASTING
Regardless of the type of fast you try, it is important to understand what may happen to your body during an extended fast. Many people experience severe hunger, lethargy, headaches, poor concentration, and low energy for exercise.
HOW TO START
If you do decide you would like to try a fast, try doing a daylight fast on a Saturday, Sunday or another non-work day. That way, if you find it does not agree with you, you won’t be stuck at work feeling terrible and can easily break your fast as necessary.
Fasting for fat loss is simple mathematics but will only work if you don’t overeat when you break your period of fasting. It’s also important to note that, while fasting addresses calories, it does not address food quality. It’s not enough just to cut calories; the food you choose to eat should be healthy and you need to provide your body with an abundance of vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients!
Here are our 3 top tips on how to break your fast the right way.
- Don’t Focus on One Food Group - Choose foods that are going to provide you with all macronutrients- a healthy mix of carbs, fats, and protein to avoid any after fasting side effects. If you focus on just eating carbs for example, your blood sugar levels may rise very quickly making you feel a little worse for wear and can exacerbate cravings.
- Avoid Overeating - As difficult as it may be, try not to overeat your first meal (trust us, your stomach won’t be used to that amount of food!). Eat mindfully and chew your food 15-20 times before swallowing to assist with digestion and slowing down your meal.
- Eat Easy To Digest Foods - Your stomach won’t be used to processing hard to digest foods! To make life easier on yourself and your stomach focus on foods that are easy to digest. We recommend cooked vegetables, soups, fish or poultry.