several weeks ago, we (my husband, my daughter and I) watched the documentary “the science of fasting”, highly recommend. After the documentary was over, my husband stated that he would like to try fasting for more than one day and see how it will go and how it will really affect his health. The passionate researcher that I am, I told him to wait until I do more research on this subject matter and see the best possible ways for him to prepare his body before starting his fast and what is the best protocol to follow based on proven science while fasting and after.
As I was gathering my information for him, I thought to myself, it would be beneficial for all my readers to have access to these information as well. If you decide to give fasting a try.
Since I am pregnant, I wouldn’t be able to join this journey with him, but I will do my best to support him. This article is Part one of a series of blog posts to get you through this journey. In this article I will cover what islong term fasting, the best duration based on scientific evidence as up today, and proven health benefits of fasting.
What is fasting?
According to Wikipedia fasting is the willing abstinence or reduction from some or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time. Fasting has been around mostly as a spiritual obligation for thousands of years. So if you are a religious person, you probably have tried fasting already. I am Baha’i and in our faith we fast for 19 days starting the beginning of March. We don’t eat or drink any thing, not even water, from sunset to sundown. Here we are not going to talk about the spiritual fasting and the benefits of that, even though you can definitely use this information during your spiritual fasting. here I will cover how to use fasting as a way to reset your body and your metabolism.
There are numerous ways to fast. including intermittent fasting, water fasting, juice fasting, time restricted eating, etc. you can google any of them and you will find plenty of resources. Here I am going to mostly talk about Fasting mimicking diet also known as Periodic fasting. you might need to try all different kind of fasting to get prepared for this one.
What is fasting mimicking diet or periodic fasting:
This fast lasts from 3 to 5 days. During this time you can drink water and limit your caloric intake to between 770- 1,100 calories a day. Between 3 to 5 days cells deplete glycogen stores (Glucose stored from food as energy) and begin Ketogenesis (breaking down fatty acids for energy) (1).
That sound terrifying, doesn’t it. Before you throw in the towel and say forget it, let’s look and see how a periodic fast can benefit your health and your body. Then you can decide if it worth it or not.
Proven health benefits:
- Excellent tool for weight loss- If you have fasted before, you have probably personally noticed some weight loss, assuming you did not over indulge at the break of fast. In Dr. Longo’s study a group of 71 adults were placed on periodic fast (5 day fast eating between 770-1100 calories a day) once a month for three months, the result was, they lost an average of 6 lbs, reduced inflammation levels and shrink their waistlines and lost total body fat without sacrificing muscle mass (2).
- Fasting results in increased human growth hormone production- Human growth hormone is naturally produced in the pituitary gland and plays a vital role in cell regeneration, growth and maintaining healthy human tissue, including that of the brain and various vital organs. Once secreted, HGH remains active in the bloodstream for a few minutes, allowing just enough time for the liver to convert it into growth factors, the most crucial being insulin-like growth factor (IGF–1), which has growth-promoting properties on every cell in the body. A human study has measured HGH in males during a control fed day and during the 1st and 5th day of fasting and has shown a significant increase in HGH during the 5 day fast (3).
- May help with diabetes and insulin sensitivity- Studies have shown people who fasted intermittently shown a reduction in their visceral fat mass, fasting insulin and insulin resistance (4,5).
- May help to lower Triglycerides and cholesterol- Even though the public belief is to reduce fat, specially saturated fat to lower choletsterol, there are very little prooven studies that show the low fat diet really works for long term cholesterol reduction. On the other hand studies have shown that fasting is a simple dietary strategy that can significantly lower cholesterol levels with out use of any medication (6).
There are many more benefits in fasting such as fasting might slow down the aging process and help you live longer, but these studies have been done on rodents and there are no human studies as of today (7,8).
There are many health benefits in fasting, but the way to go is to listen to your body. in the next few blog posts I will cover how to prepare for periodic fasting, the warning signs to look for, best foods to eat while on the fast, and what to eat after the fasting is over.
Please note, as always you need to talk to your medical professional before going on fast. It is also important try not to get back to bad eating habits that you might of used to before starting this fast.
Stay tuned for more science baked facts and information, but mean while as always;
Stay happy and healthy