“More than any other discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us.” Richard Foster
Today we have to talk about intermittent fasting, which is so fashionable lately, nutritional and therapeutic benefits, possible risks and different strategies on it.
Fasting consists of restricting food intake during a specific period of different duration. Throughout history, it has been done involuntarily (if there was no food or no hunting, garlic and water). Although today we go to the supermarket and the shelves are full, our ancestors spent times of scarcity, in which they could even spend days without tasting bites. It has also been performed for thousands of years by different religious traditions. So for our body, fasting is nothing new.
Honestly, I do not believe that fasting is a fad, first for all the scientific evidence that supports it, and second for the feelings of well-being of the people who practice it. That is, whoever starts a fasting strategy will probably keep it in time. Let’s look at some nutritional benefits:
- It helps to mobilize fats through the oxidation of fatty acids and ketones, which serve to preserve muscle mass, in addition to improving body composition (study) (study)
- Fasting induces the coordinated activation of signalling pathways that optimize physiological function, enhancing performance and retarding ageing.
- Promotes blood glucose control, reducing insulin resistance.
- Prevents and reduces chronic inflammation, which is behind many modern diseases (study)
- Improves cholesterol, blood pressure and triglyceride levels (study)
- Fasting increases the secretion of growth hormone, which is essential for metabolism, muscle gain and fat loss.
Hugh Jackman used the fast when preparing for the Wolverine movie. Although seeing how little its preparation lasted and the state of form achieved, we do not know if I only use fasting, or some more thing 😉
Jokes aside, we could go on for a while talking about the nutritional benefits. But we go with the therapeutic benefits since fasting gains more and more strength as a free therapy and without adverse effects for the patient:
- Fasting promotes cognitive function and prevents neurodegenerative diseases (study)
- Different studies in rats show that fasting prevents ageing and extends life (and saves you a paste in anti-ageing creams of doubtful effectiveness)
- It can help prevent cancer and improve the effect of chemotherapy (study)
- It can help prevent type II diabetes (study)
- Studies show that fasting for only 13 hours prevents breast cancer (study)
- Fasting promotes intestinal regeneration and hmaintainsour microbiota (gut bacteria) (study)
- Prevents and protects against Alzheimer’s.
POSSIBLE CONTRAINDICATIONS OF THE FAST
As I said, we are quite well adapted to fasting, even our body expects it. Still, there are particular cases where fasting may not be the best idea, as in people with arrhythmias, hypoglycemia, pregnant women or growing children. We must also monitor the use of fasting during pre and post-surgery. But what has been said particular situations.
STRATEGIES TO FAST
To the question of how to fast? Well, the short answer is: stop eating. But as this is somewhat borderline and simplistic, we will develop some of the most used fasting methods, and we will focus on these 6:
-Method 16/8: It consists of fasting 16 hours and eating in a window of 8 hours. That is, if for example, you had dinner at 9:00 p.m., you should not eat until 1:00 p.m. the next day. Personally, it is my favourite method. You can also do 12/12, just having breakfast later, although with lower benefits than on 8/16.
-Diet 5: 2: It consists of fasting two whole days a week, and five days of regular feeding. Maybe something aggressive if you’re starting to fast.
-Eat-stop-eat: Similar to the previous case, but generally, only one day fasted. For example, have breakfast at 8 in the morning, and until 8 in the morning the next day fast.
-Alternate-day fasting: Fast one day yes, one day no, you choose the hours of fasting.
-The warrior diet, or the warrior’s diet: Consists of consuming small amounts of fruit and vegetables throughout the day, and when the night comes to make a great meal. It would be a fast 20: 4 or so.
-Meal skipping: Perhaps the most straightforward method is basically to skip a feast of the day, thus reducing the feeding window.
WHAT CAN YOU CONSUME DURING THE FAST
Our goal when it comes to fasting periods is not to eat/drink anything that causes our body to leave that state, losing its benefits. You can have tea, coffee ( eye passed with milk, we can get the fast) and water. Mainly water, since many times we believe that we are hungry when it is merely thirsty.
If at first, it costs you a lot, you can consume some low-calorie food such as vegetables or red fruits. The problem is that today it is not known how many calories cause to leave a state of fasting (probably never know, since they influence a thousand factors in each person) so I recommend you to drink fluids and start with the most straightforward strategies. If you are beginning, I do not believe that fasting 24 hours is the best idea.