Have you ever tried fasting? Intermittent fasting is a hot topic in the weight-loss and wellness communities, but it’s not without controversy. Some medical professionals warn that fasting diets are nothing but a dangerous trend, but the benefits of fasting have been extensively studied and are well documented. Before starting any type of fasting diets, make sure you understand how to do so safely, and get the approval of your doctor.
Fasting is nothing new. People have been fasting since the beginning of time, whether for religious purposes or out of necessity during times of food scarcity. Now, research is indicating that this type of lifestyle actually had health advantages over the way we live today. Nowadays, many of us are accustomed to eating whenever hunger hits. We may snack all day and eat late at night. But our bodies are not meant to be in this constant state of digestion.
Those who warn against fasting often claim that this dieting method is unnecessary because our bodies have a built-in detoxification system. This is true, but most of us don’t allow it to work properly. Our bodies cannot digest and detoxify at the same time. When we’re constantly eating, we keep our bodies in a constant state of digestion. This can lead to numerous health problems including difficulty losing weight, digestive problems, fatigue and sluggishness, joint pain, muscle aches, headaches, sleep problems, and a weakened immune system. We often think of these health issues as a natural part of getting older, but they don’t have to be. Resting your digestive system through periodic fasting can often clear up many of these health issues.
What are the benefits of fasting?
Fasting has been shown to enhance the body’s resistance to damaging free radicals that drive inflammation, and aid in cellular repair, which can ward off cancer. Fasting has also been shown to improve several risk factors for heart disease, including high LDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, and blood triglycerides. Improved blood sugar and insulin resistance that result from fasting can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Fasting offers numerous benefits for brain health as well. Fasting can spur the growth of new nerve cells, which enhances brain function. It can also increase production of brain hormones that reduce the risk of depression. Fasting may help prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, along with neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease.
Other benefits of fasting include optimized fat burning and muscle gain, extended lifespan, and increased energy and mental clarity.
When do the benefits of fasting start?
The effects and benefits of fasting begin immediately, though results may not be apparent until weeks later. Everyone’s metabolism and body are unique and will respond to fasting in different ways.
People who fast with the goal of achieving weight loss may lose an average of 7 to 10 pounds within a 10-week period. Your doctor can help you monitor changes in cholesterol, blood pressure, triglycerides, and blood sugar to ensure you’re experiencing benefits from your fasting protocol.
Who benefits from fasting?
Anyone who wants to improve their overall health and wellness can benefit from fasting. People who may benefit the most from fasting are those who want to lose excess weight, and who want to improve obesity-related conditions such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and high cholesterol. Fasting may also help improve gut health in those who suffer from autoimmune disorders like Crohn’s disease and colitis.
Are there any health risks associated with fasting?
Fasting is safest when conducted under medical supervision. Those who are new to fasting may be at risk for dehydration if they fail to drink enough water during their fasting period. Fasting may also cause side effects such as hunger pangs, insomnia, stress, headache, and heartburn, but these are typically short lived. If you’re interested in starting a fasting diet to lose excess weight, ask your doctor about medically supervised weight-loss programs that incorporate fasting.
Who should avoid fasting?
Fasting is not ideal for those who are underweight or who suffer from eating disorders like bulimia. Fasting is also not recommended for people under the age of 18, people with type 1 diabetes, pregnant women, and people recovering from surgery.
How does fasting promote weight loss?
It may come as no surprise that fasting can help promote weight loss. People often assume this is simply because you are eating fewer calories when fasting, but it’s actually more complicated than that. Fasting promotes changes throughout the body such as healthy hormone levels and reduced inflammation, which help the body lose weight more effectively. In fact, studies show that a type of fasting known as time-restricted feeding can aid in weight loss, even when people consume the same total number of calories throughout the day.
Time-restricted feeding is the practice of eating all of your food within a shorter window. For example, eating all of your meals during an 8-hour window, such as between 10am and 6pm, leaves 16 hours for your body to digest and detoxify. This type of fasting is often referred to as 16/8 intermittent fasting.
A study on the effects of eight weeks of time-restricted feeding on healthy males showed a decrease in fat mass with no loss of muscle mass. Participants also experienced increased levels of adiponectin, a hormone that helps regulate processes related to glucose utilization and insulin sensitivity. Low levels of adiponectin have been linked to difficulty losing weight and a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
Can I exercise while fasting?
You can exercise while fasting, but listen to your body and stop if you’re feeling fatigued, weak, or faint. Time-restricted feeding can help you feel more energetic in the morning, which is an ideal time to fit in your exercise session. If you’re feeling too tired or sluggish, skip any high-intensity workouts and go for a walk or do yoga. Talk to your doctor about developing an exercise routine you can stick to while fasting.
Can fasting reduce the risk of disease?
Various types of fasting diets have been shown to reduce the risk of age-related disease and may even promote cellular rejuvenation. Participants who completed three cycles of a fasting mimicking diet experienced several positive changes, including:
- A 5.9% decrease in fasting glucose
- A 15% reduction in insulin-like growth factor 1, a hormone linked to an increased risk of cancer
- A 3% reduction in body weight, with a major portion of fat loss coming from abdominal fat, which is linked to an increased risk of health conditions such as diabetes, stroke, heart disease, cancer, and even dementia
A fasting mimicking diet, also referred to as “fasting with food,” involves restricting calories for a period of at least 5 days and consuming only foods that are easy to digest, such as vegetable soup. This allows the body to enter into a fasting state without completely going without food.
At Garcia Weight Loss and Wellness Centers, we have found the ProLon fasting mimicking diet to be particularly beneficial at promoting weight loss and improving overall health. In clinical trials, ProLon was found to improve risk factors for disease, such as high cholesterol and C-reactive protein, a marker associated with internal inflammation. Using ProLon once per month over a three-month period has been shown to stimulate the removal of damaged cells and tissues, leading to numerous, significant health benefits.
Learn more about the ProLon fasting mimicking diet and find out if it’s right for you!
This post was originally published in May 2018, and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.