What do you think of when you hear the word “fasting”? Improved body composition? A lowered risk of deadly diseases? Slowing the aging process? Incredible skin? Improved insulin sensitivity, heart health, and brain function? Believe it or not, fasting accomplishes all this and more! The benefits of fasting, all backed by science, are nothing short of miraculous!
The Benefits of Fasting
- First, fasting improves body composition. This benefit can be attributed to several different factors:
- Fasting kicks your body into ketosis, or a fat-burning state. After your body runs out of carbohydrates for energy, it starts burning through your fat stores.
- Fasting regulates hunger hormones, like leptin and ghrelin. Once regulated, these hormones will only signal hunger when your body is truly hungry, rather than when you’re tired, stressed, or hear a fajita plate sizzling past your table at Chili’s.
- Fasting boosts your metabolism. We’ve been told that any long span without food will tank our metabolism, and that the solution is to snack every three to four hours. But in fact, fasting increases your metabolism. This is because it decreases leptin resistance, which increases thyroid hormone production, which results in a boost to your metabolism.
- Fasting raises human growth hormone (HGH) levels. This hormone helps to treat obesity and build muscle mass. And more muscle mass means that your body is burning more calories at rest. Bonus! Increased HGH also boosts muscle strength.
- Second, fasting lowers your risk of developing deadly diseases. This is because it sends your body into cell recycling mode, called autophagy. In this phase, your body targets and eliminates malfunctioning cells and damaged tissues, which might otherwise multiply and lead to disease. Studies have found that this “detox” offered by fasting lowers your risk of deadly diseases, and may also help to prevent cancer.
- Third, fasting improves insulin sensitivity. When you’re fasting, you’re no longer feeding your body a steady stream of sugar. This means your body secretes less insulin, and your sensitivity to insulin improves. This is fantastic news for those with insulin resistance!
- Fourth, fasting decreases inflammation. By temporarily removing inflammatory foods (and all foods) from your diet, and balancing your hormones, fasting reduces inflammation in your body. And reducing inflammation reduces your risk of experiencing chronic bloating, increased belly fat, unexplained weight gain, fatigue, migraines, digestive issues, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, depression, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and even some cancers! (You can learn more about inflammation and download an anti inflammatory foods list here!) Decreasing inflammation also improves your immune system and speeds up healing.
- Fifth, fasting improves heart health. Studies have found that fasting lowers blood pressure, improves cholesterol levels and heart performance, reduces free radical damage, and increases the growth of blood vessels within the heart. Combine all of these incredible benefits, and you’ve got a major boost to your heart health.
- Sixth, fasting protects and improves brain function. Studies have shown that fasting kickstarts protective mechanisms in the brain, and inhibits the production of free radicals and irritating proteins that would otherwise contribute to premature brain aging. It has also been shown to increase both the growth of new nerve cells in the brain, and the production of brain proteins that protect against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
- Seventh, fasting has been shown to slow aging and increase lifespan. Fasting enhances the body’s resistance to harmful stress, and improves the body’s protective chemicals. Combined with all of the benefits of fasting above, it makes complete sense that fasting increases your lifespan.
- And finally, fasting results in healthier skin. It improves your skin’s integrity and collagen quality. It also clears skin of acne and other impurities through autophagy.
So why isn’t everyone and their mom jumping on the fasting train? Because fasting can sound super scary, am I right?!
Options for Obtaining the Benefits of Fasting
Luckily, you can reap all of the benefits of fasting through either a full-fledged fast, or simply eating within a smaller window of time each day, known as “intermittent fasting”.
- Intermittent fasting. The idea of intermittent fasting is to restrict eating to a certain span of time (usually an 8-hour window) every day. My husband and I practice intermittent fasting, and eat all of our meals between noon and 8:00 PM. You can set your window for any time that makes sense for you, your job, and your family. The beauty of intermittent fasting is that you can slowly work your way into an 8-hour eating window. So if you usually eat at 8:00 every morning, you could try eating at 8:30 or 9:00 the first day. Move your window a little further out every day until your body adjusts to the new time.
- Three-day fast. Three days, nothing but water. I can’t lie; this is challenging. But after three days, I have sky-high energy, Bradley Cooper Limitless-levels of mental clarity, and am 100% free from those naaaaagging sugar cravings. It’s pretty incredible, and (I think) worth the challenge! A few tips though:
- It’s much easier to tackle fasting if your body is already in ketosis before starting your fast. You can get into ketosis through intermittent fasting, a low-carb/high-fat diet, or a combination of both.
- You’re subject to dehydration during a fast, so be sure to drink at least half your weight in ounces every day. For example, if you weigh 200 lbs, aim to drink at least 100 oz of water a day during your fast.
- You may find, like I did, that the most challenging part of a fast is the mental aspect. I had no idea how much I medicated my emotions with food until…well…I couldn’t anymore.
- Introduce food slooooowly on your first day after a fast! Your toilet will thank you.
- Experts recommend avoiding a full fast if you have a history of eating disorders. You should also consider if you have young children that may misunderstand your actions and/or motives.
Fasting, both intermittent and three-day, is more challenging for some than others.
You might not experience any side effects at all. Lucky you! Or you might experience headaches, nausea, heartburn, low blood sugar, fatigue, or general irritability. (Who doesn’t feel angry when they’re denied Ben & Jerry’s?!)
Wrap It Up
If you can navigate the side effects, you might find the benefits of fasting to be nothing short of miraculous. Because fasting has been proven to improve body composition, lower risk of deadly diseases, decrease inflammation, slow aging, result in healthier skin, and improve insulin sensitivity, heart health, and brain function. You can reap all of these benefits through either a full fast or intermittent fasting.
This is totally within your reach! Have any questions? Or victories to share? Let’s chat in the comments!
P.S. Want better health? Our free calendar sets totally doable daily challenges in the areas of nutrition, movement, hydration, sleep, exercise, and mental health, to help you develop a healthier mindset in four short weeks. Get it HERE!
*DebTakesHerLifeBack.com is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions you may have regarding fasting or nutrition. Never disregard professional medical advice nor delay in seeking professional advice or treatment because of something you have read on DebTakesHerLifeBack.com.
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