What is Fasting?
In simple terms, fasting means absence of eating. It involves a conscious and willing abstinence or decrease of food and or drinks during a limited period of time. A juice fasting, for example, allows the consumption of juices only while temporarily restricting other food.
What Fasting is Not
Fasting is not starvation. Fasting does not mean food deprivation but rather limitation and adaptation of food intake.
The purpose of fasting is cleansing, detoxification and regeneration of body. Research has linked fasting to longevity. Fasting promotes the body’s self-healing mechanisms.
Nature of Fasting
Aside from religious observance, people fast to either address a specific illness or condition or for prevention reasons. Fasting improves metabolic function and promotes health and wellness.
General Outcomes from Fasting
People who fast generally report:
- Improvement of health conditions or disease
- Increased physical energy and agility
- Heightened mental abilities
- Greater vitality and quality of life
- Greater sense of resilience
Additional Advantages of Fasting
Fasting raises an increased awareness of own needs, physical senses (taste, smell) and a greater sense of discipline, as reported by those who undergo fasting. Self-restrain also generates changes in emotional outlook and disposition.
Intermittent fasting is a diet pattern with periods of eating and fasting in a cyclical manner.
Examples of Fasting
There are various patterns in intermittent fasting:
- The 16/8 Method, also known as the LeanGains Protocol (fast for 16 hours or 14-15 for women, eat healthy during window of 8 hours; water, coffee and low calorie drinks allowed during fasting periods)
- The 5/2 fasting (eat 5 days per week, fast 2 days with limited calorie intake of 500-600 calories)
- Eat-Stop-Eat requires fasting once or twice per week (non-caloric drinks allowed)
- The Warrior Diet is based on fasting during the day (limited calories) and eating a big meal at night
- Spontaneous fasting basically implies skipping a meal when not hungry or if busy or stressed, as the body has the capacity to go without food for a while
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
There are many benefits claimed from this type of fasting: drop in insulin levels, cell repair, beneficial genetic and molecular change, increased breakdown of body fat, weight loss, reduction of waist circumference, reduction in blood sugar levels, reduced inflammation, improvements in LDL cholesterol and inflammation, reduced risk of cancer, brain protection and longevity.
Words of Caution
Despite the promising advantages, fasting is not for everyone, particularly those who suffer from specific health conditions, those who are less likely to adjust to prolonged hunger, those with risk factors and other vulnerable conditions. A qualified health care professional should be consulted before performing fasting.