Surely fasting can’t be good for you? Discover the surprising benefits for your body AND brain, the different ways to fast and how to start a fasting program in this easy-to-follow Guide To Fasting.
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A Beginner’s Guide To Fasting
Fasting is all the rage these days, with more articles and information out there than you can possibly keep up with.
This approach to eating has perhaps as many opponents as it does proponents. More than ever, it’s very important that you vet the information you read, consider the suggestions of your doctor while also paying attention to and staying in tune with your own body.
As any other biohacking technique, the idea is that adopting this way of eating will elevate your health in a multitude of ways. Fasting differs from similar concepts like cleansing and detoxing; it will behoove you to do your due diligence and be prepared for what to expect when you fast.
The History Of Fasting
There are many extremist ways of eating nowadays, many that only show short term gains and benefits to be had. In favor of the fasting approach, it’s important to realize that it is actually an ancient practice. Fasting dates back to ancient Greece, where many engaged in it often as a religious practice.¹
Civilizations preceding us often fasted merely as a result of their lifestyle. Unlike the standard life of Western civilians, our ancestors spent the majority of their days focused on survival, seeking shelter and hunting for food. They did not sit around for hours on end with an abundance of food at their feet.
On the contrary, their life entailed large periods of time without food or drink as they foraged for their sustenance.
Different Types Of Fasting
Like most trendy health hacks, fasting has taken a stranglehold on wellness seekers as a way to improve health in a hurry.
Being an enthusiast for self-improvement is a desirable attribute, but it’s crucial to understand the theory behind fasting practices to ensure you are doing it in a way that will ultimately improve your vitality.
There are various types of fasting including the Warrior diet, juice fasting, intermittent fasting and fat fasting. Here are some key takeaways for each of these respective types of fasting:
- Designed to mimic the life of men in active battle
- Flexible fasting occurs all day until dinner time; flexible meaning some light snacking and hydration is allowed during the day
- Dinner is a large, calorie dense meal
- This diet is more of an approach that an inflexible fasting protocol, with the focus being on low calories during the day and high calorie at night
- A fast on which you consume only fresh juice made from vegetables and fruit
- Created to act as a catalyst for detoxification
- Promotes better digestion, energy levels, and strengthened immunity
- Can be done incorrectly by drinking a large amount of fruit juice and/or pasteurized juices
- Fasting for one part of the day and eating one part of the day
- Most commonly done by fasting for 16 hours and eating for 8 hours
- This method is also referred to as 16/8 fasting
- Typically, individuals will choose to fast in the morning and then consume food from 11am-7pm
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- A modified way to do intermittent fasting, in which an individual consumes only fat during the fasting window
- Over time, your body will become more fat adapted, meaning it will look to fat for energy instead of glucose (sugar)
- Women that are new to fasting may find this helpful, as it helps keep your energy levels balanced, blood sugar stable and hormones in check
- Bulletproof coffee is a great way to achieve this (bulletproof coffee is traditionally made with grass-fed butter and MCT oil)
The Benefits of Fasting
According to the Stanford Center for Law and the Biosciences², intermittent fasting leads to:
- Weight loss
- Reduced body fat
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower resting heart rate
- Improved risk markers for cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease
Besides weight loss, brain health is perhaps one of the most touted benefits of fasting. The physiology that makes this true is quite complex, yet far reaching and verified through research. On an anecdotal level, many who practice intermittent fasting have claimed to have a newly regained sense of clarity after practicing fasting.
This has been studied by the Stanford Center for Law and the Biosciences² in great depth, discovering that intermittent fasting has enormous implications for brain health. For instance:
- Increased synaptic plasticity (a biological marker of learning and memory)
- Enhanced performance on memory tests in the elderly
- Faster recovery after stroke or traumatic brain injury
- Decreased risk for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease
- Potential improvement in the quality of life and cognitive function for those already diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease
Stanford drives this point home by adding that fasting has also been shown to play a preventative and therapeutic role in mood disorders like anxiety and depression.
Start Small And Work Your Way Up
Those that try out fasting for the first time have reported some initial negative side effects, which are shown to simply be the body adaptive to a new way of distributing and allocating energy.
Others report only positive effects such as a surge of energy, decrease in bloat, better cognitive function, improved mood and overall enhanced mental state.
Since people experience fasting differently, it’s advisable to start slow into this process and ease in. One way to do this is to start with a fasting window smaller than the ideal 16 hours and gradually work your way up to 16 as your body acclimatizes.
Ultimately, every single body is anatomically, physiologically and genetically different. This makes it important for the novice faster to educate themselves and experiment with what will work best for their unique body.
It’s best to stay open to new information, but also filter it through your own personal filter with consideration for your doctor or Naturopath’s advice.
If jumping in head first is too daunting a task for you to take on, consider practicing this for even one day a week. Even a single fasting interval in humans (overnight) can reduce concentrations of many metabolic biomarkers associated with chronic disease, such as insulin and glucose, according to the University of Michigan Public School of Health.³
Helen Sanders is chief editor at HealthAmbition.com. Established in 2012, Health Ambition has grown rapidly in recent years. Our goal is to provide easy-to-understand health and nutrition advice that makes a real impact. We pride ourselves on making sure our actionable advice can be followed by regular people with busy lives.
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