Fasting & intermitent fasting
You have probably heard people say “I am on the 16/8 fast” or others telling you how they felt after a 24 h water fast…. As you carry on reading through these next paragraphs you will get to know what is fasting, the differences between fasting techniques and how to implement them. Last but not least, how beneficial fasting is for your body, for your brain, for your sleep quality, for your blood sugar control and how it can be a preventative measure against some diseases.
What is fasting ?
Fasting has been practised for thousands of years across many cultures and religions around the globe. Religious or cultural fasts are undertaken as an act of devotion and do not promote weight loss. However, in our modern society, fasting for weight loss has captured people’s imagination. Unlike the traditional diets, fasting (& intermittent fasting) focus on when you eat. Intermittent fasting ( IF ) involves limiting our food and calorific drinks in a set window of time during the day. For example, the most popular IF is 16/8, restricting your calorie intake in an 8 hour period and fasting during the remaining 16 hours, with unlimited water consumption.
This is is by far the most popular as it can be introduced easily in our busy lives. So from a practical point of view if you finish your meal at 8.30 pm you could have your next meal at 12.30 pm the next day. So you fast while you sleep and then skip breakfast. Others prefer to start at 9am with a healthy breakfast then a normal lunch, for example around 12.30pm, and finally a light meal no later than 4 pm. The possibilities are endless and you can pick and choose to suit your lifestyle.
Fasting for 24/48 hours is unlikely to be dangerous for most healthy adults , however it is advisable to get your GP’s approval before embarking on any major fasting programme.
Eat – STOP – Eat, is one of the simplest fasting method as you fast for 24h (for example, fasting from 8pm to 8pm the next day) once or twice a week. Or if you prefer a one day fast, eat normally one day then fast the next.
How to get started?
Just to quote Dr Michael Eades “Diets are easy in the contemplation, difficult in the execution. Intermittent fasting is the opposite – it’s difficult in the contemplation and easy in the execution.”
If you have never done up to 10 hours without eating, you will need to be introduced gently into intermittent fasting. There is nothing to fear, it’s all trial and error.
Before you start your fasting, make sure your last meal contains protein, fibre to slow digestion and fat to provide you with slow burning energy.
1 – Start by 12 hours and for me the easiest was from 8.30 pm to 8.30 am the next day. The truth is that you must choose which times suit you and how you feel about it, there is no one size fits all where fasting is concerned!! Then when you have mastered the 12 hours (give yourself a week or two) then increase your fasting time by one hour a week or every 2 weeks. You decide according to your schedule and how you feel.
2 – For beginners an easy start can be to skip a meal, according to your level of hunger or your time constraints. This is a good way to monitor and respond to your hunger signals.
3 – Regardless of when you fast, stay well hydrated with water and drinks such as herbal tea throughout the day. Some people recommend black coffee, no sugar, to stave off the hunger pangs during the fasting time. Needles to say that the water quality that you drink during your fasting is of the upmost importance. So pick some good quality glass bottled water or get it from a counter top reverse osmosis filtration system.
4 – On fasting days avoid strenuous activities like a heavy gym session, CrossFit or long-distance running. Instead, opt for low-intensity cardio or yoga.
5 – During your eating period, it is recommended to eat several small meals and snacks to stabilise your blood sugar levels and to keep your hunger under control. The quality of your food is crucial and you should avoid the wrong calories, including refined carbohydrates, sugar/fructose and grains.
6 – Try balancing each meal with a good variety of the following:
Protein – Animal or plant based, preferably choose organic or grass fed.
Fish – Preferably fatty fish like salmon, mackerel or herring.
Eggs – Preferably organic.
Vegetables – Cabbage, asparagus, eggplant, olives, spinach, mushrooms, cucumber, lettuce, tomatoes, etc.
Dairy products – Always select full fat option like butter, cream, sour cream, Kefir and cheese.
Nuts and berries – Brazilian nuts, macademia and almonds as well as walnuts. Berries, strawberries, and blueberries are ok in moderation.
Drinks – Plenty of water still or sparkling, coffee and tea.
One of its most obvious benefits is weight loss. However, this is a very new notion as this practice has been around since ancient times. They referred to it as a cleansing or purification time for the mind and the spirit.
The most common benefits are listed below;
- Weight loss
- Increased fat burning and the mild ketosis
- Lowered blood insulin and sugar levels
- Improved mental clarity and concentration
- Increased energy due to increased fat metabolism and ketone production.
- Reduction of brain fog
- Possibly increasing growth hormone.
- Can contribute to a reduction in the risk of Alzheimer’s disease
- Reduced inflammation
- Depending on the length of the fasting, an activation of cellular cleansing by stimulating autophagy which is the cellular self cleansing processthat breaks down and recycles damaged molecules and cellular organelles.
- Better blood lipid markers including cholesterol, bood sugar, triglycerides and blood pressure.
- Get lean without loosing muscle mass by stimulating growth hormone and testosterone.
- Potencially increase longevity, as when you are fasting your body finds ways to extend your life.
- Normalise appetite by regulating ghrelin the hunger hormone.
- Improve sleep quality
One of the other benefits of fasting is that it makes your day simpler. You know when you are eating, there is no calorie restriction and you can eat almost anything you want (as long as you keep within the healthy food parameters). Then in the fasting period you don’t eat …it’s that simple. You can carry on enjoying your cooking, you can include yourself in the family meals, and in general it puts less stress in your meal preparation. In the words of Dr Jason Fung author of “The obesity code “ you can easily incorporate it into your daily routine. Long term it is more economical than any other diet because you are eating less.
Fasting or intermittent fasting is a great tool that you can use wherever you want, it is simple as you are either eating or not, it’s economical, it fits perfectly around your family lifestyle and meal times and ultimately and most importantly it has amazing health benefits. This is a practise I have incorporated into my day to day. I started with just a 12-hour window and bit by bit increased it to a 24 hour fasting period. Now I fast every 2 or 3 days for a 24 hour period. I have totally incorporated this practice into my life and I feel the better for it. My next objective is to do a 3-day water fast…. I shall keep you posted on my next steps!!
DISCLAIMER The material on this website is for informational purposes only. As each individual situation is unique, you should use proper discretion, in consultation with a health care practitioner, before undertaking the protocols, diet, exercises, techniques, training methods, or otherwise described herein. The author and publisher expressly disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects that may result from the use or application of the information contained herein.