Although it’s a hot topic as of late, fasting itself is an ancient practice that has been used globally for centuries. But what exactly is fasting, and why is it so much different than just cutting calories? All this and more explored in the latest blog post!
What Is Fasting
Fasting or intermittent fasting (IF), put simply, is intentionally not eating for a prolonged period of time. Some people also choose to practice eating in a shortened window, cutting themselves off earlier than usual. The great thing about fasting is there is no one way to go about it, you can find a style and schedule that works for you. It is important to note that fasting is something that humans have evolved to do without harm coming to the body.
Types of Fasting
While there can be endless ways to go about fasting, we’re going to outline some of the typical ways people practice.
Time restricted feeding
This is shortening your eating window so you only eat between certain hours of the day. Usually 8 – 10 hours or less is a good goal, but some people shorten it to as little as 3 – 4 hours. This can even mean just skipping breakfast and eating lunch and dinner, or not eating after 5 pm. It is also be referred to as 16:8 where 16 stands for the number of hours you abstain from eating and 8 represents your eating window
Alternate day fasting
Incorporating fasting every other day. This could mean fasting from 6:00 pm one day until 6:00 pm the other day. Put simply, you stop eating after dinner on Monday and don’t eat again until dinner on Tuesday.
Whole day fasting
Abstaining from food for a full 24-hours or more. This type of fasting is for someone who has been practicing IF and ready to take on a longer fast. When you fast for longer periods of time you start to get some of the benefits like cell autophagy and apoptosis which only come from longer fasts.
The Benefits of Fasting
While there are many benefits to incorporating intermittent fasting into your routine, a key benefit related to weight loss is it allows the body to use up stored energy. When we’re not eating anything, we are not raising blood sugar and insulin levels at all. Like low-carb eating, this allows the body to burn through stored sugars and eventually, start to use our own fat stores for energy instead. If your goal is to use fat for energy, fasting can aid this process by ensuring our bodies use up excess sugar (in the form of glycogen) and allow us to either maintain, or achieve a ketogenic state.
A key difference between intermittent fasting and calorie restriction is that when you’re not fasting you’re still giving your body adequate, nutrient dense foods for fuel.
Especially if you pair fasting with any kind of low-carb keto diet, you’re likely less hungry already, and skipping meals if you’re not hungry is common.
Benefits beyond weight loss
While many of the benefits of fasting (reduced inflammation, controlled cravings etc) can also be achieved eating a keto diet, there are a few key differences fasting offers. Fasting, especially prolonged fasting, causes a dramatic increase in stem cell production and cell autophagy and apoptosis. If these terms are new to you, the take away is that fasting allows our body to rid itself of old damaged cells which may contribute to aging and promote cancer growth.
Eat when you're hungry!
What’s important to remember is that the best way to go about fasting is the way that works with your life and your schedule. If you’ve tried something out and it just isn’t working, that’s okay! In a world where we’re trained to eat every two hours, fasting has reminded us that it is okay to skip a meal if we're not hungry. Something as simple as snacking less ditching the after dinner munchies can have benefits.
Please ensure to consult a doctor before fasting especially if you’re someone who struggles with blood sugar, hypoglycaemia or are on medications for diabetes. People who should NOT fast include those who are underweight or have eating disorders like anorexia, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and people under the age of 18.
Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2015: Intermittent fasting and human metabolic health
JBI Database of Systematic Reviews and Implementation Reports 2018: Intermittent fasting interventions for treatment of overweight and obesity in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis
International Journal of Obesity 2011: The effects of intermittent or continuous energy restriction on weight loss and metabolic disease risk markers: a randomised trial in young overweight women