Fasting has recorded roots dating back to ancient Greece and throughout centuries it has been used as a tool for self-improvement, religious aspirations and political statements. Opinions are divided, but experts have released a compelling amount of evidence that an intermittent fasting diet, if done properly, may be a path to optimal health.
Supporters of intermittent fasting claim that the practice can increase your metabolic rate by 3.6-14%. Another study shows that intermittent fasting can reduce blood sugar levels by 3-6%. It’s these sorts of findings that are particularly exciting because optimal blood sugar levels are vital for long-term health. When there’s more sugar (glucose) in the blood than your body can process on a regular basis, it can build up and potentially result in permanent damage to major organs.
But what happens when your blood sugar is low and your body has used up all the glucose in the blood? This is one of the biochemical effects that fasting can bring on. When your body has used up all the glucose in your blood, insulin and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) levels go down. This process is called ketosis and some call it the body’s “survival mode.” During ketosis, the body begins to heal itself as a primary function. Research indicates that fasting can lead to many forms of healing within your body, from an increased rate of regeneration in brain cells to autophagy, which is the body’s highly-efficient “housekeeping” process.
Fasting Tips and Considerations
There are many ways to structure an intermittent fasting diet, but two in particular are considered to be the most accessible and sustainable. The first, the 16:8, entails a 16-hour period of fasting and an 8-hour window for eating every 24 hours. For example, if you finish dinner at 6pm, you won’t eat until 10am the following day. The second is the 5:2. In this program, you eat normally for five days each week and fast for two days. Those two days are not a full fast, however; most advocates of the diet recommend consuming 500-600 calories on those fasting days.
A Whole Lifestyle Approach
A lifestyle change can’t be limited to diet. Movement is another cornerstone of health and experts recommend 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity (this of course includes yoga) on most days to see improvements in overall health.
Accentuate the Positive
Focus on what you do put into your body rather than fixating on what you don’t. Your body has basic nutritional needs and complex uses for the micronutrients and co-factors found in wholefoods. If you do decide to incorporate an intermittent fasting diet into your lifestyle, remember to optimise the physiological processes that the fasting will bring on. Calorie restriction will cut out many of the macronutrients, but your body can use micronutrients to enhance healing. This optimisation may be as easy as supplementing with a natural multivitamin.
If you decide to give intermittent fasting a go, please consult with your healthcare professional before beginning. And remember that lifestyle is a very personal thing – there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to wellness. If you find that a new diet or routine is making you unhappy, it might not be the right fit. Peace of mind is a crucial part of overall wellness, so it’s important that your lifestyle has a positive effect on your mental health.
Popular Books on Fasting
The Fast Diet
The book that started it all. Dr Michael Mosley, a TV medico, introduces the science behind the diet, with research into the wider health benefits of intermittent fasting – including studies on asthma, eczema and diabetes.Mimi Spencer, award-winning food and fashion writer, then explains how to incorporate fasting into your daily life.
The Complete Guide to Fasting: Heal Your Body Through Intermittent, Alternate-Day, and Extended Fasting
The Complete Guide to Fasting explains: why fasting is actually good for health who can benefit from fasting (and who won’t) the history of fasting the various ways to fast: intermittent, alternate-day, and extended fasting what to expect.
The Spirituality of Fasting
Fasting is a popular practice in many religions so it’s not surprising there have been an astonishing number of books written about the benefits of fasting and the renewing religious faith (google it). This is one of the more popular ones.
Blair Norfolk is the founder of Activated Nutrients. For more information and to explore their range of nutrient dense supplements, head to www.activatednutrients.com