Could Fasting be the Quickest Route to Lasting Health?
There are many things with which we’ve been conditioned since birth, including the hatred that usually accompanies the word fasting.
Many of our traditional behaviours are accepted as ‘just the way it is’. All too many habits are assumed to be perfectly natural and normal, and our eating habits fit nicely into that category too.
So let us ask you a question: Is it really necessary to take three meals a day? Or do our bodies ask for this because we’ve programmed them to expect it?
Although fasting is becoming more widely accepted as a healthful habit, it’s certainly not mainstream yet.
Our stomachs have become used to this level of food input, and it’s so thoroughly ingrained into our culture that lunch appointments, breaks from work etc. are all organised at roughly the same times. This need for three meals per day is then perpetuated, and we rarely question the necessity of this pattern.
Add into the equation the fact that supermarkets, restaurants and the food industry in general have a vested interest in your consistent hunger, and the pattern becomes even more questionable.
This article serves as an introduction to fasting. Below you’ll find insights into the benefits of fasting and intermittent fasting and how you can go about it.
What if intermittent fasting is actually healthier than three meals a day?
Anyone who has tried fasting out would probably tell you that at first, your body gets a little annoyed. It will nag you for food, since that’s what it has become used to.
What’s more, at night you might have dreams about clawing at a fridge door and devouring the contents. Sounds a little dramatic, but you’d be surprised!
Fasting can be quite a daunting prospect at first, sure. After all, hunger pangs can feel quite unpleasant when you’re not used to them. But they soon subside and fasting gets a lot easier as time passes.
The stomach soon gets the message from the brain that food isn’t coming, at which point the benefits can kick in.
When combined with well-timed and balanced exercise, the physical and mental results of fasting can be phenomenal.
Obviously you’re reducing your calorie intake, so you’re bound to lose at least some weight. This may seem rather obvious. However, what may be less obvious is that a structured way of fasting can have profound effects on a human body – especially a sick and tired one.
Think about this for a sec: out in wild nature, animals eat when they can eat. This can mean extended periods without food, followed by a meal of sometimes huge proportions.
Yet not so many animals starve to death and there is little to no disease. It was the same for primitive man; our ancestors didn’t eat for extended periods.
What are the benefits of fasting?
#1. Fasting improves or heals ‘chronic’ health conditions
There is now evidence that indicates that a bi-weekly fast has a strong positive impact on the development of degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Epileptic children have experienced fewer seizures when their calorie intake has been restricted. This is also true when they’ve been put on a full fast).
Diseases of the cardiovascular system, diabetes and chronic illnesses like cancer have shown huge improvement with fasting.
Plenty of studies on the effects of a low calorie diet have concluded that (just like a seasonal detox) regular fasting expands life expectancy and promotes a stronger immunity against disease. This is because when you’re not constantly pouring food into your system, you are giving your body a chance to process the build up that’s already inside.
You give your system a break from such a heavy workload and it repays you by more effectively cleansing out impurities. It’s no wonder you feel good!
#2. Fasting boosts your immune system
This point is related to the first point, since a strong immune system is needed to recover from disease.
Fasting for extensive periods triggers stem cells to move from dormancy into a self-renewing state, which benefits the immune system in a big way.
Fasting speeds up the regeneration of cells while aiding the body in removing dead and damaged ones. This happens because your body is attempting to save energy, which prompts it to recycle unnecessary or dysfunctional immune cells.
#3. Fasting boosts cognitive function and mood
Cognitive functions are also improved by fasting, including learning and memory. Those who fast report:
• Clearer thinking
• Needing less sleep
• Having more mental energy
• Being in a better mood
When we fast, our brains are actually benefiting from neurochemical changes. This is why we develop better resistance to stress and an overall reduction in inflammation.
Since regular exercise sparks similar brain chemistry changes, when combined with exercise, fasting can make you feel superhuman.
Fasting intermittently aids reparation of our DNA by enhancing the capabilities of our nerve cells. That’s a pretty big deal!
Which fasting patterns are most beneficial?
There are many ways to fast. It is wise to educate yourself on the options that are available, and decide on which pattern would suit your routine and lifestyle best.
A full fast means not eating (or consuming only juices, smoothies, or perhaps fruit, for example) for a period of days. It can even be up to a month or more for hardcore, seasoned fasters! 3- and 5-day fasts are the most popular.
The benefits are much bigger with a 3-day fast than a 24 hour one, for example. Although every little fast helps and you can work your way up to longer periods with practice.
At first you’ll need to take it easy and work your way up to more extensive periods of fasting. Remember to take hydration seriously.
With some types of fast (especially lengthy, full fasts) consider quality supplementation to help your body to get enough nutrients.
Here are some popular types of intermittent fasting:
Intermittent fasting is a daily fast (or a fast every few days or once a week) during which you eat all the calories you need for a specific window of time. That might be one meal, or several.
There are various intermittent fasting plan options, including:
• A twenty-four hour fast once per week
• The 5:2 plan. For two days of the week you would reduce your calorie intake to about a quarter on days in which you fast. This could be around five hundred for women and six hundred for men. For the other five days you would eat as normal
• The 16/8 Method: Fast for 16 hours each day
• Alternate-day fasting: Fast every other day
• The Warrior Diet: Fast during the day, eat a huge meal at night
To recap, it is evident is that we don’t think enough about what we stuff down our guts. This is obvious from the state of what’s for sale on supermarket shelves as well as the cultural norms about diet and meal times.
When we decide to explore this area more thoroughly to find out what we actually need, rather than what we are addicted to, we’ll drastically improve our quality of life and life expectancy too.
Fasting is one of the best ways to reach optimum health… fast!