Fasting: yay or nay and what does it do for your body?
By now, you may have heard or even tried intermittent fasting, however, most people only think of it as a way to lose weight, so we wanted to give you the low down so you know whether or not it is for you.
Scientific studies show that intermittent fasting can help achieve weight loss, prevent and manage diabetes, control gut related issues, increase cellular resistance to toxins and lower the risk of heart disease and other illnesses.
The whole notion of “If I remove one or two meals a day, then I will lose fat” makes sense on a theoretical level, however, if this is your primary goal, you should prepare yourself with knowledge and awareness first.
Before fasting, you should take the time to research exactly how the physiology works so that you can optimise your experience and achieve the whole spectrum of health related benefits.
This is how fasting works.
When your body is being fed, it goes through a process where it absorbs and digests food. .
During this time, a series of events happen within the bloodstream as a result of breaking down the food that you eat.
The main one of concern being a spike in insulin, a glucose transporter which helps your body bring glucose from the bloodstream and into storage as either glycogen or fat.
The more carbohydrates that you eat, the higher the insulin spike and the larger the storage capacity.
After fasting (4+ hours), blood glucose levels drop to regular levels, which leads to a decrease in insulin production and your body can return to its regular state of utilising the blood glucose (and other nutrients) as opposed to trying to store them.
During the fasted state, your body switches hormones (from insulin to glucagon) and rather than storing glucose into the body, it begins the opposite process (turning stored glycogen into glucose) so that it is ready for immediate usage.
As this process goes on for longer, you’ll begin to deplete your glycogen stores and your body will begin looking for other fuel sources to continue metabolic function.
Fat stores will eventually be used to create ketone bodies for general functioning glucose for brain function.
As time goes on even longer (3+ days) you will begin to see some benefits at the cellular level. Your body will begin the process of autophagy which will increase the cellular resistance to toxins, reduced inflammation, neurogenesis and overall metabolic health.
Key Things to note:
- Carbohydrates (glucose) will always be your body’s primary option for fuel, so if you’re constantly feeding, your body generally doesn’t tap into your fat stores as it has enough energy to sustain metabolism and general life. Fasting enables your body to stop the digestion process and tap into its storage systems.
- Whilst there are plenty of benefits from fasting (regardless of calories) fat loss will only occur if there is a calorie deficit. Fasting can definitely help that due to shortening the window of opportunity to ingest calories, however, ensuring your reduced meals aren’t compensated with larger portions and your activity levels are still high enough to create a deficit is imperative if you want to lose body fat.
Whilst your body will tap into fat storage for energy, it will be in proportion to the necessity of energy required.
I.e. 1 day of fasting won’t make up for 3 days on binging. It is a long process that needs consistency.
Humans have evolved to resort to eating food whenever we feel the slightest bit of hunger because we CAN.
We have evolved so that we never have to worry about food again, although, we can see the detriment this has caused us.
It doesn’t take much to see the correlation between food abundance and obesity.
There is a very clear disconnect between psychology and physiology.
I’m not saying that you’re obese or will be, but this is just a test to see whether you
How uncomfortable are you willing to get? How much will you let your stomach grumble before you cave?
***Remember, this is not just about body composition and dropping body fat, it’s a mental resilience challenge, a gut reset, a physiological reset and just a test in general.
Obviously, the restriction of calories can aid in weight loss, however, it should not be used as a starvation tool.
Start small: even if you just get to the point of being uncomfortable and then track how long you can withstand the urge to eat, that’s a win.
Become conscious. Learn to connect your psychology with your physiology.
*** Fasting may not be for everyone. People with advanced diabetes, with a history of eating disorders, and pregnant or breastfeeding women should not attempt intermittent fasting unless under medical supervision.
MORE BENEFITS OF FASTING + RESOURCES
- Fasting helps weight loss: Fasting allows the body to burn through fat cells more effectively than regular dieting.
- Fasting improves insulin sensitivity: Fasting has shown to have a positive effect on insulin sensitivity which allows you to handle carbs (sugar) better than if you didn’t fast.
- Fasting speeds up metabolism: During your fast, it will give your digestive system a rest. This can help you to burn through calories more efficiently by energising your metabolism. AND GUESS WHAT? Ever feel like your digestion may be POOR or SLOW? Well then a fast can help regulate your digestion. And not only that but it will promote healthy bowel function, which in the end will improve your metabolic function. YAY!
- Fasting to live longer: Yeah you heard us right. Studies show that the less you eat the longer you live. Crazy right? One of the primary effects of ageing is a slower metabolism. So in fasting, we are producing a faster and more efficient metabolism than a younger person. So the less we eat, the less stress we put on our digestive system.
- Fasting can improve hunger: Are you the type of person who eats so regularly that they never feel what real hunger is? Or are you the type of person who finds they are ALWAYS hungry and that is all they can think about? So by fasting it helps regulate the hormones in the body so that we can experience what true hunger is. And by fasting, we are able to regulate true hunger cues. Think of fasting as a reset button. The longer that we fast, the longer time our bodies have to regulate hormones and release the correct hormones that we need. When the correct hormones are used, we will feel fuller for longer.
- Fasting for smarter and faster brains: Ever feel slow, stagnant or can’t think straight? Well then if ever you needed a sign to try a fast then here is your sign. You don’t have to go to the extreme for your first fast. Try a fast until you find yourself at an uncomfortable point of hunger and then keep going. A good minimum can be 13 hours, then 16 hours, 18 hours, 24 hours leading into 48-36 hours.
- Fasting for a stronger and harder working immune system: If you are someone who finds they have a high inflammation response in their body from certain things, then a fast is actually a great way to reduce that. Fasting will reduce free radical damage, reduce inflammatory conditions in the body and starve off cancer cell formation.
- Fasting for self-personal benefits: When we fast, we have no food in our system. Which then makes more room in the body for more energy. The digestive system is one of the most absorbing systems that we have. Without having food as a distraction, we then have more time to focus on other aspects of our lives. It has shown for fasting, that people have actually found themselves more connected to practices of life like reading, meditation, yoga and other activities. Fasting actually allows us to internally and externally feel better about ourselves consciously and physically.
- The last and final reason. If we haven’t enlightened you as to why a fast might be a good idea for you then how about this! Fasting CAN improve/prevent acne and clear the skin! Yes girls, this one’s for you! So when fasting, by not eating anything for the time that we have. Ideally for just one day, it has been shown that this will in fact help the body clean up the toxins and regulate the function of our other organs. E.g. Liver, kidneys and other parts.
Want to give it a go but unsure about how to start? Here are some tips:
- Start with shorter periods of fasting, like 8 to 16 hours.
- Pick an eating window that suits your schedule (some common ones are 11am to 7pm, or 2pm to 10pm)
- Stay hydrated: it’s important to drink enough fluids during a fast!
- With training, be conscious of your energy levels as they may be lower during a fast. Try some light activity that may distract you like walking or meditate instead.
- Stick to your normal diet and macros. Try to avoid eating more than you usually do while you’re not fasting. Listen to your body and stop when you’re full.
- Track it! You can use an app to track when you start and when you end your fasting. There are many free apps, one we recommend is Zero.
- Stop fasting if you are feeling unwell – always listen to your body!
As mentioned before, this diet doesn’t work for everyone and it’s important to know your body. There is a lot of good scientific evidence suggesting that fasting combined with a healthy lifestyle can be really effective to hit many of your goals. But remember that this is only one more of many lifestyle strategies that can help you improve your health. Intermittent fasting is great for some people, not others. The only way to find out which group you belong to is to try it out.
At the end of the day there’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to nutrition. Luckily for our members we don’t give a generic cookie-cutter program for everyone. Our Coaches work closely with every member, they take into consideration their goals, biomechanics, and lifestyle. We find out exactly what they’re looking for and then progress them through the movement standards and nutrition protocols to match.
Fasting is only one more of many lifestyle strategies that can help you improve your health.