Today I want to talk about a tricky subject in the health and fitness world: fasting.
Traditionally, people partake in fasting as a religious observance, but today it’s more commonly used as a rapid weight-loss tool and there’s tons of different types of fasting out there. There’s the 5:2 Fast Diet, water fasts, cleansing fasts, protein fasts, juice fasts, extended fasts, short fasts, etc., etc. and if those words mean nothing to you then I’m right there with you because to be honest it’s all very confusing to me.
However, I’m no dietitian, and according to ~internet~ medical professionals there are a number health benefits to fasting. As a personal trainer, I would never partake in fasting for weight loss or recommend it to my clients, but I do want to get some hands-on experience to really understand what it’s like to go through a fast and see if I actually feel any benefits at the end of it all.
So I decided to take the plunge, put myself through a 32-hour juice fast, and conduct some research throughout the process. And I’m here to share it all with you!
Let’s start with the research. Keep in mind that all of this research is from the web and not any of my own (I’ll be sure to add my references at the end, plz don’t sue me). I’m going to keep my reports basic because there’s so much information on fasting out there and I don’t want to get lost in a black hole of 1,230,483 results.
Still with me? Cool!
Here are my findings on the benefits of fasting, including some risks that you should definitely watch out for.
- Fasting can detoxify your body: The key word here is can because the scientific evidence backing that claim is debatable. However, Dr. Furham, a WebMD contributor that I discovered a few minutes ago, makes a pretty compelling argument. He believes fasting can detoxify your body because after a day or two of not eating, your body goes into ketosis. Which is a fancy word for your body using fat as fuel instead of carbohydrates. A lot of the toxins in your body are stored in fat, so while your body is burning fat it’s also gets rid of toxins. Keep in mind that our bodies naturally fast while we sleep, so when you’re catching some Zzzzz’s you’re also detoxing. Cowabunga, dude!
- Fasting can treat diseases: This one was a shocker to me. For some reason I thought fasting would be worse for you if you have a disease, but apparently I am wrong (go figure!) According to our all-star Dr. Furham, fasting, in combination with a proper diet before and after the fast, can lower blood pressure, eliminate skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, and even help reduce arthritis. There’s also studies that suggest fasting can provide psychological benefits for depression and anxiety. I’ll cheers my juice to that!
- Fasting can help normalize your insulin levels: When we eat too many carbs and sugars, our body can become insulin-resistant which is common in people with type 2 diabetes. If you cut out the carbs and sugars via fasting, your blood-glucose levels can “normalize” and your body can become more insulin sensitive. Higher insulin sensitivity helps your body store carbs in more muscle and less fat. Not too sure if I buy this one, but I found a couple of resources that back this claim. I’ll take the bait for now!
- Fasting can help control your appetite: This one I definitely believe. According to a study by Dr. Jason Fung, fasting can decrease your ghrelin levels, aka the hormone that makes you hungry. He researched a separate study where 33 subjects had their ghrelin levels measured, fasted for 3 days, and then re-measured to see if anything changed. And guess what! Their ghrelin levels gradually decreased and most of the subjects found that they just weren’t hungry anymore. They had better control over their appetite and became fuller sooner. Tyler, my boo thang, also fasted for 3 days and came back saying the same thing. Now he has much better control over his appetite and rarely feels like he’s “starving.” Hmmmm, now I’m getting excited!
- Unhealthy weight-loss tool: This one seemed pretty obvious to me, but a lot of people fall victim to fad diets that convince you that the lbs you’re shedding off are from fat, but it’s really all just excess fluid. It falls off easily, but will come back quickly once you start eating regularly again. Womp womp.
- Slower metabolism: If there’s one thing you don’t want to f*ck up while you’re trying to lose weight, it’s your metabolism. You can think of your metabolism like a mitochondria – it’s the powerhouse of your body. Your metabolism is a chemical process that takes all of the fuel from what you eat and drink and turns it into energy. It powers everything we do! From thinking to moving to eating. When your metabolism slows down, you don’t burn energy as quickly and the unused calories are stored as fat. This often happens with crash diets because they create muscle and water loss rather than fat loss. So you’re in worse shape after your fast than when you started. Double womp womp.
- Possible undernourishment: Since you’re not eating food while fasting, you’re robbing your body of the vitamins and nutrients that it needs to be healthy. I chose to do a juice cleanse to avoid this problem, but I’m not certain that I won’t face a little bit of undernourishment. There’s only so much fruit and veggie juice can give you people! Undernourishment can have some nasty side-effects as well, such as dry mouth, nausea, dizziness, low blood sugar and low energy levels. No thank you!
So, there you have it! Some benefits and disadvantages to fasting. Would I say that fasting is healthy? I’m not really sure. The best advice I could give you is to talk to your doctor about fasting before you do it. They know a lot more than I do, and can help you pick the right fast for your situation as well as guide you through the process. I’m just a lazy girl trying to get her education on!
I’ll be posting about my personal experience with fasting in another post soon, so be sure to check that out!
Fist bumps and hugs,