Intermittent fasting is the latest and greatest fad in the American weight loss scene. I see more books and articles out about fasting every week. Some will say that it’s the solution to all your woes, but it is important to realize that it’s just another tool among hundreds. Intermittent fasting means either doing short fasts of one to three days often, as in once a week or month respectively, or fasting for more than sixteen hours every day. Fasting can be a good way to kick start a new healthy eating habit or an additional trick for someone who eats healthy but is still trying to improve their health.
The origins of short or intermittent fasting periods date back antiquity. References to fasting can be found in the Bible, the Koran and in ancient Greek texts by Hippocrates, the father of medicine. People have fasted for religious observance and as a therapeutic way to rejuvenate the body. Plato and Socrates were both known to have fasted for days at a time to attain mental and physical efficiency. Fasting has long been observed among animals during times of illness, and the use of fasting to treat illness among humans has been employed for centuries.
Fasting is done to increase the healing process of the body by decreasing the energy used to metabolize foods. Fasting should ideally be done when you have the opportunity for rest, gentle exercise, and other self-care activities such as meditation or journaling. Moderate to heavy exercise is not encouraged when fasting and can impair elimination. Remember the more rest the better the results. Your energy can be directed towards healing, instead of other bodily functions.
Intermittent fasting is one of the most nutritionally effective ways to live longer. Not only has fasting been proven in numerous laboratory trials to extend life expectancy but it has also been shown to reduce inflammation and risk of cancer or diabetes was well as change fat metabolism. Fasting could help you live healthier longer when done right.
Only water should be taken during a fast; filtered or spring water is best. Some experts recommend juice, however, this is not considered true fasting. Juice fasts are actually an elimination diet as nutrients are being ingested. The quantity of water should be dictated by thirst, but you need to drink several glasses each day. For hydration purposes I recommend ½ of your body weight in ounces of water a day at a minimum. Losing vitamins or minerals is not usually of concern in a short fast of one to three days. Humans have adapted biochemical mechanisms to exist for long periods without food.
The trick to fasting, whether you restrict calories for the better part of a day, a full day or multiple days is to not overeat when you break the fast. If you gorge yourself on food after not eating for a day you will have reaped no benefits. The benefit from fasting is due to the overall caloric restriction over time. Over a week if you have fasted for 2 full days for example then on a 2000 calorie a day diet you would have eaten 4000 calories less and potentially lost about a pound of fat (each pound of fat is said to be 3500 calories). To break a fast you want to ensure you are consuming a small meal and not more than you would have normally eaten if you hadn’t fasted. Fruit is the food most often recommended to break a fast, that meal is typically followed by a meal of cooked vegetables and then a meal of your regular healthy foods in an appropriate portion size.
It is important to realize that fasting is only one part of a total health optimization program and not a panacea. Fresh air, rest, exercise, sunshine, pure water, and wholesome high quality unprocessed food are all equally important to maintain a long healthy life.