Ah, fasting. This is actually one of the topics that i’ve actually be curious about for a while now. Is fasting really healthy for our body? Sure, it does help us lose weight, but are there are long term effects?
Growing up, me being the social butterfly that i am, i would make a lot of friends through either wanting to try their foods at lunch or straight up asking for a bite if any of my school friends’ lunches look mouth watering enough. Some calls me gluttonous, but you know, gluttonous is not really a word that i’d use to describe mini me. I think i’d prefer to call myself “adventurous”.
Jokes aside however, i used to have a lot of muslim friends. If you don’t already know, people who are muslim would fast for a month straight, every year. They call it Ramadan. During Ramadan, Muslims fast every day from dawn to sunset. It is meant to be a time of spiritual discipline — of deep contemplation of one’s relationship with God, extra prayer, increased charity and generosity, and intense study of the Quran.
From this, my curiosity about fasting started to grow. And today, we’ll get to the bottom of what fasting is all about, and if it’s healthy for our bodies.
TYPES OF FASTING DIETS
If you are anything like me (read : loves food too much to fast), then shall i say a big, bright and warm welcome to you. We’re in the same boat. As in, you and i will both be shocked by the amounts and different varieties of fasting diets that’s out there.
1. 16/8 Fasting Diet
- One of the most popular fasting diets
- Limit eating to a single 8-hour window every day, typically between noon and 8:00PM
- Stay hydrated throughout the day with water, plain black tea, or Bulletproof Coffee
- Limit carbs
- Does not restrict your food choices during your eating window, but a low-carb diet with nutrient-dense foods can accelerate weight loss and boost your results.
2. 5:2 Fasting Diet
- Eat as usual for 5 days per week, and limit calories to between 500 and 600 for 2 days a week
- Enjoy three small meals or two slightly bigger meals during calorie-restricted days
- Safe to exercise on both fasting and non-fasting days
3. Eat Stop Eat Fasting Diet
- Eat normally for 5 days, then fast for 24 hours twice per week
- During normal eating days, eat nutritious foods, but do not eliminate food groups or give up the foods you love
- Schedule 24-hour fasts so that you still eat something at least once per day. For example, eat at 7:00AM on Friday, begin your fast at 8:00AM, and eat again after 8:00AM on Saturday.
- There are no specific data to support its effectiveness. Note that it may be harder to avoid blood sugar crashes if you don’t cut carbs and fill up on the right fats during normal eating days.
4. 4:3 Fasting Diet
- Fast every other day, and eat what you want during non-fasting days
- Stay hydrated on fasting days, and limit yourself to a 500-calorie food intake
- Eat as much as you want on non-fasting days
- This particular fasting diet leads to feelings of hunger and irritability, which may keep you from adopting it long-term.
6. One Meal A Day (OMAD)
- Fast for 23 hours and eat your daily calories during a 1-hour window
- For time to eat socially and still digest before bedtime, consider eating between 4-7PM every day
7. Warrior Diet
- Fast or eat less than you normally eat over a 20-hour window, then eat one large meal during a 4-hour evening window
- Eat wholesome, organic, high-nutrient foods during the evening meal
5. Bulletproof Intermittent Fasting
- Fast for 18 hours and limit eating window to 2-8PM
- During the fasting window, drink Bulletproof Coffee
PROS OF FASTING
1. Reducing Insulin Resistance
Some studies have found that fasting may improve blood sugar control, which could be especially useful for those at risk of diabetes. One study in 10 people with type 2 diabetes showed that short-term intermittent fasting significantly decreased blood sugar levels.
Take this with a grain of salt however, because while there has been researches about the pros that can be received from fasting, there are other studies that suggests otherwise, finding that fasting may impact blood sugar levels differently in women and men.
2. Aids Weight Loss and Boost Metabolism
Fasting makes intuitive sense. The food we eat is broken down by enzymes in our gut and eventually ends up as molecules in our bloodstream. Carbohydrates, particularly sugars and refined grains (think white flours and rice), are quickly broken down into sugar, which our cells use for energy. If our cells don’t use it all, we store it in our fat cells as, well, fat.
Between meals, as long as we don’t snack, our insulin levels will go down and our fat cells can then release their stored sugar, to be used as energy. We lose weight if we let our insulin levels go down. The entire idea of fasting is to allow the insulin levels to go down far enough and for long enough that we burn off our fat.
3. Stay Youthful, For Longer
While current studies are still limited to animals, we have found some promising results on the potential longevity effects of fasting.
In one study, rats that fasted every other day experienced a delayed rate of aging and lived 83% longer than rats that didn’t fast. Other animal studies have had similar findings, reporting that fasting could be effective in increasing longevity and survival rates.
4. Boost Brain Function
A study in mice showed that practicing intermittent fasting for 11 months improved both brain function and brain structure. Other animal studies have reported that fasting could protect brain health and increase the generation of nerve cells to help enhance cognitive function.
Not to mention, because fasting may also help relieve inflammation, it could also aid in preventing neurodegenerative disorders (Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s). Despite the amazing results in animals however, further researches still need to be made to see how fasting affects human brains.
CONS OF FASTING
1. Say “No, No” To Long Term
For most people, it is very hard to continue on this diet for long periods of time. Fasting diets that we have listed above, requires you to go through a set period of time where you won’t consume anything at all, and then eat all your designated amount of calories within a specific window of time. And you have to do this continuously, staying in caloric deficit, to reap the results.
Due to that fact, this prolonged period of 0 calorie consumption can be difficult to stick with long-term because we’ll constantly have to deal with low energy, cravings, our day to day schedules, and not to mention the discipline required to stick to the diet.
2. Sugar Crash
This is another big issue that needs to be taken into consideration before trying any of the fasting diets.
Most of the fasting diets listed above seems to give the OK that you fast for a good part of the day, and then eat whatever you want within a specific window of time. That can cause dieters to binge eat when it’s their eating time and obsess about food when they’re fasting. When this happens, if they decided to continue on with the diet, it’s only until time before they develop an eating disorder of just eating until they’re ready to burst and just so they could last through the fast.
3. Affecting Social Life
Just like a lot of other strict diets out there, following the fasting diet will affect your social life. The majority of our social interactions occur over foods and drinks. And when you’re fasting, you have to have the willpower to not indulge and figure out alternatives to still have a social life without breaking your fast.
Not to mention, dieters who follow the fasting diet may experience days where they experience lower energy levels than normal, and may not want to be out and about instead of choosing to rest at home.
4. Hormonal Imbalances
Those who lead active lifestyles, or are learner individuals before beginning intermittent fasting, may suffer from hormonal imbalances as a result. This could lead to insomnia, increased stress, and thyroid problem. On top of that, for women, this could also lead to irregular menstrual cycles and potential fertility issues.
As terrifying as this sounds however, fasting diets are mainly safe for the general public. If you’re worried, it is best that you do it under the supervision or approval of a physician.
STARTING FASTING DIET?
This is the answer to the question that we’ve all be dying to know. Should i scrap my current diet and go with fasting diet instead?
To be honest, despite the popularity this diet seems to be gaining with the general public, not to mention the listed benefits of this fasting diet, it is surely compelling to want to start this diet tomorrow. However, please note that most of the researches are currently still just done on animals. We have yet to see all of those mentioned benefits on humans.
For those of you who have tried any other restrictive diets before (i.e. Keto Diet), then you understand just how difficult it is to continue on with the diet long-term. Unless you have an impeccable discipline –– which i definitely do not as i quit keto after 1 week –– i’d assume that fasting diets will be just as hard to maintain. With that said however, there is no one-diet-fit-all. There are a lot of dieters out there who have seen the result to this diet and would stand by fasting diet no matter what. And then there are others who were disappointed by it, and decided to drop it.
I think fasting diets would be sustainable if you’re looking for a quick weight loss in a short period of time. However i am unsure if it’s sustainable long term.