Let me begin by saying up front that Fasting is something that should not be taken lightly and is something you may want to discuss with your health care team before attempting on your own. Because everyone has their own medical/health concerns, it is always wise to consult with your health care team before making any dietary changes.
Although fasting is not a requirement for people, it is really something that should be considered to improve your health. There are several methods you can choose from and I will go through them in this post.
Let’s first explore what fasting actually is. Fasting is NOT starving yourself, and it is not a diet either. Fasting is a break from eating foods and refraining from certain types of drinks, and is often done as a religious observance. So you don’t eat (in some cases) and you most definitely do not drink alcohol while participating in a fast. If you don’t recognize it, you actually fast from dinner time in the evening to when you have breakfast in the morning when you literally break the fast! But most people don’t consider that fasting. Another time you actually are fasting is if you are going to have a medical procedure (think blood test) that requires that you do not eat or drink anything from a certain time of day the day before that procedure is being done. When you have a colonoscopy you actually fast for about 36 hours before the procedure is performed. Fasting is done as a religious observance, such as eliminating your favorite food or drink during Lent, which is a partial fast.
This process has been around for thousands of years, you’ll find it in the Bible. Today, we generally use fasting as a way to reboot our health. The thing about fasting is that it will help cleanse and detoxify your body. If you eat a lot of processed foods and potato chips, fasting won’t help a lot, but if you are eating a diet rich in whole foods, lean proteins, and healthy fats, you will see changes.
There isn’t one right way to do it, but here are several ways to do a fast:
- Dry Fast – known as Absolute Fast, Black Fast, and Hebrew Fast is the most extreme type of fasting because you are not eating or drinking anything during the fasting period. It is recommended to only do a Dry Fast for a very short period.
- A Water Fast is one of the hardest ones to do if you extend beyond a day or two and can be a bit hard on your body, as you are only drinking water with no food at all. I’m not saying it can’t be done, because many people have done it quite successfully, but it totally depends on your lifestyle and whether it is a good fit for you or not. The reason it is hard on you is because we tend to eat very high carbohydrate diets, and it’s difficult to get past the headache that can happen when you deprive your body of those carbs for any extended period of time. So if you want to try this one, I would suggest you reduce your carb intake for a little while before you do your fast, or choose to do an Intermittent Fast first.
- A Juice Fast tends to be more gentle if you are trying to detox your body, because it happens a bit more gradually. Because you are actually supplying your body with nutrients during the fasting period, it tends to be a more natural method. You can use any fruit and or vegetable juice during this type of fast.
- Back in the 1970’s a Master Cleanse or Lemonade Diet was used to do an intestinal cleanse. It actually provides calories because you use maple syrup to make the lemonade.
- There are several ways to do an Intermittent Fast and the following will explain most of them:
The 16/8 Method of fasting happens when you stop eating for a 16 hour period of the day, and are eating during an 8 hour window of time. So, if your last meal yesterday was eaten and completed by 7:00 pm and you wait until 11:00 am today to eat, that is the 16 hour fast period, then you would begin eating your meals between 11:00 am and 7:00 pm today. This is referred to as intermittent fasting
The 5:2 Diet method – you fast for 2 days per week, then eat normally for the other 5 days.
The Eat-Stop-Eat method of Intermittent Fasting is done when you fast for a 24 hour period once or twice a week.
The Warrior Diet allows you to fast during the day and eat a huge meal in the evening. This fast is one used in some religions to observe a special occasion, such as in the Jewish religion for Hannuka.
Alternate Day Fasting allows you to severely restrict the amount of calories you eat during fasting days (25% of your normal intake), then eat to your stomach’s content on non-fasting days.
Spontaneous Meal Skipping happens when you skip meals when it is convenient for you.
- Partial Fasting also called Selective Fasting or The Daniel Fast (based on Daniel’s experiences in the Book of Daniel in the Bible) includes some whole foods (not including meat, dairy, grains, coffee, alcohol, and juice). It’s not about the amount of food eaten, but the fact that you exclude certain foods that makes it a partial fast.
One thing to consider when you decide you want to do a fast is how long should you fast. Well, actually it is suggested that a period of three days is an excellent option, which means you could actually do it on a weekend when nothing else is happening. There are of course other lengths of time you could do your fast, but that is something you need to consider, as it is not just the fasting time but the preparation time ahead of it and the time after the fast that makes it actually longer. The transition time into the fast, when you need to actually clean up your diet before hand can take a bit of time, and the time following the fast to get yourself back into a healthier method of eating all takes time. It actually doubles the time and effort of the fast, so make sure to include that time when you are considering this. So for a 3 day fast it might actually take 6 days, or for a 10 day fast, it will actually consume 20 days of your time in preparation and conclusion.
How do you decide? Here are a few suggestions:
1 day or 24-hour fast is good for someone beginning the fasting effort. Even a shorter fast such as the 16 hour fast can be helpful in the beginning. It is one that can be used when you are heading into illness as it allows the body the resources needed to help fight off whatever it is you are about to encounter. I know this is one I use on a regular basis without any side effects or headaches! My meals before and after are fairly light ones, so perhaps a bowl of stew for dinner around 7:00 pm and lots of water to drink until bedtime. Next morning, I may have a cup of bone broth and a cup of tea in the morning, along with lots of water, then I’ll eat my first meal between 11:00 am and 12:00 pm. I might do the same thing that day into the next, and continue on for a few days afterward. I don’t suffer any side effects at all and feel quite light and have lots of energy throughout the time I’m fasting.
Three-day Fast is something that can be done as a maintenance routine to cleanse toxins from your body regularly. This one can be started say on a Friday morning, but you actually will begin on Thursday evening by eating a light dinner, then on Friday morning eat a light breakfast and then not eating any solid foods, making sure to drink at least 2 gallons of water each day, then eating lightly on Sunday evening and the remainder of the following day to slowly bring your body back into eating. You could eat up to 3 or 4 apples during your fasting days if you choose, just to give your body some nutrients to work with, but make sure the apples are organic and not green. If it is your intent to get into a healthier way of eating, this is a good place to start. A 3 day fast can aid in eliminating toxins and will help cleanse the blood. A 5 day fast will help heal and rebuild the immune system. One week fasts are generally done as a quarterly or seasonal cleaning detox.
10-day fast is considered a master cleanse fast and is generally done once a year if you are fasting on a regular basis. It’s a good way to start off the New Year, so a lot of people find January is a good time to do this one, if you are so inclined. This type of fast can head off problems and prevent illness, including degenerative diseases.
Several Week Fast is something that should only be done under the supervision of a medical professional and only by someone who is a seasoned faster. Not something I would attempt, and probably think not something most of you should embark on either. Your nutritional reserves play a very important role in how long you should fast. Remembering your weight will adjust accordingly, and if you are of a normal weight, you probably should not do a water fast for longer than three weeks.
If you are thinking of doing a water fast for longer than 3 days, it is strongly recommended that you get professional supervision to ensure you do not encounter problems that could occur.
Remember, if you are going to fast, make sure you are prepared and your body is able to handle it. Try doing a shorter fast first to see how you handle it and go from there. Always listen to your body and its signals, and if need be get some guidance from your health care team.
What kind of benefits can you get from fasting?
It’s a great way to lose weight – some studies have shown that fasting has helped trim weight by up to 7% and in some cases up to 12 lbs. It will also help reduce inflammation levels, and you could lose weight without sacrificing muscle mass. If you want to lose belly fat, fasting irregularly could help (intermittent fasting).
Fasting can promote the secretion of human growth hormone (HGH) which is naturally produced in the body. HGH helps increase muscle strength and can be helpful in treating obesity giving you an effective fat burning machine!
It’s also known to normalize insulin sensitivity in those with type-2 diabetes, improving key markers including weight and glucose levels. When you eat too many carbs and sugar your body becomes insulin resistant which can lead to type-2 diabetes as well as other chronic diseases. Intermittent Fasting can help keep your body sensitive to insulin, and help reduce visceral fat mass, especially if your are pre-diabetic or insulin sensitive.
Ghrelin (known as the hunger hormone that tells your body when to eat) levels can stabilize with fasting, unlike with dieting. When you fast, you may struggle the first few days, but you will actually normalize ghrelin levels, so your body will adjust accordingly to know when you actually need food.
Intermittent Fasting helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglyceride levels, but doesn’t affect the HDL (good) cholesterol levels. Which is really great news for those with high cholesterol readings.
Not bad for just stopping eating for short periods of time, like the caveman had to do way back when, because he couldn’t find food. They sometimes went very long periods without eating! Intermittent fasting also helps in the effort to get your body into Keytosis, as I discussed in last weeks post.
So, in short, if you change your eating patterns to include fasting, you will reap health benefits from increasing weight loss efforts to normalizing insulin sensitivity and creating better cholesterol numbers.
Fasting is healthy for most people, but if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should avoid fasting completely. Diabetics and those with serious medical conditions or taking prescription medication should consult with your health care team before pursuing a fast.
I hope this information has provided you with some valuable information about Fasting and will help you make an informed decision.
Have a fantastic rest of your day and week ahead.