The Benefits of Fasting – An Overview

May 12, 2023

Fasting, or deliberately abstaining from food for a set period of time, has been a part of many cultural and religious practices for centuries. In recent years, there has been growing interest in the health benefits of fasting. Fasting is not just done for weight loss (although that can be a huge benefit) but to improve health and longevity.

Benefits of fasting include:

  1. Weight loss
  2. Improved insulin sensitivity: Fasting may help to improve insulin sensitivity, which can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and other metabolic disorders (or improve your condition if you have already been diagnosed).
  3. Reduced inflammation: Fasting has been shown to reduce inflammation in the body, which may help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, and pain.
  4. Improved brain function: Some studies suggest that fasting can improve brain function, including cognitive performance, memory, and mood.
  5. Increased longevity: Fasting can change our makeup on the cellular level and help to protect our DNA, thus increasing our lifespan.

There are different types fasting:

  1. Intermittent Fasting – This involves setting a specific window that you fast, followed by window of eating. Common windows include 16/8 (16 hours of fasting followed by 8 hours of eating) and 18/6 (18 hours of fasting, followed by 6 hours of eating).
  2. Autophagy Fasting – This typically is going to be around 17+ of fasting and involves the body’s natural process of breaking down and recycling old, damaged, or dysfunctional cells and cellular components. Autophagy plays a crucial role in maintaining cellular health and preventing the accumulation of damaged or dysfunctional components that can lead to disease.
  3. Alternate Day Fasting – This involves alternating days of eating with days of fasting. Alternate day fasting has been shown to have benefits for weight loss and insulin sensitivity.
  4. Prolonged fasts – These are fasts that are more than 24 hours and often vary in their length of time and purpose in doing them.

While studies show that people can begin to see weight loss effects and health benefits in simply changing when they eat and not necessarily what they eat, optimal benefits are achieved in making healthy choice of what you eat, too.

To begin a fasting regime, start with cleaning up your diet in general. Select whole foods that are minimally processed. Eliminate added sugars and inflammatory fats in your diet. Individuals who eat lower carb in general will find an easier time starting on a fasting regime. Begin by slowly starting to push your breakfast back 30 minutes. Then 1 hour, then 2, etc. Make small adjustments each day until your body is going longer in a fasted state. Drink plenty of water while fasting, and as you get into longer fast and clean eating, balancing your body

with the correct electrolytes is very important to your health and success. Simple pink Himalayan sea salt is great to add pinches into your water bottle, or products such as LMNT can be helpful to supplement your fasting journey.

It is important to note that while fasting can be safe for many, there are some people for whom it is not recommended. Women who are pregnant and breastfeeding should not engage in fasting. Children under the age of 18 should not practice fasting. Individuals diagnosed with diabetes with poor blood glucose control should consult their healthcare provider before starting a fasting regimen.

Overall, the scientific evidence suggests that breakfast may not be the most important meal of the day for everyone, and small meals throughout the day to keep our metabolism going is not supported by current research. Fasting can be a great way to improve your health and overall wellbeing. Contact your Lifestyle Medicine Provider at New Life PT to learn more!