Human and animals alike have been fasting for thousands of years. It is only in the recent century that our society has pushed for 3 meals a day. Fasting is becoming increasingly popular once again within our society for its benefits to weight loss and health. In this article I’m going to give you 10 reasons to fast.
What is Fasting?
Fasting is the process of abstaining from the consumption of food and or drink over a specific period of time. There are various forms of fasting such as intermittent fasting, extended water fasting, fat fasting, dry fasting or juice fasting. You are fasting during the time you are asleep at night.
The human body’s metabolic function changes while fasting, typically starting 5 hours after eating. Our body’s use the food we eat particularly carbohydrates as its primary source of fuel. However while in a fasted state our body’s adapt and switch out the primary source of energy from external food sources to our internal fat storage. This is one of the many great reasons to fast!
Whether it’s for health or spirit, fasting is an amazing thing to practice. In many ways it is healthier and easier to maintain than your standard 3 meals a day calorie restrictive diet.
Here are 10 reasons to fast:
Fasting For Weight Loss
With the ‘normal’ lifestyle of eating breakfast, lunch and dinner our bodies are adapted to burn the carbohydrates we consume for energy. Our bodies convert the carbohydrates into glucose for immediate use of energy. Whatever glucose is left over is converted into glycogen to be stored first in your liver, then your muscles and finally as fat.
Essentially eating more calories from carbohydrates than our bodies need causes weight gain, storing the excess as fat.
When we are not eating, our bodies adapt. As there are no carbohydrates being consumed our bodies find a new primary source of fuel in our stored fat cells. When the body metabolizes fat it produces ketones within the liver. These ketones are used for energy instead. Many people report having heightened sense of well-being and more laser-like focus while fasting because they are in a state of ketosis.
Read More: Keto Fast - Burn fat and rid toxins
It’s common to lose several pounds of weight in the first few days upon starting a fasting protocol as this is mostly water weight. Glycogen in your muscles helps retain water, and so less glycogen typically leads to less water. This is also why it is recommended to drink more water while fasting!
Fasting, particularly intermittent fasting is a complete lifestyle change and since it is such an effective way to lose weight it is even easier to maintain than the traditional 3 meal a day diet.
Balancing Your Insulin
Insulin is the hormone responsible for unlocking your cells that are locked shut, in order to allow nutrients inside. Insulin Resistance is incredibly common in our world today. The overabundance of processed foods and the harmful chemicals used in our natural food sources creates insulin resistance in our bodies.
What is insulin resistance? Insulin resistance is the term used when the muscles and liver resist the action of insulin which makes the body produce more in order to open the cells for the nutrient absorption.
Insulin resistance can be caused by eating an imbalanced diet, over consuming harmful and unhealthy foods, being too physically inactive or having a family history of diabetes. Insulin resistance can lead to developing Type II diabetes and also heart disease.
If you’re constantly craving sugar and carbs, and if you feel sleepy after eating a meal you may very well have insulin resistance.
When you incorporate fasting in your daily and weekly regime your insulin levels decrease. Your body has less need of it and therefore becomes more sensitive to insulin. This is known as insulin sensitivity. What does this mean? More nutrients from the food that you eat in your eating window when it finally comes around is consumed and used by your body. This has a positive effect on everything from your joints to your muscles to your daily average energy levels.
This helps with the next big reason to fast which is…
Boost Your Metabolism
Long term extended fasts (think 5+ days) may slow your metabolism down as your body enters starvation mode however shorter term fasts such as in intermittent fasting or 24-48 hour fasts see an increase in metabolic rate.
Fasting boosts the production of several fat burning hormones which play a vital role in controlling hunger, satiety and how much fat is stored and burnt off. We already discussed why the impact on Insulin is an excellent reason to fast however there are other key hormones that come into play such as…
Human Growth Hormone
Human growth hormone or HGH is commonly known as the anti-aging hormone. It is a protein produced in the pituitary gland of your brain that circulates through the bloodstream to stimulate growth in all tissues of the body. HGH plays an important role in the growth of children with deficiencies in HGH causing irregular growth. It lasts only a few minutes in the bloodstream once produced and is metabolised in the liver, converted into a number of other growth factors such as insulin like growth factor 1 or IGF1 for short.
Normal levels of HGH peak in puberty and slowly decrease in the years after. HGH is usually secreted in your sleep cycle in pulses. Increases in HGH have shown through studies to increase lean muscle mass, decrease total fat mass and improve skin thickness and health.
That’s all great stuff! But how much does HGH increase while fasting? Studies report a 1300%-2000% increase in HGH while fasting. Wowsers! This will help you burn more body fat, maintain muscle in a calorie deficit or grow muscle in a calorie surplus!
Norepinephrine is a chemical in your body known as a stress hormone and neurotransmitter. It can increase your heart rate and improves focus, alertness and arousal, speeding up reaction time. It also triggers the release of glucose into the blood. It increases your ability to concentrate and also enhances mood and wellbeing.
Low levels of norepinephrine have been shown to lead to ADHD, depression and low blood pressure. Good news though because fasting increases norepinephrine production in your body! Wonderful!
Studies show that through the increase in HGH and the balancing of other hormones fasting can slow the aging process and delay the onset of neurological disorders like Dementia brought about by old age.
A new Harvard study shows how manipulating mitochondrial networks by intermittent fasting can increase your lifespan. The mitochondria of the cell take in nutrients to break down and convert into energy. Their capacity to achieve this degrades as we get older.
According to the study, the mitochondrial networks inside cells that normally toggle between a fused and fragmented state are locked into the ‘fused’ or ‘youthful’ state therefore increasing the lifespan.
The mild stress put on the body from fasting also keeps us in a constant fight or flight which increases our body’s defences against damage on the molecular level.
Reduce Hunger Cravings
Another hormone that is impacted from fasting or more specifically balanced through correcting insulin sensitivity is Leptin.
Leptin is the hormone that sends signals to your brain that you are full and satiated from your meal and also helps burn the fat stored in adipose tissue. If you are producing too much insulin the body is unable to gauge regular leptin levels. All sorts of problems occur when this happens:
Body Fat Increase
When your brain doesn’t think it is producing enough leptin it wants to make more, therefore sending you signals to eat more sugar and fat. This locks your body in a negative loop in which it wants you to eat more and exercise less.
With the brain signalling you to eat more, your cravings are enhanced to the extent it may become unbearable. Your brain is telling you that your body needs more sugar and fat when in reality it does not.
The brain releases endorphins like dopamine that make us feel good when we commit to certain activities such as intense exercise, long distance running or being intimate with another during sex. The brain also releases the same feel good endorphins after consuming sugar. When you start to over consume sugar your brain becomes used to those endorphins, which lowers your sense of reward and makes everything seem less satisfying.
Having high insulin levels can trick your brain into thinking it needs to conserve energy because it thinks it is lacking fuel. With leptin being blocked and your brain thinking you are low on fat sources your body may go into conservation mode in which your metabolism slows down and creates a feeling of lethargy.
Since fasting corrects insulin sensitivity it also helps to fix leptin resistance and get you out of that negative feedback loop that keeps you hungry and lethargic all the time. However there is yet another hormone that is affected by fasting which in turn lowers your hunger. Ghrelin is the opposing hormone to leptin as instead of sending signals to your brain that you are full, it signals your brain that you are hungry.
Ghrelin is produced in your body in cycles throughout the day, typically breakfast lunch and dinner time.
Whenever you feel hungry that is usually the Ghrelin in your system telling your body to eat. Have you ever skipped a meal because you were so busy, that after a little while you just weren’t hungry anymore?
The thing about Ghrelin is the more often and higher amount of food you eat the more your body learns to produce. So when you try to eat less, you are very hungry all of the time. When you’re adapted to fasting however your body produces much less Ghrelin so skipping those meals becomes easier and easier.
When you fast you are correcting your hormones balance, have less appetite and feel much more reward for those meals you do eat. This is in my opinion one of the most important reasons to fast. It’s win win!
Heightened Brain Function
A favourite among many busy hard working individuals is the increase in brain function due to the heightened production of norepinephrine. Since most people fast during the day while intermittent fasting their work productivity increases substantially. Whether you’re an accountant of a blogger like myself, the increase in productivity benefits everyone!
Before I was a blogger I was a Locksmith. My job involved anything and everything to do with locks, and there are many kinds of locks that I often had never seen before. Many of my jobs were problem solving to repair issues with a lock I hadn’t seen. I got much more efficient at my job when I found The Fasting Twins on YouTube and gave intermittent fasting a go for myself.
Fasting also promotes the growth of neurons and stimulates autophagy within cells which is the process of old dead cells being broken down to repair damaged cells.
Read More: Brain Fog and Anxiety
Strengthens Immune System
If you are taking regular sick days from work what better reason to fast than for its benefits on your immune system. Fasting boosts the production of new white blood cells which is how your body fights off infection.
Fasting in cycles such as with intermittent fasting allows your body to purge the damaged and inefficient parts of the immune system to recycle and replace with newly generated cells.
Read More: Why toxins are holding you back
Improved Heart Health
Through burning fat, dropping weight and balancing your hormone levels fasting works wonders to get your heart in tip top shape. Intermittent fasting can reduce cholesterol levels too. Having less body fat takes a lot of strain off your internal organs and combined with everything else will help immensely with your cardiovascular system and heart function.
If you’re overweight and you have a family who depends upon you then having a fit and functioning heart should be plenty reason to fast.
A natural reaction in your body during and after you work out is inflammation of your muscles and joints. This is your body’s defense mechanism against injury, foreign substances and infection. It is a necessary reaction to incite the recovery process however too much inflammation can cause discomfort, pain or injury. Too much inflammation will slow down your recovery and hinder your workouts.
One more of the many reasons to fast is that it actually reduces inflammation in your body. You will have more endurance during workouts and recover much quicker. This brings us to the final reason of my reasons to fast.
Read More: Cardio – Do I need it?
Fasting for 20 hours or more incites your body to enter ‘autophagy’. The word in Ancient Greek literally translates to ‘self devouring’. Think of this like recycling. Your cells begin to produce membranes that consume the dead, diseased or worn-out cells to make new cells. It is basically your body cleaning up the old to make way for newer healthier cells.
Autophagy also helps metabolic dysfunction like obesity and diabetes, slows the aging process and lowers the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.
Read More: Cellular Cleanse For the Best Detox
With so many amazing benefits to regular fasting there's no wonder why it is becoming the go-to lifestyle change for so many people. Most people who swear against fasting have never actually tried it themselves, the usual excuse it 'I could never skip a meal I'm too hungry all the time'. Hunger is never a problem with intermittent fasting!
If you're thinking of giving it a go you can make the change slowly, push breakfast back further and further until you can skip it all together. Or you can do what I and many others do and go hard from the start! It won't hurt you either way.