You hardly ever hear about the benefits of fasting from a healthier point of view. Fasting has a negative stigma attached because most people and companies that advocate for it take an extreme approach.
By extreme, I mean staying in (or near) a bathroom in case your watery stools make things awkward with little warning. Those who choose to consume liquids only for long periods of time struggle with headaches, abdominal pain, irritability, and intense moments on the toilet.
Your human instinct to consume nutrition is denied for water alone, foul-tasting concoctions you mix yourself, or fluids purchased from some “health” company that’s supposed to solve all your problems. Only it doesn’t.
Extreme fasting is counter-intuitive to the human body. Purposeful starvation (and that’s what it is) throws your body into chaos and distress.
The Benefits of Fasting Your Body Already Receives
Fasting to reset your system doesn’t require such extreme measures. In fact, you already follow a mild fast every day and your body loves it.
During the day, whatever you eat is converted to fuel by your body. It powers you up and keeps everything running smoothly. Good food choices or bad ones, your body is burning it.
Waking hours are filled with intense activity – both physical and mental – so your body is running at top speed to get things done and still keep your “behind-the-scenes” functions operating. Those are the ones you don’t think about like the pumping of your blood, breathing, and digestion.
Excess fuel you eat isn’t wasted. It’s converted to glycogen and stored by your liver as a sort of “secondary tank” to use when you go longer periods without eating.
The benefits of fasting happen while you sleep. During sleep hours, your body uses any fuel it didn’t utilize during your waking hours to keep your internal systems functioning. Your brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, immune system, and so forth are still chugging along.
If you sleep between 8 and 10 hours a night, your body uses that time to repair damaged tissue, store your memories of the day, and sweep your cells of toxins. It has more resources to focus on these tasks while you’re not walking, working, cooking, or doing any of the thousand little tasks you perform during the day.
Once you run out of consumed (food) fuel, your body switches to burning the glycogen stored in your liver. When it runs through what the liver has on reserve, it switches to burning fat.
That’s why those who suffer from sleep deprivation have higher body weights on average. Their bodies never get to the fat-burning stage.
Changing What “Fasting” Means to You
If you go more than 8 hours without consuming calories in any form, you are fasting. That’s where breakfast got its name – breaking the fast you observed while you slept.
New research finds that simply extending those “fasting hours” within the same day could provide fantastic results for your entire body.
Let’s talk about the benefits of fasting intermittently.
What you eat matters to your total body wellness. Eating pure food fuel will (of course) give your body more of the nutritional requirements it needs to keep your body running efficiently.
However, researchers now understand that when you eat also matters. For those who struggle to get the right balance of nutrients, intermittent fasting benefits may be helpful.
Let’s assume that you (like most people) eat a mixture of “good for you” and “bad for you” foods during the day. A green smoothie before work, one of the donuts someone brought in, a healthy salad for lunch, a high-calorie specialty coffee during the afternoon lulls, a candy bar when the coffee wears off, some fast food on the way home because you left late, and maybe a yogurt with fresh fruit for a snack before bed.
That’s reality. That’s how a vast majority of the populations of developed nations get their calories throughout the day. Sometimes, there’s a workout in there – but more often not. Occasionally, you’ll switch to a detox day of salads and water. Once in a blue moon, you’ll cut carbs for a week or a month.
Right now, let’s assume you consume your first calories at 7am and consume your last calories of the day at 10pm. That means you have 15 hours of food consumption and 9 hours of fasting that benefits your body (but not enough).
Intermittent fasting is when you make that window wider.
For instance, only eating within a 12-hour window (7am to 7pm) that puts your body in “fast mode” for a full 12 hours of your day. This gives your body more time to burn existing food fuel, burn through liver glycogen stores, and get to burning fat.
Whether you typically consume 2,500 calories a day or 5,000 calories a day is not the point. It’s not about changing caloric consumption. It’s about defining when you consume them.
Advocates of intermittent fasting suggest a few days every month where you eat all your calories for the day within 8 or 10 hours to give your body even more time to burn fat.
Adequate Sleep Plus Fasting Benefits Your Entire System
Experts estimate that more than half of American adults sleep less than 7 hours per night. From a scientific and medical standpoint, that’s considered mild sleep deprivation. For those who sleep less than 6 hours per night – that’s chronic sleep deprivation.
Your body is still burning calories from food consumed before bed and might get to your liver’s glycogen stores before your alarm goes off and you start all over again.
There’s not enough time for your body to get to your fat cells.
In the United States alone, two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese.In the United States alone, two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese. #FactsClick To Tweet
Our diet certainly has a lot to do with that. Our meals are carb, sugar, salt, and fat (the bad kind) heavy and too light on fiber found in vegetables, complete proteins, or healthy fats.
While we’re not getting adequate nutrition, we’re also not getting adequate sleep. One or the other can lead to long-term health problems. If you have issues with both, those problems start a lot earlier and can get a lot more extreme.
The benefits of fasting intermittently are not found through deprivation of sleep or food. By controlling when you eat to allow your body to function more efficiently, you help it work smarter – not harder.
Some benefits of fasting intermittently reported…
- Consistent management of blood sugar levels
- Lower cholesterol and triglycerides
- More energy during waking hours
- Stronger immune system
- Reduction of system inflammation
This is not a “weight loss” gimmick but it will help your body burn more fat efficiently and that’s always a positive side effect.Fasting is not a “weight loss” gimmick but it will help your body burn more fat efficiently. #FactsClick To Tweet
Initially, try intermittent fasting in a 12/12 (hour) ratio for a couple of weeks to see how you feel. You might have to ease yourself into it.
Your mind might trick you into feeling hungry at first if you’re accustomed to eating close to bedtime. Not allowing yourself to snack late might make you cranky. That part of it is psychological because you’re still eating the same number of calories you always do…just in a tighter window. Make some adjustments to what feels right to you.
Naturally, if you suffer from hypoglycemia or need to take medications at specific times with food, the benefits of fasting in such a way might not be right for you.
No matter what you eat, no matter when you eat, will you try to make one change that will have an outstanding effect on your health? Get some sleep!