Fasting refers to the deliberate abstention from food and/or fluids for a period of time, for therapeutic purposes. Fasting has been used for thousands of years in various religious and spiritual practices throughout human history, and in a sense, fasting is a part of everyday life.
The term ‘breakfast’ is the meal that breaks the fast. The recent increase in scientific research around fasting has allowed us to understand just how fasting positively affects our physiology, cells, aging, disease and overall health. Essentially, fasting helps accelerate healing and gets your body to naturally repair itself!
What happens to your body when you fast? When you don’t consume food (calories), the body looks for other ways to generate energy, such as drawing on glucose, ie. sugar stores. Once the glucose is significantly used up, the body’s metabolism changes, and the body begins to burn fatty acids from stored fat. When this transition to burning fat for energy is made, the body begins producing ketones. Once you reach a state of ketosis, many of the benefits of fasting start to kick in. Now, the specific benefits can vary depending on how many hours you have been fasting. For example, growth hormones kick in at 13 hours, whereas autophagy (cleaning up of damaged cells) is thought to kick in at 16-18 hours.
What are the benefits of fasting? Fasting can provide health benefits for a variety of health issues, symptoms and conditions.
Fasting can help with the following: • Stimulating growth hormones (a fat-burning hormone) secretion • Triggering autophagy • Stem cells generation • Stabilizes blood sugar • Immune system • Detoxification • Weight loss and improved metabolic function • Autoimmune conditions • Thyroid • Gut health • Hormones and fertility • Normalizing ghrelin levels, aka “the hunger hormone” • Reducing inflammation and lessening free radical damage • Lowering triglyceride levels • Memory and mood
How long should you fast? It depends on what health benefits you are hoping to achieve, for example:
• 13-15 Hour fast: A 13-15 hour fast is considered intermittent fasting and if you are new to fasting, this is where you’ll want to start. At 13 hours of fasting, your body will secrete growth hormone. The growth hormone assists in burning fat and slowing down the aging process.
• 15 hour fast: is when most people begin to create ketones. Ketones are a sign that your body has moved from burning sugar to burning fat for energy. Furthermore, ketones are neuroprotective and will go up to the brain, giving you energy and better mental clarity.
• 17 hour fast: When you reach around 17 hours without eating you will start to stimulate autophagy. What this means is the intelligence of your cells has been turned on and they are able to repair themselves. This is best for people with autoimmune conditions.
• 24 hour fast: At 24 hours, your intestinal cells reboot and GABA production occurs. GABA is the neurotransmitter known to relax our brain and help with anxiety. Our gut health is incredibly important in preventing autoimmune disorders and aiding in weight loss.
I recommend beginner fasters start with 12-15 hours of no food. Take a look at how long you are fasting currently and try extending your fasting window by an hour by pushing your breakfast time back an hour or moving your dinner time up an hour earlier.
Drinking water, black coffee, tea or herbal teas during fast is okay.
How to break your fast? Depending on how long you’ve been fasting, you’ll want to make sure you break your fast slowly. I recommend avoiding carbohydrates or foods that will spike insulin and blood sugar. Bone broths and high-fat foods like olives, avocado and nut butter are a great way to go.
Finally, don’t forget to feast! Yay! Make sure you are eating highly nutritious balanced meals in your feast times.
Although this eating plan may be beneficial for some individuals, it may cause negative consequences in some people, therefore if you are interested in the Intermittent fasting practice for your health, discuss the best plan with your healthcare or nutritional practitioner.