People who are trying to lose weight may turn to informal fasting. Fasting has been part of society since civilization first started. It has been part of religious rituals, health regimens, and weight loss programs. There are all types of fasts. Water fasts, juice fasts, weekend fasts, and intermittent fasts based on a window of time where you eat are the more popular ones. Are fasts healthy? It all depends on the fast, the frequency, and the health of the individual fasting.
The type of fast makes a difference.
Intermittent fasting—IF—can take many forms. It means you eat normally five days a week and have an extremely low-calorie diet on two days. Another form of IF is to eat normally and fast on alternate days. It can be fasting for several hours a day, then you are eating normally in a narrower time window. For instance, a 16/8 IF is fasting for 16 hours and eating normally for 8 hours. You may consume only juice or water for days, weeks, or months with some long-term fasts. It is frequently part of religious beliefs, but extreme dieters may also gravitate to it. It can be extremely dangerous and unhealthy.
Long-term fasting can sabotage your weight loss efforts.
If you deprive your body of fuel for long periods, it reverts to starvation mode. That slows your metabolism to ensure the body has enough calories for primary functions, like keeping your brain working and heart beating. When your metabolism slows, it means you burn fewer calories 24/7. That makes it even harder to lose weight. Initially, you might lose several pounds, which are primarily water. When the fast ends, you gain those pounds back quickly and often even more weight.
IF may be different.
Animal studies show IF helped slow aging and was effective for weight loss. IF is modified to suit the individual. Whether you choose a 16/8 type of fast or choose to eat lightly on alternate days or two days a week, it can help you lose weight and improve blood sugar levels. It helps the body remove waste and reduces chronic inflammation. It has a beneficial effect much like exercise does. Some studies show that obese individuals using a timed IF of 16/8, ate 20% fewer calories daily and lost weight.
- Don’t fast unless it’s approved and supervised by a healthcare professional if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, taking any medication—OTC or prescription, have kidney or liver disease, an eating disorder, or diabetes,
- Fasting won’t work right unless your diet is healthy when you do eat. If you only eat donuts, fries, and burgers when you do eat, fasting will speed the process of malnutrition and metabolic slowing.
- Obesity is an epidemic. Obesity can lead to generalized inflammation that is associated with many diseases. If fasting helps you lose weight and your healthcare provider approves it, it’s a good option.
- Some studies showed IF could improve the body’s level of HGH—human growth hormone. Some people call HGH the fountain of youth since it helps the body increase muscle tissue and burn more fat.
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