Fasting is a custom in which an individual or a group of people willfully decides to go without food or drink for a specified period of time, either for spiritual, health or medical ambitions. The practice of fasting can be traced back to the Hippocratic era and has been affiliated with many health benefits.
Some people perceive fasting as a means of starving. Unlike starvation, fasting only takes place for a specified period of time and is not meant to deprive the body of important nutrients. Despite the lack of extensive research on human fasting, many dietitians and nutritionists have come to positively embrace the health benefits associated with fasting.
Fasting has spiritual roots, but a lot of people, including those who do not subscribe to any spiritual belief have embraced the practice.
How Often Should You Fast?
The question of how long or how often you should fast depend on your personal ambitions, that is, what you hope to achieve. There is not a universally accepted frequency or period of fasting.
For a beginner, it is important that you let your body gradually get accustomed to fasting by starting off with the less intense options, like partial fasting. Otherwise, you will plunge yourself into an unintended starvation. The type of fasting you plan to undertake also determines how often and how long you can last.
Below are the different types of fasting:
Also known as cyclic fasting, intermittent fasting involves alternate periods of fasting and eating within the same day. It can take place for a period of 15 to 18 hours and may be repeated on a daily basis for a number of days.
In this type of fasting, people abstain from eating for a particular period, typically 12 to 16 hours. During the time when you are not fasting, sometimes referred to as the “eating window,” you are free to eat as much as you please. Most people prefer this type of fasting since it doesn’t entirely deprive them of food for long periods.
Alternate Day Fasting
Various weight loss enthusiasts adopt this type of fasting. Unlike the other types, alternate day fasting does not require that you completely scrap eating off your day’s schedule. Instead, it aims at getting you to eat healthily. Usually, you would go on water or tea only or tremendously cut down on the number of calories you would consume in a typical day.
This is the most intense type of fasting as it lasts for 48 hours to a week. Here, you totally abstain from any form of eating during the entire fasting period. These types of fasts can be performed on a monthly basis or certain times of the year. If you have a low body mass index or your metabolism cannot adapt to long periods of fasting, you are advised against engaging in this kind of fasting.
Benefits of Fasting
Fasting can offer a myriad of benefits to the human body. Below are some of them:
Promotes Weight Loss – Fasting has been accepted as a great weight loss tool. Certain types of intermittent fasting trigger fast ketosis in the body, a process that ensures quick digestion of fat.
Lowers Blood Pressure – Studies have reported cases of people developing lower blood pressure in their initial week of fasting. This is attributed to decreased salt intake and accelerated excretion of salt through urination.
Improves Insulin Sensitivity – Due to decreased sugar consumption during fasting, the body tends to secrete reduced levels of insulin. This encourages increased insulin sensitivity in people who have issues with insulin resistance.
Improved Cardiovascular Health – Fasting has been shown to significantly enhance cardiovascular performance in people with syndrome associated diseases.
May Increase Longevity – Studies done on rats showed that intermittent fasting slowed down the aging process in rats. Although these studies have not been done on humans, there is a chance that various types of fasting may lengthen the lifespan of humans.
Fasting has grown through the years as a mere spiritual practice to become a widely accepted form of keeping the human body healthy. When practiced the right way with the right motives, fasting can offer numerous health benefits to the body.
However, there are various precautions to be taken while fasting. Fasting may not be right for everybody. Some health conditions such as hypoglycemia and diabetes do not allow for fasting. You should, therefore, be certain that your physical and health conditions allow for fasting before beginning.
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