Cutting to the chase: There are a number of physical benefits of fasting, ranging from assisting in weight loss all the way through to helping to fight off neurodegenerative diseases. The human body is not designed to be eating all the time. By fasting, we can look to improve our health and wellbeing in numerous ways.
My experience with fasting
When I first decided to try fasting, it was to help me stop eating so much all the time. I was constantly hungry! Growing up as a fairly normal teenager I didn’t see any issues with over-consumption as I would just burn off the excess energy.
However, as I was entering my mid-20’s I became a bit more concerned. With a slowing metabolism and less exercise in my lifestyle, my “beer belly” was starting to make its first appearances. Due to other life factors, I couldn’t really find time to exercise more, so my diet had to change.
But even as my diet changed, the large portions still remained as I still had the hunger to eat more and more.
Eventually, I came across fasting and decided to give it a go to see if I could curb my hunger.
My first fast was the 16/8, where you fast for 16 hours and eat within an 8 hour window. I did this for a month in combination with the ketogenic diet and had huge success in a number of different ways.
It was initially a struggle. But I learned quickly that hunger pains, no matter how painful, would come and go while I was fasting. While you may feel like you are starving at the time, the pain subsides eventually. Towards the middle of my fasting, I would only feel it once a day and it would disappear in under a minute. By the last week I didn’t get any hunger pains.
I had curbed my constant hunger cravings to where I only felt hungry inside the eating window, my body had adapted to not eating outside the window. Even after this fast I am still not eating anywhere near what I used to. I also experienced other benefits ranging from weight loss to improved memory and cognitive function.
But enough about my journey, below is the list of benefits that have been found to be associated with fasting in its various forms.
The Physical Benefits of Fasting
Fasting can lead to a multitude of benefits that many have encountered. Although the majority of the evidence is still currently anecdotal, there is more and more research about the physical benefits of fasting emerging. The range of findings include fasting supporting things such as:
- Stimulating the use of stored fats
When we fast we deplete our stored sugar/carbohydrate energy, this is called glycogen. Since fasting reduces the intake of energy, this leads to the body needing to source energy from somewhere else. The body does this by converting stored fats and turning them into ketones. As an added bonus, there are a number of benefits to the body when ketones are used as a primary energy source.
- Improving energy levels
While we are fasting, our body will be using ketones more than usual to fill the energy deficiency due to the smaller intake. Ketones are a superior energy source for the brain, as it takes your body roughly 25% of the effort to produce and distribute ketones to the brain as it does for glycogen.
- Improving our relationship with food
Fasting can be an effective way to hit the reset button on your current diet or lifestyle. Fasting can be a great discipline to apply to help you if you’re struggling to get away from sugary goods or late night snacks. While fasting you will find it much easier to change unwanted old habits. I have found that this is easier due to the process of the body adapting to the fast at this time.
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- Giving the digestive system a break
By fasting, we give the digestive system a chance to cleanse and repair itself. This leads to less stress on this system and an opportunity to redirect the energy that would have been used to digesting food to other parts of the body. This can then stimulate things such as strengthening of the immune system, or repairing muscles, joint tissue and brain cells.
- Improving mental health
As ketones are being more regularly fed into the brain while fasting, most people will say that they feel mentally clearer, or feel a sense of higher alertness and being more creative. Some studies are even starting to show that fasting can have positive effects on individuals suffering from depression when done in the short time frames.
- Reducing inflammation
Inflammation in the body is a natural response to something that is not right within us. This may be something as simple as a cut, or the body fighting harmful agents. However, reducing inflammation can also have a range of benefits, such as reducing the risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Dementia.
Studies are now starting to show that inflammation in the body is linked to a number of more serious conditions such as depression, heart disease, and even diabetes.
- Improving insulin sensitivity
Having better insulin sensitivity is important as it increases the body’s efficiency in delivering nutrients to required areas. By fasting, we encourage the body to use insulin more effectively.
High insulin levels from frequent feeding and high-carbohydrate foods can create inflammation within the body. Removing the constant intake of food, and cutting out (or at the very least cutting back on) high-carbohydrate foods will lead to the body having less insulin, and using the available insulin much more efficiently.
Have you found that you have experienced any other health benefits while fasting? We would love to hear about your benefits and how they positively impacted you!