All of us know what is fasting as it is a practice that dates back centuries. Whenever you hear of this term, what is the first thought that comes to your mind?
Not eating, right?
Yes, because that is what fasting is. Voluntarily abstaining from consuming all or some food or drinks for a specific period of time. It is very different from just starving yourself out.
Now, this is what many people, especially food lovers don’t like. The thought of restraining yourself from eating. But what will be your opinion when I say this thought has a number of amazing benefits in the box for you? Weight loss is just one of them, though it is the most important one for certain people who are willing to lose weight. In general, fasting is beneficial irrespective of you willing to lose weight or not.
Fasting can be considered a pattern of eating at specific periods of time. That being said, intermittent fasting is becoming very popular these days where you will have a fixed window of time to eat. For example, you may decide to eat within the timeframe of 8 hours in the day and fast for the rest of 16 hours including the time when you sleep.
The time when you eat, make sure to eat healthy foods rich in protein and containing healthy fats instead of munching on calorie dense, high carb and junk foods. If you don’t do that, you won’t get much of the benefits of fasting, including weight loss.
Before trying it, have a look at the health benefits that fasting has for you.
1.Improves functioning of brain and brain health
Fasting brings benefits for brain health along with it. It increases the production of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which improves the functioning of the brain. This protein helps in the production of new neurons for the brain.
Production of new neurons increases a person’s cognitive ability. This protein is also responsible for guarding our brain against changes resulting in various diseases. The risk of various diseases which are caused due to inflammation can be reduced by fasting.
2.Regulates blood sugar levels by reducing insulin resistance
Fasting can help reduce blood sugar levels. It can help your body in improving its blood sugar control.
The logic behind this is very simple. When you abstain from eating, the insulin levels in the body does not increase as no insulin is secreted for processing the food in the body.
It improves your insulin sensitivity which makes your body better at absorbing nutrients from the food.
Your blood sugar level will stay regulated for a long time even when you eat after fasting which has a positive effect on your overall health.
3.Improves your cardiovascular health
Regular fasting for one or two days a week has shown to be beneficial for improving your heart health and reducing the risk of various diseases.
One of the major cause of various heart diseases is the increased levels of LDL (Low-density lipoproteins) or ‘bad’ cholesterol. This bad cholesterol and blood triglycerides in the body can be reduced by fasting along with reducing blood pressure.
A lot of research related to intermittent fasting has been on fat rats which resulted in a decrease in their weight, cholesterol, and blood pressure
4.Helps in weight loss
Fasting, unlike starving, helps in weight loss. Starving, not eating an adequate amount of meals on a daily basis deprives your body of the essential nutrients. Fasting is way different from starving.
Isn’t it obvious that fasting can help in weight loss? Yes, it is, but then I have heard many myths about fasting that it slows down the metabolism, it instead causes even more weight gain and blah blah. Well, this holds true for starving. Due to abstinence from food, fasting decreases your body’s calorie intake for a specific period of time and not on a constant basis. Over time, this decreased calorie intake leads to weight loss eventually.
Other than decreasing calorie intake, it has positive effects on the way your body utilizes its fat stores, working of the brain and hormonal balance. Fasting can save you from weight gain. Another benefit of fasting which is definitely helpful, if you don’t have any plans to lose weight.
Does fasting slow down metabolism?
Instead, short term fasting can boost up metabolism.
Don’t think about fasting for prolonged periods in the greed to lose more weight. When you fast excessively, your body goes into the conservation mode slowing down the rate at which it burns calories. So when you switch back to eating, the lost weight which is mostly the water weight in the initial stages is gained back. Even some extra pounds may add up due to the slow metabolism. Intermittent fasting, when combined with the other weight loss tips, is an effective way of losing weight without any fear of it bouncing up back.
Fasting can slowly aid in the process of losing weight. But, don’t just be dependent on this one thing. You need to do a lot more in order to lose weight and come back to normal.
Inflammation is the process by which the immune system responds to an injury or damage. Basically, it is the body’s healing process. It is beneficial when is a temporary occurrence. When inflammation persists, it is called chronic inflammation which has long term harmful effects for the body.
Fasting can help fight chronic inflammation thus leading to better health. Chronic inflammation is not at all suitable for your health and can lead to serious problems such as heart disease and cancer.
Intermittent fasting can reduce the risk of many chronic diseases caused due to inflammation.
It can also be an effective tool against gut inflammation treating various digestive problems.
Intermittent fasting results in the production of β-hydroxybutyrate, a compound which blocks the portion of the immune system which is responsible for inflammatory problems.
6.Can help in cancer prevention
Fasting can eliminate some of the toxins which enter the body and can attack any of your body cells, which may result in the formation of cancer. So yes! Fasting may help you to reduce the risk of cancer. When I got to know about this benefit of fasting, a sudden ‘wow’ came out from me. I was dumbfounded by the scale at which fasting benefits us.
Fasting can help in slowing down the growth of a tumor and spreading it, even if not completely preventing it.
Intermittent fasting can reduce symptoms of cancer and the side effects of chemotherapy, the treatment for cancer. It increases the effectiveness of chemotherapy by making cancer cells sensitive to the treatment.
7.Improves the immunity
Another benefit of fasting. Fasting can make your immune system more powerful by replacing the old cells that are a part of the immune system with the new ones. It cleans up your system, regenerating it.
Also, fasting is a great tool for dealing with inflammation, as I have already said.
It can help fight common diseases in the very initial stages itself.
8.May help you slow down aging and live longer
One of the major cause of early aging is chronic inflammation. It damages the cells and tissues. Chronic inflammation increases with age and is a cause for major age-related problems including an aged immune system due to the cellular damage and long term exposure to foreign substances.
AS you know that fasting is helpful in dealing with inflammation and regenerating the immune system, it reduces the damage caused to the cells and replaces the unhealthy and old cells with the new ones.
When cells constantly keep on replenishing themselves to maintain their overall performance, it is obvious to get anti-aging effects. When cells are able to keep themselves healthy, won’t it slow down your aging process internally as well externally?
9.Helps to maintain lean muscle tissues and muscle strength
People tend to lose muscle mass along with body fat when trying to lose weight. It can sometimes be difficult to maintain your muscles while dropping fat.
Does this hold true when you are fasting, possibly to lose weight or just for better health?
Fasting does not burn muscle mass. It instead helps to maintain your lean muscle tissues. When you are fasting your body utilizes the fat stores of the body for its functioning. After periodic fasting, you may see a lesser amount of fat along with a toned body.
Intermittent fasting boosts up the growth hormone which triggers the growth of new muscles.
10.Cleans up the skin and reduces acne
A few paragraphs back you got to know about how fasting is beneficial for the immune system and in dealing with inflammation. It cleans up the waste and helps in replacing the old, dysfunctional cells with the new ones. Same applies for the skin.
So when you don’t have the old, problem causing cells, your skin’s condition will automatically improve as the condition of skin gets deteriorated mainly because of inflammation. The fresh new cells will give the best natural look to your skin, unlike those cells which were not able to keep your skin as good as it could have been at the time. Therefore with short term fasting, skin problems such as acne can get solved faster. For this, all you have to do is rest your stomach for short intervals of time.
11.Supports growth by increasing growth hormone levels
As the name says, the human growth hormone is responsible for normal growth in human beings.
It helps in the building, maintenance, and repair of body tissues. It is responsible for the quick healing of an injury.
If you exercise or workout, guess which hormone is responsible for the repair of the worn out and torn muscles along with burning the body fat?
Yes, it is the human growth hormone which is secreted by the pituitary gland.
Fasting can raise the growth hormone levels in the body, thus triggering the fat burning process along with a whole lot of other benefits. Also, it makes sure that energy from muscles is not utilized to supplement the body requirement unless the fat stores get exhausted.
12.May reduce stress
Stress is a very common problem among individuals these days. We generally associate busy work life, exams for students, and others such as lifestyle phenomenons as the possible reasons for stress.
Yes, these are the very much obvious reasons for stress, but there is more to it. Do you know about the biological reasons for stress? One of them is the free radicals in the body. These
free radicals react with other molecules and change their mechanism which causes more stress.
Fasting can improve your resistance towards stress over the course of time. Intermittent fasting improves the protective chemicals of the body to fight these free radicals. Also, fasting helps in cleaning your system and replacing the old cells with the new ones.
When fasting is done on a regular basis, less free radicals will be formed over time, and the cells constantly replenishing themselves will be able to face the few ones that do get formed.
Fasting is a wonderful way to get some of the much-required benefits for your health. Of course, it is not that easy because you need to live for certain periods without eating. Do note that this hardship has equally amazing rewards for you. So put in the hard work and have the patience to get rewarded with these benefits of fasting.
If you are on any medication, always consult your doctor before making any lifestyle changes.