Fasting is one of the most ancient and a widespread healing traditions and has lately become popular and mainstream.
There are so many benefits to fasting mainly focusing around weight loss. Other benefits that have come out of more recent research include improved insulin resistance, blood pressure, gut health, reduced inflammation and also allowing for cell recovery and tissue rejuvenation.
The idea of fasting is to allow the insulin levels to go down far enough and for long enough that we start to burn our fat stores. After a week or so of trialing a fast you may start to notice a difference. Research shows that insulin sensitivity improves. That is, your cells are more sensitive to insulin immediately which means you should find your sugar levels are happier in general. This also lowers inflammation and improves insulin signalling pathways. This is a good thing for balanced hormones and feeling energised throughout the day.
In practice I find it a useful tool to use for people who have stubborn weight to lose or who are looking to elevate their health but having a good relationship with food is a must.
There are also some situations where fasting can help with digestion and gut health. There are certain beneficial anti inflammatory bacteria that can increase production of short chain fatty acids in a fasting state. Some people can experience less bloating and improved digestion. However for some people with sluggish bowels it may increase constipation. Its important to be mindful that you are eating enough fibre and nutrients within the 8 hour window so you dont get constipated or lack energy.
There are many different ways to fast and the most common protocols seem to be
5:2 or 16:8.
5:2 is where you eat normally for 5 days of the week and then severely restrict calories for 2 days of the week
16:8 is when you consume all of your calories (food) in a 8 hour window then fast for 16 hours.
This is my favourite way to fast and one I recommend for anyone starting out. Also if you cant quite make the 16 hour fast, there are also many benefits to fasting for 12-14 hours. Research has found that just by changing your meals so you are eating earlier in the day and extending an overnight fast significantly benefits metabolism.
If you are thinking about fasting I would recommend you start by restricting your eating to an 8 – 10-hour period of the day. This doesn’t have to be every day either, you can still experience the benefits from fasting a few times a week.
There are a few rules around fasting. So during a fast you can drink water, tea or coffee but no milk or any milk substitutes.
But it’s not something I recommend for everyone. There are a few groups that should avoid fasting for various reasons
- teenage girls for hormonal reasons
- women who do a lot of HIIT training (this may need to be trialled under the guidance of a professional)
- people with advanced diabetes on medication
- people with eating disorders
- pregnant and lactating women
- people with an existing illness are best to work under the guidance of a professional
With any eating approach though it is best to find one that works for you and one that you can stick to and is sustainable.
Tips for Coping with those Fasting Days
If you decide to give it a go here are some tips to get you through
Make sure you are eating plenty of quality protein at every meal in the 8 hour window. This will prevent the blood sugar roller coaster that makes you hungry later in the day.
Organise to do something out of the house like a walk, swim, shopping, movie or something that will distract you. This will help you to avoid the temptation of the pantry before your first meal.
Start a new fast protocol on a weekend. If you can sleep in and delay your breakfast to later its much easier to arrange your day. Start the day with a breakfast with plenty of protein such as eggs that will keep you nourished and satisfied for at least a few hours.
With this dietary change in mind I would recommend you reach out to me so I can tailor a plan for you so you are not missing out on essential nutrients and fibre. You can book a time with me here