There is a wide range of different fitness, health, nutrition, and wellness trends that have completely taken over the industry. Some have more research backing them than others, some are more effective than others, and some are just straight hogwash.
Of all the popular trends out there, none are more hot than fasting — commonly referred to as intermittent fasting. It’s a highly-effective way of losing weight and comes in handy when following a specific cleanse, but there are many risks involved when not done properly.
Don’t worry; we’re going to teach you everything you need to know about fasting — including the many health benefits of fasting, how to fast properly, when you shouldn’t fast, and several different supplements that might help you in the process. Let’s get started!
What Is Fasting?
Intermittent fasting isn’t like most traditional diets and nutritional plans because it doesn’t specify what you can or can’t eat. Instead, intermittent fasting is considered an eating cycle that specifies when you can or can’t eat — there’s a huge difference.
Since fasting includes long periods of no food or beverages (water is acceptable, of course), you have to be extremely careful about what you eat and how much you eat. It’s important you give your body the nutrients it needs to function properly each day, whether you’re fasting or not.
Over time, intermittent fasting has evolved, and many people have adopted their own methods. Before trying any one method, you should confirm it’s safe and effective by reading testimonials from real people that have tried that specific method.
Health Benefits Of Fasting
Now that we have a broad idea of what intermittent fasting is, you’re likely wondering why it’s so popular and what the benefits are. Believe it or not, there are plenty of reasons why people fast, and it’s not all about losing weight. In fact, it could be one of the keys to a long and healthy life.
Fasting is something that’s been a part of human culture even back in ancient times. Back then, people weren’t always voluntarily fasting, but they were forced to when food was scarce. This was apparent when humans were hunter-gatherers, which is a large reason why we’re capable of going long periods of time without food.
Today, some of the most prominent benefits of intermittent fasting include regulating blood sugar and blood pressure levels in the body, reducing inflammation, improving weight loss, increasing HGH levels, and increasing longevity in life. Let’s take a closer look at each benefit!
1. Regulates Blood Sugar & Blood Pressure
Some studies suggest intermittent fasting is beneficial for anyone at risk of developing diabetes or suffering from heart disease. Short-term intermittent fasting, in particular, has been shown to decrease blood sugar levels, reducing insulin resistance, and reduce blood pressure.
A reduced insulin resistance results in a higher sensitivity to insulin, which allows your body to transport glucose into your cells much more easily. It not only reduces blood sugar levels when they’re high, but also increases them when they’re low.
The reduction in blood pressure is important for heart health. Intermittent fasting not only reduces total cholesterol and LDL, but also known as ‘bad’ cholesterol, but it reduces blood triglycerides as well. This leads to a healthier body and less risk of heart disease — as well as diabetes.
2. Reduces Inflammation In the Body
Inflammation is a necessary part of everyday life, and it should be applauded when present in moderation — especially when fighting infections, diseases, viruses, and injuries. At the same time, too much inflammation can quickly become a problem if not handled properly.
Some studies show that intermittent fasting can help reduce inflammation and inflammatory markers in the body. There is both human-based and animal-based research supporting this, which is a good sign for those experiencing high levels of inflammation.
Of course, you’ll still want to find the source of high inflammation in the body. In some cases, high inflammation is treatable, and there’s a chance you could eliminate the threat without the use of fasting. Either way, reducing inflammation is always a plus when talking about fasting.
3. Improves Fat & Weight Loss
Most of us are looking for a quick and easy way of dropping some pounds and losing some fat. Unfortunately, most of us can’t find the solution. Well, intermittent fasting could be the solution you’ve been looking for. After all, fasting will likely result in you eating less calories each day.
In addition to reducing calories, some studies show that intermittent fasting increases norepinephrine in the body — which could help boost your metabolism. These two benefits are a large reason why many people lose body weight and fat mass during a fasting cycle.
An important thing to remember here is that intermittent fasting isn’t a long-term solution to losing weight or fat. It’s a temporary, short-term solution that should be met with healthy habits before, during, and after the eating pattern is complete.
One study found that, when done properly, fasting could be more effective than continuous calorie restriction. Studies have shown anywhere from an 8%-9% decrease in body weight and a 16% decrease in body fat when fasting properly.
4. Increases HGH Levels
Many people have heard of HGH, but not many people understand what it is and how we produce it. Also known as the human growth hormone, HGH is a protein hormone that’s produced in the pituitary gland. It’s necessary for many everyday functions and processes inside the body.
For example, HGH plays an important role in normal growth, development, metabolism, muscle strength, weight loss, cell reproduction, regulates body composition, controls body fluids, and much more. Without HGH, our bones, heart, muscles, and overall health would be weak.
The good news is there are several studies showing an increase in HGH levels when fasting. Combined with the regulation of blood sugar and insulin levels, the increase in HGH levels is just another reason why so many people trust fasting today.
5. Increase Longevity & Survival
Don’t we all want to live a long, healthy, and happy life? It’s a large reason why so many people are searching for ways to extend their lifespan and delay their rate of aging. To many people’s surprise, intermittent fasting could be one way you can do that — key words, ‘could be.’
This benefit doesn’t have as much evidence backing it, and research is still ongoing, but there are some animal studies that have raised some hope. In fact, one study found that rats lived significantly longer and experienced less signs of aging when fasting every other day.
In addition to longevity, fasting could be beneficial to cancer prevention, tumor growth, and even cancer treatment. Again, these benefits only have support from animal studies — not human studies. Until we see more research on humans, it’s difficult to place any hard claims here.
Other FAQ’s Regarding Fasting
While fasting is nothing new, especially to different religions around the world, research and studies that surround it are rather new. While it doesn’t seem to be dangerous in moderation, it’s very important you know what you’re doing, and you’re supervised by a professional.
It doesn’t matter what type of fast you’re attempting, how long you’re fasting for, or what you’re doing outside of fasting; you should be aware that fasting is a highly technical process that requires a deep understanding and commitment. If not, you could face heavy consequences.
To ensure everyone is up-to-speed about everything else there is to know about fasting, we’re going to go over some of the most frequently asked questions regarding intermittent fasting, how to do it, when not to do it, and working out while fasting. Let’s get started!
How Long And How Often Should You Fast For?
There are so many different patterns and cycles when it comes to intermittent fasting. Finding the right one for you will likely require a trial-and-error process, but there’s certainly a pattern out there that works for everyone — it just might take some time.
With that said, how long and how often you fast is entirely dependent on the specific type of fast you’re engaged in. Some fasting methods can be done daily while others might be done over a certain period of time, but you should always consider taking breaks every now and then.
Let’s take a look at some of the different intermittent fasting methods:
- 16/8 Method – this method involves fasting every day for 16 hours and leaving yourself an 8-hour window to eat as much food as possible. Of course, you should always eat healthy food during your window. You can change the hours to 14/10, 12/12, or 18/6.
- 5:2 Diet – this diet involves eating normally for five days every week, but choosing two days where you limit your calorie intake to 500-600 calories. On your two days of fasting, make sure you make healthy eating choices.
- 24-HR Fast – this fasting method involves a full 24-hour fast where only water and other non-calorie beverages are allowed. Most people choose to start it after they eat dinner and wait until dinner the next day to eat again. Avoid doing this more than 3 days per week.
- Alternate-Day Fasting – this fasting method involves eating normally every other day, but limiting yourself to a few hundred calories on the other days. When doing this method, take a break after a couple weeks. One or two weeks off should do the trick.
- Warrior Diet – the warrior diet is unique because it involves eating only one meal every day (normally at night). The meal can be as big as possible, and you’re allowed to eat some fruits and vegetables during the day, but that’s it.
In addition to what’s listed above, many people have different types of fasting that include water fasting, juice fasting, partial fasting, and simple calorie restriction diets. That’s not to mention all the other ones that are being created every single year.
You should always speak with your doctor before beginning a fasting regimen, no matter how safe it’s supposed to be. Everyone’s body is different, and your doctor will know what’s best for you. Who knows, they might even have some recommendations for you!
When Is Fasting Not A Good Idea?
Fasting is playing a large role in many people’s lives all over the world, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone. In fact, intermittent fasting could be dangerous and harmful to certain people — which is why some people need to avoid it at all costs.
For example, people that suffer from diabetes, low blood sugar, serious heart conditions, or any other health limitations that might get in the way. People that are young, old, or underweight should also speak with their doctor and be under proper supervision before fasting.
In addition to that, fasting should never be attempted if you aren’t going to follow healthy habits outside of it. That means eating a nutrient-dense diet during your eating windows and staying well-hydrated at all times. Getting plenty of rest also helps, but that should go without saying!
Can You Workout While Fasting?
Working out while fasting is 100% okay, as long as you’re careful. Again, fasting is a very complicated process, and adding in a workout to the mix won’t help much. With that said, there are several benefits to working out while in a fasted state, and it could mean good news for you.
For example, working out in a fasted state generally means your body is depleted of glycogen, which are the body’s stored carbohydrates. Since the body needs fuel from somewhere, it starts turning to fat. That’s right; working out while fasting could help you burn more fat than normal.
Of course, it’s not all rainbows and sunshine when working out in a fasted state. One of the downfalls is it can cause muscle breakdown to occur and the use of protein for fuel. You also lose a lot of energy, so fatigue often becomes a concern at some point.
That’s where supplements play an essential role in this process, which we’ll discuss more about below!
Supplements That Improve The Fasting Process
While fasting involves refraining from eating during certain times of the day, it doesn’t say much about supplements. Of course, you’ll want to limit yourself to certain supplements to avoid the intake of calories, macros, and other less-desirable nutrients while fasting.
Don’t worry; we aren’t going to leave you hanging here. There are several supplements that many people prefer taking while fasting, so we’ll discuss some of the most prominent and beneficial ones for you.
Of course, you should always speak with your doctor before adding any supplement to your diet, especially if you’re already fasting.
BCAAs & Other Amino Acids
BCAAs, also known as branched-chain amino acids, is a group of three specific amino acids — valine, leucine, and isoleucine. Together, these amino acids play an important role in muscle growth, muscle recovery, energy production, weight loss, fat loss, and much more.
Many people take BCAAs during a workout while fasting, which helps you avoid fatigue and prevent muscle breakdown. You’ll also recover more efficiently, which means you’ll be ready to go for your next workout. You should also make sure you get BCAAs through your diet, during an eating window.
There are quite a few BCAA supplement options available on the market. If you’re interested in adding a BCAA supplement, some solid choices include Clean BCAA, K Nutri BCAAs + Collagen, and Promix BCAA Powder.
In addition to BCAAs, there are six other essential amino acids that the body doesn’t produce on its own — tryptophan, histidine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, and threonine. You can even consider non-essential amino acids such as l-tyrosine, l-theanine, and l-glutamine.
Much like you have essential amino acids that must be consumed daily, you have essential minerals that are necessary for everyday health. Electrolytes are a specific group of minerals that carry an electric charge and conduct electricity when mixed with water.
Some of the most prominent electrolytes to consider here are calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and sodium. Ensuring you receive enough of these daily will help you regulate muscle contractions, stay hydrated, balance your PH levels, and control the nervous system. Some electrolyte supplements worth taking a look at include Hi-Lyte, Keto K1000, Celarity Electrolytes, and Keto Charge.
In addition to electrolytes, there are several other minerals that are necessary when fasting regularly — including sulfur, iron, zinc, iodine, selenium, copper, manganese, chromium, and molybdenum. Ensuring you get enough of each every day is important.
We’ve discussed amino acids and minerals, so it’s only right we discuss the various vitamins that are necessary for everyday health. They are generally broken down into two different categories — water-soluble vitamins and fat-soluble vitamins.
Since you’ll be fasting, it’s best to consider the water-soluble vitamins, especially since fat-soluble vitamins work best when taken with a meal. Some of the most prominent water-soluble vitamins are the B-complex vitamins and Vitamin C.
All B-complex vitamins play essential roles in breaking down food for energy, so it might be best to save these until you eat. Vitamin C plays an important role in the immune system and acts as an antioxidant (which reduces oxidative stress in the body’s cells).
Probiotics & Prebiotics
Probiotics and prebiotics work in conjunction with each other. They’re extremely similar, but shouldn’t be confused with each other because they do completely different things inside the body. With that said, they can both benefit your fasting routine and overall wellness.
Probiotics are often referred to as ‘good’ bacteria because they help keep the gut healthy and improve metabolism. A majority of the bacteria found in the body is ‘good’ bacteria, and it’s important you have a healthy balance at all times.
While probiotics are viewed as supplements, they’re technically live microorganisms that reside in your gut. Much like you need fuel to function properly, so do probiotics. That’s where prebiotics come in handy, acting as food and fuel for your probiotics.
The market is not lacking in prebiotic and probiotic supplement options. Some choices worth considering include PrebioThrive, GoLive Probiotic + Prebiotic, Performance Lab Prebiotic, and 24 Strain Probiotic.