Fasting has long been an important part of all religions and cultures. Scientifically also, fasting has proved to have a number of health benefits through the years. Today, let us understand how does fasting really help the body and some good habits to make sure you extract the maximum benefit out of it.
Scientists have been long examining the way fasting affects cellular and mitochondrial function, and longevity.
They’ve found the cells in your body react to fasting in much the same way as they do to exercise. In other words, when placed under stress — be it exercise or fasting–the reaction creates changes at the cellular level that helps extend your lifespan.
For starters, fasting shifts your body from using glucose as its primary fuel to fat, and being an efficient fat-burner benefits your health beyond weight loss.
The newer term is sometimes referred to as TRF (Time Restricted Feeding) which promotes eating in a narrow window of time, typically 6-8 hours.
This Time Restricted Feeding is a common practice observed by Muslims all over the world during the month of Ramazan, where the 2 meals consumed throughout the 24 hour period are eaten within a 12 hour window (Iftaar and Suhoor)
Fat is a far cleaner burning fuel than carbohydrates and generates far less free radicals.
Glucose is an inherently “dirty” fuel as it generates far more reactive oxygen species (ROS) than fat. But to burn fat, your cells must be healthy and normal. Cancer cells, for example, cannot burn fat, and this why a healthy high fat diet appears to be such an effective anti-cancer strategy.
During the initial 14-16 hours of not eating, your body burns through almost all of your carb (glycogen) stores in your muscles and liver. Once those glycogen stores have been depleted, your body turns to fat stores for energy, and hence, it teaches your body to efficiently burn fat for fuel.
Another effect of fasting is autophagy. When this vital process occurs in the mitochondria it is called mitophagy. This is when your body begins to eat itself in an orderly pattern to remove damaged parts from your body.
Although it sounds like something you’d want to avoid, this particular process is healthy and helps your body to “clean house.”
A highly effective way to boost mitophagy is intermittent fasting. Some studies even suggest it can improve cognitive function, brain structure, and help you to learn more easily!
Intermittent fasting is healthy for most people. However, if you suffer from diabetes, hypoglycemia, chronic adrenal stress etc, you must take specific precautions and work with your nutritionist and doctor to ensure healthy balance of nutrition and fasting!
Adding this to your health regimen may be challenging but the rewards are significant. Begin by using a schedule you think you can maintain. Don’t get discouraged if you eat more on your fasting days than you had planned. Drink plenty of water and tea to help feel full and satisfied during the day!
In summary, going without food now and then is not going to kill you — on the contrary, it may be one of the keys to living a longer and healthier life!