Everyone’s lifestyle is different and eating/diet habits between no two people are the same; however, certain trends can and do grip the masses from time to time, including fasting.
Whether you’re preparing to fast for the upcoming 2021 month of Ramadan, or if you’re fasting to try and lose weight, not eating for a specific period/length of time is becoming increasingly common, but is it actually good for you?
What is Fasting?
Broadly speaking, it refers to the act of a person willfully not eating for a set length of time. This can be for religious or dietary reasons. There is no set length of time for fasting – it is down to personal preference, but people typically last anywhere from a few hours to 16 hours. This leaves a small window to eat in.
Some people choose to fast during the morning and eat between lunchtime and dinner time, whilst other people choose to fast throughout the day and only eat for a few hours between dinner time and bedtime.
Most people who engage in intermittent fasting do so between 5-7 days a week, but other people may choose alternate day fasting which involves fasting every other day and eating whatever you want to on the non-fasting days.
Why do People Fast?
There are many reasons a person may decide to fast, the first of which being for religious reasons. Many religions encompass it, but you may be most familiar with Muslims who partake in Ramadan as part of Islam. The Qur’an isn’t the only holy book to mention fasting, though.
It is mentioned frequently throughout the bible and other religious texts and is something that has been undertaken by various groups for thousands of years, and this in itself is a reason that many people choose to fast.
The second main reason people choose to fast is to lose weight. Touted by the diet industry as a way to speed up metabolism by increasing the levels of norepinephrine (responsible for breaking down fat), it is a common first port of call for those looking to shed a few pounds.
If not used for religious or weight loss purposes, lots of people lean on fasting as a way to boost other aspects of their health, including controlling their blood sugar, reducing chronic inflammation, decreasing blood pressure, and boosting brain function.
Does Fasting Work?
Many people use it to benefit their mental wellbeing instead of their physical health, and in this case, it is generally effective. it has been shown to increase mental focus and cognitive function, as well as self-discipline and commitment to a cause.
With regards to using it for physical health changes; due to fasting being an age-old process, there has been an abundance of research conducted to see whether or not it actually works. When it comes to weight loss, it is thought that intermittent fasting can reduce body weight by up to 16% over a 12 week period, but this is not where it is most effective.
The biggest benefit? Diabetes.
People who have type 2 diabetes are most likely to benefit from it because of its ability to burn fat and regulate blood sugar levels. It is even thought that fasting during the early stages of diabetes could reduce and reverse the presence of the disease altogether.
With regards to other health benefits, results vary but it is generally accepted that it is beneficial for overall health – both mental and physical.
So, is Fasting Healthy?
There is no suggestion that it is unhealthy, although whether it’s sustainable or not is a different matter altogether. You shouldn’t fast for extended periods of time (e.g. not eating for an entire day or more) and you should ensure you always consume enough calories and minerals for your body to function properly and efficiently. If you do this, there is no reason why fasting cannot be useful to you when paired with a balanced diet and active lifestyle.