What is the Fasting Diet?
Fasting started out of necessity whether it be from the lack of food or stress or even to rest; fasting is as old as time. It was a common practice that during the spring and fall solstice for religious observance to pay homage to the Gods of the time. It is widely known that Aristotle and Socrates, two of the greatest philosophers ever to walk the Earth, would fast for the purpose of healing therapy.
It was thought back then to revitalize the mind and body, putting the people in touch with their physical power to heal themselves internally. These great healers of the time would often prescribe fasting to their patients as a form of treatment for illness to treat all kinds of sickness.
Now, People chose fasting, abstinence from drink and/or food, for two reasons, to either observe religious rites or change body composition. This method of “dieting” has been used from everything from the “lose 5 pounds in two days” to intermittent fasting for maintaining your weight.
There are many ways to implement the fast. There is a science behind fasting, which we will explore as well as medicinal reasons to fast so that making the decision to implement the fast as part of your dietary plan will be informed. First we will examine the different types of fasting.
I know what you are thinking, Buddha fasted for years and looked like a sack of bones, how can that possibly be healthy? It wasn’t healthy, not the way Buddha did it but Buddha didn’t have science, facts and research on his side. We have found everything you need for your enlightenment into the world of fasting properly and thoroughly the right way for the desired results.
The Medicinal Study of the Fast
There are medicinal studies behind fasting, as gernotological researchers have shown in various studies using mice and monkeys. Their studies show everything from longer life span, 40% decrease in cancer susceptibility, higher cognition and memory even lower blood sugar levels.
Sciencemag.com outlined the findings of this intensive study done by University of Southern California in Los Angeles lead by Valter Longo in 2015 that begun simply with an investigation into fasting to combat the effects of chemotherapy.
The study performed was a two-month project with mice subjects cutting their caloric intake by 40% for a total of four days each month.
These are their findings:
- Life Span Increase. Eating takes years off your life for several reasons. Overindulgence is more of the mind then the palette, however it can lead you to a deadly disease such as diabetes. Restricting calories by 40%, which from the study is the magic number, during a two-month period for four days, dropped the test subjects (mice) blood sugar 40% and their insulin level was 90% below the starting point.
- Cognition and Memory Increase. Excessive eating makes you tired. Just as with humans, age deteriorates the mind and the ability to remember certain things in mice too. On the test diet above, the mice outperformed the control subjects on two different tests of their memory and the researchers believe it to be due to the production of neurons in the area of the brain that is responsible for memory, the hippocampus.
- Cancer Decrease. Over indulgence with certain types of food can contribute or at the very least help to create a comfortable environment in the body for cancer cells grow. With the study and mice having the over ability to develop cancer at an alarming rate with such a short life span, the researchers were able to conclude with the 45% in decreased fat they were less apt to develop cancer.
- Aging Decrease. Enjoying certain foods, especially those high in calories and fat can “age” you more quickly. Using the above diet, the most interesting piece of information to come from the testing, is regeneration of stem cells and tissue. Longo and his team found through testing that liver tissue in the mice was restored.
The studies continue and there have been many on human subjects but there are many issues that invade the testing. The subjects have trouble sticking to the diet!
The Science of fasting
When you fast what happens to your body, on the inside? Science, My Dear Watson.. Science…
Depriving your body of food initiates all types of chemical and hormonal changes to occur within your body. These changes are triggered as soon as the cravings for food begin. When the cravings are not being satisfied, your body goes into panic mode and starts fixing “broken” cells and opening avenues for easy access to burn stored fat. There are four areas that are most prevail in the science of fasting that helps your body rebuild and lose weight.
- Your Insulin Level. When you begin your fast, the insulin level in your blood will drop. It will drop significantly which is a catalyst for burning fat.
- HGH, Human Growth Hormone. HGH has long been in the bodybuilding world as those of us “gym rats” know the benefits of this natural hormone. It facilitates lean muscle gains and weight loss, reverses aging, facilitates burning fat and it also decreases greatly as we age so the ultimate goal is to soak up as much as we can. Fasting can increase the natural HGH levels in your blood up to 5-fold!
- Repairs Cells. Fasting actually allows your body to begin repairing broken or fractured cells. It helps to take waste from the cells which allows your cells to naturally rejuvenate.
- Expressive Genes. In our bodies we have many genes and molecules that protect us from diseases and germs that could cause great harm to our health and wellness. These genes perform valuable tasks like regulating viruses and antibodies we all carry within our bodies. When we fast the molecules and genes go through changes and strengthen in relation to longevity.
Reasons of fasting
Fasting is absolutely healthy from what my research has uncovered and there are many reasons to implement this into your health and wellness plan. By fasting you are essentially giving your body a break from the calories you would normal take in to fuel your body in order to detoxify, lose a few extra pounds or religious observance.
Fasting to Lose Weight.
Losing weight is typically the driving force for people to start or at least try fasting. Fasting targets belly fat and for most of us that is our biggest problem area.
The thought process behind the intermittent fasting is eating less meals and in turn less calories, however, if you are oiling on the calories in the meals you are eating, is it working? Probably not. Diet will still play a significant role though opinions on this differ, if you cut out a meal of 500 calories but add the same calorie count in somewhere else, have you really made a difference?
With the enhancement of your hormone, HGH and insulin levels, you are elevating your metabolic rate considerably which in turn helps to burn up to 14% more calories. While you are taking in less calories and your body is burning calories at a higher rate you are essentially working both sides of the fat burn equation. The real gains from this are most visible after about 21 days which is in tandem with habit development.
There is a question among those concerned with potential muscle loss due to the reduced calorie intake and I can tell you from the research I have found no evidence to support this claim. Just the opposite due to the increased human growth hormone production in the body.
Fasting for your health.
Overindulgence can lead to a dreaded and deadly disease, diabetes, more specifically Type 2 diabetes which is in the most basic terms, high blood sugar.
Intermittent fasting reduces blood sugar and can help protect your kidneys against the damage caused by diabetes which is the deadliest of the side effects of the disease.
If you are genetically predisposed to diabetes you are at greater risk of having the illnesses so with this in mind, beginning fasting as a part of your health and wellness plan is advised by many physicians close to the disease. This is especially true in men.
Fasting for Brain Health and Cognition.
Anytime something is good for your physical strength and muscle, remember your brain is a muscle. In our noggins we have a hormone, BDNF, Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor in which deficit of has been linked to severe depression and panic related issues. In the study I have mentioned done by Longo and his team, it was discovered that these nerve cells regenerated from fasting and the intermittent fasting in the mice subjects’ brains were also protected against damage after a stroke but the good news doesn’t stop there.
To date, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease however in a study done in 2007, “Intermittent fasting and caloric restriction ameliorate age-related behavioral deficits in the triple-transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease”, Laboratory of Neurosciences, National Institute on Aging, Intramural Research Program, Baltimore, MD 21224, USA, it was found in the test subjects to delay to symptoms of the diseases and significantly diminish the characteristics associated with not only Alzheimer’s but other neurodegenerative illnesses such as Huntington’s and Parkinson’s.
Ways of Intermittent Fasting
There are many different variations of the fast but there are two important things to remember, pick a plan that is that is doable and men and women are different.
Start with a plan that fits with your lifestyle and one that you will be able to stick with. If you don’t think you can go four days with just water, that’s not the diet for you because it will lead to failure.
Pick a plan of caloric reduction, 800 calories for women and 1500 calories for men, for four days every two weeks or some variation thereof. There are many ways to manipulate the fasting diets.
Start simple and you can always get more aggressive with your diet to achieve your ultimate goal. Success!
- Intermittent Fasting. A favorite among the gym rats, I personally never eat breakfast and hit the weights first thing, so technically I fast every morning. This is one type of fasting and is something you can chose on a daily basis with ease. All you have to do is establish a window of time that you will eat your other two meals and do not go outside of it. An example would be from noon to 8 pm.
- Water Fasting. Absolutely the fastest way to lose weight and hands down the most uncomfortable, most difficult to do. The key to super charge the already super charged weight loss in the water diet is to drink ice cold water. Heating the water to your body temperature of 98.6 degrees will burn even more calories.
- Lemon and Honey Water Fast. Really great fasting diet for detoxing the body while losing weight. You are getting additional antioxidants and cleansing your intestines.
- Juice Fasting. Otherwise known as juicing, this is supplementing meals for blended juice drinks containing fruits and vegetables. This is an excellent source for nutrition and detox while losing the weight. Though this method isn’t as fast as the other methods, it is still effective.
- Fruit and Vegetable Fast. This fast is the juicing fast without the blender and a great way to transition into a vegetarian lifestyle if you so choose.
- Eat Less. Although it would stand to reason that this would be the easiest to do since you can continue to eat all of your meals just less of them, it takes a measured amount of self-control to stop eating before you feel full.
The Water Fast.
The water fast is far and away the quickest way to drop weight, a lot of weight. Typically, the water fast is a 7-day process, but that includes the 2 days prior to beginning the actual diet to clean out your colon.
It is a must if you are going to drop a lot of weight in a little amount of time. Now you don’t necessarily need 2 days if you are going to use an enema or flush your system, however if you are going to use a stimulant to aide bowel cleansing, I highly recommend it. In addition, eat raw vegetables and keep your starch intake down to allow the proper detox of your colon.
While on a water diet do not try to do any additional exercising or even your regular workouts. That additional strain on your muscles and our already weaken state will help you to lose muscle mass, which is not what you are trying to accomplish. The idea is to hang on to muscle mass and lose weight. You can move through your normal day or even lay in bed, that art doesn’t really matter, you will be losing the weight not matter what you are physically doing.
The Difference Between Intermittent and Water Fasting.
With the different options to fasting, it easily fits into your daily regimen. You can skip one meal a day, skip two, skip a day or two days a week or even go to the extreme of the water diet.
Either way the benefits from which ever you pick will be the same. The difference between the water diet and the intermittent diet is you should exercise on the intermittent diet. You are still taking in calories and starches for the valuable fuel your body needs to push through your workout and your post workout recovery. You are taking in less calories and maintaining the same workout thus the burn is far more effective.
Who should Avoid Fasting?
If you have already been diagnosed with diabetes, you can still fast but check with your doctor and make sure your insulin levels are normalized. Hypoglycemic are another group that should avoid fasting when it comes to missing complete meals. This is a precursor to diabetes where the blood glucose level is far from regulated but there is not a medication to adapt the level.
The only way to manage it is through food. This is not to say it cannot be done, just with caution. Work your way to the ultimate goal and start with maybe 6 hours then build from there but always follow what your body tells you.
Anorectics, do they Really Work?
Anorectics pills, or appetite suppressants, are supplements to meant to block the receptors in the brain that trigger the hunger sensations in your stomach. The theory behind them is to help fight off the craving for food and they are made to help not only to fight off the cravings but to also help burn additional calories through stimulants.
If you need additional help to jumpstart your fasting regimen and you are looking for a supplement to get you started, there are a few things you need to know.
Not All Ingredients Are Created Equal.
A supplement can contain many different ingredients in an effort to give you the impression you are going to achieve skipping a meal or meals and burn extra calories all in one pills twice a day, though there is no solid evidence of it.
- Hoodia Gordonii – A Plant from South Africa mistakenly thought to be an appetite suppressant. Due to the fact that Pfizer picked this plant to investigate as a possible weight loss phenomenon, it gained notoriety, however Pfizer dropped the development which would lead one to believe there is no meat to this bone.
- Yerba Mate – This is a species of Holly from Spain and is consumed in liquid form in Europe. In the US it is in both liquid or energy drink form or powdered form. It does not have the history of Hoodia has as a fasting aide but it may have some compounds that could be an appetite suppressant.
- Chromium Picolinate – This chemical compound has long been used for diabetics as a nutritional supplement, but it also helps with weight control however there isn’t much information to support its effects on appetite suppression.
Before you begin fasting
Make preparations to begin any fasting regimen you chose and the best way to start is by examining and cleaning up your existing diet. You don’t have to go completely “clean” but it is a good idea to get a solid foundation before going into a fast so you can get the most from your effort.
Remember we are losing weight and keeping muscle so keep your protein levels up to feed your muscles. Green vegetables such as broccoli and green beans are actually a clean carb though your body burns through them quickly and are excellent with a clean diet.
Where possible, steer away from sugars and bad fats such as butter. Starch is always in question but the answer is easier than you think. Rice is a good carb, but as with everything, only certain rice, such as brown or white.
The key is to be smart, it is a lifestyle change much more than just a diet and if you treat fasting this way you will find the results to be vastly rewarding. You are not just restricting your calories you are improving your cognition, enhancing your insulin production, putting your HGH production in hyper drive and managing stress.
In addition to these internal benefits, you are changing your exterior and shrinking your waist and tightening your body, allowing your workouts to be more effective in developing the lean muscle mass for the visual results.
This is for informational purposes only and in no way an endorsement for a fasting diet for weight loss, health or cognition benefits. The research is sited from actual studies done by professionals but you should never embark on a new diet without consulting your medical professional regarding the risk factors as they pertain to your specific health conditions.