As someone over the age of 40, you are finding that your body and health are changing faster than ever. To help strengthen and improve your overall health you are working out 3 to 5 days a week, you are getting at least 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic activity in during your busy week, you get eight-plus hours of sleep a night, and in addition, you are eating all the right foods. But, let me ask you, have you thought about not eating at all? I am talking about fasting.
(NOTE: This article on fasting is not intended for children nor teens).
Fasting is when you completely stop eating solid foods for a predetermined timeframe. This could be a few hours, a few days, or a couple of weeks. While you may not eat solid foods during your fast, you still may want to take in liquids such as water, coffee, and tea.
If you are new to fasting then you perhaps have several questions. This article will provide you with the answers and help you get started fasting safely and correctly.
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Fasting vs Dieting
Before we get too deep into the details of fasting you should first know that fasting and dieting are two different things.
Fasting is when you do not eat solid foods at all for a specified period of time.
Dieting is when you restrict the amount of food you eat and/or the type of food you eat with the intent of losing weight.
While both fasting and dieting can help you lose weight, research shows that fasting can benefit your health when dieting may not work. When you eat nutrient-filled foods (Superfoods) such as fruits and vegetables in conjunction with fasting you will see your health benefits soar.
Reasons for Fasting
Just like dieting, fasting can be used to lose weight. But fasting is done for other reasons by many people all over the world.
- Religious reasons
- Health reasons (lowering cholesterol, high blood pressure, glucose levels, and insulin)
- Mental clarity
- Internal cleanse
- Preparation for a medical procedure
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that many follow that will direct when you are to eat, but not what you are to eat.
Intermittent fasting can be broken down into specific categories that have been shown to improve health and support weight loss.
- Time-Restricted Eating
This eating pattern allows you to eat inside a specified time frame (usually it ranges between 6 to 12 hours). So, for example, you may eat between the hours of 6:00 am and 6:00 pm. But between the hours of 6:00 pm to 6:00 am you will not eat any solid foods; however, you may consume liquids.
- Alternate-Day Fasting AKA Complete Fasting
The Alternate-Day Fast is when you do not eat for an entire 24-hour period. Once the 24-hour period is complete, you can eat again. Although it is called “Alternate-Day Fasting”, you can eat for the next consecutive day or two and then begin your 24-hour fast again.
- Modified Fasting (5:2 Diet)
The 5:2 Diet plan is a Complete Fast, however, fasting should not be done in two consecutive days. They should be split and during the other five days, you are able to eat as normal. Hopefully, your normal eating is an eating plan that consists of nutritious foods.
How to Fast
Before you jump right into fasting by skipping meals, there are proper steps you should follow before, during, and at the point of breaking your fast. If you are new to fasting, it may be a good idea to skip one or two meals before attempting a Complete Fast.
What To Do Before You Fast
- You should consult your doctor if you have medical issues, are on medication, or plan to be on an extended fast – more than one week.
- Begin to prepare mentally by getting excited about the benefits of fasting and recognizing that you will not have solid foods during your fast.
- Decrease your solid food intake a few days before beginning your fast.
- Increase your water intake before starting your fast to help remain hydrated (this is important).
- Get plenty of sleep/rest going into the start of your fast.
What To Do During Your Fast
- Continue to drink plenty of water (Depending on how long your fast is to be, it may be best not to drink tea or coffee as this can impact your nervous system).
- Continue to get an ample amount of sleep.
- If you are someone who drinks a lot of caffeine, know that you may experience headaches in the first couple of days as your body detoxes.
- Chances are you will be hungry; power through, the feeling will pass in a day or two.
- Do not overexert yourself with physical activity during your fast.
- Use your fast to relax not only your digestive system but your body and mind.
Breaking Your Fast
- Do not break your fast with large amounts of solid foods.
- Break your fast with a small glass of fruit juice.
- Slowly reintroduce soft foods back into your routine – soup, yogurt, fruits, and vegetables.
- Begin eating healthy, nutritional foods (Do not undo all the good you did with your fast).
How Long Should You Fast
How long you fast is a personal choice. Fasting can be a wonderful experience and it offers many health benefits. Because fasting can impact your health (positive and negative), if you plan to fast for an extended period of time you will need to consult your doctor.
Typically, fasting for a few hours or a couple of days will not impact a healthy person, but for those that have certain conditions (i.e., anorexia or bulimia) or have any type of disease, you are highly encouraged to meet with your doctor before starting a fast, no matter if the fast is to be short or extended over a couple of weeks.
Because the study/research of how long the body can go without food is unethical, there is no real hard number on exactly how long the body can go without solid food. Also, there are many other factors that play a role. However, it is believed that a healthy body that is properly hydrated can go without food for anywhere between 21 and 40 days before the body turns on itself (starvation). If you are planning an extended fast you will need to consult your doctor.
Risks Associated with Fasting
There are some risks that may come with fasting.
- Becoming lightheaded
- Low blood pressure
- Binge eating
Benefits of Fasting
There are several great benefits to fasting. Fasting can improve your heart health, overall physical health, give you great looking skin, and provide you with mental clarity.
When you fast, you are helping your digestive system rest and eliminate food toxins from your system. Fasting is a natural way to reboot your body.
Here are some specific ways that you will benefit from fasting.
- Heart Health
Research shows that if you do a “Complete Fast” a couple of times a week; it will improve your heart health.
- Improve Your Cholesterol
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Regular fasting can decrease your low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad,” cholesterol.”
- Weight Loss
Fasting can help with reducing your body weight and the risk of developing diabetes.
- Lower Your Blood Pressure
Not only can fasting lower your blood pressure, but you could see positive results in as short as a few days.
How The DASH Diet Solved My High Blood Pressure
Learn more on how to lower your high blood pressure, your cholesterol, lose weight, and improve your heart health with my e-book, The DASH Diet – Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension: How The DASH Diet Solved My High Blood Pressure.
Fasting is a great and natural way to cleanse your body. There are many great benefits to fasting such as improved heart health, lowered cholesterol, decreased blood pressure as well as losing weight.
Remember, fasting is a process and there are several steps you should follow when starting your fast. Fasting can be challenging during the first couple of days. When hunger hits—and it will hit—stay strong. After completing your fast you will feel and look like a brand-new person. To learn more about issues related to men over 40, follow my blogs at Best Men’s Health and Lifestyle.
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Fasting: What You Should Know. 2018. WebMD. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/diet/obesity/ss/slideshow-fasting-overview
Gunnars, Kris. 2020. Intermittent Fasting 101 – the Ultimate Beginner’s Guide. Healthline. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/intermittent-fasting-guide
Lopez-Jimenez M.D., Francisco. 2019. Fasting diet: Can it improve my heart health? MayoClinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/expert-answers/fasting-diet/faq-20058334
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