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 seven-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 intermittent fasting.
(NOTE: This article on fasting is not intended for children nor teens).
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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.
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
A very popular form of fasting is intermittent fasting. 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.
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.
Is intermittent fasting safe?
Intermittent fasting is generally considered safe for most healthy individuals, but it’s always a good idea to consult with your healthcare professional before making any significant changes to your diet or lifestyle.
Be aware that intermittent fasting may not be suitable for everyone. It’s important to consider your individual health status, any underlying medical conditions, and your nutritional needs before starting any fasting regimen.
|Expert Note: |
Maintaining proper hydration is vital during fasting periods. Be sure to drink enough water throughout the day to stay hydrated.
How do you do intermittent fasting?
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.
Intermittent fasting tips and strategies
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 intermittent fasting
While intermittent fasting can be safe for many people, there are certain risks and considerations associated with this eating pattern. Here are some potential risks of intermittent fasting:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Change in sleep pattern
- Becoming lightheaded
- Low blood pressure
- Binge eating
These effects are typically temporary and may diminish as you adjust to the fasting schedule.
Health benefits of intermittent 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.
Better heart health and intermittent fasting
Emerging research indicates that intermittent fasting offers potential benefits for heart health and overall well-being. It has been found to effectively lower cholesterol, blood pressure, insulin, and blood sugar levels, even if you do not lose weight. These positive changes contribute to improved cardiovascular health and can have a positive impact on your overall health and well-being.
Lower cholesterol and intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting may have a positive impact on cholesterol levels, although the research is limited and more studies are needed to fully understand the relationship.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Regular fasting can decrease your low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad,” cholesterol.”
Weight loss and intermittent fasting
It’s important to note that while intermittent fasting can be an effective weight loss strategy for many, individual results may vary. Factors such as overall diet quality, physical activity level, and underlying health conditions can influence weight loss outcomes.
Additionally, it’s crucial to prioritize a balanced diet during eating periods and ensure adequate nutrient intake to support overall health and well-being.
Blood pressure and intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting may have beneficial effects on blood pressure levels, although the research is limited and more studies are needed to fully understand the relationship.
It is believed that not only can fasting lower your blood pressure, but you could see positive results in as short as a few days.
Energy level and intermittent fasting
The effects of intermittent fasting on energy levels can vary among individuals and depend on factors such as the specific fasting methods, overall diet quality, sleep quality, hydration status, and individual metabolism.
- 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.
- 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.
Go to the comment section and let us know your thoughts.
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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