At its very core, fasting simply allows the body to burn off excess body fat. It is important to realize that this is normal and humans have evolved to fast without detrimental health consequences. Body fat is merely food energy that has been stored away. If you don’t eat, your body will simply “eat” its own fat for energy.
Life is about balance. The good and the bad. The yin and the yang. The same applies to eating and fasting. Fasting, after all, is simply the flip side of eating. If you are not eating, you are fasting. Here’s how it works:
When we eat, more food energy is ingested than can immediately be used. Some of this energy must be stored away for later use. Insulin is the key hormone involved in the storage of food energy.
Insulin rises when we eat, helping to store the excess energy in two separate ways. Sugars can be linked into long chains, called glycogen and then stored in the liver. There is, however, limited storage space; and once that is reached, the liver starts to turn the excess glucose into fat. This process is called De-Novo Lipogenesis (meaning literally Making Fat from New).
Some of this newly created fat is stored in the liver, but most of it is exported to other fat deposits in the body. While this is a more complicated process, there is no limit to the amount of fat that can be created. So, two complementary food energy storage systems exist in our bodies. One is easily accessible but with limited storage space (glycogen), and the other is more difficult to access but has unlimited storage space (body fat).
The process goes in reverse when we do not eat (fasting). Insulin levels fall, signaling the body to start burning stored energy as no more is coming through food. Blood glucose falls, so the body must now pull glucose out of storage to burn for energy.
Glycogen is the most easily accessible energy source. It is broken down into glucose molecules to provide energy for the other cells. This can provide enough energy to power the body for 24-36 hours. After that, the body will start breaking down fat for energy.
So, that the body only really exists in two states – the fed (insulin high) state and the fasted (insulin low) state. Either we are storing food energy, or we are burning it. It’s one or the other. If eating and fasting are balanced, then there is no net weight gain.
If we start eating the minute we roll out of bed, and do not stop until we go to sleep, we spend almost all our time in the fed state. Over time, we will gain weight. We have not allowed our body any time to burn food energy.
To restore balance or to lose weight, we simply need to increase the amount of time we burn food energy (fasting). In essence, fasting allows the body to use its stored energy. After all, that’s what it is there for. The important thing to understand is that there is nothing wrong with that. That is how our bodies are designed. That’s what dogs, cat, lions and bears do. That’s what humans do.
If you are constantly eating, as is often recommended, then your body will simply use the incoming food energy and never burn the body fat. You’ll only store it. Your body will save it for a time when there is nothing to eat. You lack balance. You lack fasting.
Fasting’s most obvious benefit is weight loss. However, there are a myriad of benefits beyond this, many of which were widely known in ancient times.
The fasting periods were often called ‘cleanses’, ‘detoxifications’, or ‘purifications’, but the idea is the same – to abstain from eating food for a certain period of time for health reasons. People imagined that this period of abstinence from food would clear their bodies’ systems of toxins and rejuvenate them. They were more correct than they knew.
Some of the purported physical benefits of fasting include:
- Improved mental clarity and concentration
- Weight and body fat loss
- Lowered blood insulin and sugar levels
- Reversal of type 2 diabetes
- Increased energy
- Improved fat burning
- Increased growth hormone
- Lowered blood cholesterol
- Prevention of Alzheimer’s disease (potential)
- Longer life (potential)
- Activation of cellular cleansing (potential) by stimulating autophagy (a discovery that was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in medicine)
- Reduction of inflammation
There are many different ways you can follow an intermittent fast, the most common method is the 16:8 fast, which means you eat all of your food within an 8 hour window and you fast for 16 hours.
One of the benefits of being in ketosis is you lose hunger, especially in the morning which makes it easy to add in fasting!
(This should be natural and not forced)
TIP: You don’t have to fast every day! Some fast 3 times a week, some 5 days a week and some love it and fast daily.
You will still be eating the same amount of calories in your day, just eating them within a window to work with your hormones and allow your body time to heal when it would otherwise be busy digesting your foods.
You want to try to eat 2-3 larger meals a day and try not to snack. it is important to give your body a break in between meals to digest and burn your stored fat for fuel.