Benefits of Fasting
As humans, we have had to adapt to a number of different challenging environments. We have had to run, climb, fight, lift, starve and kill in order to survive. Our ancestors did not always have access to food and would regularly have times of food shortage and famine. These challenges primed our physiology and gave us a stronger survival advantage through an ability to change our metabolism to meet the unique demands we face.
In 21st century society, we don’t have to do many of these things. We can basically sit back and stay stationary all day while continuously feeding ourselves. This causes a loss of metabolic flexibility and energy efficiency.
Our societal habits have cost us metabolic flexibility & energy efficiency, which make us weaker as a species and more susceptible to the development of chronic disease.
There are a number of benefits to fasting and reasons to apply it into your life. You may not experience all of these benefits the first time you fast. Fasting is like exercise, there is an adaptation that must take place before you really feel good.
I call this process, building your fasting muscle, because overtime you get stronger and more resilient to periods without food.
Typically, this will be 1-2 weeks of intermittent fasting before your body resets and your hunger hormones reduce and you adapt to your new eating schedule.
If you are trying out an extended fast beyond a day, the first time is usually the hardest and it typically gets easier with each successive fast unless you are under a lot stress.
Top Benefits of Fasting:
Fat Burning: When fasting, the body needs to find an alternative fuel and it will first begin by burning up stored sugar called glycogen. As our glycogen stores go down, the body will begin burning fat for fuel and producing ketones.
Energy: When the body uses ketones for fuel and increases norepinephrine in response to fasting it creates increased energy and mental clarity. This is all due to improved metabolic flexibility and energy efficiency.
Inflammation: Studies have shown that fasting can reduce the activity of inflammatory inducing gene pathways in the body and the number of inflammatory cytokines produced in the body.
Gut and Liver Health: Digestion is a very stressful and energy demanding process after eating. During fasting, this energy can be used for the gut and liver to heal and repair itself. Other important systems of the body, like the immune system, also enjoy a break to focus on healing.
Cellular Autophagy: Autophagy (literally “self eating”) is a detox process your body undergoes to clean out damaged cells and regenerate new ones. Over time, cells accumulate a variety of dead organelles, damaged proteins, and oxidized particles that clog the body’s inner workings. This accelerates aging, induces dementia, and increases the risk of cancer, as well as other age-related diseases. Because many cells, like those in the brain, need to last a lifetime, the body developed a unique way of ridding itself of those faulty parts and defending itself naturally against disease.
Increases Human Growth Hormone (HGH): Research has shown that cells have a greater lifespan during times of famine and food scarcity. Fasting enhances cellular rejuvenation by acting on certain genetic repair mechanisms. We use less energy to repair a cell than to divide and create new cells. The main hormone responsible for this improved repair mechanism is human growth hormone (HGH), which goes up significantly as the length of the fast increases.
Stem Cells: Fasting has been shown to increase stem cell activity, giving the body very youthful cells that can provide a wide variety of benefits. Many people inject stem cells to help repair damaged joints. Fasting is a way to internally stimulate these stem cells to repair damaged areas of our body.
Insulin Sensitivity: Insulin is a hormone that is responsible for putting sugar into cells and stimulating glycolysis and lipogenesis. These means burning sugar for fuel and increasing fat storage.
High insulin levels from frequent eating and high carbohydrate foods, stimulate inflammatory gene pathways. Fasting improves the use of insulin, so we need less of it when we consume food and therefore, we have less fat storage and inflammation.
Chronic Disease: All chronic diseases are characterized by chronic inflammation. Fasting is the most powerful nutritional strategy to reduce inflammation in the body.
When inflammation is reduced, genes express better health for all the systems, tissues and cells of the body.
Relationship with Food: Most of us have caught ourselves eating mindlessly and have struggled with sugar, carb, dairy and other cravings. Fasting helps to realize that these cravings are mental and emotional, not usually physical, and can be overcome.
Mental Health: As ketones elevate in the body, most people experience improved mood, mental clarity and creativity. Many observe that they feel the most productive at the peak of their intermittent fast or after 3-4 days of extended fasting.