Fasting is one of the oldest dietary practices in the world, and modern research is showing it can have profoundly beneficial influences on your health. Many people see it as a religious practice, and though you can include that on a personal note, this article will be focused on health benefits.
Fasting is basically calorie restriction, and there are different kinds of fasts varying in intensity. Here are the amazing benefits:
Fasting shifts your body from using glucose as its primary fuel to fat, making you a more efficient fat-burner. This benefits your health even beyond weight loss.
Fasting can lengthen your lifespan! Research shows it increases the expression of genes that favour longevity.
Fasting boosts the functioning of your immune system because newer, stronger immune cells are produced per time, in the fasted state.
Fasting reduces your risk for diabetes, by reducing insulin in your blood. It also greatly reduces cancer risk, because the body in a fasting state is better able to remove damaged cells by itself.
Fasting reduces your risk for heart disease by reducing the levels of bad cholesterol in your blood.
And these are just some of the benefits!
Like I mentioned earlier, there are different kinds of fasts, varying in intensity. Water fasts are very intense, because you take in nothing else but water for a certain period (usually more than 24 hours). It obviously can be very challenging. It does provide a lot of health benefits mentioned earlier, even faster because of the intensity of the fast.
WHAT’S MY OPINION?
It’s obviously very challenging to carry out and complete, so compliance is a major problem.
Most people tend to overeat after the fast to compensate, defeating the purpose of the fast.
I’d recommend it is done with your doctor’s supervision, especially if you have a health condition.
I WOULDN’T RECOMMEND A WATER FAST IF…
You’re pregnant or breastfeeding. You need a lot of nutrition at those times.
You’re a child. Children need lots of nutrition as their bodies are fast developing. If your child is overweight, dietary modification to improve the quality of the diet, plus exercise, is a better way to intervene.
Also, do not fast if you intend to donate blood, use a sauna, or run a marathon. Reasons are quite obvious.
When fasting, it’s important you listen closely to your body. Take a few days to prepare, by ‘setting up’ yourself to make the fast easier.
If you do decide to undertake a water fast, here’s how to do it to get the best results:
DISCLAIMER – I’m not a doctor, and this is not medical advice. Doing this is at your own risk, weighing the pros and cons unique to you. Do not put your body under undue stress during your fast.
DON’T EAT ANYTHING. Even eating a bite of food will keep digestion going and make it difficult to continue with your fast.
Drink as much water as you think you need. Don’t drink buckets, and don’t drink too little. Anywhere in between is OK.
Vitamin supplements are optional, not compulsory. Take them if you think you need them.
Don’t drink any juice you buy from a store. Take only water.
Stay as active as you’re comfortable with.
Sleep and rest as much as you need to, but being sedentary will make you prone to being physically weak.
Reintroducing food after your fast is another delicate phase. What food you choose, and how you do it, are very crucial. Sudden reintroduction of food may spike your insulin so badly you may need to be hospitalized. This effect may be worse the longer you fast.
To prevent this from happening, steadily reintroduce foods over the course of a few days, starting with easily digestible foods.
I’d recommend you begin with probiotic-rich foods like raw yoghurt(not store-bought), and vegetable juicing, gradually easing into fruit, steamed veggies, and nuts. By the fourth day, your body could be ready to digest tougher stuff like meat.
If in general, you don’t like the taste of water(or it gets a little boring along the line) you can drink fruit-infused water. In an infuser water bottle, you can add slices of fruit that’d flavour the water, making it taste better!
Phew!! Obviously, water fasts are for the brave! If you can’t try this out yet, you could still get the good benefits of fasting from a much shorter 24-hour water fast, and/or intermittent fasting(where you fast for between 14-16 hours daily and eat within a narrow time window). These other fasting methods would be easier on you if you stay away from food for long.
The bottom line? It’s best to give your gut a break once in a while.