The latest wellness trend doesn’t care what you eat, it only cares when you eat it. For this reason it’s technically not considered “diet” at all, but a “eating pattern.”
First there was yoga. Then meditation. Then paleo. Now say hello to fasting, the cure-all your crunchiest friend is soon to recommend on your next Matcha date.
Fasting is pretty simple. You just don’t eat. You also don’t drink anything. Protein shakes are totally cheating, as is milk, juice, or alcohol. The sole exceptions are water, coffee, tea, and apple cider vinegar.
In terms of the amount of hours involved, there are different methods.
The most common starter fasting method is “16:8,” meaning 16 hours of fasting every day and only 8 hours of eating. Obviously you’re not supposed to gorge yourself for 8 hours straight, which would defeat the purpose. You eat normally during that 8 hours, so basically a normal lunch and dinner, then you’re done.
More advanced fasting methods include:
- 5:2: 2 whole days per week
- Eat-Stop-Eat: one or two 24 hour periods in a week
- Alternate day: fast every other day
- Warrior diet: only one big meal at night
- 20:4: Fasting for 20 hours a day, eating only 4.
The proven benefits are honestly pretty staggering. Fasting has been shown to be unbelievably good for health in all sorts of tests. One test on rats showed rats that fasted lived up 83% longer that those that didn’t. (not implying humans will start living 143 years, but you get it)
The reason for this is that fasting is evolutionary. We’re built to undergo periods of hunger, and in those periods our body does a lot of housekeeping.
- Ketosis occurs, the stage when your body begins breaking down fat to use as energy.
- When you fast, your levels of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) goes through the roof, which means healthier muscles.
- A process called autophagy begins, which means that your cells basically clean themselves.
- Your insulin levels drop dramatically, making weight loss easier and preventing conditions like diabetes.
Fasting is telling your body that it better get its shit together, which is very healthy so long as you don’t do it for too long.
The risks of fasting are generally related to people not doing it correctly. Obviously, if you fast for 16 hours then eat horribly for 8 hours, it’s going to be even worse for you than if you’d never fasted at all. Also, if you fast for a few weeks, then go back to eating all the time, you’re going to gain weight even faster than you did before.
There are also some short-term adjustments, e.g. hunger and inability to focus, that will not surprisingly occur when you begin your fasting regime.
One final wrinkle is that fasting has been shown to be healthier for men than women. Some studies have shown that while there are virtually no substantial risks for men who do it properly, it can have a detrimental effect on women, causing muscular problems and blood sugar issues.