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Diets. We’ve all been on one and probably know someone that’s on one right now.
But with so many diets, weight loss supplements and diet pills on the market, how do you know which diet to choose?
A 2020 survey found that approximately 24% of adults in the U.S. tried fasting in an effort to lose weight. That means nearly 1 in 4 people chose it as a way to lose weight.
But how does it work?
If you’re withholding calories, won’t you feel tired? And hungry? Is it safe?
Let's find all the answers as we check out the benefits of fasting for weight loss, the drawbacks and everything in between.
What is Fasting?
Fasting generally refers to the practice of abstaining from or limiting food and/or drink for a prolonged period of time.
It can be practiced for a variety of reasons, such as for religious observances, spiritual beliefs, health benefits, or as a form of protest.
Which Cultures Fast?
Fasting is practiced by various cultures and religions around the world.
It isn't about losing weight or fat burning, it carries much more of a cultural significance.
Oftentimes it's about self-discipline, commitment to worship as well as non religious reasons like cleansing the body and promoting wellbeing.
One example which you probably know is Ramadan in the Islamic culture. During Ramadan, Muslims fast as an act of worship and to show their self-discipline. The fast lasts from sunrise to sunset.
In addition to Ramadan, there is also Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar involving a day of fasting.
But fasting isn’t necessarily just in religious contexts.
In many traditional societies, fasting is a part of cultural and traditional health practices. Look at a fasting retreat for example. Attendees may perform meditation or yoga as they fast to cleanse the body and "reset" their minds and bodies.
What Are The Types of Fasting?
There are actually a variety of different types of fasting for weight loss but the uniting factor between them is that they are a temporary weight loss measure.
While prolonged fasting has been claimed to have various effects such as reducing food cravings, promoting fat loss, and curbing sugar cravings, it is important to note that scientific research in this area is limited and results may vary among individuals.
This type of fasting means only consuming water for a set period of time which is usually for a few days up to several weeks.
People do this because they believe it assists the body with inflammation, to lose weight and for detoxification purposes.
To juice fast you need to consume liquidized raw fruit and vegetables for days or weeks. A bunch of celebrities love to do juice fasting a few times a year to reset, detox and of course, for weight loss too.
Perhaps one of the most famous methods, this involves restricting food intake within a certain time frame, typically by omitting food intake for 16-24 hours or more intermittently, and then eating during the remaining hours of the day.
It can be done daily or weekly. We'll get into this method more below but studies and data suggest this method is ideal for shedding excess weight, controlling appetite and helping with mental clarity.
It's a popular method for those who want to rely on discipline and the human body for weight loss rather than fat burning supplements for weight loss supplements.
This type of fasting involves eating your meals in a specific time window like 8-hour or 10-hour periods. The hours outside of this is when the fasting takes place.
It's said to lead to weight loss and improve both inflammation and gut health.
Those that chose this method reduce their daily calorie intake by 20-40% of the recommended daily calorie intake. As well as for weight loss reasons, it is said to have a host of other physiological and neurological benefits as well as assisting metabolic health.
You should always consult your healthcare provider before you consider fasting in any of these ways however, even if you only plan to fast for a few days.
What Are The Benefits Of Fasting?
When you think about losing weight, what is the first thing that springs to mind?
Cutting out calories, eating well and exercise?
Long term, these things are essential, but adopting a new way of taking in food can revolutionize not only your waistline but your life.
There is no denying that a fasting diet can help to restrict your calorie intake, as it is based on the principle of abstaining from all or some foods/drinks for a set period of time (usually a 24 hour fast, but some can last as long as 72 hours).
But does it actually work?
Well, it depends on the fasting strategy you adopt.
For instance, relying solely on fasting for your weight loss journey won’t help you to reach your goals (in the long term) because once you stop, you’ll more than likely gain weight back.
However, if you approach fasting for weight loss sensibly and incorporate a suitable method that works for you, this can lead to weight loss.
An increasingly popular fasting method is intermittent fasting (a regular cycle of fasting and eating) which we will cover the benefits of soon.
But first, let's take a look at all the benefits of fasting - and there are many.
Key Benefits Of Fasting:
Fasting has many neurological and physiological benefits, so what are they?
Insulin levels drop
When you fast, this causes the presence of insulin in your blood to fall. As a consequence, your body starts to burn body fat – enabling you to lose weight – as it forces your body to use your glucose reserves for energy.
Decreasing insulin resistance
Increasing your body’s sensitivity to insulin enables glucose to be transported to your cells more efficiently. This, paired with reduced blood sugar levels, can prevent any unwanted spikes and stop you from suffering from blood sugar crashes.
Human growth hormone (HGH) level boosts
Would you believe it can increase by up to 5 times its normal levels when you fast for just two days?
According to studies, this increased level of HGH is associated with fat burn, muscle gains and weight loss. HGH secretion is also vital for growth, your metabolism and for gains in muscle strength.
Fasting may also influence hormones involved in appetite regulation and satiety, such as ghrelin and leptin.
Cellular repair processes begin
Fasting can help encourage cellular repair processes, including removing any waste materials from your system and auto-Nagy where the body recycles and breaks down damaged or old cells leading to cellular renewal.
Studies suggest fasting may be able to protect you from certain diseases including cancer.
In one rat study, adopting alternate fasting helped to block tumor formation. Whilst another test-tube study found that exposing cancer cells to multiple cycles of fasting was as effective as chemotherapy in delaying tumor growth. It can also increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy.
Further human research on this subject is required as test subjects were animals and hells.
Reduced blood sugar levels
Alongside reducing insulin resistance, short-term intermittent fasting has been found to lower blood sugar and levels in those with Type 2 Diabetes.
Whilst some inflammation is normal when dealing with immune processes; chronic inflammation can contribute towards heart disease, cancer and arthritis.
Fasting has been found to reduce inflammation, helping you to remain healthy and fighting fit.
In one study of 50 males, intermittent fasting (for 1 month) dramatically lowered inflammation. Participants saw similar benefits when they fasted for 12 hours a day for a month.
Improves heart health
Through a combination of improving your blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol; fasting can enhance the health of your heart.
In one study, 8 days of alternate fasting helped to lower bad cholesterol and blood triglycerides levels by 25% and 32% (respectively), whilst in another study of 4,629 people, fasting helped to lower the risk of coronary artery disease and diabetes.
Boosts brain function
Admittedly research on this topic is still relatively limited. However, what has been found so far (based on animal studies) suggests a fasting diet could be good for your brain health.
A study on mice over the course of 11 months saw improved brain function and structure, whilst other animal studies have revealed fasting as a means to improve your brain health; create new nerve cells (helping to enhance cognitive function), and prevent neurodegenerative disorders e.g. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Fasting can also stimulate the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which is a protein that protects and grows neutrons.
Stored Body Fat is Burned
When you fast, your body starts using the fat stored in your cells as a source of energy. Special enzymes called lipases break down the fat cells, releasing fatty acids and glycerol.
These fatty acids travel to the liver, where they are transformed into ketones. Ketones are like little energy packets that can be used by your organs, including the brain, as fuel.
So, during fasting, your body switches from using glucose (sugar) to using these ketones as its primary source of energy. This process helps burn stored fat as the fat burning process kicks in and provides energy for your body to function.
This can lead to increased fat burning and weight loss as energy metabolism increases.
Assists weight loss
Fasting to lose weight is fairly common, and by limiting your calorie intake and boosting your metabolism (through short-term fasting) successful weight loss is possible. This is achieved by increasing the release of neurotransmitter norepinephrine.
In doing so, you can see reductions in body weight and fat.
During a review of whole day fasting, researchers found that it could decrease body weight by up to 9% as well as lower body fat (over a 12-24 week period) - impressive results.
Delay the Signs of Aging and Extended Longevity
Multiple animal studies have seen promising results in extended life spans. Rats who fasted every other day experienced delays in ageing and lived 83% longer than those who didn’t fast. Similarly, other animal studies have noted improved survival rates and longevity.
However, future human research is still needed.
PLEASE NOTE: once you start eating again, your glucose reserves will be restored, meaning you’re likely to regain the weight you’ve lost during your fast.
Does Fasting For Weight Loss Work?
As we've found out, intermittent fasting can make you lose weight because it uses stored fat for energy. The result? Fat cells are burned and weight loss occurs (when combined with a nutritious diet).
So, fasting for weight loss does work in theory – as long as you approach it sensibly and choose the right method for your health condition and lifestyle.
Yes, fasting will encourage weight loss (primarily water weight loss) over the duration; however, the real risk lies in your relationship with food once your fast is over.
For instance, if you resume or begin unhealthy eating habits, then you’re likely to put the weight you’ve lost straight back on – especially if you have a habit of binging/overeating, or consume a lot of junk food.
Yet should you make a conscious decision to eat better (after the fast), then you can minimize the amount of weight put back on.
But that is not all you need to consider.
What Are The Downsides Of Fasting For Weight Loss?
Potentially regaining weight
It is probable that you’ll regain the weight you lost – in the long term – if you adopt a basic fasting diet of just juice and water. Why? Because this kind of dieting is extreme, unhealthy and is so calorie restrictive that your body will enter starvation mode.
Body going into starvation mode
Alongside entering starvation mode, fasting will also cause your metabolism to drop (further slowing down your body).
Suppression can increase hunger
Whilst you’re fasting your appetite will naturally be curbed, helping you to feel less hungry.
But once you start eating normally again, this suppression will disappear and you’ll end up feeling hungrier than normal. And if you give into the cravings and start over eating, weight gain will follow.
Does Fasting Lead to Weight Gain?
There is no definite answer to this as it is influenced by a number of factors.
If you consume excessive calories during the eating window or compensate by eating larger portions or incorporating balanced nutrition into the diet, fasting may not lead to weight loss and may lead to weight gain.
Additionally, some people may experience difficulties in accurately estimating their calorie intake or may have certain medical conditions that can affect weight regulation.
Certain mistakes or incorrect practices during intermittent fasting can also lead to weight gain.
Will Fasting Affect My Mood and Energy Levels?
It's true that fasting can have an effect on mood and energy levels and it varies according to the individual.
Some studies found that intermittent fasting actually had positive effects on mood and is linked to the production of serotonin, the "happy chemical".
Some studies also suggest that intermittent fasting can increase energy in terms of physical and mental abilities.
So in general, it is said to have a positive effect.
Does Fasting Act as an Appetite Suppressant?
Research suggests that fasting can act as an appetite suppressant, with intermittent fasting in particular decreasing appetite.
The result? Decreased calorie intake and weight loss. And that's not all. Fasting can also modulate hunger hormones such as ghrelin and leptin, which regulate appetite and metabolism.
Can Fasting Help You Lose Weight Naturally?
Yes, for all the reasons we have mentioned including reducing appetite, fat burning and improving insulin sensitivity which occur through a calorie deficit.
There is just the human body working on its own without external ingredients at play so in that way, it is nature.
Does Fasting Create New Fat Cells?
Did you know that once fat cells are formed, they can shrink in size during weight loss, but they don't disappear?
Some research claims that the creation of new fat cells (adipogenesis) can occur during periods of fasting.
But whilst new fat cells can be created, fasting itself may not directly cause the production of them. It's pretty much down to genetics, lifestyle and diet for the most part, not fasting.
How much weight can you lose in a month with intermittent fasting?
There isn't one solid number that can be applied to all people in terms of weight loss, as it depends on your eating habits during fasting, your weight and generally the overall calorie intake you had.
Some studies have shown that with intermittent fasting, individuals can experience weight loss from fasting in the range of 7 to 11 pounds over a period of 10 weeks. However, the exact amount of weight you can lose in a month with intermittent fasting is difficult to determine as it depends on the individual.
Is Fasting Good For You? How Do I Choose A Fasting Method?
This is a hard one to answer as it depends on which fasting approach you take and how you choose to fast.
For instance, some people are less willing to adhere to a restrictive fast than others – and therefore, turn to alternative fasting methods such as; water fasting (drink only water for a set amount of time) and juice fasting (drink only vegetable or fruit juice for a set period of time).
With both of these, there is a risk of you depriving your body of essential nutrients, as they expect you to completely cut out food.
Now, doing a short 12 hour stint with either of these occasionally shouldn’t harm your health. However, if you were to do them for longer than 24 hours, then you would need to speak to a doctor first in order to keep your body safe.
Then of course there are the less restrictive fasting techniques, such as intermittent fasting, partial fasting and calorie restriction.
Each of these aims to control your daily calorie intake by cutting out certain foods/drinks for a set period per day before encouraging you to resume your normal diet.
Admittedly, these aren’t as extreme as the first two, and can even be good for you!
Related Article: 800 Calorie Diet Plan
Partial fasting is especially helpful as it requires you to exclude processed foods, animal products and caffeine for set periods of time. Foods that you’d normally avoid during a diet anyway. Perfect!
With that being said, fasting is not for everyone. For instance if you have diabetes or low blood sugar, then fasting could trigger spikes/crashes which could be dangerous to your health.
Similarly, if you have any underlying health conditions or are underweight, elderly or are an adolescent; then you should seek out medical advice first (before you decide).
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work? What Does It Take For The Diet To Be Effective?
Whilst traditional fasting can help you to keep the pounds off, the method may be tricky to sustain for some. However, many people have taken a strong liking to intermittent fasting as a method for weight loss. If you’re wondering how to do intermittent fasting, read on.
Unlike a general fast that asks you to go without food – often for long periods of time – intermittent fasting differs because it doesn’t change WHAT you eat. It simply changes WHEN you eat.
What is the best intermittent fasting plan for weight loss?
To maximize the effects of intermittent fasting, many people tend to skip one meal a day – usually breakfast – to encourage your body to enter into a fasting state.
NOTE: this typically occurs 12 hours after your last meal. Once you enter into this state, your body will start to use existing fat stores for energy, leading to weight loss.
The two meals you do have should be eaten around 1pm and 8pm to give your body time to enter into a state where it can achieve optimal fat burn (plus other benefits).
It can be broken down into subcategories e.g. alternate-day fasting or fasting periods of around 12-36 hours.
In this situation, you will either get to eat every other day or you will be given a restricted length of time per day when you can eat (this involves a limited calorie intake which you can have for these few hours).
The rest of the day you should eat two healthy, balanced meals.
What Are The Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting can do more than just help you to lose weight fast. It has also been linked to the following benefits:
Reduced belly fat
Fasting can trigger a combination of reduced insulin, higher HGH and elevated norepinephrines that enable you to break down fat and use it as fuel for your body.
This occurs when falling insulin levels (caused from lack of food) encourage your cells to release glucose stores as energy. When this regularly happens, weight loss may follow.
This weight loss is further enhanced by the restricted number of calories you’re consuming.
Boosts your metabolism
Instead of slowing it down (like most calorie restrictions).
Protect your body from muscle loss – again, something that usually only occurs on calorie controlled diets.
Providing you with added protection from common conditions caused by inflammation i.e. heart disease and cancer
Delays the onset of tumors
Animal studies suggest this type of fasting can inhibit the onset of cancerous tumours.
Improved heart health
Intermittent fasting has been found to reduce blood pressure, heart rate, total and LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar levels which can all impact on your heart.
Improved brain health
By helping to suppress inflammation in the brain, this can help to keep it healthier, enabling you to learn better and benefit from greater memory retention. Intermittent fasting has also been linked to reductions in neurological disorders including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and strokes.
Decreased risk of Type 2 diabetes
By lowering blood glucose and insulin levels, this will not only encourage weight loss but can be used to prevent diabetes.
How Long Can You Go Without Eating?
FACT: We need food and water in order to survive. We can’t live without them!
Yet, it IS possible to go long lengths of time without eating – 3 weeks to be precise (NOTE: this is based on you receiving plenty of water to drink).
Knowing this, it is easy to see where the idea of fasting came from, as we can arguably go days without having anything to eat.
However, as mentioned above – our bodies require a certain amount of calories each day in order to function. In the absence of food, our bodies will begin to enter starvation mode, and will deliberately conserve calories/slow down in order to keep you alive.
Water is an entirely different story. Which makes sense given that at least 60% of our bodies are made up of water. We NEED to consume water as we can only last so many days without it.
Again, this info helps to support the theory behind certain types of fasting i.e. water fasting and juice fasting, as these liquids give us (temporarily) what we need to survive.
Does Fasting Lead to Weight Loss?
Fasting has proven to be an effective method for weight loss, providing it is done properly and according to what your body needs. While fasting generally is a good form of weight loss, helping you to achieve your goals, other forms of fasting are more popular than others – that is because it works for the majority of people.
Intermittent fasting limits the amount of nutrients lost from restrictive fasting (i.e. water or juice fasting), and only encourages you to fast at set times of the day and not all day long.
Simply if you do it right, i.e. safely and as part of a healthy diet and exercise regime; then the benefits of fasting can extend into improved blood sugar levels; heart and brain health; decreased inflammation and weight loss.
Does Fasting Affect Muscle Mass?
The effect of fasting on muscle mass is a topic of debate and there are conflicting findings in the research.
Some studies suggest that intermittent fasting is unlikely to cause significant loss of lean body mass or muscle tissue when used with 16-24 hour fasting intervals.
Others say that prolonged fasting periods such as those found in intermittent fasting might disrupt muscle protein turnover.
Can I Fast Whilst on the Keto Diet?
Yes, you can absolutely combine fasting with the veto diet.
In fact, fasting may help your body reach ketosis quicker than following the keto diet alone.
When fasting, your body shifts its fuel source to stored fat in order to maintain its energy balance. This is the same goal as keto whose aim is to achieve ketosis.
Combining fasting and the keto diet may also result in other benefits like better cognitive function and an improvement of blood sugar control.
It's worth noting that fasting while on the keto diet requires proper planning to ensure sufficient nutrient intake and to prevent any potential nutrient deficiencies.
It is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian who can provide personalized guidance and help create a fasting and keto plan that aligns with your specific needs and goals.
Can I Fast if I Have High Blood Pressure?
It's really important to consult your healthcare provider before you consider or undertake fasting if you have high blood pressure.
It's crucial because whilst fasting may have potential benefits for hypertension like reducing weight and improving blood pressure results, it may cause dehydration and this is particularly dangerous for individuals with high blood pressure because electrolyte imbalances and dehydration can have serious implications on blood pressure.
Another key point to note is that there are some medications you need for high blood pressure management that need to be taken with food.
How Do I Combine Fasting with My Workout Routine?
If you really want to combine the two on your weight loss journey you're going to need to take good care of yourself, ensure you get enough rest, not push it too far and you listen to your body.
We don't think it's a recommended approach to weight loss as you face the danger of working out on a calorie deficit, lacking energy, exhaustion, dehydration and further issues as you need to fuel your body up before a workout.
But if you must try, here are some tips to keep you safe:
Listen to your body
Pay attention to how you feel during your fast and adjust your workout intensity accordingly.
If at any point you feel lightheaded or start to feel weak it may be time to take a look at your workout and/or break your fast.
Consider the timing of your workouts and fasting window.
If you want to exercise whilst fasting, do it in the morning before breakfast.
But if you want to exercise after breaking your fast. make sure your meal is nutritionally balanced enough to fuel your workout and give you the energy you need.
It is important to stay hydrated during your workout, especially while fasting.
It's vital to drink water throughout your workout, before, during and after so that you have adequate hydration levels.
Choose the right exercises
Opt for exercises that don't overly tax your energy levels while fasting.
Walking, yoga or light cardio is best as you shouldn't do anything too demanding whilst you are in a fasted state.
Post workout nutrition is really important. Try to break your fast with balanced meals with a good mix of healthy fats, carbs and protein so that your muscles can recover and repair.
Should I try Weight Loss Pills with Fasting?
Some people do combine weight loss pills or take a diet pill alongside fasting but it's a somewhat dangerous approach to your weight loss journey and not advisable.
We suggest trying one or the other. Or if you just want to try a weight loss supplement without all of the effort - try Phenq weight loss pills.
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Related Article: 800 Calorie Diet Plan