Humans have been fasting for thousands of years. Once used mainly to express religious devotion or treat certain medical conditions, fasting is now a common dietary practice, enabling individuals to detoxify, cleanse, and lose weight. Additionally, anecdotal evidence suggests that fasting can improve sleep, normalize insulin sensitivity, and even slow the aging process.
Still, not every type of fast is suitable for every person. The best fasting method depends on your health, body chemistry, dietary habits, and goals. In general, it’s dangerous to start fasting without first talking to your doctor to make sure you’re in good health. Read on to discover the best type of fasting for your needs and desires.
With liquid fasting, dieters avoid solid foods in favor of drinking fluids like water, juice, and broth. While water fasts tend to last only a few days, juice fasts can and often do go on for longer. The idea is that these liquid diets help facilitate weight loss while detoxing the body and boosting organ function. Unfortunately, a liquid diet is generally low in protein. So, while you might initially lose weight, you’ll also lose muscle mass, as the body will inevitably turn to its own muscles as a protein source. Additionally, people on low-protein diets may be at a greater risk of getting sick, as their immune systems are not functioning at top capacity. For these reasons, liquid fasting is not a good long-term dietary choice.
A popular trend, the ketogenic diet involves consuming lots of fats, some proteins, and few carbs. The goal of the diet is to achieve a state of ketogenesis, in which the body starts to break down fats instead of carbs as its energy source. Studies show that a keto diet can help regulate the hormones that cause weight loss, such as cholecystokinin, while depleting the amount of glucose that’s readily available. As ketosis raises CCK levels, appetite is reduced, and practitioners may lose weight.
With a keto diet, individuals consume a wide range of fats and proteins, including meats, high-fat dairy, nuts, and seeds. They can also eat certain vegetables, such as leafy greens, broccoli, and avocado. Keto practitioners avoid fruits, sugars, tubers, and grains. The average nutrient breakdown for this form of fasting is 70% fats, 25% protein, and 5% carbohydrate.
With intermittent fasting, the goal isn’t necessarily to change or reduce what you’re eating but when you’re eating it. With IF, practitioners restrict their eating to a certain number of hours a day (or days per week). Because there aren’t specific dietary restrictions, individuals have more freedom when it comes to their food choices. In this way, intermittent fasting can be easier to follow because it doesn’t require total deprivation.
With intermittent fasting, individuals can choose what eating schedule to follow. One of the most popular plans, the 16:8 schedule involves fasting for 16 hours a day and eating the foods you choose for the remaining 8 hours. For example, if you consume your last meal of the day at 8 p.m., you should wait to have your first meal until noon the following day. You can feel free to drink water, coffee, and other non-caloric beverages in between. The other most common forms of intermittent fasting are the 5:2 plan (in which dieters eat five days a week and fast for two) and alternate day fasting (in which dieters eat every other day). The latter two forms tend to be more difficult to follow and may not be recommended for IF novices.
While IF practitioners are able to choose their own meals, it is possible to gain weight on this diet. For this reason, it’s best to consume a healthy diet with plenty of proteins, fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats while engaging in intermittent fasting. By following a healthy eating plan, and restricting the amount of time you spend eating, you can ideally decrease overall caloric intake while spurring other positive changes to health.
Intermittent fasting is known to bring about a number of health benefits. Along with giving the body a break from having to digest food constantly—something that’s potentially valuable for those with IBS and other stomach disorders—IF may reduce insulin resistance, thereby lowering people’s risk of diabetes. Additionally, fasting can reduce obesity, a condition that’s responsible for numerous health hazards. In particular, cutting visceral fat around the abdomen and chest cavity can protect a patient’s quality of life and longevity. A form of living tissue, visceral fat releases hormones that have a negative effect on nearby organs. Because IF is known to be effective at breaking down visceral fat, practitioners may enjoy perks like lower blood pressure and cholesterol and superior heart health.