If you’re someone who likes to be on top of the latest and greatest diet trends, you’ve probably noticed that the topic of fasting is making its way through the most recent cycle. As we dig deeper into the what’s, why’s and how’s of fasting, we’ll see that the concept is, in fact, not a new one. Although the practice of fasting has somewhat been forgotten, it has stood the test of time – it is actually one of the most ancient healing traditions and has been practised by almost every culture and religion on earth!
**Fasting is not for everyone so please consult with your healthcare provider to see if it is safe for you.
What is fasting?
Fasting is the intentional abstinence from food for a specific period of time. Intermittent fasting cycles between shorter periods of fasting and specific periods of unrestricted eating. Fasting times generally range anywhere from 12-to-24 hours or longer.
Benefits of Fasting:
- Lowers insulin levels and stabilizes blood sugar
- Detoxifies and cleanses the body
- Gives the digestive system/organs a break to free up energy so healing can begin
- Promotes weight loss, as you begin to burn stores of fat
- Reverses aging process
- Improves concentration and memory
- Decreases appetite on non-fast days
- Prevents Alzheimer’s
- Provides more mental clarity – on fast days, people usually note that they experience less brain fog and increased focus
- Decreases inflammation, increases energy, improves sleep
What do the studies show?
Research is showing that fasting can reduce oxidative damage and inflammation, optimize energy metabolism and, in rodents at least, protect against diabetes, cancers and heart disease. In humans, it has been shown to reduce obesity, hypertension, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. According to Dr. Jason Fung, author of The Obesity Code and a leading expert on intermittent fasting, “Once we understand that obesity is a hormonal imbalance, we can begin to treat it. The key to long-lasting weight control is to control the main hormone responsible, which is insulin.”
How to Fast
The best thing about fasting is that you can fit it into your life as you want…and it’s free! Here are some of the more common ways to fast.
A shorter period of fasting, but done every day. A 12-hour fasting period would have you eat three meals in a 12-hour period (for example, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.), and then abstain from eating anything for the rest of that day (from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.). This is a simple fast that should be considered a normal daily practice in order to give digestive organs a break each night. If you were to eat unprocessed food and reduce excess sugars, this simple fast would be enough to ward off obesity.
A daily 16-hour period of fasting with an eight-hour eating window. For example, this would mean eating meals as you normally would from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m., and fasting from 8 p.m. to 12 p.m. the next day (so you would skip breakfast each day). Some people choose to eat two meals during that eight-hour window, while others may eat three. This fast can be implemented daily or a few times per week.
Fasting for 24 hours from the time of one meal to the next. For example, if you finish dinner at 8 p.m., your next meal wouldn’t be until 8 p.m. the following day, meaning breakfast and lunch would be skipped the day of your fast. If you finish breakfast at 7 a.m., then you would skip lunch and dinner that day and your next meal would be breakfast the following day, 24 hours later. For optimal benefits, this length of fasting can be practised one or two times per week, as recommended by Brad Pilon, who popularized intermittent fasting in his book Eat, Stop, Eat.
What’s allowed on fasting days
Water (still and sparkling) – Drink plenty to avoid dehydration (you can add lemon or lime).
Tea – Green, black, oolong and herbal teas are all allowed (cinnamon can be added).
Coffee – Regular or decaf; a small amount of milk or cream is allowed if needed (but no sugar).
Bone Broth – either homemade (see the easy recipe below) or store-bought. If store-bought, quality is key. Canned broths are no match for a superior organic bone broth, which can be found at health food stores and some organic butcher shops in the freezer section. Beef, chicken, pork or fish are all options, as is vegetable broth (although vegetable broth won’t have a high mineral content compared to the bone).
What’s not allowed on fasting days
Food – No food is allowed unless you are taking a medication that needs to be taken with food, in which case you can eat a small amount of leafy greens. unless taking medication required with food, can eat a small amount of leafy greens
Sugar – No sugar is to be added to any drink consumed.
Juice – This is basically liquid sugar; do not consume any on fast days.
Who should NOT fast?
Pregnant women and children need adequate nutrients for growth, so should not fast. People with type 1 or 2 diabetes or high blood pressure should be monitored by their physician.
Adriana Rotella is a certified Holistic Nutritionist and Pilates
expert practicing in the Greater Toronto Area. She lives in
Mississauga with her husband and son. Find her on Instagram
@adriana.rotella or at adrianarotella.com