Fasting is not a new concept. It has existed for ages and health practitioners and watchers have constantly redesigned, repackaged, and reintroduced this practice to the modern world.
Fasting is abstaining from all or some kinds of food or drink. This abstention may be full, partial in a short or long duration, or intermittent. This practice is followed for many reasons – religious, health, ritualistic, or in some cases, ethical purposes.
Commonly seen as an act of sacrifice in most religions, fasting is still followed in different ways, degrees, and times by Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Taoists, Hindus, and Jains. Most religions share the common goal of fasting to purify one’s self, attain self-control and refocus spirituality by abstaining from food, beverages, and otherworldly pleasures.
Health & Medical Fasting
Fasting is one of the oldest forms of therapy dating back around the 5th century BCE. Ancient prominent physicians recommended and integrated fasting for healing and prevention of certain illnesses.
“Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, believed fasting enabled the body to heal itself. Paracelsus, another great healer in the Western tradition, wrote 500 years ago that fasting is the greatest remedy. Ayurvedic medicine has long advocated fasting as a major treatment. In ancient Greece, Pythagoras was among many who extolled its virtues. During the 14th century, fasting was practiced by St Catherine of Siena, while the Renaissance doctor Paracelsus called it the physician within.” – Target Health
Over the past few decades, fasting has regained popularity with many doctors resorting to it as added or alternative therapy and treatment. Many health and fitness regimens redesigned fasting and many people now practice it for purposes of better health, weight loss, physical, mental, and spiritual gain.
Culture and Ethical Fasting
Fasting has also been used as a form of either protest or solidarity. Among the known personalities who used this practice, Mahatma Gandhi resorted to fasting when he was in prison. A way to ‘atone for the violent excesses of those of his followers who did not practice his teaching of satyagraha (nonviolence) against British rule in India’.
Fasting has also been embedded in some cultures. In its history, the canton of Geneva Switzerland observes the “Jeune genevois” or “Fast of Geneva” every year. It is a public holiday that occurs on the Thursday following the first Sunday of September. Religious and patriotic fasting dating back to the 15th and 16th century recognizing the persecution of Protestants in the neighboring Lyon, France.
While others believe only abstaining from food (or varieties of food such as meat, dairy) and beverages, many also stay away from pleasures and distractions like festivities, social media, technology, alcohol, smoking, and other vices.
5 Known Benefits of Fasting
Fasting has been used as a form of therapy and treatment from centuries ago but with the help of modern science, doctors are able to understand and dissect this practice more. In the past decades, many studies were carried out in both animals and humans in a variety of settings.
It has been shown that cancer patients who fasted for 3 days prior to chemotherapy were protected against immune system damage that can be caused by the treatment, which they attribute to immune cell regeneration.
“Many studies show individuals who fast on consecutive or alternate days, have been reported to facilitate weight loss preventing the progression of type 2 diabetes and consequently improve cardiovascular risk. Moreover, extensive evidence suggests that imposing fasting periods upon experimental laboratory animals increases longevity, improves health, and reduces disease, including such diverse morbidities with cancer neurological disorders and disorders of the circadian rhythm. ” – International Journal of Health Sciences
In recent years, Intermittent Fasting (IF) has been one of the most popular diet trends in the world, which is an ‘eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating’.
Many scientific studies claim that intermittent fasting leads to improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol levels as well as insulin sensitivity. It has also been suggested that prolonged fasting may be effective in regenerating immune cells leading to longevity and protection against diseases.
Check out this video from Sadhguru (famous yogi, mystic, and visionary) The Right Way to Do Intermittent Fasting For Maximum Benefits – Sadhguru where he shares the health benefits of intermittent fasting.
“When you starve, the system tries to save energy, and one of the things it can do to save energy is to recycle a lot of the immune cells that are not needed, especially those that may be damaged.” – Dr. Valter Longo-University of Southern California
Fasting can help with weight loss, as a consequence of your general cleansing, a healthier lifestyle, and taking full responsibility for your actions.
There are divided opinions whether this works or not, but all that we can say is that if you plan to fast specifically for weight loss, get professional advice. It can be something damaging to your body if done wrongly, so please research, get professional help, and take care.
Physical, Mental and Spiritual Well-Being
“I fast for greater physical and mental efficiency” (Plato)
By depriving yourself of the basic physiological needs, there are certain awareness and realizations that come with it:
- Gratitude & Appreciation – By experiencing hunger, you appreciate everything that you put in your mouth. You also learn to be more grateful for whatever food you have.
- Empathy – Towards those that are in need, possibly struggling to get the abundance of food most of us are accustomed to.
- Patience & Self Control – Especially at the beginning of your fast, everything that you are depriving yourself of becomes much more tempting. Resisting these and waiting until your fast is over tests and enhances your patience and self-control.
- Mindfulness – When you reset your eating habits through fasting, you become more mindful of when and what you eat.
- Focus – Fasting for some time will give you heightened awareness and focus.
Photo by: Naassom Azevedo
Dr. Razeen Mahroof, of the University of Oxford in the UK, explains how fasting helps a person’s mental well-being: “A detoxification process occurs because any toxins stored in the body’s fat are dissolved and removed from the body. After a few days of fasting, higher levels of endorphins – “feel-good” hormones – are produced in the blood, which can have a positive impact on mental well-being.
Types of fasting
There are many types of fasting, probably you might have heard about some of them, but here we list a few of the most common ones.
It involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week, for example by not eating from dinner one day until dinner the next day.
Circadian Rhythm – 13hours *
Based on the research of scientist Dr. Satchin Panda, this time-restricted feeding (TRF) fast emulates the body’s natural clock by fasting roughly after sunset until morning.
Also called the Leangains protocol, where it’s common to fast from after dinner to lunch the next day. I.E.: Finish dinner at 20:00 and fast until 12:00 tomorrow.
This is also the protocol Jennifer Aniston and Hugh Jackman use to get in shape.
Slightly more restrictive than the popular 16:8, this TRF (time-restricted feeding) one helps rid the liver of more glycogen, allows the body to begin using ketones for fuel, and can activate autophagy to rid the body of damaged cells.
A challenging protocol for intermediate to advanced fasters, the 20:4 helps you work toward a One-Meal-A-Day regimen. With this fast, you’re training your body to become “fat adapted” so your body learns to use multiple sources of fuel including glycogen, fat, and glucose.
36-Hour Fast *
This challenging fast, known by some as the “Monk Fast”, is regarded by many to promote powerful cellular cleansing benefits and help reset the metabolism. It’s recommended not to do it more than once per week.
Fasting is Not for Everyone
Restricting calories and not eating for long periods of time is not for everyone. You should be careful with or avoid fasting if you are:
- Not physically able
- Pregnant or breastfeeding
- Suffering from Type 1 diabetes
- Sick or under medication
- Recovering from surgery
- Suffering from eating disorders
Our Take on Fasting
Having practiced it regularly (whole team at Touring Monkeys), we have proven how fasting can benefit our bodies, brain, and how we live daily. It takes a strong commitment and will to make it work, but the benefits are incredible.
If you haven’t yet, fasting is worth a try! Start slow, with patience and acceptance that it might not be perfect at first. Before starting, you need to figure out a way on how you are going to incorporate this way of eating into your life. Consider things like avoiding business lunches or lessening your sports activities while you are at it.
Photo by: Zeyus Media
Our entire life is paced by our meals. We get up and have breakfast, go to work and think about our lunch break, and plan our evening around dinner. In addition to facing hunger, fasting will force you to fill your day with activities that are not related to food. For example, going for a walk outside during your break instead of having lunch will make you forget about hunger and you will get back to work light and resourced.
Have a fasting partner and encourage each other when feeling like giving up. Can try https://www.reddit.com/r/fasting/ if you have none to join you.
We recommend you to try the Zero App to start practicing and learn more about intermittent fasting. Zero is an intuitive fasting tracker that will help you set a goal and stay on track. It also offers a large content library with input from some of the world’s leading doctors and researchers.
In most areas of our lives, there is no one rule that is right for everyone. This is especially true with our bodies. A diet that works for many might not work for you.
See if fasting works for you and if you are able to reach your defined goals. Take time and study the positive effects of fasting and the importance of studying it on yourself.
- Exploring Smart Drugs, Fasting, and Fat Loss — Dr. Rhonda Patrick (#237)
- The Mystery of Fast-5 and D.I.E.T.: Bert Herring, MD at TEDxRiversideAvondale
- Joe Rogan – Doctor Explains Benefits of Fasting
* – some text comes from Zero App