Fasting seems to be quite the buzz word lately, and for good reason.
Intermittent fasting (commonly referred to as IF) and prolonged fasting are both effective ways to lose weight and boost your overall health.
But, this trendy topic may not be as new as you’d think.
Fasting dates back to the time of our ancestors, when the phrase “feast or famine” was often a way of life.
Today, we have opportunities to “feast” at our fingertips, and this has been shown to be a significant factor contributing to the obesity epidemic (and dare I say disease prevalence as obesity is a common factor in chronic inflammation that leads to many diseases) that is plaguing our nation and our world.
Here we’ll take a deeper look at the fasting trend and see what all the buzz is about, exploring the difference between intermittent and prolonged fasting and how both methods can benefit your health!
Intermittent And Prolonged Fasting Basics
Simply put, fasting refers to a period of time when you refrain from eating.
The word intermittent means “not continuous or steady.”
And, the word prolonged means “continuing for a long time or longer than usual.”
These basic definitions alone already give us a glimpse into what these two methods of fasting entail, but let’s take a closer look at each method individually.
Intermittent fasting is a method of fasting where a person does not fast (or refrain from eating) continually but in specific increments of time.
While there are different types of intermittent fasting, the basic concept involves alternating between periods of eating and fasting.
Instead of focusing on what types of foods to eat and/or avoid, intermittent fasting involves setting aside a specific period of time daily dedicated to feasting (eating), and reserving the remainder of the day for fasting (refraining from eating).
The three most common methods of intermittent fasting are:
16:8 Method – Here, the window of time in each day where a person eats is limited to 8 hours, while 16 hours of the day is devoted to fasting. For example, with this method of fasting, a person may choose to consume meals only between the hours of 12 pm and 8 pm, fasting the remaining 16 hours until noon the next day.
This method can also be tailored to expand, or decrease, the number of hours in the timeframe of both eating and fasting. For instance, some people may choose to fast for 14 hours a day, expanding the eating window to 10 hours a day. And, some may choose to fast for 18 hours a day, limiting the eating window to only 6 hours.
5:2 Method – This method of fasting involves consuming only a minimal number of calories (less than 500-600 calories) on 2 non-consecutive days of the week, while eating normally on the other 5 days in the week.
Eat, Stop, Eat Method – This method of fasting involves incorporating a 24 hour fast once or twice a week. Typically the fasting timeframe occurs from dinner to dinner, meaning one would eat dinner one evening, then fast until dinner the next day.
Prolonged fasting involves, as the definition of the word suggests, longer periods of time spent refraining from eating.
Most individuals who do prolonged fasting go 48-72 hours without food, though the period of time spent fasting can be as long as a week or even up to several weeks.
When incorporating this method of fasting it is strongly advised to start slow and progress.
For instance, if prolonged fasting is your goal, begin with a 24 hour fast one month. Then, next month seek to do a 36 hour fast, progressing to a 48 hour fast the next month, and so on.
Always listen to your body when fasting (both intermittent and prolonged), and if you begin to notice your blood sugar is crashing, you are feeling weak, or overly hungry, then eat.
With mild to moderate hunger, seek to continue your fast.
Essentially, you are training your body to go periods of time without eating. As your body adjusts to this regimen, you’ll see changes such as mental and physical improvements, and you’ll observe that you aren’t feeling as hungry as often.
Since prolonged fasting involves greater lengths of time without eating (compared to intermittent fasting), there are few extra things to keep in mind for a safe and effective fast:
- Ease Yourself In – As stated above, start slow and gradually build up to longer periods of time spent fasting.
- Supplement – Since your body is missing needed nutrients from food while fasting, supplementing with electrolytes is a must. To avoid feeling faint or sick while fasting, be sure to take electrolytes and sea salt (and most recommend a multivitamin mineral as well).
- Incorporate Teas – You can still have unsweetened teas while fasting (decaffeinated is best as caffeine can increase hunger).
Seeking to incorporate green tea into your time spent fasting can provide needed antioxidants. And, be sure to research other beneficial teas such as hoodia gardenia, which can help you get through your time spent fasting by suppressing appetite.
- Ease Yourself Out – End your fast the same way you started…in other words, gradually.
Though you’ll be tempted to indulge in a large meal, having not eaten in many hours or even days, it is important to keep in mind that reintroducing foods into your body should be a process.
Having a large meal too soon can shock your system. Instead, try to eat small portions and gradually increase your food intake.
With either method of fasting, be sure to adequately hydrate during your fast, and consult a physician if you have any health concerns.
Benefits, Benefits, Benefits!
Now that we’ve detailed the basics of these two methods of fasting, let’s get into the benefits you stand to gain when incorporating both intermittent fasting and prolonged fasting.
1- Lowers Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes
Intermittent fasting has been shown to reduce fasting blood sugar levels and fasting insulin levels, indicating this type of fasting may reduce one’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Prolonged fasting has resulted in a decrease in Fat Storing Hormone resistance. When this occurs, it is thought that glucose may be transported to your cells more efficiently, thus also reducing one’s risk of type 2 diabetes.
And, both methods of fasting are known to stabilize blood sugar levels.
2- Improves Heart Health
The risk factors associated with heart health include blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, blood triglycerides, and numerous inflammatory markers.
Multiple studies have shown each of these levels improve when incorporating either method of fasting (intermittent and prolonged).
Some studies have also shown fasting to be effective at reducing the risk of coronary artery disease and diabetes (also risk factors in heart disease).
3- Potential Cancer Prevention
Fasting depletes your body’s stores of glucose, forcing it to use ketones and fatty acids for fuel, and the presence of these ketones isn’t good news for tumors as they cannot survive in this environment.
Therefore, prolonged fasting essentially starves tumors. And, as cancer feeds on sugar, the depleted glucose levels are thought to starve cancer cells as well.
Animal studies have shown fasting to both prevent cancer and benefit cancer treatment.
And, one study in rats showed alternate day fasting to block the formation of some tumors completely.
Studies in humans have backed up these findings, including the benefit of a reduction in negative chemotherapy side effects (though experts believe more research is needed in this area).
4- Boosts Brain Health
As you fast, the energy normally used by your body to digest foods can be used by your brain.
And, as your body eliminates toxins through fasting, the blood flowing to your brain is essentially cleaner, resulting in clearer thought processes, increased focus, and better memory.
The health of your brain also improves as levels of inflammation decrease through fasting.
Intermittent fasting, specifically, is known to increase the growth of new nerve cells, resulting in improved brain function.
Levels of the brain hormone known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) increase during periods of fasting which is thought to decrease depression and other brain-related problems.
And, prolonged periods of fasting have been shown to actually regrow cells in the part of the brain associated with the storage of long term memories.
Studies involving intermittent fasting have shown improvements in Alzheimer’s symptoms in 90% of participants.
It is likely due to these same brain benefits that animal studies have shown success regarding fasting and reduced risks of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s.
5- Initiates Autophagy
The word autophagy literally means self eat. Auto means self, phagy means eat.
And, this process of “self eating” is, believe it or not, actually a good thing!
Fasting is known to initiate this process, essentially enacting your own roomba (that nifty little robotic vacuum) to meander throughout your body, cleaning out damaged or dysfunctional cells.
These cells are essentially then recycled, your body using parts of them for cellular repair and regeneration.
Autophagy is essential to decreasing inflammation, preventing disease, it has been shown to decrease the signs and effects of aging, and even increase lifespan!
6- Promotes Weight Loss
Both methods of fasting, intermittent and prolonged, reduce the number of calories you consume, thus aiding in weight loss.
But, further benefits to weight loss efforts when incorporating fasting include:
- enhanced hormone function (those relating to weight loss)
- increased norepinephrine levels to break down body fat for energy
- increased metabolism for greater calorie burn
- preservation of muscle tissue with prolonged fasting
- controlled blood sugar levels
- loss of visceral fat (harmful abdominal fat)
7- Increases Antioxidant Levels
Your body naturally contains antioxidants such as vitamins C and E. During time spent fasting, antioxidant levels increase as autophagy occurs.
Uric acid is also used by your body throughout periods of fasting as levels of this powerful antioxidant increase and decrease frequently during this time. And, these fluctuations allow your body to rid itself of the damage it has incurred over time.
8- Boosts Energy Levels
Mitochondria are a part of your cells that are responsible for energy production, turning the proteins, fats, and sugars that you eat into chemical energy.
During prolonged periods of fasting, mitochondria increases, and as your body continues to burn fat, even though you aren’t eating, you gain energy.
9- Enhances Production Of Stem Cells
Though stem cells aren’t something your body uses frequently, they do act as a savings account of sorts for your body to use when needed to replace damaged cells.
But, the natural process of aging, along with overeating, increased sugar consumption, and stress, can deplete your stem cell “savings account.”
Prolonged fasting works to boost levels of stem cells, making sure you have enough ready to replace cells when damaged.
Subsequently, if you’ve already tried fasting, this is why you may experience feelings of youthfulness afterwards, your stem cell bank account being replenished and damaged cells replaced.
10- Increases Levels Of HGH
Levels of Human Growth Hormone (or HGH) within the body have been shown to increase greatly in individuals who incorporate methods of fasting (both intermittent and prolonged).
Your body uses this protein hormone for growth, obviously. But, it is also used to maintain a healthy metabolism, and your body needs it to help you burn fat and build muscle.
Studies showed significant increases in HGH levels of individuals who’d just completed a 24 hour fast, and in those who’d completed a 48 hour fast, the rate at which their body produced HGH increased quintupled.
When Fasting Is Not For You
While both intermittent and prolonged fasting can greatly benefit your health, there are some folks who should not fast.
- If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, experts advise against fasting due to the caloric restriction that occurs, both prolonged and intermittent.
- Those individuals who are already thin or in need of an increase in caloric intake to reach a healthy weight range are also advised to avoid fasting. (This is primarily for prolonged fasting. Intermittent fasting may still be an option, though consultation with a physician is recommended.)
- If you have any underlying health conditions, it is best to consult your physician before fasting for a period of time greater than 24 hours.
☕ Fasting Tea ☕
Let’s cut right to the chase… our friends at Eat Stop Eat have developed a unique tea to support your intermittent fasting, and it’s amazing.
Fasting tea is a collection of high “polyphenol” ingredients designed to help accelerate all the positive benefits of intermittent fasting…
From curbing hunger to blocking the synthesis of new fat, and even possibly killing existing fat cells, polyphenols are pretty awesome.
They really do everything — from improving the health of your mitochondria, to helping with inflammation and insulin sensitivity — polyphenols have a wide array or really great health benefits, and that’s why they are the core of fasting tea.
All the best, highest quality, natural sources of polyphenols were sought out. You can see the full list on this page. The result is a blend of high potency, great tasting, not too sweet polyphenols.
Now, if you’re looking for a “magic bullet,” or a 5,000% boost in your metabolism, then fasting tea isn’t for you, but if you’re happy to enjoy the gradual benefits that can improve your health and your body composition, as well as reducing inflammation, neutralizing free radicals and free radical formation, then fasting tea is for you.
Also, I know I called it “fasting tea,” but it’s something I take every day, fasting or not.
Finally, I know you are probably skeptical, you probably see supplements all the time, but I really want you to give this one a try.
I really think you’re going to love Fasting Tea!