Four benefits of fasting & how often you should do it
We’re told that breakfast is the “most important meal of the day” by everyone from our parents to cereal adverts. The health and fitness community especially advocate the benefits of that staple first meal - but is it really everything it’s made out to be?
Research has shown that fasting - i.e. skipping certain meals and not eating for a specific time period - can have huge benefits for your body, fitness and health. The most common form of this eating schedule is intermittent fasting, a dieting pattern where you either eat during a certain period of time (for example, only eating between noon and 8pm), or skip two meals one day of the week, taking 24 hours from eating.
So, how does intermittent fasting work? And why is it good for us? Here are four brilliant benefits of fasting:
- Torches fat
When you eat a meal, your body processes it for the next few hours. It burns the energy from what you’ve consumed - mainly glucose in your blood stream or glycogen in your muscles and liver - rather than the fat you have stored. During a ‘fasted’ state, there is no food to use as energy, so it’s more likely to pull energy from the fat in your body. To supercharge your fat-burning fast, exercise! With glucose and glycogen out of the picture, your body will be forced to pull even more energy from the only source available - the fat in your cells.
- Speeds up metabolism
Restricting food for shorter periods of time can improve your metabolic health. It’s reported that intermittent fasting is more effective than long-term calorie restriction. It helps your body eliminate waste and toxins that accumulate from regular meals, cleansing your internal organs for a swifter metabolism. Fasting is especially beneficial for those with slow digestive systems: it gives your gut and bowels a rest during the break in eating, helping to regulate your bowel function.
- Improves eating habits
When was the last time you were truly hungry? For many, hunger pangs can be psychological cravings, rather than real body signals. Fasting regularly can help change your attitude towards food, determining what your body really needs to function. You’ll feel real hunger in the stomach during a fast and when it comes to actually eating - it’ll taste better than ever before.
- Boosts immune system
The power of fasting was researched by scientists at the University of Southern California, who found that taking a break from food for as little as three days can regenerate the entire immune system. Starving the body kickstarts stem cells into producing new white blood cells to fight off infection. It sheds the old or damaged parts of the immune system during the fasting, and studies have shown that fasting for 72 hours is enough to help protect cancer patients from the side effects of chemotherapy treatments.