Fasting does it really work? The science says… maybe.
Diet and exercise trends often arise because of legitimate scientific findings, however, by the time they reach mainstream popularity the facts have likely been distorted and benefits often exaggerated. Intermittent fasting is a prime example of this. You’ve likely heard about the 5:2 diet or the “fast” diet and the numerous health benefits associated with them. But are they any better than any other dieting trend?
The answer is maybe. Maybe, if done well!
But the fasting trend has lost its way a little. Some promoting the diet define it as: consuming large amounts of high energy foods like cakes, burgers or chips on your non-calorie redistricted days, as long as this is followed by extreme calorie restriction on the other days. This is certainly not a healthy way to eat, especially if you ever find yourself bingeing! This style of dieting can actually result in an overall caloric surplus instead of deficit. If you do manage to do this in a way that results in a deficit, yes it may initially help you lose some weight, but it isn’t sustainable and it isn’t very healthy either.
But fasting done sensibly… well it might work (for some!)
Firstly what are the benefits? Why has this style of eating become so popular? Well, there is some evidence to suggest there are health benefits associated with sensibly incorporating fasting into your lifestyle. Potential benefits include; improvements in biomarkers of disease, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, reduction of oxidative stress (less inflammation and toxin production in the body) and improved learning and memory function. One theory for why fasting may have these physiological benefits is that when in a fasted state, cells are put under mild “stress” and they respond to this by adapting and enhancing their ability to cope with stress and as a result potentially resist disease.
Think about it like exercise… exercise puts stress on the body and the body adapts to handle this, the body is then stronger or fitter for the next time it experiences stress.
Longevity is the other big talking point when it comes to fasting. The key is our Mitochondria. Mitochondria are little power plants inside our cells and are fundamental to the aging of cells. It is suggested that fasting manipulates your mitochondrial networks to keep them in a "youthful" state.
But some suggest it isn’t the fasting behaviour itself, but instead the overall caloric reduction that may result in these benefits. Some health professionals suggest it may not work any better than cutting down energy intake slightly seven days a week.
As with many other nutrition theories, there is no one answer. But the evidence suggests overall caloric reduction is associated with a whole heap of health benefits. Say the way in which you do this is by following a fasting method because that is what works for you… how do you do it sensibly? Well, don’t go to extremes when you fast and feast. Feast as you normally would (don’t increase the amount of food you eat on regular days), consuming whole grains, lots of fruit and veg, legumes, nuts and lean meats! On your fasting days, pick 1-2 days a week and restrict calories within reason!
If you are interested in trying fasting, pick 1-2 days a week and restrict calories within reason!
Don't want to miss anything?
Get the latest recipes, workouts, success stories, tips and more right in your inbox.