Health Benefits of Fasting
What is Alternate Day Fasting?
Alternate day intermittent fasting has proven benefits for aiding in weight loss and controlling insulin resistance.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is not medical advice. A low carb diet may not be suitable for you. Consult your health care provider before making any changes to your lifestyle or use at your own risk.
Many people find that intermittent fasting techniques help them lose weight and achieve other health goals. This is because when we give our bodies a break from digesting food, it is able to heal and repair itself naturally. Also, given your lower caloric intake when you fast, your body is more likely to start burning through extra stores of fat for energy. But a lot more goes on behind the scenes when you fast, so if you are interested in learning more about this eating technique, keep reading! In this article, we focus on one particular method called Alternate Day Fasting, which has shown great benefits – especially for diabetics and prediabetics struggling with insulin resistance.
What is Alternate Day Fasting?
Alternate Day Fasting, or ADF for short, is a method of intermittent fasting where you fast for one day, then eat what you want the next day, and repeat. One of the benefits of this approach is that you only have to restrict what you eat half of the time, rather than fasting upon waking every single day. In addition, many people follow a modified ADF method, where you can eat about 500 calories on fasting days, or 20-25% of your regular caloric intake. This method is much more sustainable and has been shown to be just as effective as doing full fasts. You can also consume as many zero calorie beverages as you want on non-fasting days, including water, tea, and coffee with added zero calorie sweetener, if you like.
Alternate Day Fasting and Weight Loss
Studies among adults who were overweight or obese showed that alternate day fasting can help you lose between 3-8% of your body weight in 2-12 weeks. ADF is particularly effective at reducing harmful belly fat. Having excess fat in this region of the body is strongly associated with a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease. This is because the fat cells that accumulate in this area of the body in particular secrete hormones and chemicals that have been linked to a number of chronic diseases. If your waistline measures 35 inches or more for women or 40 inches or more for men, then you may be at risk of harboring these kinds of harmful fat cells.
Physical activity in combination with ADF can also accelerate weight loss. When the body is already in a fat-burning state while you are fasting, this is a great time to incorporate some light cardio, yoga, Pilates or HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts as they require less carbohydrates than strength or muscle building. You should avoid heavy lifting on fasting days as these require you to eat protein after you work out to help with muscle regeneration. That said, find what works for you and your energy levels depending on your current fitness level and whether or not you decide to choose the modified ADF method. Remember to stay hydrated, especially when working out, and don’t worry if you hit a wall on the first day – your body is already doing a lot of work while you fast!
Alternate Day Fasting and Managing Diabetes
People with diabetes or prediabetes must keep close watch on their blood glucose and insulin levels. Insulin is a hormone that helps the body process glucose (sugars) from our diet into energy. However, diabetics either cannot produce enough insulin, or it does not function optimally in their bodies. Diabetes develops as the result of insulin resistance, where the cells in the body don’t respond well to insulin. This can cause blood sugar levels to rise and promote excess fat storage. High blood sugar levels can cause serious damage to cells and organs, which, over time, can lead to a number of health complications including kidney disease, eye and nerve damage, more frequent infections and heart disease.
Research has shown that fasting, especially using the ADF method, can help regulate insulin levels in the body. It works by drastically reducing blood sugar levels on the days that you don’t eat, which helps the body produce and respond to insulin normally. Over time, this can reverse the effects of insulin resistance. Talk to your doctor about managing insulin resistance through your diet.
Fighting Inflammation with Alternate Day Fasting
Another benefit of ADF is the reduction of chronic inflammation, which can lead to cancer, heart disease, arthritis and other serious diseases. Inflammation occurs when there is a buildup of free radicals in the body, which are toxic compounds caused both by natural metabolic processes and also environmental stressors. Environmental stressors that cause free radical buildup include things like processed and fast food, air pollution, excessive caffeine, alcohol, and stress. In addition to reducing your exposure to these things and eating a clean diet rich in fruits and vegetables, it can help to fast from time to time or follow a more routine fasting schedule such as ADF.
Fasting helps reduce free radical buildup in the body that leads to oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. As mentioned previously, regular metabolic processes can create free radicals as natural by-products. However, when you are not consuming anything, as in the case of fasting, the body can divert more resources to fighting off free radicals, rather than processes that cause more oxidative stress. In addition, the natural reparative state that the body enters when you fast (which is similar to when you sleep) can fix damage caused by environmental stressors, so long as those are also managed as well.
Other Benefits of Fasting
Here are a few more benefits and perks associated with fasting:
- The skin undergoes revitalization that can help reduce the appearance of blemishes, skin tone and wrinkles, as well as improve circulation.
- Memory and mental clarity improve due to cleaner blood supply and the elimination of toxins from the brain.
- Diseased tissues are broken down and dead cells or tumor-like growths can be eliminated via a process known as autophagy.
- Cholesterol enters the blood as part of the detoxification process, but overall levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol are lowered with regular fasting.
- Levels of ghrelin, which is a hormone that controls your feelings of hunger, are normalized. The result is more “disciplined” hunger when you come out of a fast.
Tips for Fasting
Fasting is definitely no easy task, but it is one that is well worth the effort. Read below for what to expect and how to make your fasting experience more pleasant.
There are different stages of fasting, which are accompanied by different effects in the body as well as different emotions, feelings and sensations. During the first 6 hours of fasting, you might find yourself feeling hungry and irritable. It is important to manage these emotions for this time, as you will reach a breakthrough. Remember all of the logical reasons for fasting and focus on an activity that does not require a lot of physical effort.
After the first 6 hours, the real magic starts to happen. Blood glucose levels will start to return to normal and the body will begin its restorative processes. By 12 hours, you will have entered the metabolic state known as ketosis, which others may achieve by eating a low carb high fat diet. In ketosis, the body switches from burning glucose for energy to burning fat. If you are not consuming any food, the body will convert excess stores of fat into energy. Within 24 hours, your cells will begin the process of autophagy, in which diseased, damaged or dead cells are eliminated. Exercise combined with fasting can increase autophagy.
For days when you are fasting, you’ll need a few things to get you through the day. The first of which is water; it is crucial to stay hydrated to avoid feelings of dizziness, fatigue and other uncomfortable physical side effects that people commonly experience when fasting. You can also consume coffee, tea and other zero calorie drinks to help subside feelings of hunger. Check out Zevia Zero Calorie Soda and Zero Sugar Iced Tea for some flavourful options. You can also use a zero calorie natural sweetener in your coffee or tea, but skip the milk and cream as these add calories.
If you choose the modified version of ADF, you can eat up to 500 calories on fasting days. Some low calorie foods to explore include Miracle Noodle Konjac Pasta and Rice Substitutes, Walden Farms Zero Calorie Condiments, Mama Lupe’s Low Carb Flour Tortillas, Dixie Diner Bake Mixes, super lean BUFF Bison Jerky Sticks and ThinSlim Bakery Snacks! Bone broth is also great to sip on throughout the day since it is rich in essential nutrients yet relatively low in calories.
As you can see, there are several benefits to fasting – even doing it once in a while can provide numerous health benefits if something like ADF seems too daunting. It can be helpful to remember that our bodies are designed to cope with fasting. As a culture, we have become so conditioned to eating three meals a day, often with snacks in between, yet humans have survived on just one meal a day for hundreds of years. Eating so frequently – especially when our meals are high in refined carbs – can place enormous stress on our bodies over time. These effects are exacerbated if we are also dealing with other underlying health conditions, such as diabetes or chronic inflammation.
You can think of fasting as good bodily “hygiene”. In the same way that you take a shower or brushing your teeth, allow your body to clean itself and repair any damage from time to time. If you currently are dealing with a health condition such as diabetes, want to lose weight, or frequently experience symptoms of chronic inflammation such as body pains, fatigue, depression and mood disorders, gastrointestinal complications or frequent infections, you may consider fasting as a solution. The results you will see and feel will surely beat the temporary feeling of satisfaction that food can give you.
We hope that you picked up a thing or two about the processes, benefits and tips on intermitted fasting and alternate day fasting. If you’d like to share your thoughts, we recommend joining our online communities and discussions over on our Facebook and Instagram pages.
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