Fasting 101 with the help of health and wellness coach, Shirin Ramchandani.
By Ashima Sethi
Whether motivated by religion, spiritual holidays, or simply trying to live a better lifestyle, the majority of us have been exposed to fasting at some point in our lives. And when it comes to adopting better health practices, we’re all made aware of the core pillars of regular exercise, balanced nutrition, and enough sleep, so where does fasting actually fit in and why should we consider adopting it into our routines?
By definition, fasting is the act of willingly abstaining from food, drink, or both, for a designated period of time. Despite it sounding like it would be bad for you, there are actually numerous health benefits associated with fasting that range from promoting gut health to losing weight. However, it’s important to note that these advantages come with doing a fast correctly, so here’s Masala‘s rundown of everything you need to know to ensure you’re fast(ing) and not furious.
The Science Behind Fasting
Throughout history, there have been numerous scientific studies that have looked into the health benefits of fasting. A lot of the evidence gathered demonstrates that a fast can cleanse the body of toxins and force cells to undergo processes that aren’t always stimulated when food is present. For example, when we abstain from food and the body does not have its regular supply of glucose, it will have to resort to other means to produce energy for your bodily systems.
Processes that can take place as a result of this include gluconeogenesis, where the body produces its own sugar; the liver will convert several non-carbohydrate materials like amino acids into energy; and ketosis, which is when the stored fat in the body is burned off as a primary power source. Moreover, because our bodies conserve energy while we fast because it does not have to process the intake of food, an individual’s basal metabolic rate becomes more efficient, subsequently lowering things like heart rate and blood pressure, as well as balancing blood sugar levels.
It’s important to note that fasting puts the body under a form of stress that requires our cells to adapt and become stronger, which is similar to what happens when you train your muscles at the gym. This means that time to rest and recover is imperative and why only short-term fasting is recommended.
Types of Fasting
There are a range of different types of fasting, each with their unique set of rules and health benefits. Here are some popular options:
- Intermittent Fasting – An umbrella term, this describes various meal-timing schedules such as alternate-day fasting and time-restricted feeding.
- Juice Fast – often used for detoxification, it involves consuming only fruit and vegetable juices.
- Water Fast – when you don’t eat or drink anything except water for a period of time.
- Dry Fast – also known as ‘absolute fasting’ it restricts both food and liquids.
- Bone Broth Fast – involves consuming bone broth instead of meals as broths are packed with vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants.
- 5:2 fast – when you only eat 500-600 calories per day, two days out of the week.
Popular Myths about Fasting
- You can’t focus while fasting- False, the body’s increased use of ketones is believed to help build the brain’s resilience and productivity over time.
- Fasting drains your energy- False, it’s a common belief that if you don’t eat food, your body will have no fuel, which can lead to low energy levels. But, this is untrue. When you fast, your body uses other means of energy production.
- Fasting will make you binge- False, for some people they might find that they eat a little more after a fast than usual but the amount of calories consumed is often not close to what was missed during the fast.
- Skipping breakfast will make you gain weight- False, there is no scientific proof to indicate that skipping breakfast will lead to excessive hunger and weight gain. The need for breakfast varies per person, breakfast may benefit some people while others can skip it.
An Expert Opinion
Shirin Ramchandani is a certified health and wellness coach and the Founder of SkyLite Wellness (Instagram: @skylitewellness). She is also a certified life coach, certified Pilates instructor, and is certified from the American College of Nutrition with a B.A. Psychology. She offers insight into how to get started if you’re looking to fast:
“Fasting has gained a lot of attention in recent years. In 2019 intermittent fasting (IF) topped Google’s most-searched-diet list and continues to gain traction as research uncovers the breadth of health benefits it offers. Unlike dieting, fasting focuses more on “when” you eat as opposed to “what” you eat. There are many types of fasts but I will only focus on IF for now as it’s a good starting point for beginners. This way of eating is flexible and can be paired with any healthy diet to help you reap great results.
“Before we get into how to fast, let’s debunk some common misconceptions. First, intermittent fasting is not dangerous or unhealthy. It has been practiced throughout history and is incorporated in all major religions as a way of elevating mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. Fasting is not synonymous with starving; they are two very different states. Some believe fasting will lower your metabolic activity since you’re not eating, but science has proven the opposite to be true. I’ve had clients with slow metabolism due to menopause or thyroid conditions who have all successfully lost weight with fasting. For the workout buffs out there, you will not burn muscle tissue when you have more than enough body fat to fuel you through a fast. Finally, this way of eating is not a fad diet but an easy lifestyle adaptation. Just ask anyone you know who has completed a programme with me!
“Now for the fun stuff, “how do I begin fasting?” Instead of using this method to achieve a specific goal like reducing acne, GERD, or losing weight, these next steps will first get you into the rhythm of fasting.”
- Step 1: Avoid snacking in between meals
- Step 2: Limit processed foods (bye-bye chips, popcorn, coke, mints, gum, candy etc.)
- Step 3: Try to eat home food 75 percent of the time
- Step 4: Have three massive meals a day
- Step 5: When you want to try for two meals a day, skip breakfast and replace it with either black coffee or bone broth.
- Step 6: Have fun with it! Play around with meal timings and see what feels best for your body!
Disclaimer: You should always consult your physician before starting a fast. If you feel dizzy, nauseous, extremely hungry, or develop headaches, you must eat. SkyLite Wellness offers a 10-day free trial for anyone interested in learning more!