It comes as no surprise to anybody that the world has a historically unprecedented obesity problem. We are no longer nomadic, and our homes have fridges and freezers installed to ensure our food stays fresh for longer. Fast food and convenience stores are stationed at every corner, and a hot cup of creamy, calorie-laden coffee is only a few steps and dollars away at any given moment.
When there is a need, there is a market, and the weight loss and weight management market is valued at a whopping $192.2 billion (as of 2019), with an expected rise of 10.6% between 2021 and 2027 (1).
In the past, there were two primary reasons why humans fasted. The first is that we moved around. Humans roamed in small tribes from place to place, building temporary housing when needed. Food was often hard to come by, especially in the winter (2).
Fasting days occurred when food was difficult to find, or a major move was underway (moving was a lot of work and effort and not a time for gorging). The second reason was illness. Recall the last time you had the flu. The last thing you probably wanted was food, right? Not eating is an instinct when we’re sick, allowing our body to focus on healing rather than eating and digesting (3).
Today, the majority of “fasters” do it to lose weight. After all, Beyoncé used a Master Fast to lose 20 pounds for an upcoming film by eating nothing and only drinking a concoction of lemon juice, water, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper a few times a day for ten days (4). But fasting is not a healthy weight loss method. Fasting results in rapid weight loss because you primarily lose water (5). This means as soon as you begin eating again, you’ll put the weight back on.
But there are many other benefits to fasting far beyond weight loss, and we’ll cover all of these in our complete guide to fasting! So read on; we are about to share with you Satia’s complete guide to fasting.
We will cover:
- The Types of Fasting
- The Health Benefits of Fasting
- The Physiological, Microbiological, and Cellular Effects of Fasting
Many types of fasting exist; each has its own set of benefits and risks. You should always consult your doctor before changing your diet and exercise regime. Your doctor may be able to advise certain fasting or dietary regimens that will get you to your ultimate goal (whether that is losing weight, improving your aging process, reducing disease symptoms, or resetting your metabolism). However, there are a number of health precautions that you should know before you embark on any fasting or exercise changes to improve your health.
- Your body is primarily composed of water, so if you plan to do a fast, make sure you drink plenty of liquids (depending on your fast, this may include sparkling water or chicken broth). If you want to try a dry fast, you should consult your doctor before beginning to avoid dehydration and other health consequences of going without liquids for a prolonged period of time.
- Switching to a fat-based diet prior to fasting may maximize the benefits you see (go to “The Physiological, Microbiological, and Cellular Effects of Fasting” for more details).
- Your body needs magnesium and potassium, which we get from food and drinks. Magnesium is needed for muscle and nerve function, blood sugar regulation, and protein/bone/DNA maintenance (6). Potassium is needed for the regulation of fluid balance, nerve signaling, and muscle contractions (7). If you’re going to fast, you need to take a supplement or other source of magnesium and potassium to ensure your body keeps running smoothly during the fast.
So good luck trying fasting, whether it’s your first or hundredth time. The length of time you fast, foods/drinks you eliminate during the fasting period, and methods you use during the fast (e.g., exercise) should all be decided upon with consultation from your healthcare team to avoid potentially health-damaging deficiencies. Fasting could be a way to reduce your chronic disease symptoms, age slower, and live a longer, healthier life. It’s yours to discover!