The ben­e­fits of short-term fast­ing Ev­ery­day Ath­lete Pa­trick O’Brien

Sunday Herald Life - - MIND & BODY - Ev­ery­day Ath­lete gym is lo­cated in the heart of Glas­gow and provides a unique, fun train­ing en­vi­ron­ment geared to­wards help­ing clients achieve their health and fit­ness goals. The ded­i­cated team at Physio Ef­fect provides a full pack­age of ser­vices that wil

FOOD is an essential el­e­ment of life, but is it some­times ben­e­fi­cial to go with­out? I am sure the mere sug­ges­tion of this brings, many a per­son out in a cold sweat. Some even liken the thought of fast­ing to star­va­tion. In the UK to­day, food is so abun­dant that overeat­ing is now more of a prob­lem, in terms of public health, than un­der-nu­tri­tion. For those of us who are lucky to have food on de­mand, which thank­fully is most of us, why should you even con­sider fast­ing?

What is fast­ing?

Fast­ing is nothing new. It’s an an­cient prac­tice that has been used for thousands of years by many an­cient civil­i­sa­tions for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons. Fasts have been used to cleanse, detox­ify, treat med­i­cal con­di­tions and for re­li­gious prac­tice. In it’s sim­plest form, fast­ing is going with­out food and/or drink for ex­tended pe­ri­ods of time. We all do some form of fast­ing ev­ery­day ex­cept we don’t call it fast­ing, we call it sleep­ing. The time from your last meal at night un­til your first meal the next day makes up this “fast­ing” pe­riod. A grow­ing number of ex­perts claim short fasts can ac­cel­er­ate fat loss and make you health­ier.

So what are the real ben­e­fits of fast­ing?

1. Fast­ing rad­i­cally im­proves metabolism. Fast­ing ini­ti­ates hor­monal changes that makes stored body fat more ac­ces­si­ble by your body. In­sulin is the number one fat stor­ing/en­ergy sav­ing hor­mone in your body. Your body ex­pe­ri­ences a sig­nif­i­cant drop in in­sulin through fast­ing. Too much in­sulin and your body can go into li­po­ge­n­e­sis, which is the cre­ation of fat cells. 2. Fast­ing im­proves brain function. New re­search shows that men­tal sharp­ness in­creases dur­ing fast­ing which makes a lot of sense from an evo­lu­tion­ary stand­point, as it would have helped with the sur­vival of our species when food was scarce. Peo­ple al­ways worry that fast­ing will dull their senses but in fact it has the op­po­site en­er­gis­ing ef­fect with men­tal ac­tiv­ity in­creas­ing when hun­gry and de­creas­ing with sa­ti­ated. I’m sure you’ve all ex­pe­ri­ence this in the form of a “food coma”, that feel­ing where you can’t move of think straight after a par­tic­u­larly large meal. Neu­ro­sci­en­tists have linked over­ac­tive synap­tic ac­tiv­ity with neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases such as Alzheimer’s, Hunt­ing­ton’s and Parkin­son’s dis­ease, and there­fore the pos­si­bil­ity ex­ists that fast­ing may pre­vent the de­vel­op­ment of these dis­eases – but more re­search is needed. 3. Fast­ing slows down the age­ing process. Fast­ing is the only clin­i­cally proven way to in­crease the pro­duc­tion of hu­man growth hor­mone. This is most likely a built-in bi­o­log­i­cal adap­tion to make the hu­man body more ro­bust and strong when food is scare to aid sur­vival. In­creased HGH re­sults in greater en­durance with faster mus­cle re­pair and growth as well as a slow­ing of the age­ing process. 4. Fast­ing im­proves the im­mune sys­tem. Ac­cord­ing to a study by the USC longevity in­sti­tute, short-term fast­ing flips a re­gen­er­a­tive switch which trig­gers stem cells to cre­ate brand new white blood cells, and re­plen­ishes any blood cells that have been lost, ba­si­cally re­boot­ing your im­mune sys­tem. 5. In­sulin re­sis­tance is a big health prob­lem these days which in prac­tice means that normal amounts of in­sulin are not enough to sig­nal for cells to take up glu­cose from the blood. The re­sult of pro­longed in­sulin re­sis­tance is di­a­betes. Fast­ing im­proves in­sulin sen­si­tiv­ity. This in turn helps your body han­dle car­bo­hy­drates a lot bet­ter and helps im­prove liver function. 6. Fast­ing im­proves di­ges­tion. Fast­ing gives your or­gans a rest from break­ing down and ab­sorb­ing food. 7. One of the added ben­e­fits of fast­ing is weight loss. However, calorie re­stric­tion shouldn’t be your main goal and could po­ten­tially slow down your metabolism rather than in­crease it. Calorie re­stric­tive di­ets af­fect your mus­cle mass, whereas ac­cord­ing to re­search, fast­ing is more ef­fec­tive for re­tain­ing mus­cle mass than calorie re­stric­tive di­ets, pro­vid­ing you eat the right foods in the right amounts on the other end of the fast. Be­fore start­ing a fast, con­sult with your doc­tor, espe­cially if you are on any med­i­ca­tions or have a se­ri­ous health con­di­tion.

There are many rea­sons why going with­out food for short pe­ri­ods of time can be good for you

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