May 15, 2020
People have been practicing fasting for thousands of years as part of religious belief. But recently, fasting for weight loss has become a popular trend in the health and fitness world. A quick Google search brings up some claims that sound like they could be legit, and some claims that seem like more of a stretch.
So as usual, I wanted to know more! I LOVE reading about this stuff and learning how things work (or don’t work). So…what’s the scoop on fasting? Let’s check it out!
Fasting does have some benefits…
First, people look at it as an “eating style.” Not a diet. Some feel that for long periods of time, intermittent fasting is easier to stick to than straight-up calorie restriction.
I can see how that would be helpful, but I think it all depends on what they’re eating when they CAN eat. This doesn’t seem to be something that teaches people about how to fuel the body with healthy foods.
Ok. Moving on.
Here’s the theory behind fasting:
It’s so cool to deep dive into how our bodies react to different foods and eating styles!
So – when you don’t skip meals, your body breaks down your food and uses it for energy. Any excess is usually stored as fat. But when you fast, your body eventually uses up all of its energy stores (glycogen). When that happens, there is a switch and your body starts breaking down fat for energy and might even make some ketones to fuel your brain and muscle.
This SUGGESTS that fasting could burn fat while preserving muscle mass. Some experts say it could also improve metabolic health (things like insulin resistance, inflammation, etc.) But most studies have only been done in rats, and the exact mechanism is still not fully understood.
…but it also carries some risk
There’s always a “but.”
Most research leans toward fasting as a safe practice. BUT there are some things to watch out for.
First, some people might experience things like dizziness, lightheadedness, headaches and fatigue while fasting. IDK about you but feeling like that would probably make it hard for me to stay active.
Dehydration is another risk. Even though water, plain tea and coffee are allowed during fasts, I can see how it would be easy to lack hydration. Some fasts suggest using laxatives too…which is just plain scary.
Finally, you could actually gain more weight than you lose. One of my main hesitations about fasting is the fact that it leaves room for a lot of people to “cut corners” or do it in an unhealthy way. First, people could restrict their calories during eating windows wayyy too much. That would slow their metabolism, and it would be harder to stick to. Then, they’re more likely to binge at some point.
On the other hand, some people might think they can eat whatever they want during eating windows.
If people use fasting as kind of a bandaid for their unhealthy eating habits, I can see where the risks come into play.
Different types of fasting
There are so. many. types. of. fasting.
Like, who knew there were so many ways to basically skip meals? I’m not even sure I’ll scratch the surface here! But I’ll go over the most popular ones.
Intermittent fasting is currently the most popular type of fast for weight loss.
Most intermittent fasting methods are short term, ranging from skipping one meal to skipping an entire day of meals.
For example, the 16/8 method means your “eating window” is 8-10 hours per day, and then you fast for 14-16 hours. Most people following this method choose to stop eating after dinner until lunch the following day.
The 5:2 diet is slightly more restrictive, allowing normal eating for 5 days per week. However, on the other 2 days you’re restricting calories heavily (like, only eating 500 calories on those days!).
Finally, the Eat Stop Eat and Alternate-day methods involve a complete fast for 2 – 3 days per week. Whoa. I would definitely be hangry on those days.
Like I said, these are just a few of the most popular intermittent fasting schedules. Some people actually fast for days or weeks at a time!
At least most fasting guidelines recommend sticking to eating healthy foods during the “eating window,” and of course maintaining regular exercise.
Are fasting teas a thing?
Fasting teas? Yeah, those exist. But what are they supposed to do…and are they legit?
Some tea brands, like Pique Tea, sell special “fasting teas.” These teas claim to help with satiety and energy so you can faster for longer periods of time. I didn’t see any iffy ingredients in any of the teas I looked into (unlike detox teas), but they mostly seemed like regular varieties of tea.
There is some research that suggests that tea could help with satiety. But I don’t think the claims from the brands specifically marketing “fasting tea” are very strong.
My advice? Just buy regular tea.
As always, it’s about lifestyle. NOT extreme changes.
If you’re on the fence about intermittent fasting, do some research and weigh the benefits vs. the risk. And of course be safe if you try it! No amount of weight loss is worth feeling restricted or tied down to a lifestyle that isn’t making you happy.
Fasting may be a sustainable practice for some people, but I’m going to bet that it’s not for most. You know I’m all about those sustainable lifestyle changes! If you’re working on making healthy changes to your diet, focus on eating whole, nutritious foods. Develop habits that you can stick to for the rest of your life.
I’m curious! Have you tried intermittent fasting? What did you think?