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The Pros and Cons of Fasting

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by Jess Snader on April 24, 2021

What is Fasting?

Fasting seems to have become the new trending way to diet in the fitness world. In order to understand if fasting is right for you, you have to know what it is. At it's simplest form, fasting is a willful refrainment from eating and/or drinking. Many people have taken fasting as a way to spend time away from non food-related things such as social media, television, alcohol, or smoking. For the purposes of this blog, we are focusing on food-related intermittent fasting.

Why Do People Fast?

People fast for many different reasons. Two of the main reasons are for dietary purposes or religion. Sometimes these go hand-in-hand. The point of fasting for religion is to take the time you are feeling hungry and focus on your worship. The reason people fast as a part of their diet, is more than likely to lose weight. Before you decide to fast, it is important to know the pros and cons of doing so.

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Benefits of Fasting

clock on hite plate

1. Intermittent Fasting May Help You Lose Weight and Belly Fat

In general, fasting will help you eat fewer meals. In turn, this leads you to eat fewer calories which is the key to weight loss. It is important to make sure that you're not overcompensating at the meals you are eating. You don't want to eat twice as much food that you need in order to feel full until your next meal. Intermittent fasting also enhances your hormone function by facilitating lower insulin levels and higher amounts of the hormones that breakdown your body fat and use it for energy.

2. May Be Beneficial For Heart Health

Heart disease is one of America's most threatening diseases. Intermittent fasting may be able to help you lower your risk of heart disease and the risk factors that contribute to it. Fasting can improve your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar levels.

3. May Be Good For Your Brain

Some people say that what is good for your body is good for your brain and in the case of intermittent fasting, they may be right. The affects of fasting can include a reduction in stress, inflammation, and reduction in blood sugar levels. These all help you to feel more relaxed and relieve tension. Intermittent fasting may also increase growth of nerve cells which have benefits for brain function.

4. May Improve Your Immune System

Fasting is also known to trigger the regeneration of old cells within your body and this can include cells that are a part of your immune system. By regenerating your cells in your immune system, they can become stronger and have a better ability to fight off diseases. Like mentioned before, fasting can burn fat and release toxins from your body which will also improve your ability to fight off sickness.

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Drawbacks of Fasting

intermittent fasting with no symbol over it

1. May Promote Over-Eating

Because of the way intermittent fasting is scheduled, many people tend to over-eat on "feasting" days, which are days when you are allowed to have food. On these "feasting" days, meal size and frequency are not restricted so this may cause some people to over-eat as a way to compensate for their previous fasting days. Because you are depriving your body of food on certain days or between certain hours, your hunger can become more extreme which will also lead to over-eating and a choice of foods that are not so healthy for your body.

2. May Reduce Physical Activity

Another drawback of fasting is that it can lead to a reduction in your physical activity. When participating in an intermittent fasting program, it is not recommended that you do a lot of physical activity. If you do keep up with your daily physical activity, you might find yourself fatigued and lethargic. Intermittent fasting is not recommended if you're an athlete.

3. Might Make You Tired and Moody

Intermittent fasting may cause you to feel more tired and moody than usual. Intermittent fasting puts your body in a high stress situation where you aren't getting enough food. This causes more stress which can be taxing on your nervous system which can lead to fatigue, burnout, low energy, low body temperature, and a decrease in hormone function.

4. May Lead To An Eating Disorder

Intermittent fasting is just another way for you to deprive your body of food. It is a form of restrictive eating that shows a direct correlation from not eating at all to weight loss. The more/longer you fast, the more calories you are skipping and the more weight you can lose. If you have previously suffered from an eating disorder, fasting may lead you to relapse or even develop a different eating disorder. After all, any type of diet that supports skipping meals can lead to some negative relationships with food.

Even though we've laid out some potential pros and cons of intermittent fasting, there is still not a lot of research pertaining to this topic because it is so new. Before deciding if intermittent fasting is for you, research and weigh the options yourself.