What if there were a ‘diet protocol’ you could follow that would provide you with some major health benefits, ranging from an increase in fat loss, increase in energy, reduction of inflammation, to even improving your cardiovascular health. Fasting is a great way to assist us in achieving our fitness goals, with the added overall health benefits. It’s important to note that while there seem to be very few negative side effects from fasting, you’d want to ensure you’re already a healthy individual, as you’ll have less chance developing an eating disorder which may result from any potential underlying body image issues.
There are many different ‘fasting’ techniques being thrown around. Specifically, we have two different ways of fasting. We have what’s called in the scientific world an “alternate day fast”, which is where someone would eat one day, and fast every other day. Then we have what’s called a “time-restricted fast”. This fast is where someone would typically fast between 16-20hrs while allowing for an eating window with a timeframe between 4-8hrs. It’s important to remember that most fasting protocols allow for water during fasting hours. It’s interesting to know that several studies have found in rats that fasting has a positive health benefit in our basic physiology counterparts. The studies in rats found that fasting:
We’re presented with a plethora of positive health benefits. Fasting is a great way to improve your overall health as evidenced in these studies. For example, a 2003 study in the Journal of Nutrition found that rats who were alternate day fasting, the fasting not only improved glucose metabolism, it also found improvements in their response to cardiovascular and neuroendocrine stress. Another study in the 2005 scientific journal, Circulation, that intermittent fasting protects the heart from injuries resulting in a deficient supply of blood to the heart. IF has also been shown to reduce changes in the size, shape, structure, and function of the heart after injury to the muscle.
Fasting can provide benefits to gut bacteria by allowing your gut microbiome to have a break from digesting food and begin repairing your body. While energy is not being directed to breakdown what you’ve eaten, your body can focus on reducing inflammation, repairing your stomach lining, and reducing insulin sensitivity. Being in a fasted state also allows all the good bacteria in your gut to multiply and continue to feed off one another, while getting rid of all the nasties. Currently, there’s not a lot to say why fasting provides us with such health benefits, but one theory suggests that the periodic food deprivation phases serve as a preconditioning stress, one that allows for resistance towards bigger stressors in the future. This is kind of like exposing yourself to stressful germs to strengthen your immune system. The same can be said when exposing your body to temporary calorie deprivation, you’re presented with a plethora of positive health benefits. Fasting provides an appetite blunting effect over time, this is due to the fact that we’re less hungry than we used. This is because we tend to be hungrier when we’re supposed to be eating. Regardless of meal frequency, maintaining a regular eating pattern will assist in controlling feelings of hunger. What about the gains?! A scientific paper from 2006 actually showed that a fast up to 40hrs didn’t significantly alter negative regulators of muscle mass, and didn’t cause any significant muscle atrophy. Additionally, a 24hr fast only decreases liver glycogen by less than 50% which leaves muscle glycogen completely spare, and ketones you’d typically see during alternate day fasting, also spare skeletal muscle from breakdown.
Fasting won’t necessarily mean you will lose your gains. Fasting is a great tool to use in assisting us becoming the healthiest version of ourselves. For the absolute best way to optimize your health, it’s best to follow a diet protocol which you can stick to, to ensure long term success.
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