The Relationship Between Fasting and Metabolic Health: What Are The Benefits?

The Relationship Between Fasting and Metabolic Health: What Are The Benefits?

We as humans partake in many different practices to help maintain our health over time. Although it may be comfortable for some people, fasting is becoming increasingly common as it's known to provide numerous health benefits. Sure, fasting can be a tough challenge if you've never tried it before, as you'll feel pretty hungry, but it can aid your health in more ways than one. In this article, you'll learn about fasting and its connection to our metabolic health.

What is Fasting?

A practice that’s centered around abstaining from either all or a portion of food and drinks, fasting is an age-old tradition in many parts of the world. With the help of modern data, many people have come to learn about the variety of health benefits that fasting can provide. There are also many ways to create a fasting routine for yourself, as everyone has different goals and preferences.

In short, fasting means you don’t eat throughout the day or, in some cases, for days at a time. It may sound strange if you’ve never practiced it before, but the body is capable of going through some interesting changes during a fasting period. You can create your own fasting schedule, as it’s really about starving yourself, and different intervals in a fasting routine have the potential to generate different results.

The Different Types of Fasting

You’ll find a decent list of fasting practices that each cater to specific health goals, but there are two main types of fasting that are widely known among the general public. Fasting usually pertains to consecutive days of avoiding foods and drinks outside of the water you need. The other type is called intermittent fasting, which is when an individual switches between periods of eating and fasting on a schedule. Many people choose intermittent fasting as it can be a little easier to manage, but there are more variations to fasting than just these two alone.

Some other fasting protocols include:

 

  • Dry Fast: This particular type of fasting is usually short-lived as it entails not drinking or eating anything at all, not even water. Of course, the human body will need water in a short amount of time, and eliminating it entirely can be detrimental to your health. Nevertheless, dry fasting comes with its benefits, and people usually exercise it within a short time frame.
  • Partial Fast: As the name suggests, this is a fast where you only give up a certain amount of food and drink. Those who partake in a partial fast will only eat small amounts of food throughout the fast, and others may simply eliminate certain foods or drinks from their diet. Some of these could include carbs, red meat, sweets, and so on.
  • Diagnostic Fast: Every so often, certain medical procedures, such as blood tests or surgeries, may require a fasting period beforehand. This sounds easier than it actually is because many people aren't used to fasting, but this usually only requires about a 12-hour fasting period. You can drink water, but doctors will recommend that you stay away from food entirely before your visit.
  • Ketogenic Fast: Those who partake in this type of fast have a particular goal in mind, which is weight loss in many cases. A ketogenic fast focuses on fat burning, as it intends to put your body into a state that’s called ketosis. It’s somewhat similar to a partial fast, as you’re still eating a small amount of food. Interestingly, it only entails consuming fatty foods, as this is what leads your body into the ketosis state.
  • Alternate-day Fast: This fasting routine can be a little rigorous as there's a constant back-and-forth dynamic. It generally consists of a 24-hour fasting period, followed by a day consisting of your normal diet, and then repeating the process. Some individuals choose to extend their fast to 36 hours, but that's clearly more challenging. An alternate-day fast is a great choice for those looking to lose weight or maintain weight over an extended timeframe.

These are just a few of the fasting protocols that people practice, and each has its own range of health benefits. To expand on that, we need to take a look at the relationship between fasting and our metabolic health.

How Does Fasting Affect our Metabolic Health?

Fasting can bring many benefits to our health, but some are more substantial than others. One reason many people decide to fast is to help get their glucose levels under control. With our normal everyday diets, it can be challenging to normalize our glucose levels without the help of a strict diet. Although you can accomplish this with dietary restrictions, some people prefer to go the fasting route. It’s important to understand how glucose works so you can grasp how fasting comes into play.

Changes in Glucose Levels

Known as the primary energy source for the body, glucose is used after we eat for energy, and fat is then stored as triglycerides in adipose tissue. When fasting, triglycerides are converted to fatty acids and glycerol, which end up being metabolized for energy in the body. The liver then converts these fatty acids into ketone bodies, becoming a significant energy source for various tissues, mostly benefiting the brain.

When we’re eating, insulin is the driving force that creates the energy we need,  whereas during fasting, the liver utilizes stored glycogen for energy. Although you may go through periods of trial and error as your body isn’t used to fasting, this doesn’t mean you’re starving as long as you follow strict protocols.

During fasting periods, glucose levels remain low while ketones are elevated due to the liver converting fatty acids. This is a stellar way to get higher glucose levels under control. Many people may use fasting to manipulate their glucose levels, but fasting does much more than that for your metabolic health as a whole.

The Correlation Between Fasting and Metabolic Syndrome (MetS)

Characterized as a mix of metabolic abnormalities, MetS has become an increasing issue in many parts of the world, especially in America. This metabolic issue considers aspects of the body such as insulin resistance, obesity, hypertension, hypertriglyceridemia, and more. Each of these complications can lead to numerous health issues that can be pretty detrimental if left unchecked.

Nearly 22-35% of adults in the U.S. struggle with MetS, and considering around 35% of adults in the U.S. have prediabetes, it isn’t too difficult to see where the correlation lies. Due to this range of metabolic issues, the benefits of fasting have been a top choice for those trying to get their glucose levels and other aspects of their metabolic health back on track.

It should also be noted that lifestyle factors outside of a particular diet can contribute to metabolic issues, many of which have nothing to do with fasting. Nevertheless, fasting is still a useful tool that should be considered for anyone struggling with MetS.

At the same time, those who are looking at fasting as a solution to improving their metabolic health should approach it with caution, as everyone's bodies perform and react differently. Intermittent fasting is a popular protocol as it doesn't put as much strain or discomfort on the body. It allows you to eat on a restricted schedule while still reaping many benefits that fasting offers to your metabolic health. From another angle, some people may be better off pursuing a schedule of caloric restriction as that's geared more toward reducing caloric intake without the potential of malnutrition.

Overall, if you’re looking to utilize fasting to get your metabolic health in order, intermittent fasting is a great place to start. There may be a handful of other protocols you can test out, but you want to ease your body into fasting as it’ll act as a significant change to your body's normal routine.

Creating a Fasting Regimen That Works for You

With all of the information provided in this article, you’ll have more than enough to work off of. However, you don’t want to dive headfirst into the more rigorous routines as that could shock your body in a very uncomfortable way. Intermittent fasting allows you to eat on a restricted schedule while easing your body into what it feels like to fast on a semi-consistent basis. There are multiple ways you can approach intermittent fasting to find a routine that works best for you.

Some methods of intermittent fasting include:

 

  • Eating every other day and fasting for 24hrs in between
  • Fasting for 24hrs for only two days out of the week, with two other days catered to a low-calorie diet
  • Eat every day, but only give yourself a six-hour window and fast for the other 18 hours
  • Two large meals every day for morning and lunch but skip dinner
  • Practice fasting only one day out of the week with a water-only diet

You have many options to choose from, and considering each person’s body is different, it’s important to explore the schedule that offers the results you’re looking for. It’s understandable that fasting may be uncomfortable at first, but it’s a process that your body is bound to get used to with consistent practice.

 

References:

  1. Aditi Shenai, AS l October 13th, 2022 l Is Intermittent Fasting Linked to Metabolic Health? l Healthify Me l https://www.healthifyme.com/blog/intermittent-fasting-metabolic-health/
  2. Izzah Vasim, IV l Chaudry N. Majeed, CNM l Mark D. DeBoer, MDD l January 31st, 2022 l Intermittent Fasting and Metabolic Health l National Library of Medicine l https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8839325/
  3. Dr. Group, DC l January 2nd, 2022 l What Is Fasting? A Guide to the Different Types of Fasts l Global Healing l https://bit.ly/3T9QLwE

 


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