The Pros and Cons of Fasting

Some people swear by the benefits of fasting on a regular basis. But what is it about this controversial practice that is so appealing to the masses? Is it really as beneficial as people claim? If you’ve considered fasting for health, weight loss or spirituality, here are some of the pros and cons you should know about the trending practice.

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Understanding Fasting

Fasting is the process of abstaining from all food or certain food categories for a period of time. Some types of fasting also involve abstaining from liquids. It’s important to distinguish that there is a difference between fasting and starving. Fasting is the act of deliberately not eating any food, while starving is not done by choice (except in the case of serious eating disorders).

Many health and medical professionals claim that fasting is beneficial to human health, while others claim it is not. To form your own conclusion, it’s important to look at the existing evidence regarding fasting. Once you have sufficient information about the benefits and drawbacks of the popular practice, you can make an informed decision about whether or not it’s right for you.

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Benefits of Fasting

There are many potential benefits to fasting, and some of them are backed by science. Here are a few of the reasons why people choose to fast.

  • Potential to lose weight without counting calories
  • May help control glucose levels
  • Unrestricted dietary choices during eating windows

There is also some evidence that fasting may boost longevity and provide other health benefits. Of course, in order to experience the full benefits of fasting, it’s important to stick to a healthy diet. It’s also important to pay attention to how your body feels when fasting and make sure you don’t go without food for too long.

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Drawbacks of Fasting

While some people respond quite well to fasting, others do not. This suggests that the practice may not be appropriate for everyone. Here are a few of the drawbacks associated with intentionally going without food for periods of time.

  • Low energy on fasting days
  • May cause severe hunger and lead to overeating
  • May reduce physical activity

For people with certain health conditions or who are taking medications, fasting may be dangerous. Some medications specifically state that they should be taken with food to alleviate side effects.
In addition to these challenges, it’s easy for people who fast regularly to suffer from nutrient deficiencies. This is because on the days they do eat, they still eat too little nutrient rich food for their daily nutritional needs.  Some people also use fasting as a method to allow them to eat unhealthy food when they return to eating in an effort to balance out calories. If you want to try fasting, make sure that you're getting lots of healthy, nutrient rich foods on the days that you are eating to avoid these common problems.

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Different Types of Fasts

There are many different types of fasts, including extended fasts that last multiple days, and short fasts that last longer than one full day. Here are some of the different types of fasts people engage in.

  • Intermittent fasting: This type of fast involves abstaining from food for at least 12 hours every day. It’s arguably the most popular type of fasting right now, and purports to help the body turn on its fat-burning mechanisms.
  • Religious fasting: Many people fast for religious or spiritual purposes. Usually, this type of fasting involves abstaining from both food and water for a short period of time (between six and 24 hours in most case).
  • Long-Term fasting: Also known as extended fasting, long-term fasts are more controversial than most. They involve abstaining from all foods or certain foods for more than 24 hours.

Intermittent fasting is usually the best choice for beginners because it is easier to stick with. It’s also safer than extended fasting. If you want to experience some of the benefits of fasting for yourself, check with your doctor and give intermittent fasting a try.

6 Replies to “The Pros and Cons of Fasting”

  1. Another con to fasting you missed: if you are on prescription medications that require food to buffer the stomach, you won’t be able to take them. In this case, you will need to speak to your doctor first to find a suitable type of fast for you. And another benefit is it helps reset the digestive tract so you digest and absorb your food better.

  2. Intermitted fasting is a wonderful plan. I’m up to 18 hours a day and have more energy and have even shed a few pounds.

  3. I like to fast (or limit my eating window). But for those of us prone to migraines one must use caution. I have found that going w/out food for too long tends to spark a migraine. And I notice that eating may help quell a headache. Simply because after eating blood flow tends to focus on the digestive area (& thus away from the head). I’m not quite sure how this figures in-but I’m guessing the blood vessels are inflamed (expanded) during migraine, & then upon eating, blood flow concentrates in the abdominal area; allowing blood vessels near head to constrict back to proper size. That is my best hypothesis, anyway.

  4. I have been fasting for 18 months and have lost 45 pounds so far. Fasting also has other health benefits including, creating HGH and stem cells, which is important because the body produces fewer stem cells as we age. Autophagy (when cells die and new cells are created to replace them.) occurs during fasting periods. When the body is busy digesting food you ate, it can not do the healing. When you fast, your body can work on fixing itself. Eating all day long will never allow your body to heal. No late night snacks!

  5. Interested in learning more. I hope I did not make a statement to respond back.
    Thank you

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