In the religions of ancient peoples and civilizations, fasting was a practice to prepare persons, especially priests and priestesses, to approach the deities. In the Hellenistic mystery religions (e.g., the healing cult of the god Asclepius), the gods were thought to reveal their divine teachings in dreams and visions only after a fast that required the total dedication of the devotees. Among the pre-Columbian peoples of Peru, fasting often was one of the requirements for penance after an individual had confessed sins before a priest. In many cultures the practice was considered a means to assuage an angered deity or to aid in resurrecting a deity who was believed to have died (e.g., a god of vegetation).
Fasting can be used for nearly every chronic condition, including allergies, anxiety, arthritis, asthma, depression, diabetes, headaches, heart disease, high cholesterol, low blood sugar, digestive disorders, mental illness, and obesity. Fasting is an effective and safe weight loss method. It is frequently prescribed as a detoxification treatment for those with conditions that may be influenced by environmental factors, such as cancer and multiple chemical sensitivity. Fasting has been used successfully to help treat people who have been exposed to high levels of toxic materials due to accident or occupation. Fasting is thought to be beneficial as a preventative measure to increase overall health, vitality, and resistance to disease. Fasting is also used as a method of mental and spiritual rejuvenation.
There may also be other intermittent fasting benefits: A 2017 study from the University of Southern California followed 71 adults who were placed on a low-calorie, fasting-mimicking diet for five days each month for three months. After following the diet, researchers found that the diet reduced cardiovascular risks, including blood pressure, inflammation, and body fat, in participants. A 2018 study from the British Journal of Nutrition backs this up after overweight participants followed the 5:2 method and saw improvements in their triglyceride levels and blood pressure. Other studies have also shown that IF may help with relieving MS symptoms, but more studies are needed on a larger scale and for a longer period of time to support these claims.
3. How are your labs? Are measures such as your cholesterol and blood sugar levels moving in the right direction, and all in healthy ranges? Also, many fasting protocols can be low in certain nutrients. Using labs to look at micronutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids and amino acids is essential to ensure that your intake is sufficient.
What if we told you that the answer to losing weight, improving body composition, and feeling better isn’t about dieting, but instead skipping meals every once in a while? For some, intermittent fasting, or going a longer period of time — usually between 14 and 36 hours — with few to no calories, can be a lot easier than you may think. And the benefits might be worth it. If you think about it, all of us “fast” every single day — we just call it sleeping. Intermittent fasting just means extending that fasting period, and being a bit more conscious of your eating schedule overall. But is it right for you? And which method is best?
The findings were clear: Fasting just five days per month improved people’s health outcomes. The group that fasted lost weight (about 7 pounds on average), lost some body fat, lowered their blood pressure, and decreased their IGF-1, a genetic marker for diseases such as cancer. (Their total cholesterol, blood glucose, and triglycerides didn’t budge.)
This depends. If you’re on a time-restricted fast and you’re in no-eating hours, it’s best to stick to no- or low-calorie drinks like water, coffee (with no milk) and tea. If you’re on an alternate day diet or something similar, even during low calorie hours, you can technically drink whatever you’d like — but remember, this will count against your calories. Would you rather spend 100 calories on an apple or a glass of milk? It’s your call.
On my fasting days, I would wake up, have coffee, and start my day without any food. This would continue until about 5:30 p.m., when I would prepare a dinner that didn’t vary from my regular dinner in terms of either what or how much I ate. So, my fasting dinner would be something normal for me, like stir-fry, pasta, soup, sandwich, sushi, etc. This dinner looked like any other and occurred at the usual time. This made it simpler — I was just resuming eating with no special fanfare.
Cons: On the flip side, if you have a hard time handling cheat days the healthy way, this method might not be for you. Additionally, because the plan is pretty specific and the fasting/feeding schedule varies from day to day, this method can be a bit confusing to follow. (However, the plan does come with a calendar, noting how to fast and exercise each day, which may make it easier.)
Alternate-day fasting. Go back and forth between feasting days and fasting days. Eat like a king or queen one day, then eat nothing the next. This will probably be the most challenging fasting option for most people. If you try it, make sure you’re eating a ton on your feast days, otherwise you’ll fall into a major calorie deficit and you’ll likely feel miserable.
Fasting has been used in Europe as a medical treatment for years. Many spas and treatment centers, particularly those in Germany, Sweden, and Russia, use medically supervised fasting. Fasting has gained popularity in American alternative medicine over the past several decades, and many doctors feel it is beneficial. Fasting is a central therapy in detoxification, a healing method founded on the principle that the build up of toxic substances in the body is responsible for many illnesses and conditions.
As researchers study the different fasting mechanisms to try to determine the ideal protocol for a variety of outcomes in a variety of populations, however, the general public must proceed by trial and error. That leaves dietitians such as myself concerned that the hype around fasting could encourage people to follow harmful plans that severely restrict nutrients, cause stress or unsuccessfully treat serious conditions.
Another type of intermittent fasting, alternate day fasting has you severely restricting the amount of calories you eat during fasting days, then eating to your stomach’s content on non-fasting days. Food isn’t completely off the table, but you’ll stick to about 25 percent of your normal caloric intake. Someone eating 2,000 calories would cut back to 500, for example. Alternate-day fasting isn’t necessarily a long-term plan, because it can become difficult to stick to, but it can be helpful to get a healthy habit in motion.
You’ll spike your blood sugar when you eat. If you’re fasting on a high-carb diet and you’ve powered through the cravings and lack of energy from low blood sugar, there’s a good chance you’ll eat a ton of carbs when you feast. You want to eat big meals when you fast to make sure you’re getting enough calories, but all those excess carbs in one go will spike your blood sugar in the opposite direction, from low to high. High blood sugar causes fatigue and lack of focus. That raging hunger will also cause you to binge unnecessarily, and whatever carbs you don’t use will get stored as fat.
Don’t forget that God loves you so much that He sent His only Son to die for you. His love is stronger than any thing you’ve ever done. When you decide to commit to fast, you’re going to want food. This isn’t abnormal, it happens to everyone. Unfortunately, for all of us, we’re human. Sometimes our stomach gets the best of us on a fast and we grab a bite of something we’re supposed to be fasting. This isn’t the end of everything. It doesn’t even have to be the end of your fast. Pick back up where you left off; we’re in a marathon not a sprint.
Another study, this one out of the University of Southern California, discovered that when 71 adults were placed on a five-day fast (eating between 750 and 1,100 calories a day) once every three months, they lost an average of 6 pounds, reduced inflammation levels and their waistlines and lost total body fat without sacrificing muscle mass. (2) If you want to lose weight and lose belly fat, fasting even irregularly could be the key.
Although the findings with mice are well established there’s less evidence that time restricted eating works for humans. One human study found significant weight loss when participants fasted for 11 hours overnight compared with control conditions. Another study found a 4.1 percent weight loss resulting from consuming a single meal in the afternoon although self-reported hunger was greater the next morning. Other studies haven’t supported night-time fasting for humans so it’s too early to draw definitive conclusions but you might want to experiment to see if it would work for you.
Although the Bible does not give a direct command on this issue, examples of fasting appear in both the Old and the New Testaments. One of the most telling passages in which fasting is mentioned is Matthew 6:16, where Jesus is teaching His disciples basic principles of godly living. When speaking on fasting, He begins with, “When you fast,” not “If you fast.”
Whether you're a speedy eater who overeats before your brain gets the message that you're full or you just never seem to be satisfied, IF might help. “When you're not eating all the time, your hunger hormones don't need to be released that often,” says Jubilee. “The body gets in a better hormonal balance, which enables you to get a grasp on your appetite.”
I recommend counting calories—not forever, but for about two weeks—so you get a feel for what a regular day of eating feels like. I have used and like Cron-o-meter, Lose It!, and Fitbit to track calories. Don’t get bogged down in the details. If a type of food you ate is not in the database, find something similar or make an educated guess. You just want to make sure you’re in the ballpark.
A fast for God doesn't have to be all day. It can be one meal. You could choose to give up sugar or caffeine. Fasting for God is sacrificing something that is important to you. Surrendering to God means giving of yourself for Him. We cry out, "All of you, none of me." Fasting tears down strongholds, fasting causes divine power to loose the chains of injustice and sets the captive free. A fast for God ushers in every ministering spirit to go forth on your behalf bringing solutions to every problem. If you want to see God's power working in your life, then fast.
The other factors to consider with this diet are more concerned with your current weight. Lower calorie intake for most people will equal less fat. This is because, unless you’re a full-time athlete, most people do not need the number of calories they consume each day. They don’t burn that energy away, and as a result, it turns into fat. The 5:2 diet promotes lower calories on a weekly basis and high nutrient foods during the fasting days.