Not so fast: pros and cons of fasting!

When it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, good nutrition and adequate exercise are often core pillars. While this is undoubtedly true, there is more we can consider regarding our relationship with food and healthy living.

Fasting is the willing abstinence or reduction from some or all food, drink, or both, for some time. Although sometimes viewed as unhealthy, depriving, or reserved for religious reasons, short-term fasting can offer excellent health benefits. As research grows in this area of health, fasting is becoming more widely accepted as a legitimate means of managing weight and preventing disease. At the same time, it is vital that fasting is done in proper and healthy ways.

Across India, fasting is generally linked with religious beliefs, and people fast before or during traditional rituals. On the other hand, fasting also has many health benefits and some of its pitfalls.

Many times, people ignore their bodily conditions and choose to fast. For instance, women who are breastfeeding or are pregnant must not fast. Also, people with Type 1 Diabetes who are on medication and people who have had a history with an eating disorder should consult a health specialist before altering a dietary pattern.

Fast can be done in various patterns: the ‘16:8’ pattern involves 14 to 16 hours of fasting and eating between the 8 hours. Another fasting method is 5:2, which is fasting for alternate two days in a week.

There are various types of fasting methods that you can follow considering your health condition:

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting or IF includes reducing calorie intake for an interval of time to fast for the other hours. This kind of fasting allows restricting the calorie intake and results in weight loss. Time-Restricted Fasting is also similar to IF.

Water Fasting

Water fasting is a way of fasting where the individual only takes water, and the intake of food is restricted for a duration of time. This kind of fasting should only be preferred under medical supervision. Sometimes doctors prescribe this kind of fasting to cure various health issues. There is a major drawback of this fasting. Since it is challenging for a body to survive only on water, it can cause many adverse effects on the body.

Fasting Mimicking Diet

This is the diet that tricks the body to think it is fasting. The individual is allowed to eat but only the diet, including plant-based food, low in carbs and calories, and high in fat.

Here are some pros of fasting:

• Fasting helps to boost immunity

• May boost brain function and prevent neurodegenerative disorders

• It naturally increases energy and will help you to feel more alert and focused throughout the day

• May enhance heart health by improving blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol levels

• It enables you to attain a leaner, harder physique as fasting kills body fat dead

• Increases growth hormone secretion, which is vital for growth, metabolism, weight loss and muscle strength

• Promotes better health by fighting inflammation

There are cons of fasting too:

• The desire to binge after fasting is the biggest problem people face with fasting.

• Sometimes people tend to overeat during the non-fasting duration, which can lead to health issues like hormonal imbalances, increase in stress and migraines and even disordered eating.

• Occasional light-headedness is the major problem faced during fasting. To negate this con, you can start with shorter fasting periods first. Always remember fasting or changing your dietary pattern can make a big change to your body functioning, metabolism and psyche.

• Before opting for any kind of fast, consult a health expert and consider your health background.