Long Fasts: Dangerous Or Beneficial
Since this article touches on a subject that could potentially have negative health outcomes, its in order to reiterate the websites health disclaimer: All material on this website is provided for your information only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. The information is merely our personal opinion and should not be taken as fact. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information instead, readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being.
On the whole, Paleo is fasting-positive. Intermittent fasting is a powerful tool for improving health, jump-starting weight loss, or beating cravings, and theres plenty of medical literature to back up its usefulness. But what about longer fasts ? If intermittent fasting is good, will a longer fast be even better?
Long-term fasting can take several different forms. The most extreme is a dry fast, consuming nothing at all . This is definitely not advisable, as its very dangerous to go for more than a day or so without drinking. Water fasting means drinking only water, but consuming no calories during the fast. Another technique is juice fasting, or consuming only fruit and vegetable juices. Some people also fast on broth, or extremely low-calorie protein mixes.
How To Start Fasting
There are many different types of fasts, making it easy to find a method that fits your lifestyle.
Here are a few of the most common types of fasting:
- Water fasting: Involves drinking only water for a set amount of time.
- Partial fasting: Certain foods or drinks such as processed foods, animal products or caffeine are eliminated from the diet for a set period.
- Calorie restriction: Calories are restricted for a few days every week.
Within these categories are also more specific types of fasts.
For example, intermittent fasting can be broken down into subcategories, such as alternate-day fasting, which involves eating every other day, or time-restricted feeding, which entails limiting intake to just a few hours each day.
To get started, try experimenting with different types of fasting to find what works best for you.
Summary There are many different ways to practice fasting, which makes it easy to find a method that fits into just about any lifestyle. Experiment with different types to find what works best for you.
Long Fasts And Weight Loss
The most obvious and best-researched benefits of longer fasts are for weight loss: if youre not eating anything, weight will drop off your body fairly quickly. During the first 24 hours or so, you go through all the glycogen in your liver. After that, your body needs to run on what it has stored, either protein or fat.
For the first few days, weight loss averages around 1-2 pounds a day, both because youre shedding water weight and because youre using more protein. But consuming protein for fuel is risky, because it means breaking down muscles not only your biceps, but also more essential muscles like your heart. This makes fat by far a preferential energy source, so after a few days, your body turns to its stored fat reserves for energy . Since fat is more energy-dense per pound than protein, weight loss during this phase slows down to a more reasonable but still rapid pace of a little over 1 pound every 2 days.
Essentially, then, a long fast is a way of staying in ketosis for an extended period of time, but forcing your body to rely entirely on its own fat stores instead of dietary fat intake. Being in ketosis makes for fairly easy weight loss, since it suppresses hunger . Fasting also allows you to completely get your mind off food, instead of always thinking about what youre going to eat next and worrying about whether or not youre eating too much.
Read Also: What Is The Best Intermittent Fasting Window
Skipping Meals Can Cause Headaches Dizziness And Nausea
Long periods of fasting can lower your blood sugar levels and leave you feeling lightheaded, dizzy, with headaches, and/or nausea.
If you have a medical condition, talk to your doctor to make sure it’s safe to try intermittent fasting. People with type 1 diabetes and/or on diabetic medications may be more susceptible to unwanted side effects or struggle with controlling their blood sugar levels .
Your body will also need some time to adjust, so try choosing a day of the week or period of time that you dont need to be very active or deeply concentrate when first starting a fasting practice.
How Long Should You Fast
Before we into the details to answer this question, you need to understand that everyone is different and the benefits of fasting tend to occur faster of those who are leaner. Mike Mutzel talks about that a lot on his podcast and on his Instagram account. Autophagy will happen at different times in different tissues. Moreover, insulin signaling and mTOR pathways will vary according to your body composition.
However, other well-known researchers like Jason Fung tend to recommend a longer fast for autophagy benefits.
You May Like: How To Do Intermediate Fasting
What Is Prolonged Fasting And How Long Can You Safely Fast
Fasting is natural to us. Or at least it used to be
Fasting has been part of human nature since the beginning of time. Until relatively recently, food was not so readily available. To survive, early humans needed to store energy from food as body fat to survive the times when food was scarce. If the human body did not have an efficient storage and retrieval method of food energy, we wouldnt have survived until now.
When it comes to fasting length, if youre a healthy person , you shouldnt worry that a few days without food will starve you. The longest-lasting hunger strike in recorded history was undertaken by an Irish political prisoner, Terence MacSwiney. He went for 74 days with no food. Disclaimer it did not end well for him.
Nevertheless, an average person nowadays is accustomed to regular meals and our bodies are not used to no-food-days anymore. Therefore, we strongly suggest limiting your prolonged fast to a maximum of 72 hours and undergo longer fasts only under medical supervision.
Why would people even put themselves under this challenge of giving up one of the greatest pleasures in our lives food?
And do it voluntarily for hoursor even days?
Heres what science says about some of the benefits of prolonged fasting and the prolonged fasting results you could expect.
Promotes Blood Sugar Control By Reducing Insulin Resistance
Several studies have found that fasting may improve blood sugar control, which could be especially useful for those at risk of diabetes.
In fact, one study in 10 people with type 2 diabetes showed that short-term intermittent fasting significantly decreased blood sugar levels .
Decreasing insulin resistance can increase your bodys sensitivity to insulin, allowing it to transport glucose from your bloodstream to your cells more efficiently.
Coupled with the potential blood sugar-lowering effects of fasting, this could help keep your blood sugar steady, preventing spikes and crashes in your blood sugar levels.
Keep in mind though that some studies have found that fasting may impact blood sugar levels differently for men and women.
For instance, one small, three-week study showed that practicing alternate-day fasting impaired blood sugar control in women but had no effect in men (
and alternate-day fasting could help decrease blood sugar levels and reduce insulin resistance but may affect men and women differently.
Recommended Reading: Can You Eat Whatever You Want During Intermittent Fasting
Improves Insulin Sensitivity And Blood Sugar Levels
Insulin serves as the storage hormone for carbs, protein, and fats. Carbs and fats are your bodys preferred source of energy.
During a fast of 24 or more hours, glycogen the storage form of carbs is depleted and insulin levels are reduced. This allows your body to burn mostly fat for energy, making stored body fat more available for use (
As 48-hour fasts should only be done 12 times per month, they may be best for individuals who would prefer to fast less frequently but still want to lose weight.
Fasting for 48 hours may boost your health by promoting weight loss, improving insulin sensitivity, and reducing inflammation. It may also help you live longer by delaying cell aging.
May Extend Your Lifespan Helping You Live Longer
One of the most exciting applications of intermittent fasting may be its ability to extend lifespan.
Studies in rodents have shown that intermittent fasting extends lifespan in a similar way as continuous calorie restriction .
Intermittent fasting has also been shown to increase the lifespans of fruit flies 30443-3.pdf” rel=”nofollow”> 43 ).
In some of these studies, the effects were quite dramatic. In an older study, rats that were fasted every other day lived 83% longer than rats who werent fasted .
In a 2017 study, mice that were fasted every other day saw their lifespans increase by around 13% .
Daily fasting was also shown to improve the overall health of male mice. It helped delay the onset of conditions such as fatty liver disease and hepatocellular carcinoma, which are both common in aging mice 30512-6″ rel=”nofollow”> 46 ).
Although this is far from being determined in humans, intermittent fasting has become very popular among the anti-aging crowd.
Given the known benefits for metabolism and all sorts of health markers, it makes sense that intermittent fasting could help you live a longer and healthier life.
You May Like: Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss For Women
How To Do Prolonged Fasting
Alright, so how do you do prolonged fasting? Well, it’s all about listening to your body. Let your body tell you how long you can go without food. This is especially important in the beginning when you’re first trying prolonged fasting.
It’s best to start slow with fasting and work your way up to go longer periods of time. You might start with 24 hours without any food. Then, the next month you might want to try 36 hours, and then 48, and go up from there. It just takes time for your body to adjust, but you start to notice that as you fast, your hunger goes away and you feel better mentally and physically.
Listen to your body’s signals. Let it tell you when you need to eat. If you’re just feeling mild to normal feelings of hunger, try to continue the fast. If you’re feeling strong hunger pains, your blood sugar crashes, and you’re weak, then eat. There is no problem with needing to go a shorter amount of time. If you feel these extreme signs of hunger, then eat! But, if you’re feeling great on your fast, ride it out!
Here are a few tips for you as you get started with fasting:
What To Expect On A 5
In 2019, a group of LifeOmic employees voluntarily did a modified fast of 90 to 120 hours for National Fasting February. For more than a year we had been researching and reading the scientific literature on the mechanisms of prolonged water fasting and its potential benefits for aging and longevity. But we wanted to experience a prolonged fast ourselves, measure its outcomes, and be able to better relate to our LIFE Fasting Tracker users.
What you will find this article:
You May Like: How To Lose Weight With Intermittent Fasting 16 8
Crack Your Addiction To Food
Hunger has nothing to do with an empty stomach. Its psychological.
Thats why you can feel just as hungry for lunch as for breakfast despite having eaten more recently.
The hormone most responsible for your hunger pangs has a fittingly goblin-esque name: ghrelin. Ghrelin comes and goes cyclically based on your daily eating routine. Fasting screws up this cycle. Screw with it enough and it stops.
No more hunger pains. No more addiction to food. Youll enjoy eating just as much but only feel the need to do so when its convenient, not when ghrelin tells you to.
Fasting-ating Insight: My three-day fast ended up do a 7-Day fast because I had no complications and felt great! all my friends cannot believe I went 7 days without a single morsel of food! What an experience!
Take Fasting Friendly Supplements
Similar to electrolytes not being as prevalent in your natural diet during fasting, its important to take the right vitamins and mineral supplements to keep yourself healthy.
One of the best is the DoFasting Essential Fiber Complex Supplement, with natural cellulose and glucomannan, it also functions as an appetite suppressant and helps you feel fuller for longer, which is perfect for anyone who is fasting!
Also Check: Can You Eat Anything While Intermittent Fasting
Could Help Promote Balance In Other Areas Beyond Food
When we think of intermittent fasting we immediately think of food, since that is what we are limiting. But could we benefit from taking a break from other things in our life?
The basic concept of fasting is to abstain from something for a specific period of time, so what other things could we fast besides food?
Television, social media, and video games to name a few may all be things we could use a break from that may positively impact our health and well-being.
At the end of the day, consciously choosing to reduce or shift our habits can help us create health and wellness goals based on our values and beliefs.
Euphoria Mindfulness And Mental Clarity
You might find, particularly in the later half of a 5-day or other prolonged fast, that you experience moments that are often described as euphoria, a sense of being present or mindful, and mental clarity. Time may even feel like its going slower, as one of our employees and Prolon fast participants put it.
I felt like time was flowing in a more constant manner. When not fasting, I get upset about time moving too slow, or I feel like it moves too fast when I enjoy something. I wondered if there was such a thing as hunger high. I felt like my mind was behaving differently than normal, and it was an interesting experience. The main take away from the 5-day fast for me was that it helped me get rid of stress and anxiety. I felt like my mood fluctuated less than usual throughout the day. Zhenya, LifeOmic
Mental clarity and improved cognitive function have been associated with ketogenic diets or the metabolic state of ketosis brought on by fasting. Nutritional ketosis is often used as a treatment for people with epilepsy or other seizure-related disorders, because ketone bodies are an energy source for the brain that dont produce as many reactive oxygen species and inflammatory chemicals through the process of their metabolism as glucose does. Relying on ketones for energy also prompts brain cells to become more efficient, for example by producing more mitochondria inside of neurons and thus improving how much clean energy they can produce.
Recommended Reading: What To Eat During Intermittent Fasting 16 8
The Downsides Of Prolonged Fasting
Extreme Hunger â Not eating for days may cause hunger pains, dizziness, and insomnia. But hunger usually resolves after 2-3 days.
Risk of Dehydration and Electrolyte Imbalance – Much of our water intake comes via food, and when you aren’t eating food, you need to make sure you drink enough water to avoid dehydration. Also, you need to replenish your electrolytes, the salts that help maintain proper body functioning, such as sodium and potassium .
Foul Mood- Some people get “hangry” when they don’t eat.
Mayo Clinic Q And A: Long
DEAR MAYO CLINIC: Is intermittent fasting for weight loss safe? What are the risks of short-term diets that are very low-calorie?
ANSWER: Recent research has found that using intermittent fasting for weight loss may have some benefits in the short term. But at this point, the long-term effects of this type of diet or other diets that severely restrict calories are not known. To lose weight and keep it off, the best strategy is to adopt healthy eating and exercise habits that you enjoy so you can stick with them over time.
Intermittent fasting currently is apopular trend in dieting. There are several fasting methods people employ forweight loss. Some dieters decrease theamount of time they eat each day to, for example, only six hours in a 24-hour period.Others fast every other day. Another approach is called the 5:2 diet, which involvesgradually decreasing daily calories to the point that you’re only consuming 500calories a day for two days each week.
A recently published article assessed a variety of research onintermittent fasting. It found that there are some benefits, at least in theshort term, to fasting as opposed to just decreasing calories overall.
It is crucial to note, however, that little long-term research has been doneon intermittent fasting to examine how it affects people over time. So at thispoint, it’s unclear if there are any long-term health benefits or risks relatedto this diet technique.
Recommended Reading: Which Intermittent Fasting Is Best For Me Free
Evidence From Experimental Animals
The life and health span extension produced by CR has been an area of interest since the late 1970s . Compared to mice assigned to an ad libitum regimen, 30% CR and TRF enhanced longevity, regardless of diet composition and showed improvements in morbidity and mortality . Prevention of age-related declines, as evaluated by tests of motor coordination and learning took place in mice exposed to a 50% CR regimen. Increased locomotor activity in a runwheel cage, regardless of age was observed, without effects on exploratory activity in a novel arena . This type of functional improvement has been related to anatomical changes, such as a rise in synapse numbers and stimulation of mitochondrial biogenesis, correlated with increased BDNF levels . 3-hydroxybutyrate may also mediate adaptive responses of neurons to fasting, exercise and ketogenic diets . In mice, hippocampus dependent spatial learning and memory deficit improve upon a daily TRF with ameliorated behavioural changes, in particular anxiety-like behaviours. These improvements, found in old mice, may rely on the enhanced cerebral blood flow and blood-brain barrier function, similar to that seen in young mice at 56months of age following CR .