Chances are, you probably don’t need much of an explanation as to what fasting actually is. But just in case, it’s where you choose not to eat for extended periods of time.
Sure, this might sound like the most unpleasant torture or crash diet that’s doomed to fail, but fasting is actually a pretty solid strategy for weight loss, managing insulin levels and even increasing your metabolic rate.
Of course, it’s one thing just saying this and another to actually back it up, which is why we’re going to dive into the subject of fasting and find out just how it could be good for you.
Understanding The Basics of Fasting
Fasting is pretty much exactly what you’re imagining right now. It’s where you don’t take on any calories for a specific period of time, while some religious fasting practices may go a step further and mean you don’t consume any food or drink at all. This might be for a short period, like 12 hours, which is what intermittent fasting is all about, or it may last over a day if you’re following traditional fasts, whether it’s for diet, cultural or religious reasons.
The reason fasting has become so popular over recent years is to boost weight loss. It’s about giving your body an extended break from food as a way of making a march on your fitness goals. But the reason we do fasted cardio at our fitness retreats goes way further than that because fasting also has a bunch of other health benefits that will have you feeling epic, according to science. Here’s everything you need to know:
The Benefits of Fasting
No1: Boosting Weight Loss
To put it bluntly, fasting every other day has been proved to be just as effective for weight loss as almost-every traditional low calorie diet. But it’s not just about consuming less calories because going longer without eating also shows to have a positive effect on blood sugar and fat burning (don’t worry, we’re going to get more into this in a sec).
This is especially true for fasted cardio workouts, since weight loss is the result of a caloric deficit, meaning the reduced caloric intake in our fasted cardio sessions are used as a way to yield more weight loss throughout the day.
No2: Managing Blood Sugar Levels
When you fast, your body starts to rely more and more on fat than on carbs for energy, encouraging your insulin production to decrease. As for intermittent fasting, this is a great way to reduce insulin resistance, in turn making your body more sensitive to insulin that then translates into more stable blood sugar with fewer spikes and crashes.
Some studies even show a positive effect on blood sugar regulation and insulin sensitivity from exercising on an empty stomach. Of course, if you have diabetes, you should always consult your doctor before diving into a fasted cardio routine.
No3: Increase Fat Burning
And this is it… the reason we’re such big fans of fasted cardio sessions at No1 Bootcamp: fat burning. Yepp. Working out on an empty stomach (usually first thing in the morning) is a great way to increase the relative percentage of fat oxidation, meaning that more of the calories you burn during the workout come from stored body fat. Winning.
You see, when you exercise, your body uses stored fuel for energy. Carbohydrates are stored as glycogen, fat is stored as triglycerides in fat tissue, and protein forms structural proteins in muscle, all of which deplete overnight during your fast. As such, when you get stuck into some fasted cardio, the stored energy used to support your workout comes from oxidizing fat. But here’s the best bit: you may even burn up to 20% more fat when exercising on an empty stomach.
No4: Increase Your Energy
In the same way some people feel depleted and exhausted when they try exercising on an empty stomach, other people actually find they feel way more energised. And because fasted cardio usually takes place first thing in the morning, waking up and (almost immediately) working out on an empty stomach is a great way to jumpstart the day full of endorphins and glowing with sweat, leaving you with an epic feeling all day.
No5: Protects Your Heart
Your heart is pretty important, right? Well, fasting actually helps reduce the risks of heart diseases, such as high cholesterol. In fact, fasting every other day has been proven to seriously reduce a person’s levels of “bad cholesterol” and triglycerides (a type of fat that circulates in your blood) by around 25 and 35 percent, respectively. Then there’s the fact that routine fasters are more than 70% less likely to have heart failure than people who never fast.
No6: See Gains at The Gym
Before you start panicking that fasted workouts will reduce your muscle mass because your body will be relying on stored energy, take a deep breath and revel in the fact your gym performance won’t be affected. In fact, you might find the exact opposite happening given that research shows people who follow an intermittent fasting program tend to see gains in their lean muscle, and an improvement in performance, to go alongside their fat burning results.
No7: Helps Protect From Depression
As a retreat, we don’t just focus on your fitness, we prioritise your wellness too. That’s because working out has a profoundly positive effect on your mental health, and fasting is one of those positives. Thanks to its ability to make feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin and endogenous opioids more available to your brain, we have adopted fasting and calorie restrictions as a way to relieve negative emotions like tension and anger, while also boosting feelings of euphoria.
To put it into scientific terms, those suffering with depression that reduced their daily calorie intake by 25 percent were found to have experienced fewer depressive symptoms over 6 months, without any apparent negative side effects.
No8: Last But Not Least… Live longer
And last but the opposite of least, fasting is known to help cells repair themselves, which is the reason it’s so good at lowering your risk of so many diseases, including numerous metabolic and cardiovascular conditions. Translation: by improving your overall health and reducing your chances of suffering from an illness, fasting might just help you live a longer life.
Does this mean reducing your food intake will mean you live to 100? Well, unfortunately, there are no guarantees. But if studies are anything to go by, a 1982 research looking at rats discovered that rodents who fasted every other day actually aged at a much slower rate and lived a huge 83 percent longer than their rodent friends who didn’t fast. Pretty crazy, right?!
Conclusion: Is Fasting a Good Idea?
Looking at the science, it’s easy to see why fasting is celebrated for its health benefits, from losing weight to regulating your blood sugar, boosting your mental health to just keeping your body in better shape overall. Of course, it's important to understand that it may not be suitable for everyone.
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