Eating three or more meals a day is not a necessity for the body. It was never out of a biological need and was invented out of culture. In fact, until the advent of agriculture eating 3 meals a day and in some cases even eating everyday was a near impossibility.
When you keep fuelling your body every couple of hours throughout the day, you are constantly having insulin present in your blood. Insulin helps to use blood glucose for energy and store excess into muscles, fat cells and liver for later use. Presence of Insulin means the body is in a fed state. Insulin does not allow the body to tap on body fat for energy. The hormone that helps the body to tap on its fat storage is unable to do so in the presence of Insulin. Therefore getting stuck in the loop of wanting to eat or snack every couple of hours that your blood sugar drops, makes it impossible for the body to burn fat for energy.
Not eating for 10 to 12 hours is typically when you enter a fasted state. Fasting is the controlled voluntary abstinence of food. In a fasted state, the body begins to deplete itself of its glycogen reserves and the Insulin levels begin to drop. Body switches its fuel source from the food source available, to the stored food source already present – your body fat.
In a fasted state the liver works to turn body fat into ketones. These ketones are then released into the bloodstream. Ketones are a type of acid. In the absence of readily available glucose, the body uses these ketones as fuel for energy. So in a fasted state the body is running on its fat reserves for energy. Fasting has many amazing health benefits.
Some of the Health Benefits of Fasting:
- Reduces sugar levels in the blood and helps reduce Insulin resistance
- Increases Insulin sensitivity and allows body to use Insulin more effectively
- Facilitates the fat burning process
- Can help reduce inflammations in the body
- Can contribute in lowering blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol levels
- Can help reduce body weight and body fat
- The gut gets rest which promotes gut health
- Improves metabolism
- Increases resistance to stress
- Increases growth hormone which is an anti ageing hormone
- Helps in recycling old damaged cellular proteins present in the body and renew the tissue.
- Slows down the ageing process and increases lifespan.
- Improves cardiovascular function
- Promotes growth of new neurons in the brain
- Fasting is also linked with prevention of neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
Whatever your preferred eating schedule, it can be beneficial to try and stretch out the time between meals. This will give your body a chance to burn fat. It is common to feel hunger pangs occasionally in a fasted state. But these hunger pangs usually come and go as a wave and are not continuously rising. So if you’re hungry and don’t eat, in an hour or two you will realise you are not hungry anymore.
Try giving your body a break and eat when you actually need to and not when the clock says you should. Drinking enough water throughout the day is essential for maintaining everyday health, whether a person is eating or not. When breaking your fast, it is important to ensure your meals are nutrient dense rather than calorie dense. Make sure you are getting your needed dose of minerals, vitamins and salt. It is also important to avoid eating close to bedtime.
Starving vs Fasting:
Starving is involuntary. It is usually due to lack of availability of food or delayed intake due to stress or disease. If it is self induced it could be because of an eating disorder. In a starvation mode, the body has gone without food for days. It leads to a severe deficiency in caloric energy intake that is needed to maintain life. Cells of your body fail to get enough energy to perform basic bodily functions. This is because the body has depleted itself of its glycogen and fat reserves. The body is therefore forced to break down vital tissues such as muscles and organs to use as fuel for energy. This is unhealthy since the body is devoid of all the nutrients needed for functioning.
Fasting is planned and specific. It is voluntary and you are adequately nourished beforehand. It is usually done anywhere between 12 to 48 hours. Recommended fasting periods is commonly between 14 to 24 hours. It may be done for health benefits, weight loss or even for religious reasons. Whatever the reason, fasting when done properly, is something that your metabolism will thank you for!
Important Note: When coupled with a Nutritious Diet and Healthy Lifestyle, incorporating fasting into your routine could give you excellent Health Benefits. However, fasting is not recommended for children as they are in periods of rapid growth. It is also not advisable for underweight people, pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding, people with very low body fat, people with eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia. Fasting without medical supervision should not be done by older adults, adolescents and people with Diabetes.