I have to admit, when I first heard of people fasting for fitness-related reasons, especially weight-loss, I thought it was a horrible idea. That’s because I know that lifestyle change and sustainable habits are the best strategies for long term fitness.
But, I eventually had to face the fact that there are exceptions to that. Sometimes, people need things to jumpstart them. Or to help them take the next step toward that goal. Fasting can be that for some people.
There are a few benefits of fasting, and I’d like to go over those here:
- Fasting can help people better control their caloric intake. Energy balance, calories in vs calories out, is truly the key to reaching fitness goals. But some people struggle more than most with overeating. This is often because of long days and high-calorie foods. Intermittent fasting can help with this. If you only allow yourself 8 hours per day, or even 6 hours, in which you can eat, well, then you can eat a lot more during that time because you aren’t spreading it out over a typical 12-plus hour period that most of us operate within. I want to note here that this works very well for some people, and not so well for others. I, personally, hate fasting. When I go for more than 8 or so hours without eating, I feel lightheaded and strange. I use words in weird places and snap at people. But, some people feel energized and free. Studies have shown no real difference in terms of weight loss between people who fast and people who follow a more traditional eating plan. It really all comes down to what you prefer. That said, there is one other thing to be considered.
- Fasting does have some physiological benefits. There is a process known as “autophagy” that has to do with destruction of cells in the body.This process has to do with maintaining muscle, and also with some anti-aging processes. Fasting also has been linked to reducing inflammation, improving levels of growth hormone, and more. (Source: Muscleforlife.com)
What it really comes down to is what you like and what you are willing to try. Fasting does have some benefits, and I’d recommend giving it a try and seeing whether you like it. If you do, go with it! If you don’t, don’t force it. Do what works for you.