Probably, everyone has heard at least once about the benefits and harms of fasting. Or maybe someone himself practiced refusing to eat until he found himself at night at an open refrigerator. But you most likely broke down not because you could no longer live without food, but because you didn’t fully understand why you needed it? And is it really necessary? And is it definitely not harmful? There are too many questions and misconceptions around the topic of fasting.
In search of answers, we talked with the owner of the clinic of therapeutic fasting based on evidence-based medicine, Olesya Zhurkevich. She dispelled the most popular myths, told how fasting affects the human body, what its benefits are and how to do it safely for health.
7 fears that we hear most often
“I can’t”One word “hunger” scares the propagators of this myth.
“I can’t stand a day without food. I’ll faint right away. I’m already falling. From such thoughts,” they say. However, there is such an amazing fact in history: Angus Barbieri in 1966 lived without food for 382 days. We do not recommend repeating it, but this only proves that we tend to greatly underestimate our capabilities. Our body naturally has all the necessary resources to usefully go through a period of fasting. Only it needs to be done correctly, which we will tell you about later.
This can be dangerous if there are contraindications. As in any therapeutic effect. If there are none, then when fasting you go through the physiological stages that are inherent in a person by nature. Even in the time of Pythagoras, fasting was used to treat various diseases.
“After fasting, you gain weight”This is not a consequence of starvation.
It can take from 500 grams to 1 kilogram per day, so a fairly large weight loss comes out in a few days and it will be possible to gain it after only with chaotic eating behavior. But if you change your habits and add physical activity, the return of lost kilograms is impossible.
“Starving is harmful”
Everything indicates the opposite. With any malaise, the animals go hungry. And you and I, when we feel bad, often lose our appetite. The fact is that this is an instinctive and safe way to adjust the work of the body. Fasting is not only good for health, but also improves brain activity, which is confirmed by research by the National Institute on Aging (USA).
“I won’t be able to work”It all depends on the stage of fasting.
When the body is already adapting, people, on the contrary, feel a surge of strength and can live in the usual rhythm. Therefore, it is better to plan the beginning of fasting for the weekend. Of course, the ideal way to take care of yourself and your health is to take a vacation.
“Muscle mass is being lost”This myth was tested in the clinic by an experiment in which athletes (Olympians, Paralympians, marathon runners, skiers, bodybuilders) participated.
As a result of the experiment, it was found that muscle mass is not lost during fasting. During the period of refusal to eat, the body first consumes carbohydrates, then fats, and only then proteins, which make up the muscles. Therefore, the loss of muscle tissue is possible, but it begins only when fasting for more than 30 days.
“Experience is needed”
It is needed to go on a long fast. If you are trying to refuse food for the first time, we recommend choosing a short race in which experience is not so important. You can also start with fasting days. For example, employees and many clients of the clinic live 36 hours every Thursday only on the water.
What can giving up food for a few days give the body?
There are many myths around fasting. Now let’s figure out what the reality of this process is.
The University of Southern California conducted a study for six months in which participants were asked to regularly fast for two to four days. As a result of the experiment, the immunity of the participants improved significantly, and the body of each of them began to produce more Protein Kinase A (it is believed that due to the lack of this protein, cancerous tumors may appear).
The meaning of fasting is that without food, the body switches to internal nutrition, and it has to take energy for life from existing reserves. Physiologically, this is considered the norm. This is how conditions are created for the restoration of impaired body functions, for purification and elimination of toxins, for rejuvenation processes. For this reason, fasting is often effective when other methods have proved powerless.
Among the results of the impact of hunger, it is noted that many people:
improves skin tone,
pulse and breathing become rhythmic,
improves performance and mood,
the microflora of the gastrointestinal tract improves,
digestive disorders are eliminated,
body weight decreases,
the volume of the stomach decreases and the eating behavior changes,
the hemoglobin level is normalized,
immunity is restored,
blood circulation in the vessels improves and their purification from atherosclerotic plaques occurs,
there is confidence in their abilities and in the inexhaustibility of the body’s resources.
There are known facts of restoration of reproductive function and cure of infertility.
All these changes occur because the body rests after fasting, reboots, starts living anew and starts all processes with new capabilities. Even three or four days are enough to feel the changes in yourself.
What stages does the body go through when refusing food?
In order for all the “miracles” listed above (after all, many definitely thought so) to become possible, fasting needs to be approached correctly.
Let’s take a closer look at what stages the body goes through when refusing food:
Stage 1. PreparatoryAt this step, the main thing is to realize your personal motivation, tune in psychologically, and also give up fatty and protein dishes, alcohol and cigarettes.
Stage 2. The actual unloading period
At this stage, a person consumes only water based on body weight, as a result of which internal (endogenous) nutrition is turned on.
On the first day, the body consumes carbohydrate reserves, on the second, fat burning begins with the formation of ketone bodies. Because of this, dizziness, weakness, nausea or changes in the rhythm of heart contractions often appear. Such symptoms can be observed up to the seventh or ninth day, depending on the individual characteristics of the body, metabolism and the presence of chronic pathologies.
After a period of ketoacidosis, the condition improves, the body switches to an economical mode of functioning, the symptoms and manifestations of chronic diseases decrease.
Stage 3. Recovery periodThis is the time to get out of starvation and gradually introduce food into your diet.
You should start with small volumes. Without salt, sugar and additives. Only natural taste. The portion of the dish and the assortment are increasing every day.
How to approach the practice of fasting correctly so that it only benefits?
It is important to understand that fasting is useful only in the absence of contraindications. Before practice, we recommend collecting an anamnesis on the presence or absence of chronic diseases, undergoing an examination and consulting with a specialist in fasting and dietary therapy.
Don’t hurt yourself
If you decide to go into the practice of refusing to eat on your own, we recommend that you only come in for up to four days. It’s safer this way, because during this period the body still does not have time to fully include all the stages of fasting, and a kind of unloading (detox) occurs. However, remember that each of us has its own characteristics and reserve capabilities. Therefore, the number of days that your body can withstand depends on many factors: age, gender, temperament, metabolic processes, the presence of concomitant pathology. A person who has been trained and has repeatedly practiced before can starve on his own for up to 10-14 days.
Important: Listen carefully to your body to feel when you need to stop. Obvious reasons for stopping fasting: a change in heart rate, vomiting, incessant nausea, severe weakness, unbearable headaches, sleep disturbance.
Under control is safer
It is always better to practice fasting under the supervision of specialists. Especially for the first time. So that in case of changes that you will not be mentally ready for, the doctor will check your condition and explain what is happening to the body. Thus, he controlled, calmed down and provided support.
That’s how he thanks us
The pace of modern life is only increasing. Every day we try to catch up everywhere. We work, we hurry, we worry, then we eat up the experiences and again we hurry somewhere. In such a frenzied rhythm, the body has been serving us for years and works, as a rule, on wear and tear. But one day suddenly begins to periodically fail in the form of diseases. So that we notice him. They noticed themselves. Our body needs support and breaks. The practice of fasting just gives him this opportunity to exhale and restore his physiological resources. And as a result, as if in gratitude, the processes of self-healing are also launched. The body is cleansed, rejuvenated, rebooted and refilled with strength for your new achievements.
entrepreneur, CEO and owner of the clinic of therapeutic fasting based on evidence-based medicine, “Ulutai”.
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