Fasting to lose weight is a time honored method of losing a few pounds. There are advantages and disadvantages of this weight loss method, and there are risks you should know before trying it.
The Science of Fasting
Regular fasting yields some of the benefits of permanent caloric restriction, something researchers found extended the life of insects dramatically as long as they received sufficient nutrition.
The founder of the Weight Loss Management Center at the University of Pittsburg Medical Center says that fasting creates the illusion of weight loss, because most of what is lost is fluid. That comes back quickly after you resume eating.
Conversely, Mark P. Mattson at the National Institute on Aging says that fasting generates mild stress that generates the production of proteins that protect the body from even greater stresses. This in turn slowed the cognitive decline of animals in his studies.
Studies of Mormons who regularly fast for 30 hours every month reduced their risk of clogged arteries.
Advantages of Fasting to Lose Weight
The National Institute on Aging found that moderate fasting, either with fewer calories consumed or total fasting, one day a week or so has health benefits for many people. In many people, fasting improved blood sugar control.
Fasting as a weight loss technique is popular because it is so straightforward. There is no debate of what to eat and not to eat, simply don’t eat anything at all. Many fad diets are variations of fasting to lose weight, such as only drinking cabbage soup or no-calorie lemonade.
Fasting is popular in some areas because it is religiously acceptable. Whether fasting for specific holy days or in penance, fasting is far more acceptable for some people than using weight loss pills. Another advantage of fasting for weight loss is the cost; it’s free. And you do not have to pay to join a weight loss association to fast. If you don’t like the side effects, fasting is reversible by simply sitting down and eating a meal. That makes it more attractive than an herbal remedy that could cause heart palpitations until it wears off.
Disadvantages of Fasting to Lose Weight
Fasting will not work as a long term weight loss technique. Dieters need to shift to a lower calorie, higher fiber and more nutritious diet laden with vegetables, fruit and whole grains to maintain weight loss and sustain a healthy weight. Those who rely on regular fasting to lower their average calorie count may not develop the healthy dietary patterns they need to sustain their ideal weight.
Fasting to lose weight can cause people to feel as if they are starving, though one day of food will not kill you. That would actually take ten days or more without food for those of a healthy body weight. However, the sensation of starvation can cause people to overeat the next day, wiping out any gains of the calories burned the prior day.
While diabetics tend to be overweight, fasting is not recommended for those who rely on insulin injections.
You should not engage in heavy exercise or sustained hard work while fasting. Regularly relying on fasting to lose weight may result in a sedentary lifestyle that interferes with the healthy activity levels necessary to burn off unwanted pounds.
Risks of Fasting to Lose Weight
Fasting causes your blood sugar to drop. This can cause fatigue, lightheadedness and irritability. In extreme cases, it can evolve from dizziness to unconsciousness. Fasting for more than a day can cause an altered metabolic state. The body shifts its metabolic gears to burn as little food as possible. It does so even more severely after regular fasting than a severe diet in which someone is still eating food. When this occurs, dieters will gain weight when they return to their prior diet, because the body is now more efficient with its calories. The rest is transformed into fat.
Fasting means that you are not taking in critical nutrients. Fasting should involve at least water to prevent dehydration, which can kill you in a day if you are out in the hot sun. Fasting over a longer term can cause problems for those with iron deficiencies and other problems. Fasting to lose weight is dangerous if you have kidney or liver problems. These organs, when impaired, cannot function properly without enough water and nutrients. Fasting can be dangerous if you are taking medication that requires food. Continuing with the medication without food to dilute it can cause it to be taken into the body too quickly.
Fasting to lose weight is acceptable if it is done occasionally and not to long. Fasting is a fair weight loss method if it doesn’t result in over-eating the next day and doesn’t worsen other health conditions.