Fasting is quickly gaining traction as the latest health craze. Users sing its praises as the best way to maintain a healthy weight, promote heart health, decrease risks of diseases, encourage healthy aging, and the list goes on.
While it’s been around for thousands of years, it’s no secret that fasting is making a comeback. There are even new and improved versions of the health trend to choose from, tailoring the perfect method to fit an individual’s specific needs and lifestyle.
Which then begs the question: which method of fasting is right for me? This can lead to confusion and frustration for would-be fasters, considering the sheer number of variations floating around these days.
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This is the very reason we have compiled this list for you: an overview of three popular 24-hour fasting methods — complete with the benefits they offer — to help you on your way. Read on to find out if one of these fasting approaches might be the one for you.
Alternate Day Fasting (ADF)
Alternate Day Fasting, or ADF, is a version of intermittent fasting. In this particular approach, people fast every other day, and eat as normal on their eating days. A common variation of this is to allow up to 500 calories on fasting days, or about 25% of the normal energy requirement based on an average 2,000 calorie daily intake.
This allows participants to keep their energy levels maintained, curb the intense hunger that will likely come with fasting, and keep their hydration and electrolyte levels in a healthy range.
Pros of Alternate Day Fasting
Reduces Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 Diabetes is the most common form in the US, accounting for about 90% of cases. And that’s surprising because we largely know how to prevent Type 2 Diabetes. Alternate Day Fasting restricts calorie intake, which results in weight loss or maintaining a healthy weight. This, in turn, reduces the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.
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Promotes Heart Health
Heart Disease is the planet’s leading cause of death, but again, it’s preventable. Alternate Day fasting can play a part in reducing the risk of heart disease by contributing to lower “bad” cholesterol levels (or LDL’s), keeping blood pressure levels in a healthy range, and making it easier to maintain a healthy weight.
Autophagy is the process in which old cells are removed and recycled, which plays a part in promoting longevity. Not only this, but Autophagy has been credited with other health benefits such as the prevention of neurodegeneration (loss of structure/function of neurons), as well as certain diseases and infections.
Eat – Stop – Eat Fasting
Eat Stop Eat fasting is an intermittent fasting approach that was developed by Brad Pilon, author of the book Eat Stop Eat. The basic principle is quite simple: you fast for 24 hours one or more times a week, eating a meal before you begin your 24-hour fast.
This approach is less strict than other fasting methods, as it allows the participant to choose how many days they’ll fast. The only rule on timing is to wait at least two days between 24 hour fasting periods. Besides that, it’s an individual choice.
Pros of Eat Stop Eat Fasting:
While the body predominantly uses carbohydrates as its source for glucose production, fasting can promote a Ketogenic state. What this means, is when there are no calories for the body to burn, it starts burning through its fat stores for energy production. Doing this regularly (and carefully) can increase the body’s metabolism, helping to maintain a healthy weight long term.
Promotes Healthy Weight
Eat Stop Eat restricts your calories for 24 hours at a time, resulting in what’s known as a caloric deficit. When done properly and regularly, participants will start to burn more calories than they consume, which is a key element of maintaining a healthy body weight.
May Reduce Inflammation
In his book, Eat Stop Eat, Brad Pilon makes a point that this approach to fasting may help to reduce inflammation in the body. Based on the principle that eating less and moving more in general gives the body a chance to return to homeostasis (or balance), this form of fasting may do just that when done regularly and properly.
5:2 is yet another form of fasting, in which the participant fasts for two days of the week and eats normally for the other five. There are two versions of this: Consecutive 5:2 Fasting and Modified 5:2 Fasting.
In the consecutive version, the subject fasts for two days back-to-back, with little to no caloric intake (save for their hydration, of course). This is an extreme version and is not recommended for beginners, but those who use it proudly tout its benefits.
In the modified version (the most commonly used), the faster can choose which days of the week they want to restrict their calories. This version is more relaxed, as it allows consumption of up to 25% of normal caloric intake on fasting days.
Pros of 5:2 Fasting
More Flexibility than Other Methods
Because there are two versions of this approach to fasting, it gives the faster more flexibility to fast in the way that works best for them. Whether they choose the modified or consecutive version, it will add to their benefit simply because they can tailor it to fit their specific needs.
Increased Human Growth Hormone in Consecutive Version
Though the consecutive 5:2 method is more extreme, it can be a great way to boost longevity, healing, and healthy aging. A study performed on healthy men while fasting discovered that the subjects’ HGH increased up to 400% over the 48-hour fasting period, leaving reason to believe that this form of fasting can be beneficial in various ways when done correctly.
Psychological Benefits in Modified Version
Restricting calories is hard, and not only physically. Even when well aware that fasting is beneficial in the long run, the mental aspect of depriving oneself of nourishment can be even more difficult to handle than the empty feeling in the stomach. Eating something every day, even if it’s only a few hundred calories, can help to alleviate the feeling of deprivation and in turn, the negative psychological effects can be mitigated.
The negative attributes of fasting are similar in nature, no matter which version is used. Therefore, the list below is generalized for all three methods of fasting we’ve discussed here.
Cons of Fasting (General)
Fasting is not for Everyone
Fasting can be a great way to boost overall health, but for some it’s not as safe as it is for others. Pregnant women and children are obviously not candidates for fasting, and neither are diabetes patients. Those on blood pressure or heart disease medication should avoid it as well, due to the possible electrolyte imbalances that may come along with the fasting process.
High Drop Out Rate
It’s human nature to eat when we feel hungry, and for some, the restrictive nature of fasting is just too difficult. There is nothing wrong with this; fasting isn’t for everyone. However, the feeling of disappointment and failure when not completing a fast can lead to unhealthy behaviors, such as binge eating and eating foods that create the opposite of the desired effect.
Due to the low energy intake, being deprived of calories can have negative psychological effects; especially for those already prone to such conditions as anxiety or depression. Feeling down or irritable is a common side effect of fasting, though it can be helped through such practices as exercise and meditation, or through counseling. Modified fasting approaches are also helpful in avoiding these issues.
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Whether you decide fasting is for you is a personal choice, and it can be a difficult one. Thankfully, there are multiple variations, making it easier to incorporate fasting into almost everyone’s lifestyle.
These three methods are a great starting point for even the most inexperienced faster, so we hope you’ve gained the knowledge you need from this overview. Happy fasting!
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