What is fasting, how does it affect your body and why should (or shouldn’t) you give it a try.
For the last 5-10 years, when I talk about wanting to lose weight, the primary response I get is, “Have you tried intermittent fasting?”
At first, just hearing the word “fasting” turned my thoughts to….ummmm, no way! That is not for me. I like food WAAAAAY too much to voluntarily go without it.
Skipping ahead to baby #4 at age 42 and despite every single exercise regimen and salad concoction I tried, I just couldn’t reduce my weight. I was desperate and willing to do just about anything. So when a friend told me about her success with a shake diet, I decided to give it a try. As part of that diet, they “strongly recommended” a 36-hour fast once a week. I have to admit, I gave up after 4 painful, lackluster times. I just couldn’t do it! So I modified it to a doable 24-hour fast once a week. The good news is that I was able to lose about 40 lbs and have never looked back. I’m stoked.
Now, 3 years later and my sister is actively wanting to lose weight. I mentioned to her about recent data showing there are actual health benefits to fasting, specifically 36 hours and above and she decided to give it a shot. Eight days in and two 36-hour fasts later and she’s down a solid eight pounds. Not bad!
But it got me thinking, instead of just focusing on weight loss, what else does fasting do?
From what I have found, there are 4 general stages of fasting:
1/ Fed State (0-4 hours)
2/ Early Fasting State (4-18 hours of fasting)
- Your body starts to secret glucagon, which helps the blood sugars to not dip too low and the body begins using glycogen—a form of glucose that’s stored in the liver—as an alternative source of energy
3/ Fasting State (18-48 hours of fasting)
- At this stage, glycogen stores have been maxed out and therefore your body starts breaking down stored fats (aka triglycerides) and proteins and converting them into energy. This is also known as ketosis.
4/ Long Term Fasting State (48+ hours of fasting)
- Insulin levels continue to drop and ketones levels continue to increase. 48+ hour fasts are also known as “starvation fasts” and should be medically supervised. That said, one 2019 study showed that prolonged fasts ranging from 4 to 21 days caused a reduction in blood sugar, body weight, blood pressure, and belly fat, along with decreased hunger and improved feelings of physical and emotional well-being.
That said, here are the skin-related benefits of fasting that I found:
- Triggers Autophagy:
- Autophagy is a detox process your body undergoes to clean out damaged cells and regenerate new ones. The protein that is produced to trigger autophagy has been shown to not only repair damaged cells within the body, specifically in the liver and kidneys, but also to improve human lifespan. Autophagy has been shown to improve brain function, blood sugar regulation and skin appearance.
- Reduces blood glucose levels:
- High blood glucose levels can negatively affect your skin by reducing the amount of collagen that is produced and causing a dry appearance. Therefore, by fasting you will have a plumper visage (thanks collagen) and a dewier complexion.
- Reduces inflammation:
- If you have read pretty much any other blog post we have posted, you know that a large part of skin conditions (and pretty much every other malady in the world) specifically acne, is aggravated by some sort of inflammation in your body. By giving your body and gut time to process the food that you consume, your overall inflammation will decrease and therefore, it makes sense that skin conditions would subsequently improve as well.
- Improves gut health:
- By allowing your gut time to process the food you consume, it can properly digest the nutrients (vitamins and minerals) in that food as well as restore the good bacteria your gut needs in order to function properly.
- Reduces stress on the body:
- When you consume food, your body goes into overdrive to process and breakdown that food. That causes a lot of stress on a lot of different organs. Therefore, it makes sense that in the absence of food, your body has less to do and therefore, is undergoing less stress. And as we all know – stress can cause breakouts so less stress equates to less acne breakouts!
- Results in better sleep:
- Sleep is when your body goes into serious repair work. Have you ever heard us ask you how much sleep you are getting? Studies have shown the fewer hours of quality sleep you have, the more likely you are to have frequent acne breakouts. Some say when you go to bed with food in your stomach, your body decides to digest the food rather than do the other repair work that it could be doing, like fighting inflammation in the body. Digestion is a hard process and therefore, your body never has the chance to fully relax during sleep, causing poor sleep quality and waking up tired.
Here is a breakdown, hour by hour, of what happens during fasting:
0-4 hours (Fed State)
- Blood glucose levels increase
- Hormone levels (which control hunger feeling and full feeling) shift
- Blood sugars fall
- All food has left the stomach
- Insulin is no longer produced
- Food consumed has been burned
- Digestive system goes to sleep
- Body begins healing process
- Human Growth Hormone begins to increase
- Glucagon is released to balance blood sugars
- Body has converted to using stored fat as energy
- Human Growth Hormone starts to increase dramatically
- Body starts to ramp up the fat burning
- Human Growth Hormone starts to skyrocket
- Autophagy begins
- Drains all glycogen stores
- Ketones are released into the blood stream
- Autophagy increase 300%
48 hours (under medical supervision)
- Autophagy increases 30% more
- Immune system reset and regeneration
- Increased reduction in inflammation response
72 hours (under medical supervision)
- Autophagy maxes out
So what is the net-net of this blog post? I am not sure. I think everyone will read it and take away the bits and pieces that work best for them. I find it fascinating that in the absence of food, your body seemingly grows stronger and healthier. This is, I assure you, a rabbit hole of information if you ever start to look into it yourself, and gleaning the correct information that works for you could not only take a while but be completely overwhelming. I know for myself, having gone for roughly 38 hours once, voluntarily without food, I was not only impressed with myself and my fortitude but I was quakingly hungry. And while I was happy to have accomplished it, I am not sure it will be something I do ever again. That said, I have been doing 24 hour fasts weekly (every Monday – what a way to start a week!) and have honestly not minded them at all…. my body seems tighter, my mind clearer.
What did you take away from this information? Do you think you would ever do a fast? We would love to know what you all think about this idea. Is it a fad or is it real science?
Tell us what you think!