For this installment of our fasting series, we will talk about some other proven benefits of fasting. Up first, the digestive system.
Millions of people suffer from some sort of digestive system issue. When we give our digestive system a rest period, we allow it to recover which combats symptoms consistent with irritable bowel syndrome, etc. “Fasting appears to have a positive influence on gut health.”
(1) Fasting also seems to have a better effect on weight loss and other issues even better than if we were to reduce our daily calories and eat every 2 hours. “In humans, intermittent-fasting interventions ameliorate obesity, insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, hypertension, and inflammation. Intermittent fasting seems to confer health benefits to a greater extent than can be attributed just to a reduction in caloric intake.”(2) Not only is it better for your gut to not eat constantly, but it also appears that fasting actually allows for greater results
But what about athletic performance? Depends on the type of fast you partake in. If it is several day fast, your performance may suffer some because you are not used to having fasted that long. But intermittent fasting is a great way to keep a balance, while still being able to perform athletically. Also, note that many attribute fatigue and a drop in performance because they eat less during the days they do intermittent fasting. Thus consuming less energy.
When one first starts fasting on a regular basis, their performance may decline slightly. But as you are accustomed to exercising in the fasted state, your body becomes efficient at burning fat for energy. Hormonally, fasting can aid in energy production and muscle building. “Over a five-day fasting period growth hormone secretion more than doubled.”(3) Growth hormone is key in muscle preservation and building. This could help immensely in the building of muscle if the fast is done at the right times. The real key here is to fast for your goals, so for most of us simply trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle of gaining lean muscle, intermittent fasting can help. If you are one that has a hard time gaining weight and may even be underweight, fasting is not necessarily the way to gain the amount of bodyweight you need. But if you are trying to lose fat while maintaining muscle, fasting could be perfect.
What about cognitive abilities? Well, have you ever eaten a big lunch and then tried to get some work done right after? If you like most of us, it’s easier to nap afterward than be productive. The digestive system demands an enormous amount of blood flow and energy to break down our food. It diverts this energy away from other areas in the body in order to function efficiently. We tend to lose focus after a meal because our body diverts energy away from our brain and down to the digestive system. Fasting can enable us to have a better focus by allowing us to divert all of the blood flow we need to our brain.
“Dr. Geyelin was the first to document the cognitive improvement that could occur with fasting.”(4) The body’s level of focus and cognitive ability is greatly affected by what we eat. You will likely feel more energized and alert after a lunch of chicken breast and veggies rather than mac n’ cheese with a soda.
Key Takeaways: Fasting can be helpful for digestive health, muscle preservation, and cognitive ability.
- Patterson1, R. (2017). Metabolic Effects of Intermittent Fasting. Retrieved June 09, 2020, fromhttps://www.annualreviews.org/doi/10.1146/annurev-nutr-071816-064634
- Cabo, R. D., & Mattson, M. P. (2019). Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Health, Aging, and Disease. New England Journal of Medicine, 381(26), 2541-2551. doi:10.1056/nejmra1905136
- Fung, J. (2017, October 29). Fasting Physiology – Part II. Retrieved June 07, 2020, from https://thefastingmethod.com/fasting-physiology-part-ii/
- Wheless, J.W. (2008), History of the ketogenic diet. Epilepsia, 49: 3-5. doi:10.1111/j.1528-1167.2008.01821.x
Ashton Tate is the founder of Glory to Glory Fitness in Franklin, TN. His passion is helping leaders use their health as an asset to do all that God has called them to in every season.