Fasting is nothing new, says Marla Ahlgrimm. Our ancient ancestors fasted frequently, even if it wasn’t by choice. Because our bodies have evolved to go long times without food, they have developed an amazing mechanism to utilize what they’ve got and to recycle damaged cellular material.
How Our Ancestors Fasted
Before modern times, food was scarce. Our ancestors did not have access to grocery stores, and they primarily hunted and foraged for their own food. Sometimes, they may have gone days without any nutrition at all. Marla Ahlgrimm says this triggered an evolutionary protection that allowed the body to utilize stored components to maintain health. We can use this today to reverse some of the issues caused by free access to food 24 hours per day.
But Is It Healthy?
According to women’s health expert and retired pharmacist Marla Ahlgrimm, fasting can be healthy when done correctly and under the guidance and care of a trained healthcare or nutrition professional.
Science Backs It Up
There have been countless research studies done on the potential benefits of fasting in humans, says Marla Ahlgrimm. The vast majority of these have shown great promise. Most researchers have come to the same conclusion that fasting works to cleanse the body of toxic materials. Further, Marla Ahlgrimm says that fasting creates what’s called a metabolic switch, which is where the body uses fat instead of sugar for energy.
When a person enters into a fasting state, their bodies don’t have the glucose typically needed for sustained energy. Instead, the cells begin to produce their own sugar in a process known as gluconeogenesis. Marla Ahlgrimm says the liver then gets involved by converting non-carbohydrates (think fat, amino acids, lactate) into energy.
For people looking to lose weight, fasting can trigger ketosis. Ketosis is when the body utilizes stored fat for energy. In addition to weight loss, Marla Ahlgrimm says that frequently allowing the body to go into ketosis may also reduce blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.
Some Stress Is Good Stress
While nobody likes to be under stress, Marla Ahlgrimm says that fasting creates a mild and healthy stress level that triggers cellular adaptation. Cells become stronger during fasting, but breaks are necessary for rest and recovery.
Types Of Fasting
There are three primary fasting styles. According to Marla Ahlgrimm, these are time-restricted feeding, intermittent calorie reduction, and fasting mimicking diets.
Time-restricted feeding is the most common type of fasting, and Marla Ahlgrimm says it’s usually the easiest to stick to. This is when a person eats for a specific amount of hours each day. The most common is an 8:16 fast, where eating is allowed for eight hours with 16 hours of fasting. The majority of the fast takes place overnight.
Marla Ahlgrimm explains that intermittent calorie restriction is essentially slashing a diet two days each week. Periodic fasting may be paired with fast-mimicking diets. This essentially reduces calories to 1000 per day or less and is paired with reduced carbohydrates to trigger ketosis.
Fasting is not for everybody. However, those that can participate in a fast under their doctor’s care may experience weight loss, boosted cognition, reduced systemic inflammation, improved fitness, and protection from obesity. Further, research suggests that fasting during the early days of chemotherapy can jump start the healing process in certain cancer patients. Marla Ahlgrimm says it is believed that by ridding the body of toxic cells, chemotherapy is more effective.
Marla Ahlgrimm notes that there are many benefits associated with fasting. However, it’s important to understand how and when it works. She recommends that anyone interested in losing weight first talk to their healthcare provider and do their research before beginning any type of diet.