Fasting has been around since the dawn of time: our ancestors never knew when they could count on their next meal, and often went through periods of starvation. As a result, our bodies have not only evolved to survive this stressor, but to actually recharge, heal and thrive during this time. We teamed up with Registered Dietitian Robyn Johnson to discuss the basics of fasting—so if you missed it, here’s a recap!
While fasting sounds like such a simple concept—don’t eat—it’s actually quite complex and very individualized to the person. In its most basic understanding, fasting works by switching your body’s fuel from glucose (sugar) to ketones (fat). Usually, your body likes to use glucose as its main source of energy (I’m looking at you, morning donut). But in a fasted state, your body will use up stored glucose, known as glycogen, from the muscles and liver. Once that’s used up, your body will start to use stored body fat as fuel and energy. In a fat burning state, your body is detoxifying, releasing endorphins and even losing weight!
There are a many different ways to fast, and not everyone does well on the same kind of fast—so it might take some experimenting to find what works for you:
Intermittent Fasting: during intermittent fasting, the window in which you eat is shortened. For example, someone might choose to eat only between 12pm and 5pm on fasting days, extending their nightlong fast into that morning.
Alternate-Day Fasting: also known as the 5:2 Fast Diet, this type of fasting is when 5 days a week you eat normally, and two days a week you eat a lower calorie die, about 500-600 calories.
Extended Fasting: during an extended fast no food—with the exception of water, and maybe a healthy fat, like coconut oil—is consumed throughout the duration of the fast, which can often last days. It may also be wise to prep your body for an extended fast by slowly decreasing the intake of carbohydrates and increase your intake of fat, over a one to two week period. During an extended fast, it’s also crucial to drink lots of water to stay hydrated. Tip: Add Himalayan salt to your body to boost your electrolytes!
More and more research is emerging to back up the health benefits of fasting. Research done by Dr. Valter Longo found that fasting for an extended period (2-4 days) may help regenerate immune cells; while a 2011 study found that 24 hour water fast helped to reduce the risk of diabetes in high risk individuals. While there’s still a lot of research to be done, what has come out is very promising. Ultimately, there are lot of benefits that come from restricting your intake of carbohydrates, fueling your body of fat, and allowing your digestive system time to rest.
Here are some our favorites:
Increased metabolism and weight loss over the long-term
Improved blood pressure and cholesterol levels
Better digestion and gut health
Decrease in precancerous cells
Better insulin sensitivity + lowered risk of diabetes
Who Shouldn’t Fast?
While the benefits are many, and there’s a lot to be gained from going through planned periods without eating, fasting is not for you if you:
Have a low BMI/ are underweight
Are pregnant or nursing
Are fasting solely as a weight loss tool
Have a history of disordered eating
So how about it: are you ready to give your morning oatmeal the slip tomorrow? Let
us know in the comments. And while you’re at it, let us know what other burning
health questions you’ve got—we love to answer them!
If you want to learn more about how to get started with fasting, or if you want to
work one-on- one with Robyn to get an individualized program, you can find her at
-Simple Sciences Juices is an organic juice bar with locations in Omaha, Nebraska;
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