How Does Fasting Work? - Kaldzar
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How Does Fasting Work?

Fasting Plate-Scale

How Does Fasting Work?

Fasting is now the most popular dieting trend of 2021. Interest has grown so much, there is now a whole industry developed to support it. But we should not dismiss this as some mere dieting fad. The benefits of fasting are numerous and well-proven. This can be demonstrated by seeking the answers to the common questions “how does fasting work?” and “why should I fast?” Today I’ll provide the necessary information so that you can answer these questions for yourself, and determine the type of fasting that is right for you. As a bonus, I’ll share a link to my Butternut Squash soup… a fasting-inspired recipe that’s perfect for fall.

What is Fasting?

In simple terms, fasting is the willful abstention from consuming food (and sometimes water, too). This has been practiced for centuries as part of religious ceremonies and observances as means to purify the body and mind. However, we’re going to look at it from a physiological standpoint. In this context, “fasting” is the metabolic state achieved after complete digestion and absorption of a meal. Since meals are typically absorbed within 3-5 hours after eating, most of us perform some form of fast each day when we do not eat overnight. Indeed, the term breakfast literally comes from “breaking the fast”. This daily break from eating is important for the metabolic functions of your body. But as you’ll see, the benefits of fasting increase with the duration of refrainment from food.

Why should I fast?

In order to answer the question of why you should fast, it is best to look at the many benefits of fasting. In turn, this will help you understand which of your goals fasting supports. Here is quick run down of fasting benefits:

  • Boosts metabolism and aids in weight loss. Of course you’ll lose weight if you restrict your calorie intake. However, some research shows that short-term fasting may boost metabolism by increasing levels of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which can enhance weight loss. Fasting was also shown to help reduce body weight and visceral fat, all while retaining muscle mass.
  • Increases secretion of Human Growth Hormone. HGH is involved in growth, metabolism, weight loss and muscle strength. Separate studies indicate that fasting for 24 hours or more significantly increases your body’s production of this hormone.
  • Reduces insulin resistance and promotes blood sugar control. Intermittent fasting and alternate-day fasting are effective at limiting insulin resistance. This allows your body to transport glucose from your bloodstream to your cells more efficiently. Short-term intermittent fasting also decreases blood sugar levels. These two effects can help you keep blood sugar levels steady.

Read: More About Insulin Resistance and Ways to Manage It

  • Fights inflammation and increases health. Chronic inflammation has been associated with conditions such as heart disease, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis. Some studies have shown that fasting can help decrease levels of inflammation and help promote better health.
  • Reduces the risks of heart disease. As noted above, the reduced inflammation associated with fasting can help prevent heart disease. In addition, controlled studies demonstrate that fasting improves blood pressure, and lowers triglycerides and cholesterol levels.
  • Boosts brain function and helps prevent neurodegenerative disorders. Because fasting reduces inflammation, it may also help protect against -and improve outcomes for- conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. While these studies are still limited to animals, results are promising. For example, mice practicing intermittent fasting for 11 months improved both brain function and brain structure.
  • Increases longevity. Although the studies are yet only restricted to mice and rats, evidence shows that fasting can increase longevity and survival rates. In one test, rats that fasted every other day experienced a delayed rate of aging and lived 83% longer than rats that didn’t fast.
  • Helps prevent cancer and increases the effectivity of chemotherapy. Certain animal studies indicate that fasting benefits the treatment and prevention of cancer. In fact, one rat study found that alternate-day fasting helped block tumor formation. Similarly, a test-tube study showed that exposing cancer cells to several cycles of fasting was as effective as chemotherapy in delaying tumor growth and increased the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs on cancer formation.

Prolon fasting mimicking diet

Learn How the Scientific Research of All these Benefits Led to the Development of ProLon’s Fasting-Mimicking Diet

So if you are looking to shed a few pounds quickly in order to kickstart a weight loss routine, fasting can help. However, calorie-restricted eating has many bigger benefits that impact your overall health and can help you add healthier years to your life. Note that all of these health benefits of fasting do not occur immediately, nor all at the same time. This next section will give a better idea on how -and when- these positive changes take effect in your body.

Biology of Fasting

To answer the question of “how does fasting work?”, we need to examine our biology. In particular, we need to understand what happens when certain systems and cells go without food for extended periods of time. We’ll refer to this handy benefits of fasting timeline.

Fasting Benefits

After a meal, your body converts carbs to the simple sugar glucose. This flows in your blood stream and serves as your main source of fuel. After approximately 8 hours, the free sugar has been mostly used up. Therefore, your pancreas stops producing insulin since it has no glucose to transport into the cells.

After 12 hours of not eating…

Your digestive system has virtually nothing left to process, so “goes to sleep.” This signals your body to release HGH and begin healing processes. Additionally, since blood sugar is low, glucagon is released and used to convert stored sugar (glycogen) into glucose. This stabilizes blood sugar levels, at least for a while.

Once you hit 14-16 hours of not eating…

Your body realizes that it is not getting the sugar fuel it typically uses. So it kicks off the processes that start running off fat. At about the 18 hour mark, your HGH production increases dramatically, signaling to your body that you are under stress akin to the beginnings of starvation. But this is good thing, because your cells prepare to defend themselves and get rid of waste.

At 24 hours…

Your cells start eliminating the trash that is bogging them down, and recycling the useful molecules in order to become stronger and more efficient. The stored sugar is depleted, and now you begin ketosis (ie, running solely off fat for energy).

From 36-72 hours and a bit beyond…

Autophagy (that cellular house-cleaning and rejuvenation) is in full effect. Your cells are in defense mode, raising your overall immunity and reducing inflammation response.

Learn More About the Benefits of Fasting for 24 Hours and Beyond

How to Fast

As you can see, the impacts of fasting get more dramatic the longer you go without eating. But it is also important to remember: the clock typically resets once you eat anything. So if you want to regulate blood sugar and increase HGH, Intermittent Fasting may be the solution for you. But if you want to maximize your cellular rejuvenation and increase your healthy years, practice periods of Prolonged Fasting.

Intermittent Fasting

Also known as intermittent feeding or intermittent energy restriction, IF is an eating cycle the alternates between periods of fasting and shorter periods of feeding. Notably, it may not involve a reduction of calories consumed, nor of what foods are eaten. Instead, the focus is on the duration of that feeding window. By limiting consumption to roughly 2-10 hours within a day, you can realize the regulation of blood sugar levels, as well as incrementally increased fat-burning and weight-loss. The smaller the window, the higher the purported gains.

Prolonged Fasting

Prolonged fasting (PF) typically refers to abstaining from feeding for 24 hours or longer. This is long enough for your body to begin autophagy. However, since this process stops if you eat, the point of prolonged fasting it to go 3 or more days, if possible. This gives your body time to really clean out the cells and regenerate healthier functioning ones. Doing this periodically is shown to increase fasters’ longevity.

Take a Closer Look at How to Fast Intermittently vs Prolonged

Fasting with Food

Going more than even one day without food can be tough. But as I noted at the very beginning, there is a blooming market for companies trying to support our fasting goals. If you want to reap the rewards of prolonged fasting, but don’t want to starve yourself in the process, try the Fasting-Mimicking Diet from ProLon.

Prolon fasting mimicking diet

This 5-day meal plan allows you to feed, all while letting your body think it is in a completely fasted state. That means that autophagy and ketosis are in full effect by day three, and you get two full days of cellular rejuvenation and extra fat-burning. In turn, this leads to reductions in body and healthier cells, both of which increase overall well-being and add healthier years to your life. Speaking from experience, using this meal kit also enhances your relationship with food. You can expect to have a smaller appetite after the fast, so will eat less. Additionally, cravings for sugar and carbs are usually reduced, and replaced by a greater desire to eat fresh whole foods and vegetables. Even further, sleep, mood, energy levels are generally improved due to the revitalization of cells and metabolic processes.

In addition, ProLon is the only available Fasting Mimicking Diet that:

  • Allows the body to fast while nourished
  • Is pre-clinically and clinically tested to enhance and mimic the metabolic and cellular effect of periodic fasting
  • Allows the body to promote the benefits of fasting without the risks of a water only fast
  • Selectively cuts fat while protecting lean body mass
  • Is the only patented health product to induce healthy aging and cellular regeneration

ProLon has the accolades to back up these claims. They are the only 5-day fasting meal program delivering clinical evidence and patents on longevity, healthspan (years of healthy life) and treatments of chronic diseases. In fact, in July 2018, ProLon FMD achieved the only patent in the world to promote longevity and healthspan.

US 10015980Methods and formulations promoting tissue/organ regeneration, longevity and healthspan10-Jul-18
US 2015/0004280 A1Fasting Condition as Dietary Treatment of Diabetes12-Jul-16
US 9237761 B2Methods & Diets for Lowering Glucose and/or IGF-1 Levels19-Jan-16
US 8865646 B2Dietary Compositions & Methods for Protection Against Chemotherapy, Radiotherapy, Oxidative Stress & Aging21-Oct-14
US 8728815 B2Continuation: Induction of Differential Stress Resistance & Uses Thereof20-May-14
US 8211700 B2Induction of Differential Stress Resistance & Uses Thereof3-Jul-12

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Butternut Squash, Ginger and Quinoa Soup

Speaking of ‘fasting with food’, the recipe in this video below is inspired by one of the soups that is included in the ProLon Fasting-Mimicking Diet meal kit. Each serving is low in calories, but high in fiber and other essential nutrients. This keeps you feeling full and well-fueled, but without blood sugar spikes nor the bogged-down feeling that comes from a big meal. In turn, it is a great meal to help support your weight-loss goals.

Get the full recipe along with health facts about the ingredients!

Frequently Asked Questions About Fasting

We are asked many questions about fasting. Most of these are answered in the information above. But for quick reference, here are some of the most common ones, along with simple answers:

What happens when you fast?

As you can see from all the above, quite a few metabolic activities take place. In general, you should observe blood sugar levels balance out, some weight loss, and increases increases in immune response and cellular cleaning. They all depend on how long you go without food.

Do you lose weight when you fast?

In short, yes. However, doing a very short fast may result in only losing some water weight. Longer fasts can help you shed visceral body fat.

What happens when you intermittent fast?

This usually refers to eating everyday, but limiting eating to approximately a 2-8 hour window. When you do this regularly, you should notice more balanced blood sugar levels (ie, less spikes and crashes). HGH production may also bit a bit higher.

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What happens to your body when you fast for 24 hours?

At this point HGH secretion really ramps ups, so your metabolism increase, which can lead to increased weight loss. Your body is also depleting its stores of glycogen (sugar), so begins ketosis – burning fat for fuel. Moreover, autophagy begins, so your cells are rejuvenating.

What happens if you fast for 3 days?

At this point autophagy is in full swing, and your cells are cleaning out their garbage and becoming more efficient. Your immune system has effectively hit the reset button and put all healthy cells in protection mode, giving your immunity a boost.

What happens if you fast for a week?

Your body is now fully in ketosis, relying on fat stores for energy. Therefore, visceral fat is diminishing. Autophagy is also maxed out. The “trash” has been eliminated or recycled, so the cells of your body are running at full efficiency.

How long can you fast with water?

The average human can go about three weeks without food. This is feasible, but health benefits of fasting this long are not remarkably different than fasting for just 5-7 days. Further, the stress and cravings of going this long without food may prove difficult. I tip my hat to anybody that can live off just water for more than a day. I’d much rather fast with food for 5 days, and still reap all the rewards of fasting.

Bringing It Home

Hopefully all the information above allows you to comfortably answer “How does fasting work?” But more importantly, I hope that it helps you understand how you can implement fasting in your life and reap the rewards. Intermittent fasting is a great way to improve your health while supporting weight loss and muscle building goals on a daily basis. Prolonged fasting can lead to more dramatic impacts, particularly regarding losing visceral fat and increasing longevity. Luckily, there are smart researchers -and products and recipes- out there that can help you harness these benefits without actually having to starve yourself.

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Dave Hughes

Editor and Contributing Author at Kaldzar

Certified Biologist and Data Scientist
Constantly curious; Curiously compassionate

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