Intermittent fasting and prolonged fasting are the buzz words. Fasting is a proven way to treat insulin resistance and lose weight. Combined with keto, fasting reverses metabolic syndrome. Let us examine each benefit briefly.
Oxidative stress and free radicals
Food we eat is used to produced energy. Each cell in our body is a power generator. Glucose and Oxygen is used up in a process called Oxidative phosphorylation to generate energy. This process is also called electron transport chain because of electrons travelling inside the mitochondria. During this process there is a chance that a free electron might escape a cell and this becomes a free radical which can destroy your cellular tissues and membranes. Body has a defence mechanism to take care of these free radicals in the form of anti oxidants.
During fasting the blood sugar levels reach the lowest. That time the body starts burning fat as well as burning glucose. Fat burning or ketosis produces ketones which are used as energy source by the body as well as the brain. Ketones are known to clear up free radicals faster.
After 20 hours of fasting when the glycogen reserves in the body are completely used up, the body starts looking for alternate sources of energy. So the body cells look inside for dead and junk protein and the clean up process starts. The onset of autophagy can be felt in the form of bad breath. If you have excess body fat then autophagy might come in a little late.
This is also manifested in an extra boost of energy once the junk proteins enter the blood and you will suddenly feel like going out and running.
Extra energy released
Another way of getting extra energy is understanding the part that around 60% of the energy produced by the body is used in digestion. So if you are not eating anything, all that energy is available for other purposes. People like Socrates and Pythagoras used this extra energy to solve problems.
Transition from sugar burning to fat burning
Modern lifestyle has forced us to eat every two to three hours and depend on glucose for energy. Our ancestors however were pretty healthy with eating one meal a day. They were powerful hunters living in caves. While fasting, a time comes when glucose levels in the blood get low and the body is forced into fat burning.
Fasting helps you to attain this metabolic switch.
The other way to burn fat is all those exercises and huffing and puffing. But if you are the person who hates the gym or cannot do it due to age or health related issues, fasting is the way out.
Energy burst during fasting when you are able to achieve metabolic switch
During your early days of fasting, you will feel quite low when the blood sugar levels drop. Your body will resist and fight before burning fat. That is because, the body is a reservoir and it thinks that body fat is a reserve. In a number of ways it is a reserve, in fact.
But once the sugar level is low, the body does not have any choice but to start fat burning. When this metabolic switch happens, there is another burst of energy released. You will be raring to go and flush with excitement. Metabolic switch happens somewhere around 10 to 15 hours after the last meal. Some people are able to switch faster because they are better fat adapted or they follow a low carb diet.
Extra energy helps combat stress
There is a direct link between nutrition and stress response. Every time the mind perceives a threat the sympathetic nervous system actives our fight or flight response mechanism and the body goes into high alert. This action requires energy which the body brings out from the reserves. It utilised nutrients for this purpose. If sufficient nutrition is not available then the body taps into reserves of energy. All levels and types of stress requires nutrition and energy.
During fasting we have seen from above points that at various stages we have energy releases into the system. Metabolic switch, autophagy, empty gut, all these factors release energy at different time intervals. All this spare energy helps combat stress and de-stress too.
People have successfully used prolonged fast to take care of chronic ailments and inflammation.
Growth hormone and BDNF
Growth hormone is released in abundant quantity as children. But when we become adults, this becomes a trickle. Costly growth hormone injections can artificially induce this hormone in the body.
At 11th hour of fast there is a slight release of growth hormone. But at 21st hour of fasting this is 200% and at 31st hour that figure reaches 2000% which is significant.
Same goes for BDNF. Growth hormone makes you look younger and BDNF start repairing your brain neurons. Are you feeling young already?
The final benefit – stem cells
Whenever you break a fast, the bone marrow releases stem cells. These help in rebuilding. That is why breaking a fast is equally important as fasting itself. Bone broth, curd, vegetable soup, organ meat and so on are the most nutritious food you can use to break a fast. Let us begin with the most discredited traditional Indian food, desi ghee. If you can get hold of desi ghee of a grass fed cow, that is the best nutrition you can every get on earth. But remember, this desi ghee will cost a lot of money.