Q. Will fasting jumpstart my weight loss efforts and boost my health?
A. Fasting is the deliberate abstinence from food. Fasting has long been touted as a healthy process with many benefits such as cleaning the system, ridding the body of so-called toxins, benefiting the intestinal track, boosting metabolism, and jumpstarting weight loss. However none of these notions are true, nor are they backed up by medical research. While a short-term fast probably won’t harm most people, it could be quite dangerous for others, depending on their medical conditions, health histories, and medication use. I strongly urge you to talk to your physician before ever starting a fast.
During normal metabolic conditions (non-fasting), the body gets its energy primarily from glucose and fat (in the blood), which are supplied by the carbohydrates and fats that you eat. Both the brain and nervous systems use blood glucose for energy and proper functioning. Your body also stores energy in both the muscles and liver in the form of glycogen.
Within only hours after starting a fast, when dietary glucose is used up, the body draws on its glycogen stores, but these don’t last very long. When these stores are exhausted, your body enters an altered metabolic state. It turns to its own protein (and a portion of its fat) to make more glucose for the brain and nervous system. This results in a considerable breakdown of both lean muscle tissue and fat tissue, and a production of ketones. This is not considered a healthy or desirable state. As a result, you might lose weight, but it is due to water loss, dehydration, and muscle tissue wasting, and is usually accompanied with symptoms such as fatigue and dizziness.
Therefore, you can reason that after years of abusing the body with a poor diet and excessive fat and calories, a fasting state is not the answer to better health. Your body is truly craving proper nutrition, including whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, healthy fats, and lean meats, fish, beans, and other protein sources. Then and only then, can the body systems work together effectively and efficiently. This healthy diet will results in improved energy and overall health.
NOTE: Certain medical procedures and tests require patients to fast for a designated time period. Always follow the advice of your primary health care provider in these situations.