People fast for many different reasons. Some fast for religious reasons, other fast to treat medical conditions, and many fast to cleanse, detoxify, and lose weight. Just as there are many reasons to fast, there are many ways to fast. Some fasting methods are also more suitable for people with certain medical conditions and others tend to be great options to incorporate into specific diets. To learn more about the different types of fasting, continue reading.
What is Fasting?
Fasting is willingly abstaining from food and/or drink for a short period of time. Some fasting methods involve abstaining from all food and drink, while others involve abstaining from certain types of food and drink. Fasting is a common practice in many religions and has been a medical practice for millennia.
These days, fasting is a popular health and weight-loss practice. Many people add fasting to their diet regimen to either make their diet more efficient or to boost health outcomes. Besides popular use, fasting is used in the clinical setting before major surgeries or blood tests.
Benefits of Fasting
Fasting can boost weight loss because it leads to eating fewer calories and because it helps lower insulin levels.
Fasting can improve some aspects of metabolic health such as weight, insulin levels, and blood glucose levels.
Fasting can also lower blood pressure, heart rate, triglycerides, and cholesterol, all of which are important for a healthy circulatory system.
Fasting can reduce inflammation in the brain, which is linked to neurological conditions like depression. There’s evidence that fasting may even reduce a person’s risk of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and stroke.
Lower cancer risk
Being overweight, having elevated insulin levels, and chronic low-grade inflammation are risk factors for different cancers. Fasting helps address all.
Fasting can also help improve your mood, help you gain more control over your eating habits, make you feel feeling lighter, and help you detox.
Types of Fasting
There are many fasting methods you could use. Which one you should choose depends on the goal you are trying to achieve, your lifestyle, your health, and similar. If you’re not sure what fasting method is best for you, consider trying different fasts and see from the first-hand experience what works best.
Dry fasting involves abstaining from all food and drink for a short period of time, usually a day or two. It is the most restrictive type of fast there is. Ramadan fasting can be considered a type of half-day dry fast. Most people can dry fast for up to a whole day (24 hours) without experiencing any problems. Fasting more than that can be considered dangerous since it puts you at risk of severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Keep in mind that humans can survive without water for roughly 2 days, depending on the environment.
Unlike dry fasting, water fasting allows for water intake. When water fasting, people abstain from all food as well as beverages that contain calories. Mineral water, unsweetened tea, and lemon water are allowed on water fasts. A study published last year in BMC Complementary & Alternative Medicine found that water fasting for two days straight is safe and does not cause serious harm for most people. There’s evidence that this type of fasting can help with hypertension.
Juice fasting, also known as juice cleansing, is highly popular in online health and wellness communities. These fasts are based on consuming only juices made from fruits and vegetables. Juice fasts can last anywhere from one day to three weeks. The goal of juice fasts is to reduce your calorie intake while trying to maintain an adequate intake of vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, and detoxifying antioxidants. Fruits and vegetables used in juice fasts include oranges, lemons, celery, kale, carrots, and spinach. You can make juices for your juice fast in a blender, food processor, or juicer.
Intermittent Fast (IF)
Intermittent fasting involves cycling between periods of fasting and periods of feeding within predetermined time frames. For example, some people use the so-called 16:8 IF, which means that you fast for 16 hours and eat within an 8-hour feeding window. This can be done once a week or for several days a week. IF is often used alongside diets like the keto diet and paleo since it seems to boost the benefits of these diets. There’s a growing body of research showing IF is effective for weight loss.
Partial fasts are the least restrictive type and many have biblical origins. Prophet Daniel spent three weeks abstaining from meat, wine, and lotions for three weeks while mourning. Many Christians follow this example and abstain from foods and activities they’re fond of to comfort or build strength. However, some people do partial fasts for health reasons and abstain from things like meat, wheat, and sweets for a limited time. If you avoid certain foods all the time, then that falls under the definition of diet rather than fast.
Partial fast with calorie restriction
Another type of partial fast involves eating only a very limited number of calories from some foods throughout the day, usually below 500 kcal. Liquid meals are often allowed, and water is encouraged. This type of partial fast is best used for weight loss but it can also help lower blood glucose levels, enhance ketosis, and help with food intake control.
Cleansing fasts are also considered to be detox diets. These fasts rely on drinks infused with cleansing ingredients like lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, herbal tea, herbs, and spices. They may also contain sugars for added calories or non-nutritive sweeteners. The idea behind cleansing fasts is to cleanse the colon of toxins. During cleansing fasts, you’re also not supposed to consume any solid food.
Liquid Protein Fast
These fasts are used for weight loss, especially with obese patients. They help shed a lot of weight over a short span of time. The fast typically involves abstaining from all solid food and caloric drinks. Instead, people are advised to drink shakes fortified with essential vitamins, minerals, and adequate amounts of protein. This fasting method is best when practiced under medical supervision since it can be risky if you don’t know what you are doing.
Be Careful with Fasting
Fasting can be a spiritual practice and it comes with health benefits like a healthier weight, improved glycemic control, and reduced risk of heart disease. There’s even evidence it increases longevity. Fasting for one to two days a week shouldn’t pose any problems but fasting excessively is more akin to starvation and disordered eating. So, make sure you use fasting with care and speak to your doctor if you have any health concerns with regards to fasting. If you feel like you can fast safely, consider some of the fasting methods described here.