Fasting has been a popular way to detox, lose weight and stay healthy for centuries. It is becoming even more popular in recent years, with people worldwide participating in weekly or intermittent fasts to maintain their health. Scientific evidence has also grown, showing that fasting can benefit physical and mental health.
But although it may be an ancient practice, there are various misconceptions surrounding it. Are thoughts of “Will fasting make me lose muscle mass?”, “Will I be hungry all day?” or “Is fasting beneficial?” swirling around in your head? Here, we’ll debunk some common myths about fasting and explain why they’re not true.
1. Fasting is Unhealthy
One of the most common myths about fasting is that it is unhealthy and can damage vital organs. Organs like the heart and liver become stronger during fasting as they do not have to work as hard when digesting food. The food consumed during fasting can also help to support vital organs in the body.
For example, consuming nutrient-dense foods such as fruits and vegetables can provide essential nutrients and vitamins that can help organs such as the kidneys, which are responsible for removing toxins from the body.
Various diseases can also be prevented or managed through fasting, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Fasting helps to reduce insulin resistance, which can, in turn, help to reduce blood sugar levels. It also assists in lowering triglyceride and cholesterol levels, thus, reducing the risk of various diseases.
Moreover, the health benefits of fasting are numerous and varied. Studies have shown that fasting can improve physical health and mental clarity and even reduce the risk of certain diseases.
2. You Have To Fast For Long Periods.
Many people think fasting means hours of starvation and deprivation, but this is untrue. Fasting does not have to be a long, drawn-out process; an intermittent fast can be of a duration of 16 hours. You may consume only calorie-free beverages such as water, coffee or tea during this time. Many people do a 16-hour fast and then an 8-hour eating window. Different variations in fasting include intermittent, alternate-day and prolonged fasting.
People new to fasting may wonder: does lemon water break a fast? It is important to look at the calorie content of any liquid other than water. If the beverage you are drinking has no calories or very minimal calories, it is generally accepted that it won’t break your fast.
Hence, you don’t have to fast for long periods to reap the benefits of intermittent fasting.
3. Fasting Causes Malnutrition
Contrary to popular belief, fasting does not lead to malnutrition. Research shows that short-term fasting can improve metabolic markers such as blood glucose, triglycerides and cholesterol levels – all of which are associated with improved nutrition. Additionally, when done correctly and in moderation with a balanced diet, fasting can provide the nutrients and vitamins that may be lacking in a person’s diet.
When the body does not get food, it accesses stored energy sources. During short-term fasts, the body will break down glycogen (stored glucose) for energy; during longer fasts, it breaks down fat and protein from muscle to provide fuel. The body always preserves essential organs such as the brain and heart by burning fat and glucose.
The body still produces essential vitamins and minerals during fasting, so nutrient deficiencies are not an issue. The liver also produces ketones that can be used for energy instead of sugar if no food is present.
Moreover, fasting can improve nutrient absorption. When the digestive system takes a break from digesting food, it can better absorb vitamins and minerals from other sources. It can especially benefit those with digestive issues like leaky gut syndrome or irritable bowel disease.
4. Intermittent Fasting Is Bad For Performance
The misconception that intermittent fasting is bad for performance could not be further from the truth. Studies have shown that it can improve performance by increasing metabolic efficiency. Thus, allowing the body to access stored fat as an energy source more quickly and efficiently. It can also help promote muscle growth by increasing testosterone levels and human growth hormone production. Furthermore, it can improve mental clarity and focus by reducing inflammation.
When the body is allowed to fast for some time, it can switch into ‘repair mode’ and focus on essential bodily functions, such as digestion and cell repair, which can improve overall health. As well as this, the body’s natural response to fasting is to reduce insulin levels that help to regulate blood sugar levels. It can benefit those seeking to reduce their risk of developing diabetes or other metabolic diseases.
5. Fasting Will Make You Weak and Lethargic
The notion that fasting will make you weak and lethargic is just a myth. Physiological studies have shown that short-term fasting can improve overall well-being. Intermittent fasting can help to increase energy levels as hormones ghrelin and leptin act as hunger signals.
Gherlin stimulates the appetite, while leptin signals to the brain when you’re full. When fasting, ghrelin increases, and leptin decreases. It allows the body to go into a fasted state, which can help increase energy levels and stimulate fat burning.
The organs responsible for energy production, such as the liver and muscles, can become more efficient during fasting due to autophagy. It is a process in which the body breaks down and recycles the damaged cells. During this time, the body produces more energy from existing fuel sources and can burn fat more efficiently. So, contrary to popular belief, fasting can help increase energy levels.
Fasting is a healthy practice for both physical and mental health. The common myths about fasting can be easily debunked, and it should not prevent individuals from engaging in this practice if they choose to do so. With proper guidance and preparation, fasting can be a rewarding and beneficial experience. It is important to remember that everyone’s body responds differently, so it is always best to talk to your doctor and research before fasting.