Over the last couple of years, fasting’s popularity has increased dramatically as terms like intermittent fasting and time-restricted feeding have made their way into the mainstream media. But before diving straight into fasting, it’s important to know exactly what fasting is, it’s prerequisites, and the three different types of fasts.
Fasting is the act of going without food for an extended period of time. Looking back at our primal beginnings, fasting was part of everyday life. During this time it was a challenge to source our foods and thus it was commonplace to go without food for an extended period of time. Fast forward to the 21st century and sourcing food is no longer an issue, in fact we can have it delivered to our home at the touch of a button.
With this new era in food sourcing, our pantries and fridges are abundant as ever. Yet at the same time, fasting has gained popularity and is touted as a ‘quick’ hack to attain your fitness goals. However, fasting isn’t for everyone and before you begin restricting your eating there are some prerequisites to keep in mind.
In order to earn the right to fast there are some staple behaviors that first need to be in order.
Fasting can be used as a tool for weight loss, but is often not a sustainable long-term solution and can create problematic behaviors. For weight loss, the prerequisites listed above are the most effective solution.
There are three main types of fasts: calorie restriction, nutrient restriction, and seasonal eating.
The most basic type of fast is a calorie restriction fast. This is what most people think about when they hear the term “fasting”. It is simply going without food for a certain period of time. These types of fasts are typically done between 18-48 hours. To use this type of fast effectively make sure whoever is fasting has consumed adequate calories in the days before to support the fast. Then pick a day, eat dinner early, and fast for the designated time. During the fast only consume water and keep activity levels low to support the fasted state.
This type of fast involves restricting a certain macronutrient (The three macronutrients are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats). Typically these fasts are protein deloads. These types of fast work best for athletes who have a higher protein requirement and are consistently stressing their guts. In this type of fast the athlete will consume only high-quality fats, carbohydrates, and thoroughly cooked vegetables for 2-3 days in a month. The reduction in protein consumption will give the gut a break and allow it to heal. Keep in mind that it is still important to make sure that their activity is very minimal during this time period.
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The third type of fast isn’t a fast at all, it’s seasonal eating. For this type of fast, we must look back at primal times and examine what our food supply would have looked like during different seasons. In the winter, fattier meats and tubers were consumed and summer was reserved for fruits and leaner meats. To truly eat seasonally only eat what would naturally be available during that time of year. While our modern food access is great, most civilizations at northern latitudes wouldn’t have access to ripe bananas in January. Seasonal eating follows the concept of personalized nutrition, learning what works best for you. You can learn the basics of personalized nutrition in this blog.
Fasts may seem like the golden ticket to your or your client’s health goals, but they’re only effective on top of a solid foundation of regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle.
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