Benefits and potential side effects of fasting one day a week
Fasting is common to just about every major religious tradition and today scientists have proven that if you stop eating completely or almost completely for a certain period of time can be beneficial for you.
Here we will show you why fasting for 24 hours once a week is good for you but also what to watch for before you start first time fasting.
As you can guess, first it may help you with weight loss but not just that, fasting once a week may help improve your cholesterol, blood pressure, glucose levels, and other health issues.
Read further and find out why fasting is good for you and how to start practicing at least one day a week.
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What is fasting?
By definition, fasting is going without food or drink for a period of time. Fasting is part of many religious traditions and this term became popular these days thanks to intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting, ranging from a few hours to a few days at a time. Common intermittent fasting methods involve a daily 16-hour fast or fasting for 24 hours twice a week.
There are three main types of fasting: calorie restriction, nutrient restriction, and seasonal eating.
- Calorie restriction fasts – The most basic type of fast. It’s simply going without food for a certain period of time, typically between 18-48 hours.
- Nutrient restriction fasts – This type of fasting involves restricting the three main macronutrients proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. This type of fasting works best for athletes who have higher protein requirements and in this type of fasting the athlete will only consume high-quality fats and carbohydrates. The reduction of protein will give the gut a break and allow it to heal.
- Seasonal eating – This type of fast is more a way of eating. When we say seasonal eating it means eating foods that naturally would be available at that time of the year. For example, in the winter fattier meats and tubers, and in the summer fruits and leaner meats.
What happens during fasting?
Our body to function properly needs energy. The primary energy source is a sugar called glucose, which comes from carbohydrates, including fruits, grains, dairy products, beans, certain vegetables, and even sweets.
Muscles and the liver store the glucose and release it in our bloodstream when the body needs it. This process during fasting changes.
After just 8 hours of fasting the liver uses the last of its glucose reserves, and the body enters into a state called gluconeogenesis.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2009), shows that gluconeogenesis increases the number of calories the body burns. When carbohydrates are not coming in, the body creates its own glucose using mainly fat.
When the body runs out of this energy source too, the fasting mode becomes the more serious starvation mode. In starvation mode, a person’s metabolism slows down and the body starts to burn muscle tissue for energy.
You shouldn’t worry about this, because starvation mode occurs only after several consecutive days or even weeks without food.
So, there is nothing to worry about fasting one day a week. Down here we will present you that a 24-hour fast once a week is good for you and here are the benefits of fasting.
Benefits of fasting for 24 hours once a week
Decrease levels of inflammation and promotes better help
Chronic inflammation has now been linked with the vast majority of chronic diseases. 350 million people worldwide suffer from conditions like osteoporosis and arthritis.
Inflammation is caused by the release of cells in our bodies called monocytes that are produced through bad eating habits.
Studies have shown that short term 24-hour fasting can put monocytes into “sleep mode”. Monocytes in the fed state are far more inflammatory than those in a fasted state.
Another study conducted with 50 healthy adults showed that intermittent fasting for one month decreased levels of inflammatory markers, and another study discovered the same effect when people fasted for 12 hours a day for one month.
Improves brain function
Another benefit of fasting for 24-hours once a week is that could have powerful effect on brain health.
Animal studies have reported that fasting could protect brain health and increase the generation of nerve cells to help enhance cognitive function. Other studies also in animals suggest that fasting may protect against or improve outcomes for conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s.
We must mention that all these studies are on animals and more studies are needed to evaluate the effects of fasting on brain function in humans.
Fasting can lower your blood pressure, triglycerides, and cholesterol levels
Many studies found that incorporating fasting into your routine may be very beneficial for your health, even if you fast once a week.
Here are some examples of those studies: One controlled clinical trial from 2010 revealed that eight weeks of alternate-day fasting reduced levels of LDL “bad” cholesterol and blood triglycerides by 25% and 32%.
High blood pressure or hypertension has been linked to many cardiovascular problems. But this study from 2019 shows that fasting can actually reduce blood pressure.
The cause of the drop is thought to come from the increased insulin sensitivity and the excretion of norepinephrine in the kidneys which results in your blood vessels opening up and the pressure releasing.
Another study published in The American Journal Of Cardiology also shows the benefits of fasting for your health. In this study, 4,629 people associated fasting with a lower risk of coronary artery disease and a significantly lower risk of diabetes.
Positive effect on insulin sensitivity
Fasting has been shown to produce a positive effect on insulin sensitivity, which is the body’s ability to tolerate carbohydrates better.
Decreasing insulin resistance can increase your body’s sensitivity to insulin, allowing it to transport glucose from your bloodstream to your cells more efficiently. A review from 2014 found that both intermittent fasting and alternate-day fasting were as effective as limiting calorie intake at reducing insulin resistance.
A study published in the World Journal Of Diabetes found that in 10 people with type 2 diabetes short-term fasting significantly decreased blood sugar levels.
Good To Know
Obese individuals tend to have poor insulin sensitivity, leading to an increase in fat being stored.
Fasting once a week aids weight loss by boosting metabolism and limiting calorie intake
We gain weight because we eat more than our daily calorie allowance. If we reduce our calorie intake for one day of the week we will create a calorie deficit which can lead to fat loss.
In a fasted state your body as an energy source use stored fat as the primary source for fuel, rather than sugars.
In a review from 2015 scientists showed that 24-hour fasting could reduce body weight by up to 9% and significantly decrease body fat over 12-24 weeks. Another review also found that intermittent fasting for 3-12 weeks is effective for weight loss same as calorie restriction and may decrease body weight and fat mass by up to 8% and 16% respectively.
If you are interested in losing weight by calorie restriction here is a good read for you: The 2000-calorie diet to lose weight | Foods to eat and avoid for best weight loss results.
Could delay aging and trigger autophagy
Fasting for 24 hours can trigger autophagy. Autophagy is a natural body’s way of cleaning out damaged cells, in order to regenerate newer, healthier cells. The literal meaning of autophagy is “self-eating”, “auto” -self, and “phagy”-eating.
The main benefits of autophagy come in the form of anti-aging principles. This process is also known as the body’s way of turning the clock back and creating younger cells.
Fasting is the most effective way to trigger autophagy. Here is a great read for you to learn more about autophagy and fasting: Autophagy and fasting | How to induce autophagy for amazing health benefits
Side effects and risks of fasting one day a week
Frequently fasting for 24 hours at a time can lead to side effects and increase the risk of some health complications. It’s recommended if you never fasted before to consult with your doctor first to avoid some health consequences.
You shouldn’t fast if you:
- have type 1 diabetes
- are recovering from surgery
- are pregnant or breastfeeding
- have or had an eating disorder
Most people tolerate fasting for 24-hours without any serious trouble. However, mild side effects are common especially if you never fasted before. Be prepared, plan ahead, and anticipate how you will respond if you do experience side effects while fasting.
Here are some common side effects and risks of fasting:
Those with physically demanding jobs may become a bit weak while fasting. Staying well hydrated and supplementing with salt are two potential ways to prevent feelings of weakness.
You shouldn’t panic if you feel a little weakness, it is normal, but if you experience extreme weakness and have difficulties with walking or standing you should break your fast and contact your doctor.
The most common side effect of 24-hour fasting is hunger, and the key is to recognize that most hunger is benign and can be ignored.
You should be aware that you will feel hungry and realize that this is ok. Some people fight with hunger simply ignoring it, some are going for a walk, engaging in conversation, playing some brain games (distractions sometimes help).
Good To Know
Hot water with lemon, sparkling water, or water with salt can reduce hunger feelings.
- Headache, dizziness, confusion
Headache, and dizziness are common while fasting and they may be prevented by hydration and salt intake.
Confusion or feeling less mentally sharp also may appear while fasting. This practice should not lead to outright confusion, if that is the case break the fast and consult your health professional.
Eating less will result in fewer bowel movements and this is a normal consequence of fasting and does not mean you are constipated.
If you don’t have to strain to have a bowel movement, don’t feel bloated then you likely are not constipated. If you experience these symptoms increase your hydration or try magnesium supplements.
Tips for a successful 24-hour fast once a week
If you decide to go on a 24-hour fast and this will be your first one day a week fast, here are some tips for you that will help you to complete your first fasting day successfully.
#1. To prepare for your first 24-hour fast start with a 16-hour fast
You should start with a sorter 16 hour fast, and by doing this you can get an understanding of how your body might respond to fasting.
This shorter fast will allow you to experience some of the feelings involved with fasting and will help you when you give a full 24 hours.
#2. Eat a bigger meal before starting
It’s recommended to eat dinner a little earlier and if it makes you nervous that you won’t eat the next 24 hours you can eat a bigger meal.
It is better to eat your dinner earlier let’s say 5 p.m. because if you finish work at 4 p.m. your next meal after 24 hours will be right after you back home and you won’t be waiting till 7 or 8 p.m.
This is lot easier than to start your fast at 8 p.m. and wait to eat until 8 p.m. next day and you’ve worked all day.
#3. Go to bed earlier
Use sleep to your advantage, if you eat at 5 p.m. the night before going to bed at 11 p.m. and wake up at 7 a.m. you only have 10 hours of fasting left before hitting the 24-hour mark.
#4. Drink a lot of water during fasting
Drinking a lot of water during your 24-hour fast will help with flushing your system and also you can feel more full.
Other liquids that you can have during fasting are coffee and unsweetened tea. You can drink anything that doesn’t contain calories. It is important to stay hydrated throughout the day.
#5. Stay busy and occupied throughout the day
If you are busy and actively engaging your mind you will think less about food and eating. Staying busy will help you get through your fast much easier.
#6. What to eat after finishing your 24-hour fasting
It’s recommended not to eat a big meal after reaching 24 hours, try eating some fruits and vegetables and when your body is ready you can eat a bigger meal.
Your body was getting used to not having a lot, and it might reject your meal if you eat too fast or too much.
It is recommended to practice Eat-Stop_eat or 24 hours fast once or twice a week. By fasting from dinner one day to dinner the next day, this amounts to a full 24 hour fast.
By fasting one day a week you will consume fewer calories and this will lead to weight loss. Fasting up to 24 hours can lead to a metabolic shift that causes your body to use fat as an energy source instead of glucose.
Yes, you can drink coffee during your 24 hour fast and this will not have a significant impact on your fasting glucose levels. Try not to drink more than 2-3 cups. It is better to drink unsweetened tea.
Most diet sodas that have zero calories will not break a fast but if you can it is recommended to drink water or unsweetened tea.
It is important that you drink plenty of water, more than usual eight glasses during the 24-hor fast. You won’t be ingesting any water from food during this time, and your body needs water to function properly. Your thirst should be your guide when it comes to water intake.
Final thoughts about 24-hour fasting benefits
Fasting one day a week is a helpful addition to any healthy lifestyle and you can safely and effectively incorporate fasting into your life.
Before start fasting be aware of the side effects that we mentioned above in this article so you won’t get caught off guard and you will be prepared to succeed.
Fasting for 24 hours once a week is good for your health and also may help you with your weight loss goals. It is important to avoid intensive exercise while fasting and the most important thing stay hydrated.
Going a day without eating is generally safe and as we mentioned here can be very beneficial in several ways. Long-term fasting starves the body of essential nutrients and can cause many complications, so if you decide on long-term fasting it is better to consult your medical professional before starting.
We hope that you will have a great 24 hour fast!