From resetting the metabolism, to balancing out hormones to re-programming the digestive system, fasting is a great way to kick your body into a new gear of function and bring about sudden improvements. Fasting is a tool to improve your body from the cell up. Yes, you heard me right!
Your body while fasting
Your basal metabolic rate goes up during fasting. By day 3 it rises, on average, by 14%. Fasting forces your body into fat-burning metabolism by temporarily depriving it of the sugars it would normally burn for fuel. This not only burns fat in the short term while you're fasting, but resets your body to burn more fat for fuel during normal eating. Of course I must add here, what you eat AFTER you break your fast is equally important in making sure you reap the full benefits of fasting.
Increased HGH (human growth hormone) results in greater endurance with faster muscle repair and growth as well as a slowing of the aging process.
A study showed that interval training while fasting increased HGH by 1300% in women and 2000% in men.
If you are new to fasting, and have never exercised before, then take it slow. Your body is dehydrated at this time. Meaning, your muscles and joints are more prone to injuries. It is best to complete your short exercise routine post iftar.
Brain gains: Clearing your mental clutter
Fasting directly influences the stability of neuronal circuits, a type of wiring that dictates the flow of information in the brain and nervous system. Cellular stress and lack of nutrition, catalysed by fasting, blocks the synaptic activity of neurons that normally occurs in the brain - which essentially means that the brain slows down.
Overactive synaptic activity has been associated with diseases like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and other degenerative diseases. So in a way, when we slow down our brain activity, it's possible that we are protecting the organ by allowing it to recharge.
Bye bye mental clutter and hello to focusing on single tasks at a time!
While fasting, there is an increase in ketone bodies. Ketones are compounds that are known to be neuro-protective. Essentially, they guard brain cells against degenerating to the point of disease.
Benefits of fasting on neuron centric diseases like Alzheimer's and Huntington's are pretty amazing! As autophagy is increased during a fasting state, weak mitochondria and other cellular molecules are eliminated from the neurons.
Do you want to truly cleanse your body from the cell up? Fasting increases detoxification abilities and decreases the aging process. This is a deep cleansing in its truest form.
Ketones for energy
Ketones for energy are more sustainable and long lasting - rather than filing your body with sugar/carbs. If you are looking to get into a deep cycle of work and productivity, then fueling your brain with ketones is clinically shown to be more effective.
Use fasting this month to practice deep work cycles. Your brain has a 90 minute work cycle followed by 90 minutes of rest. You can modify your work hours accordingly and boost your performance.
Become a fat burning machine
When you are fasting, circulating insulin levels are decreased. This promotes lipolysis – meaning, the breakdown of fat – which then becomes a major source of energy. You definitely want your body to start to burn its own fat. Mainly because, fat has turned out to be a superior form of energy reserve, given that more energy can be stored per weight and volume, and no additional water is needed to be stored with it. If you can follow up your fasting days with proper meals at night, then you can ensure that the fat burning process is helping your body to get stronger rather than feeling dizzy and weak after breaking fast.
Boost productivity in the PM
Are you familiar with a dizzy and exhausted feeling after iftar? Yes, this is the energy crash that you can avoid in order to be truly productive. Having sugar causes insulin spikes followed by a sugar crash. The worst part of iftar is the starch carbs combined with vegetable oils (trans-fat). This deadly combo causes low energy, fat gain and a sluggish feeling. Not to mention, cooking oil plays no role in your body. Your body can not use it for energy, and it is forced to store it, causing toxin build up. Instead of your usual fried fritters, choose high quality protein, healthy essential fats and keep your carbs gluten free.
Fasting is a tool to boost brain performance, and hammer in the skills you need to maintain good habits all year long. If productivity is your main goal, then fuel your body with raw materials that help your brain to thrive.
Marina Farook, creator of marinafarook.com and The Health Food Co, is a health and fitness coach for women. She loves teaching women how to use science backed tools to become stronger and fitter.