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To Fast Or Not To Fast? Nutritionist’s View On Fasting, Its Benefits And Side Effects

Does fasting benefit us or harm us? The answer is YES, and NO! Do ensure to read till the end to know why fasts can be beneficial and how to include them in your lifestyle.

The internet is buzzing with numerous diets that promise quick weight loss, enhanced immunity, better muscle mass, lower body fat and so on. Fruit fast, Fat first, salt-free fast, Intermittent fasting, Paleo, Ketogenic, and so many more.

Haven't we all read so much about these diets, tried a few of them and given up all together thinking these are unsustainable. When it comes to your daily lifestyle, you should focus on incorporating such eating habits that you can sustain for a lifetime.

Are You DOOMSCROLLING For Information? It Can Impact Your Mental And Physical Health!

A daily diet needs to be sustainable, made with easily available ingredients, should nourish you from within and make you happy mentally keeping you satiated. A diet should not keep you feeling deprived all the time or remove foods groups as that leads to nutrient deficiency. A diet also needs to be in tune with what you have eaten since childhood as our gut microbiome has been formed based on such foods [1][2].


A wholesome, fulfilling meal ensures that:

• We manage our body weight and the fat to muscle ratio [3].

• We have better gut health and hence a good immunity.

• Our moods are uplifted as we aren't deprived.

• It helps to keep our stress levels down.

• We fulfil the micronutrient deficiencies through the variety of spices used.

The Dos And Don'ts Of Dieting

That said, keeping fasts in a planned way comes with a host of benefits. Fasting has been practised throughout history by almost all religions of the world.

In scientific terms, fasting is the wilful refrainment from eating anything except plain water for a period of time.

Any meal takes 3-4 hours to get digested and absorbed into the body. It is posited that the fasting window starts. Several metabolic changes occur during the fasting phase. The benefits are higher when the fasting window is longer [4].

In India, different types of fasts are observed. Some include refrainment from pulses, while others refrain from grains. Some fasts encourage eating millets, and some fasts thrive only on water [5].

Such fasts in general help to improve alertness, mental stability, mood and feeling of well-being. Fasts are good to give variety in the meals and complete the micronutrient requirements. Still, they do not provide the benefits of metabolic changes of complete refrainment from food [6].

Listed below is the fast when done the right way provides a host of benefits.


Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting, also known as intermittent energy restriction, stands true to its name. One needs to fast intermittently during the day. It includes a fasting window and an eating window [7].

This fast does not specify the foods that are allowed to be eaten in a fast. It specifies the time when you can eat food.

There are two popular types of intermittent fasting:

• The 24 hours fast done alternate days twice a week.

• The 16:8 fasting method. This is a more convenient and practical fast to incorporate into one's lifestyle. It is also the most popular one [8].

16: 8 intermittent fasting:

This method of fasting involves 16 hours of fasting window and 8 hours of eating window. For maximum benefits, the eating window should include whole foods with a balance of all macronutrients like carbohydrates, protein and fats [9].

How To Start Intermittent Fasting: A Beginner's Guide

An individual can start with 13 hours of fast initially and then gradually build up to 16 hours.

The best time to fast is from 6 PM (after having a filling meal) to 10 AM the next day. This time works well as most of the fasting window is spent during the late-night sleeping hours, and it becomes easy to fast.

However, every individual is different, and one should work their fasting window as per their convenience [10].


How does intermittent fasting help?

Improves insulin sensitivity: During the fasting phase, the insulin levels drop drastically and make the fat stores available for burnout.

Promotes autophagy: This means that the fasting phase helps the cells to regenerate themselves. The cells digest the old dysfunctional proteins that build up inside the cells and renew themselves. The research on autophagy induced during Intermittent fasting has won a Nobel prize.

Aids fat burning: When there is no carbohydrate source for energy, the body turns to its fat stores for energy. Hence, there is fat loss.

Assists in weight loss: When one skips an entire meal during the fast, those many calories are in deficit. If during the eating phase, the meals are balanced, then there will be weight loss.


On A Final Note…

Hence, the best way to incorporate fasting in your lifestyle is to have balanced meals 5-6 days of the week and incorporate intermittent fasting 1-2 days of the week.

For beginnings, you can start with one day of intermittent fasting and move up gradually.

This will help you stay consistent on your chosen diet and not deprive you of any nutrients required for normal functioning of the body.

Read more about: fasting benefits of fasting