Fasting for a short 24 hour period, where you consume nothing but water (and sometimes low calories drinks such as black coffee or green tea), has shown to have several physical and mental health benefits.
This is a practice that I’ve been experimenting with for the past few months. I try it just once a month – but it gives me a physical and mental boost like none other.
Recent studies are just beginning to show some of the benefits associated with fasting. Check out these benefits for yourself, then consider scheduling a day to try it out. The effects may surprise you.
This article is intended for informational purposes only. Please consult your doctor or a medical professional before making any significant changes to your diet or health-related habits.
A lot of research on fasting is still very new, but here are some of the physical and health-related benefits that have been found so far:
1. Lowers risk of heart disease: A new study by cardiac researchers at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute has discovered that short periods of fasting can lower the risk of heart disease, and reduce cardiac risk factors such as triglycerides, weight, and blood sugar levels.
2. Reduces body fat: Another study found that regardless of whether or not you have a low-fat or high-fat diet, short periods of fasting are associated with weight loss and an increase in fat oxidation.
3. Cleans out toxins: A third study found that short periods of fasting may serve as a form of “nutritional hormesis,” where the body flushes out toxins and stress-related hormones.
As far as I know, there is very little research on the mental benefits of fasting. However, from my experience, these are some of the potential ways fasting can improve your psychology:
1. Self-discipline: Spending a whole day not eating teaches you how to curb your impulses and not give into your temptations so easily.
2. Motivation: Hunger can lead to a short-term boost in motivation. Evolutionarily, hunger was a sign we needed to go hunting or gather food, so our energy and focus experience a temporary increases when we are starving.
I think there’s some “embodied cognition” behind this effect too. For example, we often describe goals and success in terms of “hunger” and “satisfaction.” One study suggests that hunger makes us bigger risk-takers, which I think is also related to this motivational drive while fasting.
3. Gratitude: Going without food allows you to appreciate how thankful you should be that you can eat everyday (because some people don’t have that luxury).
As I’ve mentioned before, a lot of this research on fasting is very new, but I see a lot of promise in it – both in the studies talked about, as well as my own personal experiences.
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