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By Kevin Richardson, Founder of The Naturally Intense System of Diet & Exercise™
1. Fasting gives your digestive system time to rest and recover from the strain of processing food.
2. Fasting helps the body get rid of unwanted toxins.
3. Fasting helps you lose weight.
With regards to the first suggestion that your digestive system needs a rest, it seems like a very plausible idea, and most would agree that it sounds like a good idea. However our own rather linear logic does not always translate into physiological reality.
The human body is designed to process food as it is an ongoing requirement, as such it cannot be overworked from digesting the food that it needs to survive. Consider the analogy of a car, you would not give your car engine a rest by not putting any fuel in the gas tank and letting it run on empty? Similarly you cannot expect your body to function optimally if you do not give it the fuel it needs.
Now if you put contaminated or low quality fuel in your car, then you can indeed overwork the engine, and the same applies to the food you ingest. Thus if you want to ensure that your digestive system is never overwhelmed, then the focus should be on proper nutrition and avoiding junk foods and foods that the human body was not designed to process. Fasting is not the answer.
With regard to the elimination of toxins, again it sounds like a solid theory, however our organs are there to do just that- breakdown and remove toxins, and that they do a pretty good job of it. If you wanted to ensure that your liver or kidneys are not strained by any toxic build up, you would then do well to watch what you eat and not consume anything that might be harmful to your body.
Staying away from alcohol, illegal drugs as well as abstaining from foods containing trans fats, monosodium glutamate, high levels of sodium and sugars, as well as processed foods will help you go a long way to prevent unwanted strain on you organs, whereas fasting will not.
The use of fasting for weight loss is perhaps the most common reason among those I have spoken with over the years, and once again, common sense seems to agree that it is a good idea. If I just don't eat for long periods of time, I will lose weight. Sadly if it was that easy then we would not be facing the obesity epidemic here in the United States, in and in so many European countries.
It is usually the first thing people try when they want to lose some pounds, but not only does it not work, but is unhealthy and can actually make you fat! After only 12 hours of fasting, your body starts using stored glucose as a fuel and then beings breaking down protein for energy in a process called gluconeogenesis. What is alarming about this is that that protein comes from your muscles and as such you lose muscle whenever you fast for prolonged periods of time.
Also important to note is that when your body does not have a steady supply of food, it beings to think that it is in a state of famine. As a way of protecting itself, your body then slows down your metabolism to conserve calories which is exactly what you do not want to happen. Additionally a study printed in The Journal of Nutrition reported that even 10 to 12 hours of not eating can lead to a loss of calcium, the mineral needed for strong bones and teeth. Lack of calcium leads to loss of bone mass and osteoporosis, and is especially dangerous for those over the age of forty and for those under twenty, whose bones are still in development. After 24 hours fasting can reduce blood sugar levels by as much as 50%, which places a severe amount of stress on your system.
There Are No Real Health Benefits To Fasting
To summarize, there are no real health benefits to fasting and I would recommend strongly against doing it for those reasons. Many claim as well that fasting gives them a higher state of awareness and makes them feel ‘lighter’, however this is simply as a result of glucose depletion, which has an almost alcohol like effect on the brain. As someone engaged in intense physical exercise, fasting is certainly counterproductive and dangerous, in that the confusion caused by low blood sugar levels makes it harder for you to concentrate, thus increasing your likelihood of injury, and instead of benefiting from your workouts, your body will instead cannibalize your existing muscle tissue.
Information contained in this article is not meant to treat, diagnose illness, nor substitute for medical counsel and is intended for purposes of information and education only. Consult your physician before modifying your diet or starting any exercise program. Copyright 2009 by Kevin Richardson, Naturally Intense Personal Trainer NYC.
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Fasting And Weight Loss
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