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The benefits of fasting

By Reem Abdulrahman Jassim al-Muftah

Thursday، 30 July 2020 02:45 AM

Does fasting actually improve your health or does it have negative effects? This is a question I hear all the time and now is a perfect time to discuss it with you all. As you all know, today is Wegfet Arafah, when Muslims fast before the second and big Eid Holiday of the year when there is Haj. Fasting is a really beneficial technique to increase your metabolism, improve your health and possibly lose weight.

How does fasting work to help increase fat-loss and improve overall health?
Firstly, we have to understand that fat is the way our body stores energy so when we fast, we do not have any glycogen in our blood due to the lack of food so your body turns to your stored energy, your fat and burns it. Therefore, when you are fasting it is critical that you are still active and not being lazy just because you aren’t eating. You want to keep your muscles working and staying lean and prepared for your next meal. It is also critical that you are not too active to cause low sugar levels causing dizziness and fatigue. Fasting for religious reasons has been common but now intermittent fasting is trending due to the benefits of fasting. Intermittent fasting is basically restricting yourself to eating in a window ranging from from 8-10 hours in where you limit yourself to eat. This technique helps improves cholesterol level and the way the body metabolises sugar as well. This with a healthy diet can lead to healthy weight loss and improved behaviours. So what kind of strategy should you take when you start fasting? It is really up to you. You need to experiment a little, and of course in a safe manner, and test what works best for you.

Popular fasting methods:
12/12: Eating for 12 hours then fasting for the other 12 hours of the day.
16/8: Fasting for 16 hours, eating in a window of 8 hours such as from 12 noon until 8 in the evening (people usually fast after dinner and skip breakfast).
5/2: Eating normally for 5 days and eating a maximum of 600 calories on the other 2 days of the week. 
Eat-Stop-Eat / Alternating: Alternating between fasting a full day (24 hours) and eating normal the next day or at least 2 days of full (24 hours) fasting during a 7 day week.
Spontaneous Meal Skipping: Randomly skipping a meal and increasing your fasting time between meals.
Studies show that the most beneficial are alternate fasting and 16/8. This is because they suggest you fast for 24 hour intervals twice a week as it is the ideal situation as well as the 16/8 but where you fast after lunch and skip dinner, but then eating the most important meal of the day, breakfast. Some studies suggest that breakfast is no longer critical to maintain your health but other studies still show that breakfast is vital to increasing your metabolism rates. Our bodies are used to burning more calories during the day-light hours so it would seem common sense and safe to assume that having more of your food intake earlier in the day is better than eating after dark when your body is not so active and foregoing dinner before sleep.
Fasting does not and will not work for everyone, especially those who need to eat a specific amount of calories such as diabetics and pregnant or breastfeeding females. It’s also critical to know that you have to be eating a healthy diet in general to reap the maximum benefits as you do not want to negatively effect your health. You need to eat a clean, healthy diet consisting of unprocessed foods and all your body’s needs. You also need to make sure you are well hydrated. Many intermittent fasting methods require the person to sip on water, coffee, tea and other zero calorie drinks so make sure to watch your liquid intake. Good luck, Eid Mubarak and happy fasting! 

* The author is a wellness advocate and influencer @keys2balance.

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