Why Fasting Is Not a Silver Bullet


Do I need to abstain from sugar full time? What if I eat only in the morning and afternoon? Does “detoxification” help lose weight? Let’s turn to science and figure out what is a myth and what is truth.

Cutting out certain products

Meat, milk, butter, and those treacherous desserts — a great deal of myth and speculation have grown around all of them. That’s too bad since calories are in every food, and calories are not divided into useful or harmful. What is important here is our understanding of the necessity to have balanced nutrition, including proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. The bottom line is to know your limitations. For instance, WHO recommends that adults and children plan the diet to allow no more than 5% free sugars (honey, syrups, and fruit juices) in a general calory pool.

Registered dietitian nutritionist and Intuitive Nutrition Specialist Taylor Wolfram believes that diets that force you to cut down on or completely abandon food groups/macronutrients are not useful: you can deprive the body of the nutrients it needs. Besides, there is no compelling evidence that a combination of certain foods, eating food at certain times of the day — for example, carbohydrates just before lunch — will help with weight loss. Neither has the idea that the “wrong” combination of foods causes them to immediately turn into fat has not been scientifically backed.

Cleansing days

The idea of ​​detox diets, which can allegedly help not only lose weight but also “clean” the liver from toxins, has been trendy for many years. You need to know that there are no scientific studies confirming that the inclusion of fasting days in your life — the days when you only eat germinated wheat salad (wheatgrass), drink smoothies with goji berries, kombucha, or other superfoods — really helps the body more than normal healthy food regimen. Detox seems like an aggressively marketed fairytale. Your liver and other organs are perfectly designed to eliminate toxins. If they don’t cope and need external help, it has to be medical help because things may get dangerous, according to Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine at Exeter University. Back in 2009, a group of scientists turned to the detox products vendors for explanation: what meaning they put on detox, or at least what toxins the magic teas and potions labeled “detox” clean from. There was never an answer. A detox diet can help lose weight, which is logical because if one switches to green tea or berry smoothies instead of the usual diet, fewer calories will be consumed in the body. But the lost pounds will also return as soon as you return to your usual diet.

Intermittent fasting

The success of intermittent fasting can be attributed to the fact that it works most naturally for the human body. Hundreds of years of evolution taught us to eat during the day and sleep at night.

Monique Tello, MD, MPH from Harvard Medical School, describes this mechanism in the following way: “Between meals, as long as we don’t snack, our insulin levels will go down, and our fat cells can then release their stored sugar, to be used as energy. We lose weight if we let our insulin levels go down. The entire idea of IF is to allow the insulin levels to go down far enough and for long enough that we burn off our fat.”

Eating your meal before late afternoon or “eTRF”/”mTRF” is really healthy. Scientists from Alabama University found out that test subjects with extra weight who had food intake between 7:00 am and 3:00 pm for five weeks, at the end of the controlled feeding trial testing, had lower blood pressure and insulin levels in the blood. Even those who had not lost weight had reduced their appetite. However, interval fasting should not be considered a solution for all. No scientific data would prove that intermittent fasting is more efficient than a moderate restriction of calory intake. For those of you who decide to have meals only in the afternoon, scientists recommend reducing snacking, being active throughout the day, and increasing muscle tone — that is, leading a healthy lifestyle (and healthy eating), without which no restrictions will work.

To lose weight and not see it come back later, you need not use short-term restrictions but restructure the entire diet. For instance, if you choose and stick to a specific time for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you will avoid the temptation of grabbing a snack or two between the meals. You can also start a food diary and make notes on how you feel after meals: I feel peckish, I am full, that brownie was a little too much. Such a simple step will surely help to adjust and control your regimen. You don’t have to meticulously count calories if there are no medical indications for accurate weight control.

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