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JANUARY JUMPSTART: The pros and cons of fasting


JANUARY JUMPSTART: The pros and cons of fasting

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With the exponential growth of fitness and healthy eating trends in recent years, there seems to be one topic, which health experts have not yet agreed upon – that of fasting.

Fasting is not a new idea. For thousands of years, numerous religious groups have engaged in fasting as an important purification process and a pathway to deepening their spiritual relationships.

Other groups use fasting as a method of detoxification and giving the digestive system a break from some of the junk foods, sugars and chemicals, which we (sometimes unknowingly) consume. 

So what exactly is fasting? Generally speaking, fasting refers to going without food and/or drink for a specified period of time.

Whether it be to achieve the ideal Crop Over body or to fit into an old dress, some people swear by fasting as a quick fix to lose extra weight. As expected, when a reduced amount of food and liquids enter the body, there will be some form of weight loss.

The Master Cleanse, made popular by celebrities such as Beyoncé and Gwyneth Paltrow, encourages users to start their day with a salt water flush, followed by at least six servings of a special lemonade mix, and a nightly laxative tea. The aim of this particular fast is not only to shed weight quickly but also, as the name suggests, to cleanse and detoxify the body.

However, with such drastic measures, there are significant drawbacks to the Master Cleanse. For example, most users frequently complain about nausea, bad breath, dizziness and of course, extreme food cravings.

Medical practitioners from the Harvard Medical School warn that it is important to note that these changes are usually temporary as the majority of the weight which is lost is actually as a result fluid loss and the increased frequency of bowel movements. As a result, when the person resumes their normal diet, they bounce back to their original weight.

Further, as it relates to the detoxification argument, many doctors are of the view that a healthy functioning body does not need the aid of fasting to cleanse itself. According to Exeter University, “The healthy body has kidneys, a liver, skin, even lungs that are detoxifying as we speak. There is no known way – certainly not through detox treatments – to make something that works perfectly well in a healthy body work better.”

Intermittent fasting is a technique, which has gained popularity in recent years in the weight-lifting arena and among the bodybuilding fraternity as a way of reaching very low body fat percentages. It refers to controlled fasting within certain set hours. Author of The Warrior Diet, Ori Hofmekler, advises his readers to fast for a period of twenty hours and then consume the necessary calories in the remaining four-hour window. Proponents of intermittent fasting trust this technique because some medical studies have shown that the body burns more fat while in a fasted state.

For some people who are on the quest for flawless skin, fasting is seen as the ideal remedy. Some alternative medicine advocates suggest what is known as water fasting as a way to get clear, acne-free skin. Water fasting refers to consuming nothing but water for a one to three days.

According to the theory: “When the body gets only water and no nutrition, it will derive required energy from stored fat. So stored fat cells will be released and utilised and the toxins will be flushed out of the body.” It is believed that during this type of fasting, the skin will become very hydrated and would be able to heal and renew itself at a faster rate.

However, though some people highly praise this method, there are serious risks attached to such a radical nutritional change. Firstly, this can cause a significant change in the metabolic rate and lead to decreased energy levels in an individual. It may be more beneficial to adjust your overall diet to increase your water intake and cut back on other sugary beverages and other junk foods, which are known to sabotage the beauty of your skin.

Though the pros and cons of fasting are debatable, it is essential to remember that fasting is not for everyone. Before a person decides to fast, he or she must be physically and mentally ready to do so as irritability and elevated stress levels often accompany fasting as a result of the lack of glucose in the body.

When in doubt, remember that overall good nutrition and fit, attractive bodies depend heavily on what we put into our bodies, our portion sizes and an adequate amount of exercise. (NATION ARCHIVES)