While there are countless different ways to fast for better health and weight loss, one of the most common methods of fasting is intermittent fasting. Whether you do the 5:2 Diet, Alternate-Day Fasting, Lean Gains, or the Warrior Diet, if you keep at it long enough the benefits are undeniable.
While limiting eating to a 6 hour window is a good way to ease into the intermittent fasting diet, countless studies have emerged supporting the idea that longer fasts may be better for your health. Many of the more extreme intermittent fasters see great results eating one meal a day, but below are some very good reasons to extend that 24 hour fast even further.
4 Benefits of Fasting Longer than 24 Hours
Below are just a few of the incredible health benefits of extended fasts. While a lot of individuals are initially drawn to the intermittent fasting diet for weight loss, many of the best health benefits of fasting go far beyond simply loosing fat.
#1: Autophagy Kicks Off
While many people wrongfully assume that the body needs a ton of protein to survive, the truth is that the body has a lot of other protein sources that have nothing to do with your muscles. The body is a very fine-tuned system, afterall, so it will first use up the useless proteins before destroying your lean muscle.
When your body is deprived of protein from outside sources, a process known as autophagy occurs. When autophagy begins, the body begins scouring the cells for extra protein, looking for the most expendable sources first. This includes the “bad” diseased cells, loose skin, and even cancer and tumor cells.
#2: Purge Yourself of “Bad” Cells
Not only is your lean muscle safe, (unless you do an extended long fast, in which case do your proper research first) but harmful cells are also destroyed in the process. While many studies suggest that intermittent fasting can also induce autophagy, fasting past ketosis is a surefire way to guarantee that some of the harmful and unnecessary cells are reduced at a much quicker rate.
#3: Prevent/Reverse Loose Skin
Those with a lot of weight to lose may benefit the most from fasting for longer periods of time. Not only is fat burned at a much quicker rate, but fasters may even be able to bypass one of the more unfortunate side effects of weight loss:loose skin. According to Dr. Fung, fasters in his studies had a much lower rate of loose skin compared to calorie-restricters with the same weight loss.
One important thing to note about autophagy is that you truly CANNOT eat anything else for this process to occur. This includes bone broth, which some other fasting methods encourage. Because autophagy uses the useless skin and cells as protein, any outside protein consumed can be detrimental to this process. Most people who do multi-day fasts stick to only water (and sometimes a bit of salt) just to make complete sure the process isn’t going to waste.
#4: Turbo Boost Fat-Burning Zone
By the time you reach 24 hours, your body is in fat burning peak mode. You’ve already made it through some of the worst hunger pains most people experience in 24-72 hour fasts, so why stop now? It takes hours to start reaping the fat-burning benefits of ketosis once you’ve eaten, so don’t torture yourself with that process over and over again when you are already deep in fat burning zone. If you hang in there for even 8 hours longer, you practically triple your body’s time in a fasted state. If that’s not motivation alone to stick with a fast, I don’t know what is!
3 Tricks to Maximize Benefits of Fasting + How to Make it Easier
While of course everyone is different, below are three of my favorite tips to make fasting easier.
Tip #1: Hunger peaks around the 18-24 hour mark.
You may be RAVENOUS at this point. It can be difficult to imagine how on earth you are going to make in another 12 hours, let alone 30 minutes – but hang in there!
I often find myself in this position, but I always need to remind myself that it truly doesn’t get worse than this. Not only does hunger diminish once you make it through your first night of sleep, but many fasters find day 2 to be much easier than day 1. And since day 2 is packed with benefits, it’s definitely worth hanging in there a little bit longer!
Tip #2: The last meal you eat matters
Aside from the first meal you eat to break your fast, the final meal you eat before you begin fasting can make or break the experience. It can be tempting to feast the night before a fast, but if you want to make the next day easy on yourself, I highly recommend a lower carb meal the night before.
Many people combine fasting with Keto for a similar reason, but a low carb meal the day before will help kick you into fat-burning mode much quicker since there are less carbs available for your body to burn for fuel. I always find my cravings to increase when I eat a carb-laden meal the night before a fast, so for sanity purposes alone I highly recommend considering planning your pre-fast day of eating wisely.
Tip #3: Timing is everything,
While my fasts vary in length based on my goals and what is going on in my life at the time, there are two times I always choose carefully before beginning my fast.
Rule #1: I always finish my last meal by 6pm the night before my fast. This allows me to eat dinner on Day 2 again (48 hours is a typical length for me), maximizing the amount of days I get to eat without sacrificing the length of the fast. Since this final meal is also low-carb, I ensure that ketosis kicks off by the end of Day 1, allowing me a full Day 2 of fat-burning and autophagy benefits.
Rule #2: I ALWAYS make sure to go to the gym sometime before noon on Day 1 of my fast. Not only does this ensure I still have energy to get through a decent workout, but I like to burn through whatever glucose is in my body as fast as possible to make sure I am in fat-burning mode as long as possible.
Whether you are new to fasting and still shortening your “eating window” each day, or an advanced faster with several multi-day fasts under your belt, one thing is sure: your body is probably feeling and looking better with each passing day. While it can take some time and tweaking to truly get into the swing of things, the benefits of intermittent fasting are endless.
If you have any other fasting tips that work for you, I would love to hear them!