Is microfasting all that it’s cracked up to be? Well, what exactly is it? We brought on two experts to break it down and tell us whether they think it’s complete BS or if it actually has any benefits!
Microfasting – The Basics:
Microfasting is a term for a mini fast, or fast lasting less than 24 hours.
Usually this means going about 14-18 hours without food. Many people who believe in fasting for health, but simply aren’t ready to tackle a full 24-hour fast, are proponents of this method.
According to them, it helps to control hunger and therefore assists with weight loss and overall health.
This shorter fasting period makes the whole business of fasting much easier, or at the very least, much more accessible to the newcomer.
But does this fasting method do what its proponents claim? Going more than 8-10 hours without food changes how the body uses fuel.
Extreme calorie restriction in which the body no longer is fueled by sugars, but is instead fueled by fat reserves (a process known as ketosis) can lead to both weight loss and appetite suppression. While tapping into fat stores sounds ideal, it isn’t.
Tapping into fat stores also means a decreased metabolism, which is why it isn’t healthy to fast.
Regained weight following a very restricted diet is typically comprised of fat, whereas lost weight from the diet is a combination of fat and lean tissues. What’s more, weight gain might follow a different pattern after such a diet.
During a fast, a person can go into starvation ketosis, which reduces appetite. They won’t be hungry because of the ketones (a byproduct of fat) that masks hunger.
But as soon as they do something where they are no longer ketotic, there’s a rebound appetite, which can be hard to control.
This is why fasts or very restricted diets may work short-term, but do not work long-term.
Healthy eating that provides fewer calories than the calories burned is the only healthy way to lose weight and keep it off.
– Rene Ficek, Registered Dietitian and Lead Nutrition Expert at Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating (SSHE). Ficek oversees various aspects of menu development, ensuring each SSHE meal complies with USDA and FDA “healthy regulation guidelines.”
Microfasting and Antioxidants:
No matter how healthy you are, your body takes in a lot of junk.
Everyone has their moments and eats junk now and then, healthy packaged foods are still packaged foods, and even if you are 100% clean eating whole, natural foods, you’re still breathing. As long as you’re breathing, you’re building up yucky free radicals in the body.
Oxygen causes the buildup of free radicals. This is a long process that takes place in the mitochondria (oh yea, remember high school bio?) that I cannot wait to have the time to write about in an easy-to-understand way (you can find more information on my website)!
In the meantime, basically, oxygen → free radicals → aging, cancer and other diseases…the list goes on. If the human body were a bicycle, oxygen is rust.
So, before I get too off-track, let’s answer this: “What does this have to do with microfasting?”
Well, antioxidants are pretty much free radical killers. You all know berries and other foods have antioxidants, but I bet you didn’t know that your body naturally makes really powerful antioxidants without food, called superoxide dismutase-2 (let’s call this SOD2 for short!).
But, the process of eating and metabolizing food turns off these little guys, which further adds to the free radicals running wild.
When you are fasting, you give your body the chance to not only give the liver and other organs a quick break (which they don’t really *need*, but hey, might as well!), but more importantly, your body has the time to build up its *natural antioxidants* (primarily SOD2) to alleviate the buildup of free radicals.
These natural antioxidants have been suggested to prevent aging, cancer, alzheimer’s, diabetes, and so many other diseases.
If you don’t calorie restrict, I highly recommend a regular microfast every few days to a week.
Not to lose weight, not to look thin, not to avoid dieting, but rather to build up the body’s natural defenses to fight disease and encourage healthy aging. You’ll thank me when you’re a healthy, active old man or lady!
– Lisa Eberly, MPH, RD (masters in public health nutrition and registered dietitian nutritionist) and founder of Nourish. Her team’s research has been featured in major publications, including TIME magazine.