There are many ways to “detox” and “cleanse” the body these days. Juices, spa treatments, various infusions and so on. Truthfully, the body is very adept to cleansing itself. It’s our job to feed it the beneficial nutrients and ingest enough water each day. That’s not to much to ask, is it?
One of the best ways for “detoxing” is the fasting solution to get your digestive system and bodyweight back on-track quickly. It also helps us reset our insulin sensitivity which is often compromised due to the abundance of sugar, refined carbs and fat in the foods and desserts in our diets.
What is fasting?
Fasting is a controlled absence of food for a limited time. There are numerous ways to fast, which I will touch on later.
Starting the year with fasting will also help shift our body composition quicker because of caloric restriction that occurs by eating less, and also because over time, our bodies will switch it’s energy store to favor fat as it’s main energy source making fat loss much easier.
A lot of people are afraid of fasting, because health zealots of the of past spread the message of eating 3 meals a day and to never skip breakfast. But from an evolutionary perspective, it’s completely ironic. Fasting is one of the most powerful tools for our bodies to heal itself and to reset inflammation markers and insulin sensitivity.
There are different ways to fast and every method has its benefits. But the longer you fast, the more the reset is efficient. If you wish to start some fasting, below are several different methods that I recommend…
Deep Dive: What happens in our bodies when we fast?
The post-absorptive phase is anywhere between 6-24 hours after beginning fasting. Insulin levels drop down and breakdown of glycogen to make blood glucose is release for energy. The body can store glycogen for around 24 hours or so.
A process called “gluconeogenesis” starts by the 24-hour mark approx. or when glucose is not enough to supply energy. This process can take place for up to 2 days. This is essentially when the liver starts producing new glucose from existing amino acids.
Ketosis will take place 2-3 days after beginning fasting. The low levels of insulin reached during fasting stimulate lipolysis, the breakdown of fat for energy. Fatty acids may be used directly for energy by many tissues in the body (except the brain).
While fasting, our survival mechanism takes care of preserving our muscles. A process of protein conservation takes place after +/-5 days of fasting. Now levels of growth hormones are sky high and norepinephrine is increased to prevent the decrease in metabolic rate.
It can seem crazy to fast for 5 days, but the world record holder for fasting is 382 days. 5 days is certainly achievable for most people.
Still sound too long? No worries. There are many ways to obtain some of the benefits while not fasting that long.
What about a juice cleanse?
Detox diets and juice cleanses have come into vogue the last few years as an efficient way to (supposedly) lose weight and rid the body of impurities.
Most popular “detox” diets/cleanses don’t remove toxins or lead to fat loss.
Detox diets don’t clean out toxins or help drop body fat. In fact, detox diets can work against these goals by bypassing the body’s natural detoxification systems and creating a feast-or-famine cycle of eating.
Among many problems, detoxes and cleanses often:
- Are protein deficient,
- Are extremely low in energy,
- Cause unhealthy blood-sugar swings,
- Cause GI tract dysfunction, and
- Lead to a yoyo of restrictive eating and overcompensation.
- Are costly (financially-speaking).
I’d only recommend doing a juice cleanse if it serves as the catalyst to make further sustainable changes in their life. A short, 1-3 day juice cleanse would make sense in this situation. Also, if they’re like me, I’d say to do it just to experiment and see how they would feel.
Self-experimentation is a key pillar in lifelong health.
To flip the script a bit, I’d be more willing to prescribe most people to fast for 1-3 days instead of cleansing. No calories. Just water and unsweetened tea/black coffee.
Take Home: Implement One of These Fasting Methods
Fasting 16 hours / Eating 8 hours
This method calls for 16 hours of fasting and 8 hours of feeding. A simple way to do it would be to eat from 12:00 pm to 8:00 pm and fast for the other 16 hours. I recommend starting with this strategy, if you’re new to fasting. This can be done everyday.
Fasting 20 hours / Eating 4 hours
This method calls for 20 hours of fasting and 4 hours of feeding. A simple way to do it would be to eat from 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm and fast for the other 20 hours. It’s a bit more challenging than 16/8, but it serves as a good bridge to the next method. Can be done everyday.
This method is a bit longer and will make you fast for the major part of the day. For example, if your dinner was at 6:00pm, then your next meal will also be at 6:00pm. You are still eating daily, but for only one meal. This can be done 1-2 times per week.
This involves fasting for the entire day. For example, if you eat dinner on day 1, you would fast for all of day 2 and not eat again until breakfast on day 3. This is generally 36 hours of fasting. This can be done once per week.
Fasting is a great natural way to support your body in detoxing. Weight loss is a nice side benefit for some, too. Of course, fasting won’t do much if you’re still consuming junk food and candy. But you already know that.