Fasting has recently gained a lot of popularity in mainstream media, especially as an effective weight-loss method. However, this practice dates back centuries, and it’s still part of many cultures and religions.
Defined as a deliberate refrainment from eating for a period of time, there are different forms of fasting — including both shorter-durations and lengthy period fasts.
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting. You can either fast for a few hours or days at a time.
A 24-hour fast is a long duration usually practiced with intermittent fasting. It is also referred to as “Eat-Stop-Eat” and was popularized by fitness expert Brad Pilon.
This article explores some aspects of the 24 hours fast, its benefits, drawbacks, and whether you should or shouldn’t do it.
How do you do a 24-hour fast?
A 24-hour fast simply means going a whole day without eating.
Fasting begins as soon as you finish a meal. And you can then resume eating the next day at the time you had your last meal.
For example, if you finish breakfast at 9 a.m. Monday, then you don’t eat again until breakfast at 9 a.m. Tuesday. This amounts to a full 24-hour fast.
You can always choose a time frame that works well for you, whether it’s after breakfast, lunch or dinner — the result is the same.
During a 24 hour fast, you can still drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. You can also drink other zero-calorie beverages such as black coffee and tea with no sugar, sweetener, or milk. Juices, cappuccino, sports drinks, beer, and any other caloric fluids are not allowed.
You can do a 24-hour fast either once or twice a week. For the remaining 5–6 non-fasting days of the week you can eat normally, but it’s recommended that you refrain from overindulging in higher-calorie foods.
What happens to your body during the fast?
So when you’re fasting, you deprive your body of its primary source of energy, which is glucose.
This reduction in calorie consumption kick starts a series of changes, and the body resorts to using stored glucose from the liver and the muscles.
After your body has used up its last glucose reserves, it enters a state called gluconeogenesis, which marks the transition from a fed state to a fasted state.
During gluconeogenesis, your body makes its own glucose from noncarbohydrate precursors such as fat. Studies have shown that gluconeogenesis induces the body to burn more calories and fat.
If you fast for prolonged hours, the fasted state turns into a starvation state, which is more dangerous. During this state, your body’s metabolism slows down, and it breaks the muscles down to provide energy.
Therefore, as earlier recommended, you should not fast for two consecutive days, but take breaks after a 24-hours fast.
Does a 24-hour fast promote weight loss?
Although several studies have shown that intermittent fasting can promote weight loss, this eating pattern may not work for everyone.
There are various mechanisms through which fasting can promote weight loss.
First, abstinence from eating within a certain period will naturally reduce your calorie intake, and this can aid in weight loss.
Fasting also causes hormonal changes such as a decline in the levels of insulin, a hormone involved in blood glucose regulation, which can increase fat burning to promote weight loss.
In addition, fasting also causes an increase in norepinephrine levels, and this can boost your metabolism to increase calorie burning throughout the 24-hour fast.
It is important that you pay extra attention to other factors such as food quality, consistency, and calorie intake. These play a central role in weight loss.
Besides weight loss, studies have linked a 24-hour fast to other health benefits.
Research shows that occasional 24- hour fasts can improve heart health and lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Some studies show that intermittent fasting, including the 24-hour fast can improve blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity.
Although human studies are lacking, research on animals has shown that a 24-hour fast can lower the risk of certain cancers.
Drawbacks of 24-hour fasting.
Long durations of fasting have many side effects, and therefore it is not suitable for everyone.
If you happen to feel unwell, you should stop fasting immediately. Common side effects of 24-hour fasting include hunger, fatigue, dizziness, and insomnia.
To minimize the side effects, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. You can also take non-sweetened black coffee or tea to help reduce hunger.
If you’re not used to fasting for such long durations, start by doing shorter fasts and then later progress to more hours.
Who shouldn’t do a 24-hour fast
Despite having notable benefits, a 24-hour fast is not for everyone. If you have any medical condition, consult with a medical practitioner before beginning to fast
Several groups of people cannot engage in a 24-hour fast; these include:
People with diabetes
People with a history of eating disorders
People with low blood pressure
Women who are pregnant, or breastfeeding
People taking medications that require them to eat adequate amounts of food
Doing a 24- hour fast is generally safe and can offer several health benefits, including weight loss.
However, it is not a one size fits all approach. While this form of intermittent fasting may be highly beneficial to some people, it may not be the case for others.
If you’re not used to long durations of fasting, consider starting with shorter durations.
In case you have a medical condition, consult with a healthcare practitioner before starting a 24-hour fast.