How long can you go without eating? As a health care professional trained in taking care of patients, inhibiting caloric intake for a set amount of time is something I am very familiar with. Usually, it’s done to regulate blood sugar levels and evaluate the body’s ability to create the necessary enzymes to break down glucose. In other words a way to assess the organs responsible for metabolism, like the pancreas.
Though as a therapeutic option, people are divided on the benefits of fasting, or in my case intermittent fasting (IF) though I have to say, when I first tried this out a few years ago it actually helped. Since deprivation has some weird effects on the body, like mess up your metabolism. But when you understand physiologic processes like I do, IF becomes very beneficial.
When you deprive yourself of any calories for the first 8 hours, your body actually goes through a state of INCREASED metabolism. Rapidly breaking down carbohydrates in your system for a quick energy boost, this will result in a dramatic drop in your blood sugar levels and you will immediately be out of commission since you quickly used up your tier 1 energy stores. But increase the time of deprivation, your body panics, triggering a survival response the body will switch to tier 2 energy stores which would be the glucose found in the muscles. Now, contrary to popular belief, this will not cause muscle wasting because if you go through extensive physical activity, the body will leave the muscles alone and switch to tier 3 which is the body fat (also known as your long term energy stores). Using these principles, you could actually benefit from 16-18 hours of fasting when talking about weight loss.
WARNING! Go beyond 24 hours though, your body will go to deep starvation mode and will quickly revert to tier 1 & 2 energy stores and keep the tier 3 locked away. This is why some fasting fails, because people push the metabolic yo-yo too far and promote weight gain as opposed to weight loss. Some people who have strong wills to actually regulate their eating AFTER the fasting period and not give in to the binge eating promoted by deprivation period might still benefit, but I don’t recommend that at all.
So, for me, I’m going for a 24 hour fast with my last meal around 7PM this evening and will end 7PM tomorrow as well. This is going to be hard, but wish me luck. Tomorrow, I’ll talk about the psychological benefits of fasting.