Fasting for Weight Loss: How Does it Work?

Photo credit: Bigstockphoto
Photo credit: Bigstockphoto

Fasting is a type of cleansing method wherein the consumption of food is reduced drastically for a variety of reasons. These reasons could be to detoxify the system, to lose weight, or to prep a patient for an operation. Usually, fasting is done to achieve rapid weight loss. In fact, most rapid weight loss programs are nothing but variations of fasting. What these rapid weight loss programs have in common is the length of the fast. A typical rapid weight loss diet lasts about 3 to 5 days, except the Master Cleanse, which lasts for 10 days. Can fasting really help you lose weight? How does fasting affect the body? Let’s find out:

Boosts Growth Hormones

Fasting triggers the secretion of more growth hormones. Growth hormones are not only essential for proper development, they also burn off fat. An average 5-day fast increases the growth hormone secretion on day one and day five. A study shows that during a 2-day fasting sessions, growth hormone secretions increased in concentration and frequency among male test subjects. The participants also experienced more frequent growth hormone bursts, with each burst increasing in intensity. A separate study found that a 24-hour fast increases growth hormone levels by 2000% in men and 1300% in women.

Decreases Insulin Level

There is a link between high insulin level and obesity. The presence of insulin in the body inhibits lipolysis. This is a process wherein triglycerides are released as fuel. If the body’s natural fat burning abilities are reduced, body fat is not converted into energy as efficiently.

Fasting helps decrease insulin level in the body and facilitates efficient lipolysis. By fasting, the body is able to burn off stored fat, reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Lipolysis also promotes faster weight loss.

Enhances Insulin Sensitivity

Insulin resistance causes diabetes. Insulin is a hormone that regulates the level of glucose in the blood. This hormone is secreted by the pancreas. When the cells become resistant to insulin and if the pancreas is unable to produce enough of this hormone, the glucose level in the blood surges. When the glucose level in the blood is elevated, sugar will start building and destroying the organs, leading to diabetes complications.

Fasting enhances insulin sensitivity, allowing the efficient regulation of glucose in the blood. A 20 hour fast is enough to cause significant changes in a patient’s sensitivity to insulin. Fasting helps increase the adrenaline and noradrenaline chemicals in the body. Both of these chemicals – called catecholamines – increases the resting energy expenditure of the body during a fast. And since the body is not burning fat from the food you eat, it will draw energy from stored fat. Catecholamines also provide backup energy to the body while allowing body fat from being burned during a fast. All these leads to faster weight loss.

Enhances Fat Oxidation

Fasting helps increase fat oxidation without breaking down lean mass that causes a wasted, emancipated appearance after losing weight rapidly. By increasing the growth hormones and enhancing insulin sensitivity, the body is able to convert hard-to-get-rid-of body fat for energy, leading to a slimmer physique.


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