Do you cringe when you hear the word “fast”, imagining 10 consecutive days of consuming nothing but a lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper concoction that you’ve heard that celebrities use for extreme and rapid weight loss? Do you fear that the end of this extensive deprivation will only lead to quickly gaining all of the weight back, decreased metabolism, constipation, or even serious illness such as gallbladder problems? Well, put your mind at ease in knowing that intermittent fasting, which has gained popularity since 2012, is a healthier, more realistic, and sustainable alternative to the traditional 2 to 10-day continuous fasts. In fact doctors, scientific researchers, and authors have strongly supported various forms of detox using intermittent fasting, 11 of which are detailed below:
1. Skipping Breakfast
This form of intermittent fasting that lasts from 8 p.m. to 12 noon challenges the theory that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, as well as the three-meal-a-day tradition that began in the 1600s in Europe. Nutritional guru and author of the book Glow15, Naomi Whittel, explains that skipping breakfast activates autophagy or cellular regeneration, which eliminates toxic waste from cells, enhances the immune system, and decreases inflammation. (10) A 16-clinical trial in 2014 by the American Society of Nutrition found that neither eating nor skipping breakfast influences weight loss. (2)
2. Eating Only When Hungry/Spontaneous Meal Skipping
This diet is best described as, “Eat to live. Don’t Live to Eat.” It negates the emotional eating habits of binging when excited or sad that leads to weight gain. Spontaneous meal skipping is natural for the body and individually tailored, making it highly sustainable. You choose to eat within any time-frame that your body signals and never feel forced to eat on someone else’s terms.
3. The 12:12 Fast
Recommended for intermittent fasting beginners, this form of detox involves eating during a 12-hour window, followed by fasting for 12 hours. Studies have found the conversion of fat to occur between 10 to 16 hours of fasting. This fast allows you to eat 3 meals plus 1 healthy and light snack that can be spaced every three hours. Note that, eating every three hours turns off the starvation protection-mechanism (which in turn stimulates the burning of belly fat by the reduction of the cortisol hormone), preserves lean muscle tissue, and revs up the metabolism.
4. The 5-Day Mini-Fast
Created by Nutritionist Kellyann Petrucci and featured on a Dr. Oz episode, the 15:2 Mini-Fast involves eating a customized diet for eight hours between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. over a five-day period. The following is the layout of this diet: (8)
Breakfast: Liquid such as a slimming shake with berries, protein, and greens; coffee; tea; or one tablespoon of lemon juice in eight ounces of water.
Lunch: A fat-burning meal consisting of four ounces of protein and two ounces of healthy fat.
Dinner: Four ounces of protein, two ounces of healthy fat, and a half cup of cooked beans.
Dessert: Chocolate whip (Almond milk, avocado, cacao powder, coconut oil, and vanilla extract).
5. The 16:8 Fast or Leangains Diet
The 16:8 fast focuses more on measuring time than on measuring calories. It involves eating during an eight-hour window followed by fasting up to 14 hours for women and 16 hours for men and is typically done every other day. A six-week study, published in the World Journal of Diabetes, was conducted in which participants with type 2 diabetes ate normally on weeks one to two and five to six, while fasting (involving skipping breakfast) on weeks three to four with a fasting goal of 18 to 20 hours a day, drinking only tea or coffee. This study produced the results of intermittent fasting correlating with at-target blood glucose levels in the morning and a decrease in weight. (1) The science behind the ability of fasting to treat diabetes concludes that fat cells release stored sugar during fasting that is converted into energy, resulting in a decline in insulin levels and an increase in weight loss. (7)
6. The 20:4 Fast/Warrior Diet
This method of intermittent fasting is inspired by the primal method of eating, where hunting occurred all day, followed by one meal at night. The 20:4 fast consists of raw fruits and vegetables during a 20-hour fast, leaving room for one big dinner, during a 4-hour window, which includes carbohydrates, proteins, plenteous vegetables, and healthy fats. While the warrior diet appeals to nocturnal eaters, it is not for everyone since digesting large meals close to bedtime is taxing on your digestive system. You may argue that this diet enables binge eating and sabotages portion control.
7. The 5:2 Fast
This detox approach involves five days of normal eating followed by two days of very restricted calorie consumption. The two fasting days are often spaced out with at least one day in between. The International Journal of Obesity reports a six-month study that was done among 107 obese and overweight women between the ages of 30 to 45 to compare continuous fasting (two days) with intermittent fasting (seven days). Participants consumed 25% of calorie needs on the fasting days. The results of the study revealed that the benefits of intermittent fasting resembled that of continuous fasting when it came to weight loss, and disease prevention benefits from intermittent fasting surpassed that of continuous fasting due to increased cellular stress resistance. (4) More about this diet can be found in the book, The 5:2 Diet by Kate Harrison.
8. Several-Day Juice Fast
Dr. Joel Fuhrman, author of the book, Fasting and Eating for Health, explains that juicing works by restricting calories and decreasing the toxic load found in processed foods, which provides the body with more energy to repair, thus extending lifespan. Juice is preferred over water because it contains nutrients vital to removing toxins and contains electrolytes that prevent passing out. Dr. Fuhrman recommends vegetable juices plus one salad per day during this fast. A sample fasting juice would contain one serving of fruit combined with a variety of vegetables such as carrots, celery, cabbage, kale, beets, and cucumbers. (3) and (5)
9. Every-Other-Day Fast
This fast, done on alternate days, ranges from abstaining from solid foods to limiting calories to 500, and then consuming unrestricted calories on the feeding days. The Nutritional Journal published a 12-week study of 32 normal weight and obese adults, who alternated a fast day (consumption of 25% of caloric needs) with a feed day. The results demonstrated weight loss and cardiac benefits with the alternate-day fasting. The participants lost greater than 11 pounds during the 12-week period. (9)
10. Once-A-Week 24-Hour Fast
This is a fast done once a week between breakfast-to-breakfast, lunch-to-lunch, or dinner-to-dinner, allowing non-caloric drinks like herbal tea. A word of advice is to graduate to a 24-hour fast only after mastering a 12-hour fast. You can prepare for this type of fast by eating a three-month, low-carbohydrate, nutrient-rich diet that stabilizes insulin and reduces the feeling of starvation.
11. Early Time-Restricted Fast
Introduced by researchers from the University of Alabama, this fast involves consuming meals within an early eight-hour window such as 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. A study conducted by Harvard University compared early eight-hour feeding with 12-hour feeding. It found that after five weeks, the early eight-hour feeding group had, in addition to decreased appetites, significantly lower insulin levels than the 12-hour feeding group. (7)
Now that you’ve explored 11 types of detoxes using intermittent fasting, you’re ready to take on the journey that fits you, thereby reducing cancer, diabetes, heart problems, obesity, and Alzheimer’s and extending your lifespan. It is important to note that not everyone makes a good candidate for intermittent fasting, including individuals with a history of eating disorders, pregnant women, or those with advanced diabetes who are taking medications. The most important takeaway is that intermittent fasting gives your digestive system a break, replacing the energy of consumption with that of elimination, thereby triggering autolysis, the process of the body feeding off of its reserves, consuming built-up toxins, fungus, and bacteria and eliminating them through your bowels, skin, kidneys, and lungs. (6)
(1) Arnason, T. et al. Effects of intermittent fasting on health markers in those with type 2 diabetes: A pilot study. (2017, Apr) World Journal of Diabetes.
(2) Dhurandhar, EJ., et al. (2014, Aug) The effectiveness of breakfast recommendations on weight loss. US American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
(3) Fuhrman, J, M.D. (2018, May). Does juicing really “detox” the body?
(4) Harvie, M.N. (2011, May). The effects of intermittent or continuous energy restriction on weight loss and metabolic disease risk markers: a randomized trial in young overweight women. International Journal of Obesity.
(5) Najam, N. 7 ways to detox your body. Flowingfree.org
(6) Noyer, S. The art of fasting. FlowingFree.org
(7) Tell, M, MD. (2018, June). Intermittent fasting: Surprising update.
(8) Sample 5-day mini fast plan. Dr. Oz.
(9) Varady, K.A. (2013, Nov). Alternate day fasting for weight loss in normal weight and overweight subjects: a randomized controlled trial. Nutritional Journal.
(10) Whittel, N. A New York Times bestseller: Glow15
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