What Is A 24-Hour Fast?
Fasting keeps resurging in popularity thanks to its life-changing health and weight loss benefits. This twist on dieting pulls in more and more people because of the simplicity of this whole idea. No need to completely restructure your diet, deprive yourself of your favorite foods, or dramatically slash your caloric intake. What fasting does require is limiting your eating window. There are so many different ways one can fast: from forgoing food for 12 hours to fasting for a couple of days in a row. In this article we turn our attention to one of the most practiced intermittent fasting approaches, i.e. a 24-hour fast, and to benefits of 24 hour fast.
Just like the name suggests, this is a fast that goes on for at least 24 hours. There are some people who do not shy away from drinking zero-calorie beverages during fasting while others don’t even drink water. The latter is quite harmful as a person runs the risk of becoming dehydrated. Remember you don’t want to cause any health complications while you are trying to better your well-being. The main reason behind doing a 24-hour fast is to lose weight. However, this does not mean that this is the only benefit associated with the full day fast.
Benefits of 24 hour fast: the best thing about a 24-hour fast
The best thing about a 24-hour fast is that it is very easy for you to incorporate it into your normal life (11). After you eat your dinner, you can go to sleep, miss breakfast (this gives you a reason to sleep in a little bit as you won’t have to make breakfast), miss lunch (makes you save money and you can actually get work done during the lunch break) and then make it home and have your dinner. Just like that, you will have done your full day fast. Numerous people do a 24-hour fast without even realizing it. This may be due to one having a busy day among other reasons.
Longer periods of fasting are usually not done as often compared to short fasts. This is for obvious reasons, long fasts are hard and short fasts are easy. Although that might be the case, people who are used to long fasts actually find them easier. Longer period fasts are said to be more effective compared to shorter period fasts (11). They both have their cons and pros and it all comes down to individual preference.
People who are pro-fasting believe that if fasting is done properly, it might help extend one’s life, regulate glucose, control blood lipids, manage body weight, gain or maintain lean mass and more.
What Happens In Your Body When You Don’t Eat For 24 Hours?
What usually goes on inside our bodies when we do a 24-hour fast? Energy is very important to our bodies. It is the fuel that makes us able to do all the things. Your body needs energy every day, it doesn’t matter whether you are fasting or not. The main source of energy is glucose that comes from carbohydrates. The body also stores some glucose in the body for a rainy day.
When you are fasting, it only takes your body 8 hours to finish the body’s stored glucose. When you get into this stage, your body is likely to enter into a state of gluconeogenesis (16). Gluconeogenesis is a process in which the liver turns non-sugar compounds like amino acids, lactate and glycerol into sugar, so that the body can use them for energy. Gluconeogenesis marks the body’s transition into fasting mode.
When fasting mode becomes starvation mode?
As long as you are still breathing and not eating, it means that soon even the non-sugar compounds will come to an end. This is where fasting mode becomes starvation mode.
When you enter starvation mode, your body will slow its metabolism. This is a way of your body adapting to staying without food for extended stretches of time (16). In addition to that, the body starts to burn muscle tissue for energy.
It is important to note that one can only get to starvation mode after several days or a week of going without eating any food (16). Hence you are not likely to reach this stage if you are only fasting for 24 hours. Before you go on a fast, it is important to consult a dietitian.
Processes that happen during a full day fast
With that said, there are a number of processes that happen during a full day fast that you should know about. These processes are (2):
Benefits of 24 hour fast: Sugar breakdown
The first few hours into a fast, everything in the body is usually normal. The body is going through the process of breaking down glycogen and using up excess glucose.
Benefits of 24 hour fast: Ketosis
This happens after 5 or 6 hours into the fast (2). When you enter into a state of ketosis, your body’s energy now comes from the liver breaking down fats into energy due to lack of carbohydrates (12). This is said to be the time when fasting actually starts.
Benefits of 24 hour fast: Cholesterol and uric acid clean-up
While ketosis is going on, your body also goes through a detoxification process (2). Here your body releases cholesterol and uric acid into the bloodstream. During this detoxification process, you may experience some side effects. These effects include: headaches, dizziness, fatigue, skin rashes, muscle pain, joint aches and others depending on the person.
When this process is almost at its end, the pain will be lessened and your blood pressure will drop.
Benefits of 24 hour fast: Resting of the digestive system
The digestive system is tasked with breaking down food into small soluble pieces that can be absorbed by the body. When you are fasting, it means there is no food for it to break down and hence it may rest (2). This only occurs during prolonged periods of fasting. This is because the digestion process takes time and short fasts do not give the digestive system enough time to digest the food that was already in your body.
Benefits of 24 hour fast: Influx of certain emotions or feelings
After 6-8 hours, you are likely to start feeling hungry. The hunger gets worse as time goes on. This may trigger emotions like anger, frustration, and sadness among others (2). The important thing to do here is to try not to take your emotions out on other people. You should use this time to meditate or even try to focus on something else to distract your body from hunger.
Safe Ways Of Breaking A Fast
After your fasting period has ended, most people usually rush to the refrigerator and try to eat as much as they can. It is not the smartest move. Here are a couple of actual safe ways to break a fast:
Drinking a lot of water (16)
This is particularly important if the type of fast you took did not allow intake of water and other zero-calorie beverages. You are likely to get dehydrated from staying 24 hours without water. Even if you did drink water during your fast, a good portion of your typical water intake comes from the foods you normally eat, so you were still probably taking in less water than usual. The first thing you should do once you break your fast is to drink water with your first meal.
Eat a small meal (16)
Eating a large meal just after fasting your fast can strain your digestive system. Remember your digestive system was resting, hence giving it a large amount of food to digest after a period of rest may cause a strain on it. After you break your fast, you can first eat a snack before you eat a large meal.
Chew your food well (16)
This is so to prevent a strain on your digestive system. We know you are hungry and want to eat as much and as fast as possible, but try to chew your food properly to make the adaptation process for your digestive system a little easier.
Eat cooked food (16)
This is not the time for raw foods. Cooked foods are easier to digest compared to raw foods.
Do not experiment with new foods (16)
This is not the time to be adventurous and risky with new foods. After a period of fasting, new foods throw the digestive process out of whack and can even make a person fall ill in some cases. After a fast, eat foods that you are used to eating.
Who Should Not Fast?
Fasting is not for everyone. There are certain groups of people who should not fast, or if they fast, they should first consult an expert. These groups of people include (16):
- People with any type of diabetes.
- People who are currently taking medication that require one to eat before you take them.
- Mothers who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- People who have a history of eating disorders.
- Children, adolescents, and older adults.
- People who have been advised not to fast by doctors. Anyone interested in fasting should first speak with their physician to determine if it is safe for them.
Benefits Of A 24-Hour Fast
Fasting is associated with many benefits, that is why more and more people are trying to incorporate fasting into their routines. Most people do the 24-hour fast once or twice a week. The benefits of a 24-hour fast are:
Helps promote weight loss
One thing that has made fasting very popular is its ability to promote weight loss. For you to attain weight loss, you need to consume less calories than your body burns in a day. If you do so, this goes on to create a calorie deficit which then causes weight loss. How then does fasting promote weight loss? It promotes weight loss by creating a calorie deficit. If you fast for a full day, you won’t consume any calories. Even though you are not eating, your body is still burning calories as it needs energy. This ends up promoting weight loss.
A review of studies on the effects of intermittent fasting on body composition and clinical health markers in humans was done (7). Trials on whole day fasting lasting for 12 – 24 weeks found that full day fasting causes a reduction in body weight and body fat by about 3% to 9%. It also found that a 24-hour fast reduces total cholesterol and triglycerides.
Which one to choose: intermittent fasting or calorie restriction
Intermittent fasting is also said to cause approximately as much fat loss as calorie restriction. A review was done on intermittent versus daily calorie restriction: which diet regimen is more effective for weight loss (10)? The reviewers found that both diets do cause similar weight loss and fat mass loss. Intermittent fasting caused a weight loss of 4-8% and a fat loss of 11-16%. Calorie restriction on the other hand was said to cause a weight loss of 5-8% and a fat loss of 10-20%. Less fat free mass (muscle) was lost with intermittent fasting than with daily calorie restriction. This shows fasting ranks just as high as other diets that are well-known to promote weight loss.
Fasting also promotes weight loss by increasing one’s metabolism. A study was done to determine whether resting energy expenditure in short-term starvation is increased as a result of an increase in serum norepinephrine (13). Short-term starvation in this case means fasting as we highlighted in the different stages of fasting. The study was done on lean individuals, who were put under normal living conditions. The study found out that the resting energy expenditure (metabolism) increases in early starvation (fasting), accompanied by an increase in plasma norepinephrine. This increase in norepinephrine seems to be due to a decline in serum glucose and may be the initial signal for metabolic changes in early starvation.
Increase in production of the growth hormone
Growth hormone is an important hormone in the body and is used for various functions. Growth hormone is said to promote weight loss, promote an increase in metabolism, growth of muscle strength as well as overall growth. Some studies have been done to show that fasting does really help in the production of the growth hormone.
A study on the effect of prolonged fasting on levels of growth hormone-binding protein and free growth hormone was done on the overnight and the 24-hour fasting variations (14). The study concluded that a 24-hour fast led to parallel increases in free and total growth hormone levels whilst there was no discernible change in levels of growth hormone-binding protein.
Fasting is said to prolong life
Nobody wants to live a short life, that is certain. Fasting is said to prolong life and delay aging (15). This was concluded after ample research done on animals.
A study on the effects of intermittent fasting upon growth and life span in rats was conducted (6). The study took all their lifespan, this is to say it started when they were weaning and ended when they died. 28 male rats were maintained on an ad libitum diet. 24 other rats were kept on an every other day diet.
The results showed that the mean life span of the rats on the every other day diet had an 83% increase compared to the ones under the ad libitum diet. The rate of aging was also retarded on the rats on the every other day diet. Their body weight and growth rate was also reduced in the every other diet but their growth duration was 75% longer compared to the other rats. This thus shows fasting delays aging and prolongs life span in rats.
Fastings aid in cancer prevention
Who knew there were so many benefits of fasting. To add to our already growing list, fasting is said to help in cancer prevention. Fasting also increases the chances of successful chemotherapy. Although there are not too many studies on this. There have been studies that have been done on rats as well as several test tubes studies that have shown evidence of this (8). Researchers believe that if fasting can cause this in rats and other cells, the same results might be replicated in human beings.
Fasting helps improve the functioning of one’s brain
Fasting is also said to improve your brain functionality (3). Several animal studies have shown this. A study was done to see if chronic intermittent fasting improves cognitive functions and brain structures in mice (5). 7 week old mice were put on an intermittent fasting diet for 11 months. The results showed that the mice had better learning skills and memory. The mice also had lower oxidative stress compared to mice that ate normally. This goes to show that a 24 hour fast can help improve brain functions and structures in animals and the same results might be experienced in human beings.
Fastings helps reduce the risks of developing diabetes
One of the ways one can reduce or control diabetes is by losing weight. When you lose weight, you become more insulin-sensitive (4). This helps lower your blood sugar. Hence one way the full day fast can help you reduce the risk of developing diabetes is by helping you lose weight. As we have seen above, fasting is really effective when it comes to weight loss.
When you eat, your body automatically releases insulin into the bloodstream (1). The work of this insulin is to supply energy to the different cells in the body. If you are pre-diabetic, it means you are less sensitive to insulin and your blood sugar levels stay elevated. Fasting helps in preventing and controlling diabetes by the fact that fasting prevents the body from releasing insulin more often. This is because insulin is released when you eat and in this case you are not eating.
Fasting can also reduce your chances of getting various cardiovascular conditions
Various cardiovascular diseases cause so many deaths over the years. It is, therefore, important for everyone to do all they can to reduce their chances of getting various heart diseases. One way you can do this is by introducing fasting to your eating routine.
Fasting helps reduce your chances of getting various heart conditions by reducing cholesterol levels and blood triglycerides in your body. This then helps prevent various cardiovascular conditions (1).
Those are some of the many benefits associated with the 24-hour fast as well as other variations of prolonged fasting.
Tips To Fasting
Here are certain tips that will make your fasting routine easier and more effective:
Like most diets, when it comes to fasting, start slow and keep growing. You can start by not eating for 6 hours, then 8 hours, then 12 hours and so on. You can start by fasting only once a week as you increase the number of times you fast in a week. It is also possible to start with a fast that allows one to take various zero-calorie drinks.
Choose your time wisely (9)
Choose a time when your fast won’t affect your daily activities. If you are new to fasting, you can choose to fast when you are not going to work first.
Choose your type of fast (9)
There are many variations of fasting and all have different rules. Choose the type of fast that is best for you. You can consult a dietician so that they can help you make this decision.
The Bottom Line
The benefits of a 24-hour fast are numerous as you have seen above. The full day fast is a prolonged fast that can be quite challenging at first but once you get the hang of it it can be very easy and quite effective. Supplement your diet with some exercise to double your results.