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Benefits of fasting


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Intermittent fasting (IF) is a really powerful tool that many people are using to improve their health.


Research shows that intermittent fasting helps improve overall health and wellbeing. It helps with weight loss and diabetes, and also helps prevent heart disease, cancer and dementia. It's an amazingly powerful eating pattern, and people have been doing it for thousands of years.


After you eat, your body goes through a series of phases:


  1. Digesting your food, releasing glucose and other nutrients into the blood, up to 3 hours after the meal
  2. Storing glucose circulating in the blood as glycogen in the liver, from 3 hours after your meal
  3. Burning glycogen from 9 hours after your last meal
  4. Burning fat from 11-12 hours after your last meal
  5. Self-repair, a process called autophagy (literally self-eating), where damaged cells and proteins are replaced and recycled. This happens from about 14 hours after your last meal. The self-repair process provides many of the longer-term benefits of fasting.


So you can see that for someone with type 2 diabetes, there are potentially huge benefits to be gained from fasting. But where to start?


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Most people find these ways of fasting most effective:


  1. 16/8. You skip breakfast or dinner and limit your eating to 8 hours in the day. That means you eat from 1-9pm or from 7am-3pm. Then you fast for 16 hours. 
  2. 5:2. You eat 500-800 calories on two days of the week. That's the equivalent of one healthy meal on fasting days.
  3. 24 hour fast. You fast for 24 hours once or twice per week. 

Whichever one you choose may take some getting used to, particularly if you're used to 3 meals a day as well as snacks. You should drink plenty of fluids during the fast. You can put small amounts of milk in tea or coffee but avoid sugar. 


Many people who start fasting experience some side effects the first few times. You may too. These could include feeling hungry and a bit weak, but these usually disappear as your body adapts to the new meal schedule. 


Fortunately, there are some apps to help get you going, including Zero and the LIFE Fasting Tracker, both of which are free to download. There's no need to buy a membership. They give lots of useful information, remind you when to fast and can be incredibly motivating.


Watch our 2 minute Know Diabetes video to learn more about intermittent fasting


"Fasting is the simplest and surest method to force your body to burn sugar. Blood glucose is the most easily accessible source of energy. Fasting is merely the flip side of eating – if you are not eating, you are fasting. When you eat, your body stores food energy. When you fast, your body burns food energy. If you simply lengthen out your periods of fasting, you can burn off the stored sugar."


Dr Jason Fung explains really clearly in this short video how fasting helps maximise fat burning. Learn more.

Watch this step by step guide about making a success of the 5:2 diet.

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