Is it good to fast? Can we fast and play sports?

Historically practiced for reasons of a religious or therapeutic nature, fasting has been highlighted for a few years for its effects on well-being, including in sports circles. But the mere mention of the word “fasting” can cool more than one, as it refers to the concept of restriction: it is characterized by a period of deprivation of food, or drinks. Fasting has existed since the dawn of time and is often practiced by necessity, when food is scarce. The historic practice of fasting is based on the principles of purification. This would bring us closer to the source of all spirituality, the inherent search of Man. Nowadays, fasting is also practiced for the purpose of “detox”, causing, moreover, frequent confusion in terms with the principle of hepatic detoxification. Athletes are also more likely to use them in the perspective of increasing their performance. In addition, considering the amount of energy that the digestive system requires on a daily basis, it seems legitimate to wonder if its putting to rest could not be beneficial!

There are different types of intermittent fasts:

  • The 16/8 method: it consists in fasting 16 hours a day, which many people do without knowing it by skipping breakfast!
  • The 5/2 method: Brad Pilon is one of the pillars of this method based on the consumption of 500 kcal per day divided between two meals. The methods 16/8 and 5/2 are intended for occasional practices to put the digestive system at rest.
  • Fast 1 day out of 2: this method is for example followed during spiritual retreats.
  • Sanogenesis (therapeutic fasting): it must be performed by professionals who are competent in this field, and is practiced for therapeutic reasons (cancer, chronic inflammatory diseases …).
  • Realize a fast when you want / can: it is about the most intuitive method, to realize according to your sensations (after a meal too rich for example!).

For those who are tempted by the experience of fasting, know that an occasional practice will not cause deficiencies, because the body knows how to adapt. The last of your last meals will be used, then the liver, muscles, and fat tissue (these famous love handles!) Will provide substrates for your other organs to function. After about 3 days of fasting, a new way of energy production takes place, which makes this phase delicate and can lead to a feeling of tiredness or a decrease of vigilance. After this transition period you will find your energy and your vitality.

Putting your digestive system to rest saves some of your energy that would have been used to its operation, but intermittent fasting also has health interests, including regulation of inflammatory mechanisms associated with certain pathologies (obesity, osteoarthritis , lupus, type 1 diabetes …). On the other hand few studies exist on the practice of the fasting in the sportsmen.

Is it necessary to fast?

Such a question deserves an answer to Norman, as the subject is complex. The conclusions vary according to the studies carried out, on the man or on the animal, according to the state of health, the initial weight, the type of fasting, the duration … If you decide to launch you in an intermittent fast, here then a few tips :

  • Hydrate yourself (minimum 2 to 2.5 L of water, herbal teas or tea per day) to eliminate the toxins produced during this period of “detoxification” of the body.
  • Maintain adequate protein intake during periods of food intake (about 1.2 g of protein / kg of body weight / day), especially if you are sporty, at the risk of seeing your body draw on your muscle reserves …
  • Be careful to consume enough quality fats (omega 3) between periods of fasting, same for plants.
  • If you are just embarking on the adventure, consult a health professional who will give you some recommendations and you will specify any contraindications taking into account your health.

Enjoy your meal !

And if you want to deepen the subject and my advice, it’s here!

 

Historically practiced for reasons of a religious or therapeutic nature, fasting has been highlighted for a few years for its effects on well-being, including in sports circles. Is it relevant to fast? What are the different types of fasts and how to practice them? What are the potential risks and expected benefits? Can we both fast and play sports? Let’s see all this in details.

Why fast?

The mere mention of the word “fasting” can provoke a retreat because it refers to the notion of restriction. Fasting from the classical Latin jejunus , ”  who has eaten nothing  “, it is characterized by a period of deprivation of food, or even drinks. Between the 12 hours between your last meal and your blood test, the 40 days of religious abstinence practiced by religious motivation, the therapeutic fasting of 5 to 7 days, the nuance is however de rigueur.

Fasting can even reach its peak with the practice of unedited or pranism, like the Yogi Prahlad Jani, who says, although the results are still debated (1), having lived since the age of 8, or for more than 70 years without food or water, having been blessed by the goddess Amba Mata. From the East to the West and in most traditional societies, fasting has always played a central role in the genesis of religions. Before receiving the Word of God, Moses ascended Mount Sinai and fasted for 40 days. Jesus also withdrew 40 days in the desert to fast while Muhammad fasted before the Qur’an was revealed to him. The religious dimension associated with fasting is therefore very important in this practice. In the Buddhist religion, Siddharta Gautama has also chosen this path of revelation. Fasting therefore occupies a major place, essentially in a liturgical or ritual aspect: individual or collective, depending on the seasons or the religious calendar, total or partial abstinence, fluid or dry (without taking liquids).

The historic practice of fasting is based on the principles of purification . This would bring us closer to the source of all spirituality, the inherent search of Man. Fasting thus represents a form of conciliatory thought – a convergent principle – to all religions. But not only. In medicine too, fasting occupies a place of choice. Shamans use it to allow the individual, beyond purification, to weaken his level of physical resistance and thus facilitate his access to the spirit world. About 2500 years ago, Hippocrates said: ” You have to be measured in everything, breathe clean air, do daily (…) physical exercise and treat his little problems by fasting instead. that by resorting to medicines“, Principle taken up and developed by Hildegarde von Bingen, then by Dr. Kousmine. Fasting is therefore part of a holistic approach to health, in which ”  the less becomes a plus  “ . It would allow the body and mind to access its full resources of vitality, even healing. In this continuity, fasting is today practiced for the purpose of “detox”, generating besides a frequent confusion in the terms with the principle of the hepatic detoxification. Athletes are also more likely to use them in the perspective of increasing their performance.

Fasting has existed since the dawn of time, and is often practiced by necessity. The eating habits of most mammals (except domesticated animals) are characterized by periods of fasting of variable duration and determined by the availability of food. Thus carnivorous food intake may represent only a few meals a week (2), as do populations still living according to the traditional hunter-gatherer model (3, 4). It was not until the advent of agriculture, about 10,000 years ago, that man structured his daily rhythm by taking three meals a day, primarily for social reasons. However, and to the detriment of the many popularized articles mentioning that the man knows periods of fasting prolonged since the night of time, Prof. Cordain, expert in Paleolithic type feeding, published a summary mentioning that there is no reason to suppose that Man was subjected to periods of prolonged fasting, whether in the Paleolithic period or within the populations currently having a hunter-gatherer diet (5). The fact remains that humans naturally have tremendous capacity to adapt to their environment, including the frequency of food intake. For example, our liver has glycogen to maintain constant blood sugar levels between meals if necessary, our muscles also to ensure muscular contraction, this stock can for example triple in case of intensive sports practice. Without counting on the localized reserves in these famous handles of love, the adipose tissue.So, why not us? Here we are at the heart of the subject.

The different types of fasts

We will not approach fasting here for up to several weeks, especially for religious reasons, but what is commonly referred to as intermittent or intermittent fasting . For each of these methods, water is allowed, as well as infusions, tea or coffee for the irreducible, even if personally I advise the latter during the practice of fasting. Similarly, fruit juices are not allowed because of their sugar content. Do not talk about sodas … including light …

  • Fast 16 hours a day

This is a daily method, also called 16/8 . The principle is that you fast for 16 hours, including the duration of sleep (which greatly facilitates the task). Then you eat over the next 8 hours, structured in the form of two to three meals. For example, you can have dinner, sleep, then fast until lunch. What many people finally do is skipping breakfast. This method may seem simple at first glance. However, there is the question of what you can eat during the 8 hours of food intake. You will have some answers in this article.

  • Fast for 24 hours 1 to 2 times a week

As the title indicates, fasting lasts 24 hours: once your breakfast is over, you wait until the next day to pick up a new breakfast. Ditto if you prefer to stall on lunch or dinner, etc. You reproduce the pattern every week, ideally twice. Most studies in humans are carried out on the basis of this method when full fasting is studied, but also when a low-calorie diet, called caloric restriction, is proposed in substitution, of the order of 500 kcal per day spread over two meals. We are talking about the 5/2 method. Brad Pilon, emblematic figure of fasting on the internet, is one of the media pioneers of this method (for those of you who would be curious to take a look, here is his site: bradpilon.com). You can also simply opt for this method occasionally, according to your desires and feelings. Everyone has to find shoes to his feet.

The methods 16/8 and 5/2 are intended for occasional practices, making it possible to put the digestive system a little at rest.

  • Fast 1 day out of 2

According to several studies conducted in mice, this is the most effective method for optimal longevity, with some results mentioning a 20% increase in shelf life . However, and I will develop all the nuances during the article, beyond the scientific relevance of such a method, its long-term application is a real lifestyle choice, both nutritionally and socially. family. An intermediate solution for some is to limit food intake to 500 kcal per day of caloric restriction instead of totally fasting.

For religious reasons, this type of fasting is sometimes associated with a complete lack of fluid intake in order to further increase purification. This is for example what you can achieve during Nyoung-born retreats , a Buddhist practice of both physiological and spiritual purification, based on universal compassion and based on two-day cycles, which can be extended at two weeks, during which you alternate 36 hours of total fasting with 12 hours of food intake.

  • Therapeutic fasting

This fasting, also called sanogenesis , must be done under control by competentprofessionals in this field. This is a fast that can usually last one to three weeks and performed for reasons – you will understand – therapeutic, especially in the context of cancer treatments or chronic inflammatory conditions. Several clinics are specialized, in particular in Switzerland and in Germany, the Buchinger method being the best known. It was created by the doctor of the same name, who was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1953 for exploring this therapeutic path. For the interested ones, I advise you the report diffused several times on Arte « Fasting, a new therapy  “and downloadable for a few euros on the web. Very well documented and educational, the director Thierry de Lestrade develops the history, the methods and the objectives of the therapeutic fasting. In particular, he presents several experiments carried out in the Soviet Union in the 1950s with particularly surprising results on many chronic pathologies. A book has also been published following the report.

 

Internships propose fasts of a certain duration: but considering the physiological and psychological implications, I strongly advise you, if you are interested, to inform you about the skills of the professionals supervising. Indeed, such a practice is not without consequences for the body in case of existence or anteriority of pathologies and behavioral disorders (including food). A number of precautions, or even contraindications, are to be taken into account before embarking indiscriminately in the adventure.

  • Carry out a fast when one can / wants

The most intuitive of fasts. You fast according to your sensations  : when you have eaten too much, or conversely as you approach a hearty meal, when you are on the move and want to avoid the usual sandwich-triangle industrial. I can already hear some of you saying, “But I’m going to be uncomfortable, I’m going to fall into hypoglycemia, especially if I train between noon and two, if I have a manual job, if I need to concentration, etc. “ In the same way, nutrition professionals a little frozen (I dare the term … nicely) will tell you”  but it’s great anything! Another wacky method that will not replace a structured meal and that will induce deficiencies. This is to conceal the many works already done and bringing a number of arguments favorable to this practice. So you can be reassured (e). And this in several ways.

The first is that you will not get bored by fasting a meal … A plate of white pasta with industrial ham doped with antibiotics, filled with water, salt and additives, an industrial compote and a yogurt (0% of course!) Can just as much put you in a state of deficit. Your nutritional balance is defined by the totality of your diet in the short and long term. It’s like the old idea that you have to avoid carbohydrates in the evening at the risk of gaining weight or eating a large plate of dough at lunchtime to “hold” the whole afternoon. This is the best way to sleep during your 14h meeting. But that’s another subject …

In addition, if you choose a diet in which you prefer quality fats and proteins, low glycemic index vegetables and carbohydrates, your body naturally gets used to secrete less insulin, which will allow you to better support your body. a young. Conversely, if you consume a lot of sweet products or high glycemic carbohydrates, your blood sugar will play yo-yo during the day and the effect of a fast of 8 to 12 hours will be felt then. all the more strongly. It’s a bit like training, have fun doing a marathon without training, it can leave you some memories …

Sensitivity to insulin: this is, in my opinion, the main interest of intermittent fasting, or more moderately a diet limiting all excess carbohydrates, especially high glycemic index or nibbled during the day.

What happens in your body when you fast?

During the first few hours, your body uses the nutrients you have consumed during your last meal to bring you energy, especially the carbohydrates that will get into the blood as you digest. If you have eaten a little carbohydrate or after a few hours when your digestion is over, your liver takes over to feed glucose to your so-called hormone-sensitive organs, especially your brain. To get the energy needed for muscle contraction during an effort or your day, you use glycogen stored in your muscles. Part of the energy will also be drawn from fat stores, and to a lesser extent from protein. You arrive at the most delicate phase of fasting. You can then feel fatigue, a significant hunger, a decrease in alertness and performance, or even disorders of attention. Feelings during this period vary greatly among individuals and their nutritional status, but this is generally a transition period necessary to enable your organization to initiate alternative energy production pathways, which the pathway of ketone bodies, or ketogenesis. Produced by the liver, ketone bodies are mainly used by muscle and nerve cells. They represent an alternative fuel to glucose for the brain and can represent up to 70% of the energy used by this organ during prolonged fasts. They would also help increase short-term cognitive function in patients with dementia (6).

Since 1994, Carlson’s team has been studying this alternative energy path. Six healthy men volunteered for a 60-hour fast. During this fast, hepatic glucose production decreased by 30%, while the amount of glycerol and free fatty acids increased. These results highlight the priority given by the body to reserve glucose to the organs that need it the most , while other cells use the fatty acids stored in fat stores and ketones. It should be noted that this study also revealed a 50% increase in plasma leucine levels, reflecting increased proteolysis of muscle tissue at the end of the experiment (7).

The “transition” period, before the ketogenesis takes place, lasts about 3 days (from 2 to 4 days depending on the individual), it is the tipping point at the end of which you feel better, you find your energy, your vitality, even you find yourself in a euphoric state, caused by the production of these ketone bodies. Some may, however, feel the so-called “acidosis crisis” resulting in nausea and transient migraines. One of the evocative signs is also … bad breath. Indeed, acetone is one of the ketone bodies eliminated by the lungs. Ask your spouse (s), he (she) will confirm that you are on the right track! It is on this principle that high-protein diets aiming at stimulating weight loss through the almost total deprivation of dietary carbohydrates are based. Unlike fasting, these diets contain large amounts of protein to promote satiety and especially to protect your muscle tissue. If so, it’s a bit like using the beams of your ceiling to make your chimney work: you will consume your muscle proteins, essential structures of the human body, to make energy. Precautions are therefore required. The consumption of dietary proteins makes it possible to avoid, or more exactly to limit, the use of body proteins while ensuring their daily renewal. these diets contain large amounts of protein to promote satiety and especially to protect your muscle tissue. If so, it’s a bit like using the beams of your ceiling to make your chimney work: you will consume your muscle proteins, essential structures of the human body, to make energy. Precautions are therefore required. The consumption of dietary proteins makes it possible to avoid, or more exactly to limit, the use of body proteins while ensuring their daily renewal. these diets contain large amounts of protein to promote satiety and especially to protect your muscle tissue. If so, it’s a bit like using the beams of your ceiling to make your chimney work: you will consume your muscle proteins, essential structures of the human body, to make energy. Precautions are therefore required. The consumption of dietary proteins makes it possible to avoid, or more exactly to limit, the use of body proteins while ensuring their daily renewal. you will consume your muscle proteins, essential structures of the human body, to make energy. Precautions are therefore required. The consumption of dietary proteins makes it possible to avoid, or more exactly to limit, the use of body proteins while ensuring their daily renewal. you will consume your muscle proteins, essential structures of the human body, to make energy. Precautions are therefore required. The consumption of dietary proteins makes it possible to avoid, or more exactly to limit, the use of body proteins while ensuring their daily renewal.You also produce a lot of nitrogenous waste during this period, drinking more is therefore essential (about 2 to 2.5 liters per day outside the sport).

Thus, the risk is that you continue to burn your beams to warm you up … If the latter continues, proteolysis becomes important and the risk of muscle loss also. Similarly, thin people with limited muscle reserves have increased susceptibility to infections, with the immune system being a major consumer of amino acids, particularly glutamine. The cells in your intestines also need this amino acid. A major and chronic deficiency of intake could then result in an alteration of the intestinal mucosa, especially in endurance athletes. This associated proteolysis represents the main argument of health professionals against the practice of fasting, or diets with high caloric restriction. Other consequences can point the tip of their nose in the long term: you can acidify and demineralize accordingly, reduce your basal metabolism and therefore the amount of energy you spend at rest, increase the kidney work to eliminate waste thus produced and liver labor. To read these few lines and like your muscles, you risk your desire to fast melt like snow in the sun …Fortunately, the defense has solid arguments.

Your digestive system is resting, you gain vitality and lucidity

This is obvious: you do not eat, therefore you do not digest. And with regard to the amount of energy used and the level of stress that we impose on our digestive organs on a daily basis, giving them a little respite may appear beneficial, especially after holidays or excesses. Fasting thus provokes in many people, once the transition of 2-4 days has been completed, a renewal of vitality and lucidity giving the impression of “seeing more clearly”. Some studies also highlight an optimization of cognitive functions (8). Yes, but. As we mentioned, fasting produces a lot of waste and can cause headaches that are sometimes difficult to tolerate. Drinking limits these consequences but requires more work from your kidneys and your liver. Moreover, if you opt for a fast greater than two days, the supervision by a health professional will reassure you and guide you, at least for the first time, or even adapt your program if necessary. One of the benefits of eliminating toxins accumulated over time is to allow the emunctories to be more effective, which can result in an improvement in the quality of the skin, or even disorders such as acne or acne. ‘eczema.

Hunger, a punctual enemy that can be lured

Hunger is due to the lack of food intake of course, but also to the occurrence of hypoglycaemia. The production of ketone bodies can reduce or even eliminate this sensation, but as evoked it will arm itself with patience and will until the third day of carbohydrate deprivation or fasting. Moreover, in case of fasting 16/8 or 5/2, providing your best ally – your water bottle – will allow you to even hunger away, it often returning by cycle, as for sleep . The regular practice of intermittent fasting also makes it possible to overcome this feeling more and more easily. Focusing on other tasks will also facilitate fasting. If you stay in front of the chocolate bar, persuading yourself that you should not eat it for the day,

Weight loss

If one correlates the habits of life of the last seventy years with the number of calories consumed each day and the evolution of obesity, one can easily see the existence of close links, being well established that other factors can intervene. These links are also found in domesticated animals and not in wild animals (9, 10).

Figure 1: The increase in obesity is strongly correlated with calories ingested daily and a sedentary lifestyle (Source: 84).

Analysis also logical: you fast, so you reduce your calorie intake, so you lose weight. Here too, some precisions are necessary. As we have seen, you lose fat at first, but unfortunately also muscle mass, which is not in favor of your health or your goals, the muscle mass not only for your body to tone your silhouette, but also to maintain a higher energy expenditure at rest. Studies in humans highlight the efficacy of intermittent fasting on long-term weight loss especially in obese or overweight people(11). Moreover, remaining vigilant about the amount of food protein consumed outside the fasting periods is essential, of the order of 1.2 g protein / kg body weight / day, or about 85 g for a 70 kg person. . The difficulty lies in achieving these values ​​during the remaining 8 hours of food intake, or about 30 to 40g of protein per meal. This difficulty is all the stronger for people wishing to limit their overall consumption of animal protein for philosophical or ethical reasons. And if we go even further, the ideal would be to offset the protein deficit during the day following a 24-hour fast with a minimum intake of 1.5 g protein / kg body weight / day, or at least an immediate supply of BCAA-rich protein after training following fasting. If you fast occasionally, rest assured, your body will adapt. If you practice regularly, special attention should be paid to this point, as well as hydration. Similarly, if you want to protect your muscle tissue during intense training or muscle mass, studies show a better protein synthesis when the contributions are split during the day, the period will not be favorable. . Note that splitting catches increases appetite (12). special attention should be paid to this point, as well as hydration. Similarly, if you want to protect your muscle tissue during intense training or muscle mass, studies show a better protein synthesis when the contributions are split during the day, the period will not be favorable. . Note that splitting catches increases appetite (12). special attention should be paid to this point, as well as hydration. Similarly, if you want to protect your muscle tissue during intense training or muscle mass, studies show a better protein synthesis when the contributions are split during the day, the period will not be favorable. . Note that splitting catches increases appetite (12).

Intermittent fasting and health

Let’s get deeper into the scientific arguments for health. Western standard daily life is classically orchestrated around three main meals according to the circadian rhythm. We usually start the day with a ”  breakfast Literally by breaking the fast of the night. Given the evolution of our eating habits of the last decades, during which nibbling has become commonplace, we can ask the question of the possible links of such repetitions of food intake on the prevalence of diseases of civilization (or diseases of “Plethora”), in full explosion let’s remember it. As a reminder, the circadian rhythm is reflected in physiological, metabolic and neuroendocrine variations during the day, in response to, among other things, changes in luminosity. These variations are made possible thanks to the numerous connections existing between the nervous system and the photoreceptors of the retina. One study has shown that the very expression of our genes is influenced by the circadian rhythm by up to 10% (13). The links between night work and increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity, certain types of cancer or degenerative disorders are well established (14, 15). Beyond the effect of brightness, the timing of food intake also changes the metabolism of many tissues, especially the liver, muscles and adipose tissue (16). A shift in dietary intake relative to the circadian rhythm induces, despite an identical consumption of the number of calories, insulin resistance, an increase in blood pressure and a reduction in the secretion of the hormone of satiety, leptin (17). Conversely, The links between night work and increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity, certain types of cancer or degenerative disorders are well established (14, 15). Beyond the effect of brightness, the timing of food intake also changes the metabolism of many tissues, especially the liver, muscles and adipose tissue (16). A shift in dietary intake relative to the circadian rhythm induces, despite an identical consumption of the number of calories, insulin resistance, an increase in blood pressure and a reduction in the secretion of the hormone of satiety, leptin (17). Conversely, The links between night work and increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity, certain types of cancer or degenerative disorders are well established (14, 15). Beyond the effect of brightness, the timing of food intake also changes the metabolism of many tissues, especially the liver, muscles and adipose tissue (16). A shift in dietary intake relative to the circadian rhythm induces, despite an identical consumption of the number of calories, insulin resistance, an increase in blood pressure and a reduction in the secretion of the hormone of satiety, leptin (17). Conversely, some types of cancer or degenerative disorders are well established (14, 15). Beyond the effect of brightness, the timing of food intake also changes the metabolism of many tissues, especially the liver, muscles and adipose tissue (16). A shift in dietary intake relative to the circadian rhythm induces, despite an identical consumption of the number of calories, insulin resistance, an increase in blood pressure and a reduction in the secretion of the hormone of satiety, leptin (17). Conversely, some types of cancer or degenerative disorders are well established (14, 15). Beyond the effect of brightness, the timing of food intake also changes the metabolism of many tissues, especially the liver, muscles and adipose tissue (16). A shift in dietary intake relative to the circadian rhythm induces, despite an identical consumption of the number of calories, insulin resistance, an increase in blood pressure and a reduction in the secretion of the hormone of satiety, leptin (17). Conversely, A shift in dietary intake relative to the circadian rhythm induces, despite an identical consumption of the number of calories, insulin resistance, an increase in blood pressure and a reduction in the secretion of the hormone of satiety, leptin (17). Conversely, A shift in dietary intake relative to the circadian rhythm induces, despite an identical consumption of the number of calories, insulin resistance, an increase in blood pressure and a reduction in the secretion of the hormone of satiety, leptin (17). Conversely,morning food intake, more in tune with the circadian rhythm, appears to be associated with more effective weight loss in obese and overweight patients (18, 19).

In animals, food deprivation and caloric restriction seem to affect the circadian rhythm: some nocturnal animals are then partially diurnal. The reduction in the frequency and number of meals would alter the conduct of the circadian rhythm conductor, the suprachiasmatic nucleus, particularly its synchronization with light (20).

Figure 2: Diagram of the organization of the circadian rhythm system (Source: 20).

Intermittent fasting allows the mice to cope better with stress by increasing antioxidant enzymes and reducing oxidative damage . A study conducted for 4 weeks in female mice subjected to intermittent fasting every other day, or to a caloric restriction of 50%, also shows a decrease in visceral adipose tissue and an increase in subcutaneous adipose tissue, thus reflecting a reduction in cardiovascular risks in particular (21).

At the brain level, fasting seems to protect neurons from degenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases (22), and even from aging in general (23). It also stimulates the production of neuroprotective proteins, in particular proteins known as chaperones and involved in the modulation of stress, HSP-70 and GRP-78 (24-26).

Intermittent fasting appears to have beneficial effects on cardiac function by reducing the risk of infarction in animals (27). In general, many studies show a significant benefit on the cellular capacities of adaptation to situations of physiological stress , including against certain forms of cancer.(8, 28, 29). Animal study shows reduced growth and tumor cell numbers in cases of neuroblastomas, ovarian and breast cancers, when chemotherapy is performed in combination with short cycles of fasting . The authors also argue that while this positive effect is confirmed in clinical studies, fasting cycles may also be an alternative to chemotherapy for patients with early stage cancer (30). Several studies have advanced the potential applications of intermittent fasting in the treatment of cancers, particularly breast, ovarian or prostate cancer (31, 32). Moreover, the practice of fasting seems to make it possible to better support chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments.

Uncontrolled and chronic inflammation is implicated in many pathologies (33). Intermittent fasting allows the body to better regulate the mechanisms that cause chronic inflammation in many situations , including:

  • obesity, regardless of weight loss (34).
  • osteoarthritis (35).
  • lupus (36).
  • Type I diabetes (37).
  • Tumor growth (38).

Figure 2: Metabolism of fatty acids for energy production (Source: 82).

Figure 3: Metabolism of fatty acids for energy production (Source: 84).

People replacing their diet based on a model with three meals a day, with an intake of about 500 kcal daily two days a week, see many parameters improve, especially their sensitivity to insulin, and a lower secretion of this hormone and leptin, better mobilization of fatty acids from adipose tissue and greater production of ketone bodies (39-44). Several animal and human studies have shown an increase in insulin sensitivity that is greater in the context of intermittent fasting than a conventional hypocaloric diet resulting in a similar weight loss (40%). , 45).

Fasting also seems to stimulate mitochondrial synthesis in the same way as muscle exercise (46), which is an essential factor in health prevention and helps to optimize the adaptive response to training.

In case of protein damage, the cells have means of “cleaning” damaged structures, including what is called autophagy. When the body receives nutrients regularly during the day, this process is reduced to the benefit of protein synthesis, through a regulatory pathway well known to scientists, mTOR. On the other hand, intermittent fasting stimulates autophagy, thus promoting the cleansing of damaged molecules, especially the liver, kidneys and muscle tissue.(47-49). This route of repair seems particularly interesting in the context of the prevention of Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s diseases (50, 51). The whole purpose of a well-conducted program may be to promote this path physiologically while limiting the risk of sarcopenia (reduction of muscle mass) in the long term. Respect for the circadian rhythm also seems to play an important role in this repair process, highlighting the importance of respecting a rate of food intake during the day (52). The concept of food timingHowever, it is still difficult to specify in light of the contradiction of scientific studies. For example, some highlight a positive interest of breakfast in weight control, others not (53, 54). A particular attention on the nature of the foods composing the breakfast is then all the more determining.

Fasting also seems to show positive effects in children with epilepsy, since work has been done since 1911 (55).

A study was conducted in Turkey during Ramadan in 2014 among pregnant women who decided to perform a dry fast during the day. Deprivation of water resulted in a decrease in circulating blood volume and impaired markers of renal function, including in the fetus then adapting to the dehydration of his mother. This period of fasting did not, however, affect the health of children at birth (56).

In conclusion on this part, a nutritional strategy consisting of reducing the food intake to about 500 kcal / day, 1 to 2 non-successive days per week can represent an interesting compromise as soon as you manage to adapt to this rhythm and with the precautions. evoked (39-41).

Focus: Can we fast and play sports?

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Few studies are available on the effects of intermittent fasting in athletes over the long term. Most of them essentially highlight the interest of a short period of fasting prior to exercise, most often at night, with positive effects on endurance (57) and resistance efforts (58). , with an adaptation of carbohydrate metabolism via a greater activation of gluconeogenesis (59). This question about the interest of intermittent fasting among athletes is particularly interesting: it highlights the whole problematic of the nutritional environment and its effects on the capacity of cellular adaptation to the effort. More and more studies put into perspective the interest, in terms of performance, to benefit from a nutritional environment that is “too protective” of the risk of impairing cellular adaptive capacity. Simply put, wanting to provide nutrients to neutralize more effectively the cellular effects of the effort would not facilitate or even alter the optimal implementation of adaptations sought by the muscular effort. Such is the case, for example, in questioning the value of antioxidant supplementation or a predominantly carbohydrate diet. Thus, by the resultant deprivation, fasting would stimulate alternative energetic and hormonal pathways. If you have already optimized all nutritional pillars, including adopting a diet low in carbohydrates, especially high glycemic index (outside the effort), and if you want to fine tune your program by intermittent fasting, you could be a pioneer in this area. However, remember that increased vigilance on protein (and lipid) intake during periods of food intake would then be required, so that the body does not draw all its reserves in muscle proteins. Ideally, breaking the fast would take place right after the effort to optimize the metabolic window, via a intake of BCAA-rich proteins and carbohydrates. Such a strategy would then aim to optimize the energy sectors, at the partial expense of muscle mass. increased vigilance on protein (and lipid) intake during periods of food intake would then be required, so that the body does not draw all its reserves in muscle proteins. Ideally, breaking the fast would take place right after the effort to optimize the metabolic window, via a intake of BCAA-rich proteins and carbohydrates. Such a strategy would then aim to optimize the energy sectors, at the partial expense of muscle mass. increased vigilance on protein (and lipid) intake during periods of food intake would then be required, so that the body does not draw all its reserves in muscle proteins. Ideally, breaking the fast would take place right after the effort to optimize the metabolic window, via a intake of BCAA-rich proteins and carbohydrates. Such a strategy would then aim to optimize the energy sectors, at the partial expense of muscle mass.

In conclusion, for our friends the sportsmen, wanting to embark on the adventure of intermittent fasting is above all a certain philosophy. If you are seduced by the latter, the sport is compatible but requires a food adaptation (protein, water, lipid) and training (favor the aerobic sector). Opting for a diet favoring foods with a low glycemic index, rich in vegetables and high quality fats (omega 3) can already represent a highly beneficial step if you have not yet implemented it.

Is fasting THE solution to the diseases of civilization?

In the light of all these results, one might think so. Nevertheless, many nuances must be made. Starting with the fact that most of these studies were conducted in mice and not in humans. Moreover, in Rhesus Macaque, no difference in life expectancy has been observed for a period of 25 years, even if the biological parameters associated with aging were improved and the risk of cancer reduced (60, 61). . It is the same in wild mice (62).

One argument put forward for intermittent fasting is the reduction in the production of IGF-1, a hormone involved in the growth processes of different tissues, whether healthy or cancerous cells. Indeed, a decrease in the secretion of this hormone is observed in mice (63), but it seems mainly attributed to protein restrictions alone (64) .This is an important argument. Indeed, intermittent fasting also reduces protein intake, especially of animal origin. However, it has now been shown that a high consumption of animal proteins promotes the inflammatory processes and the secretion of IGF-1, thus the potential growth of cancer cells (65, 66). This study is particularly interesting insofar as it shows a lower risk of cancer occurrence in people over 50 years consuming little animal protein, but also an increased risk of dying of cancer if it occurs after 65 years and overall risk of death from all causes, compared to people with a satisfactory protein status. As we mentioned, insufficient protein status increases muscle wasting and susceptibility to infection (67). This is another major point to keep in mind in case of immune damage or cancer for people who want to achieve fasting in the long term, exposing themselves to the risk of protein deficiencies.

One of the hypotheses to reconcile the positive effects of a caloric restriction without causing the negative effects related to protein deficiency seems to be to reduce food intake to a particular amino acid, methionine (68-70), because of its implication. in the production of free radicals within the mitochondria, or to increase the contributions to another amino acid, glycine . This amino acid indeed has the specificity of being essential for the proper functioning of the liver enzyme to eliminate excess methionine. It also appears to reduce the secretion of IGF-1 and may represent a possible complementation pathway for those wishing to increase their longevity (71-74).

FYI, foods that contain methionine are cheeses, eggs, fish, meat, poultry. Glycine, on the other hand, is more important in poultry or beef, but also lower in soybeans or spirulina (micro-algae).

It also remains necessary to investigate the possible epigenetic effects of chronic caloric restriction on long-term adaptation . Similarly, responses to fasting would differ according to genetic predisposition. Mice, whose expression of the genes responsible for the chrono-biological rhythm is altered, show a disruption of their dietary rhythms. The link between circadian rhythm and diet appears narrow (75, 76).

The results seem to vary according to the nature of the diet before fasting and according to the body composition. Several studies have clearly demonstrated an improvement in weight, markers of inflammation and a better adaptation of metabolism in people with disturbances, especially in obese people (35, 39-41, 45, 77), while other studies show no positive short-term effect in healthy or non-overweight persons (43, 78).

Finally, some studies report more severe negative effects in women, including lower insulin sensitivity and altered menstrual cycles (79-82).

In conclusion, should we fast?

To be clear and honest with you, it is difficult for me to answer this question categorically, as there are many ways to fast and the benefits / risks involved. Indeed, fasting is undeniably one of the most complex and exciting subjects to be treated from a conceptual and scientific point of view. As you will have noticed, the subject requires a minimum of development. The benefits associated with the regular practice of fasting seem at first glance certainly multiple, but also and especially multifactorial and variable depending on the situations and people, including:

  • Types of studies carried out (animal or human),
  • The state of health or the initial weight of the individuals participating in the studies,
  • The type of fasting practiced and its duration,
  • The nutritional status of the person,
  • The possibility of proving the correlation between the results identified and the specific practice of fasting.

It is therefore first and foremost to identify your motivations for fasting:

  1. If you want to slim down. It appears that intermittent fasting is essentially effective on weight loss in case of obesity. If you occasionally do a fast, the calorie deficit can logically help you lose a few hundred grams, if you make sure not to eat lawlessly after fasting. This is not consistent with studies and empirical data.
  2. If you want to “purify” yourself. The practice of fasting according to the method 16/8 or 5/2 will not expose you to major nutritional risks and will actually allow your digestive system to rest a little. But we are talking about occasional practice, two or three times a year, for example.
  3. If you have a chronic condition, including diabetes, cancer, inflammatory or neurodegenerative disease.Intermittent fasting as part of therapeutic fasting seems to bring beneficial results. However, their supervision by a trained health professional, possibly in a specialized clinic, is essential. In addition, the protein status must be monitored outside fasting or during a period of caloric restriction, in order to avoid long-term deficits, particularly in glycine, a complementation of which could then be justified. Finally, and particularly in the context of cancers, the daily limitation of insulin secretory foods (excluding the first phase of chemotherapy), or even the use of a ketogenic diet, may represent alternatives that are easier to put in place and documented (83, 84). .
  4. If you want to increase your longevity or simply optimize your health. Basic advice to favor foods with low glycemic index, foods rich in antioxidants (vegetables, berries, green tea, hibiscus, dark chocolate, turmeric, ginger, etc.), quality fats (omega 3), to avoid Excess meat, limiting your calorie intake 1 to 2 times a week to 500 kcal / day and ensuring the quality of your intestinal flora, are valuable allies and may represent a milder intermediate solution than fasting. You may also prefer a so-called “detox” diet for a few weeks to allow your liver to more effectively eliminate accumulated toxins over time.

In any case, if you opt for intermittent fasting, some reminders:

  • Hydration is essential , at least 2 to 2.5 liters per day in the form of water, herbal teas or tea. If you wish to make an exceptionally dry fast, limit it to 2 days, subject to the absence of contraindications .
  • Be sure to ensure adequate protein intake in your overall diet (about 1.2 g protein / kg body weight / day), focusing on fish, quality poultry and vegetable protein.
  • Be sure to consume an alkalizing diet , rich in plants, not excessive in animal protein and low in daily salt. In the case of therapeutic fasting, the use of nettle or horsetail infusions may be recommended, because of their richness in minerals, vitamins, trace elements.
  • Beware of contraindications to fasting  : eating disorders, kidney or liver failure, autoimmune diseases and susceptibility to infections, especially in thin people and low muscle mass. Likewise if you are pregnant or if you spend a lot of time physically. A tip:have a health professional accompany you, at least for the first time to be well guided in your approach.

Well, I imagine that at this stage of reading, you must want to either throw yourself on a steak / fries, or to embark on the adventure of fasting, before or after entrecôte … To you to to choose !

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