“Three meals a day is a strange modern invention. Volatility in our ancestors’ food supplies most likely brought on frequent fasting- not to mention malnutrition and starvation.” -Stipp, David
Fasting has long been a necessary act of survival. It was often forced upon our earlier ancestors because of the absence of substantial food. When the hunt was unsuccessful, there would be little to no food; thus, subjecting these “victims” to fasts. However, were they truly victims?

Historically, fasting has not only been the result of insufficient food sources. Fasting has been used throughout history as a means of religious rituals, but are there physical benefits as well as spiritual? Many people such as modern-day scholars, researchers, scientists, as well as historical figures like Plutarch, Gandhi, Paracelsus, Plato, Hippocrates, Ben Franklin and more, have, indeed, believed in fasting’s many physical benefits.

Background and History of Fasting

Hippocrates, the Greek physician, strongly believed that fasting assisted the body in healing itself. Hippocrates, the “Father of Medicine,” recommended fasting in the “critical” periods of disease. He is credited with saying, “Our food should be our medicine Our medicine should be our food. But to eat when you are sick is to feed your sickness.”

There are many kinds of fasts: therapeutic fasting, dry fasting, intermittent fasting, juice fasting, master cleanse (a modified juice fast), and more. Each of these fasting methods contains little variations meant to make a more applicable fast for different kinds of people or to fulfill a different purpose.
Not all fasts are for everyone. Some fasts may be beneficial for some people, but harmful to others. One specific method of fasting has acquired a large amount of intention lately because it’s typically seen as a safer alternative too many other fasts. This method is known as Intermittent Fasting. Intermittent fasting (I.F.) is the practice of abstaining from food for intermediary periods of time.
Intermittent fasting has multiple variations. The most common intermittent fasts include:

The 20/4 intermittent fast, consisting of a 20-hour fast period followed by a 4-hour eating period. This method is also known as a shortened or condensed eating period.

Alternate day eating- one day for eating and one day for fasting.

Time-restricted eating–this strategy typically involves skipping breakfast.

The 16/8 fast– involving a sixteen-hour fast followed by an eight-hour period of eating.
The 5:2 fasting protocol- involves restricting calories to 500-700 per day for 2 days a week.
So, why all the excitement and craze around Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent Fasting causes your body to use your body fat as a fuel source during the fasting period which consequently leads to fat loss. In addition to the almost inevitable fat loss, there are a vast amount of other benefits- this includes, but is not limited to mental focus, neurogenesis, an increase of human growth hormone, autophagy, depression, as well as the capability to prevent and fight cancer, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s disease, strokes, etc.

As you can see, fasting (or more specifically, intermittent fasting) has a multitude of health benefits- both physical and mental. Although around for thousands of years, scientists are just now beginning to discover and prove the many health benefits of fasting in the laboratory.
Are you thinking about doing intermittent fasting? Well, read this first…

If you’re interested in trying these intermittent fasting regimens you must not become captive by the common notion that you can eat whatever you want and however much they want of it during the eating period. Consider the eating period as a way to refuel and nourish your body.

After your fast, make sure you still get the required amount of nutrients- proteins, fats, carbohydrates, micro-nutrients, etc., that is needed to meet your specific needs/goals.
Additionally, it is critical that you make sure you are still acquiring the necessary amount of vitamins that your body needs. However, much of this can be obtained through multi-vitamins or other non-caloric ways, and are best taken after the fast. This way there is no risk of setting off metabolical reactions in the body, thereby ending your fast early. The jury is still out on what breaks a fast and what doesn’t. Stay on the safe side!
What is this certain amount of nutrients? Well, it varies from person to person and will require more specific research based on your bodily needs.
For further learning about the metabolical difference between eating and fasting read: Eating Vs Fasting