The subject of fasting is too tempting to cut short without telling the whole story and expounding on the positive gains to be reaped during the holy month. In the last three articles, I walked you through some of the benefits along with scientific research that support them. Recently, scientists are recommending fasting for a myriad of disorders, starting with obesity and other metabolic syndromes (diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular and heart disease, cancer). It comes with more advantages like system cleansing, fat and weight loss, hormonal balance, cell, neuron, and tissue regeneration (read earlier articles), lowering of insulin and sugar levels, reduction of inflammation markers which trigger disorders, boosting immune defenses, revitalization of energy, and more. Today, I shall continue by explaining how physical activity and bodybuilding can be practiced while fasting.
Many of us think that fasting and exercising are incompatible. However, during my research I discovered that physical training prevents the loss of muscle mass caused by fasting, which is why we should continue with our routine of daily exercises and bodybuilding. According to training expert Ori Hofmekler, exercise protects muscle mass from breaking down during food abstinence and restrictive diets. The body ingeniously takes its fuel from other tissues than the active muscles, leaving them intact or may even build more muscles. Remember by breaking down tissues and cells, fasting makes the body produces recycled protein for survival.
According to top fitness model and muscle building expert Justin Woltering, intermittent fasting makes the body more sensitive to insulin and the more “insulin sensitive means leaner gains [muscles].” Thus, fasting can promote fat-free muscle mass. While intermittent fasting can aid in muscle-building, extended food deprivation and crash diets can be harmful to health, breaking muscles and tissues down. Twelve -to15-hour fasts (sleep plus a few more hours) are sufficient to stimulate cells to become more insulin-sensitive and make the body “More efficient at using its fat stores for energy.”
Mental, physicals and spiritual benefits are not the only gains; building and development of personality and character can be gained by practicing fasting.
Fasting helps give strength of character; hardens endurance; teaches gratification, patience, self-restraint, and resistance against pain, suffering, and physical and mental abuse; improves temperament and mood; controls anger; instills ethics; increases determination; makes individuals more considerate and understanding; teaches humility; improves disposition and personality traits; and toughens against physical, emotional, and mental hardships, hunger, and thirst. The simple act of food and drink abstinence with conviction can develop diverse character traits and essential qualities. Here is a study that supports that.
The Marshmallow experiment was conducted at the University of Stanford to test the effects of resistance and abstinence on character and personality. Look how their effects influenced character, determination, and goal achievement later on in life.
Between the late 1960s and early 1970s, Stanford University professor Walter Mischel from performed a series of studies on children to see the effects of delayed gratification on children. Each child was given one marshmallow, cookie, or pretzel to take immediately, but if she or he waited for 15 minutes until the return of the researcher, they would be rewarded with two instead. Both groups were followed up years later. Those who waited for the return of the researcher were found to have better academic results, SAT (scholastic achievement test) scores, body mass index (BMI), and other life measures. However, experts are debating whether it is “self-control” or “strategic reasoning” is responsible for these children’s achievements and conducts as adults.
Fasting, in Islam, is encouraged in pre-teen children to teach them abstinence and restraint, in order to help them develop patience, endurance, and determination, making them form more solid characters as adults and that is what we just saw in the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment.
Fasting teaches essential qualities such as patience, resolve, moderation, and self-restraint. Patience makes you use reason and think deeply and take responsible and premeditated approaches instead of taking rash and unreasonable actions. Abstinence helps form character and good qualities, making the person more dependable, more responsible for his or her actions, more aware of outcomes, more motivated to succeed, more decisive, and more driven to achieve higher goals.
The combination of fasting and long prayers, practiced during Ramadan, increase spirituality and humility, stimulating psychological and physiological healing and stress relief. Islam is not the only advocator of these practices. According to Master Qigong teacher, Professor Chunyi Lin, holistic healing, mental clarity, and serenity can be activated and achieved through days of fasting on minimum food and water, and practicing Qigong, which includes deep inhalations and exhalations, and meditation. Other components of this healing process are love, forgiveness, and giving unconditionally. Such practices unlock the channels in the body and brain; massage internal organs; relieve migraines and arthritis; calm the nerves and anxiety; dissipate pain and fears; and enhance sleep.
According to Professor Chunyi Lin by learning to heal yourself with the above techniques, you would be able to heal others from such complications as spinal, liver, and heart disorders, and other psychological and physiological dysfunctions. Qigong, healing with energy, usually starts by healing the mind and then body healing follows. Once you learn to heal yourself you will be able to heal others as well.
Finally, I suggest, at iftar (breaking fast time), to focus on nutrient-dense whole foods like fresh multi-colored fruits and water. Remember, water is essential to the body, brain, health, and life. Lean proteins, high quality fats (olive oil, avocado, and omega 3 from nuts), lots of deep-pigmented vegetables and greens (red, orange, yellow), legumes, and some whole grains should be part of dinner after prayers. It is important to restrict calorie-rich and nutrient-empty foods like refined sugar (colas, soda, and soft drinks and syrupy and creamy pastries) and carbohydrates (white bread and rice), fatty fried foods, and processed meats. Should you wish to have some, have them at the very end of a meal. The first food you eat races first to your cells, good or bad.
It is not only about calorie restriction, but also about nutrient rich foods, which help the detoxification process from stored toxins, free radicals, and excess fat and help the renewal and repair of tissue, regeneration of cells and neurons, and the revitalization of energy and youth.
Even after Ramadan, it is good to fast a day or two a week to maintain and energize health. There is nothing wrong in skipping a meal once in awhile and exercising on an empty stomach. Extended fasting, crash diets, chronic calorie restrictions, and very low fat diets are harmful to health, as they depress the thyroid functions and reduce hormone and neurotransmitter production, needed for heart and brain functions and signals. Fasting, if you are healthy, along with good eating habits and a healthy lifestyle improves body and brain health and curbs prevalent preventable diseases.
A very recent World Health Organization (WHO) study came out, stating that in 2011 alone 17 million people died of cardiovascular and heart disease (3 out of 10 deaths) and 1.4 million died due to diabetes, making the two, the principal causes of death in the world.
Wouldn’t it be more reasonable and less costly to create awareness programs, encouraging people to embrace healthy lifestyles with nutritious diets, exercise, and fasting to reduce such preventable causes of death? Fasting does not take much effort to practice; in fact it is cost-effective, healthy and easy to perform.
All the above-information should be sufficient to motivate you to fast in a healthy manner, without overconsumption after iftar in order to reap the benefits of fasting. Fasting should complement a healthy nutrition and exercise. We still have a few more days to benefit from Ramadan inshallah. Enjoy excellent health with fasting! Ramadan comes with many unexpected rewards.
Individuals with medical conditions or on medication should consult their physicians when they decide to introduce anything new in their diet even if it is natural.
Some of the studies are published in the New Scientist in November 2012
How Intermittent Fasting Might Help You Live a Longer, Healthier Life
Jan 11, 2013 — In a 2003 mouse study overseen by Mark Mattson, head of the National Institute on Aging’s neuroscience laboratory, mice that fasted regularly ...
Why you should starve yourself a little bit each day — io9
by George Dvorsky — in 69 Google+ circles
Jan 28, 2013 — (You can check out the study for yourself: “Extended DailyFasting Overrides Harmful Effects of a High-Fat Diet: Study May Offer Drug-Free ...
Intermittent fasting may help those with diabetes and cardiovascular ...
Intermittent Fasting May Help Those With Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease, StudySuggests. Apr. 26, 2013 — Intermittent fasting is all the rage, but scientific ...
Fasting Could Be Good For The Brain And Even Protect Against ...
by Page Mackinley — in 66 Google+ circles
Jan 1, 2013 — Fasting is good for the soul, so they say, but it may also be good for the body, according to recent research. New studies at the National Institute ...
The Health Benefits of Fasting by Will Carroll
The Stanford Marshmallow Experiment
Intermittent Fasting and Muscle building
Article by Sixpackfactory’s Muscle Building Expert and Top Fitness Model Justin Woltering. Get more info on Justin at: http://www.justinwoltering.com/