Does Carbohydrate Restriction Have the Same Benefits as Fasting?

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Fasting is a practice used around the world for a variety of health benefits.

Some fast to allow their bodies to rest and repair without the energy-consuming work of digesting food, others fast in an effort to help the body release toxins, while others fast in an effort to augment their spiritual life.

Whatever your reason for fasting, one thing is true.

It’s hard as hell.

Hunger pains, crankiness, fatigue, irritability. These are all things many of us go through when we try to break through that wave of resistance where our body sends us signals to just EAT for God’s sake!

But what if there were a way to fast without those sometimes painful and demoralizing obstacles?

An interesting study out of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston published in the American Journal of Physiology in 1992 sheds a little bit of light on the body’s response to fasting.

Depending on your fasting goals, this may impact the way you go about it.

The researchers selected five human volunteers to participate in a randomized crossover study.

Before we go further, let’s just take a moment to acknowledge and give credit to these researchers for recruiting human volunteers rather than use unwilling animals. It can be done!

Now back to the study. These volunteers participated in a control study that consisted of a traditional fast (no energy consumption) for 84 hours.

They also participated in a second study, this time receiving a lipid emulsion infusion to meet their daily resting energy needs, but no carbohydrates.

They found that the levels of plasma glucose, free fatty acids, ketone bodies, insulin, and epinephrine concentrations in the blood were the same in both the energy-free fast and the lipid emulsion fast, meaning consuming energy without carbohydrates had the same effect on these blood concentrations as an energy-free fast of 84 hours.

That is a pretty astounding conclusion that could change the way we look at fasting and healing our bodies.

Of course, this would not apply to those who wish to give their digestive systems a long break from doing any work at all (although it may not be certain that is beneficial anyway) and it may also not apply to those who use fasting for spiritual purposes.

Although, in my experience, a carbohydrate-free fast has had similar benefits.

But for those of us who like to fast for general, overall health, it may indicate a very important factor.

Namely, can we attain the same benefits by simply abstaining from carbohydrates, thereby eliminating the suffering that can go along with a zero-energy fast?

If we can, would that make us more likely to engage in fasting more often in a healthier way that does not deplete our energy levels while still providing our bodies with vital minerals and nutrients to help us perform at our highest levels?

Put better, can I eat steaks all day and call it fast?

Perhaps I shouldn’t say it just like that, but the results here seem to indicate that is a possibility.

According to the researchers, “these results demonstrate that restriction of dietary carbohydrate, not the general absences of energy intake itself, is of fundamental importance in the adaptive response to short-term fasting.”

More steaks for me?


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Reference: https://www.physiology.org/doi/abs/10.1152/ajpendo.1992.262.5.E631


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Does carbohydrate restriction have the same benefits as fasting?



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