When should I eat while fasting?

Fast

Fasting is in

"If you want to stay strong, healthy and young, be moderate, exercise your body, breathe pure air and cure your pain with fasting rather than medication." This quote is attributed to the Greek physician Hippocrates. The co-founder of Western medicine (460-375 BC) saw fasting as a healing method.

Today, almost two and a half millennia later, therapeutic fasting is popular. Every year women's magazines call for "spring cleaning for the body". Fasting clinics invite you all year round. And bookstores are full of guides on the subject.

Fasting is not the same as fasting

Fasting used to be closely related to religious belief. It was primarily a form of asceticism. For example, fasting should help ...

  • ... to cleanse the body,
  • ... to collect willpower,
  • ... to repent
  • ... to achieve an ecstasy in which one establishes direct contact with one's God.

Today, fasting is more like the fasting cure: Here you should forego food in order to heal the body and do something good for your health. Full fasting is an extreme form: This is a zero diet - only water and tea are drunk.

The so-called therapeutic fasting according to Buchinger is less strict: With this popular fasting method, vegetable broth and some fruit juice are allowed in addition to mineral water and tea.

Does not eating help with illness?

When fasting, the body changes its metabolism: fat reserves are burned, and there is less cholesterol and sugar in the blood. Individual studies have shown that the inflammation in rheumatism and neurodermatitis during fasting is less painful than usual. And with osteoarthritis, the joint pain is less severe.

That sounds good at first. However, there are countless studies on the subject of fasting, but very few of them are scientifically so good that they also reveal anything about the health effects of fasting. And what do the medical guidelines on fasting say?

Guidelines are formulated by specialist medical societies and serve doctors as decision-making aids so that they can treat their patients safely and sensibly. The recommendations are based on current scientific study results and on procedures that have proven themselves in practice. The guidelines are updated every few years.

Fasting as a therapy for a specific disease - not a single medical guideline recommends this. For example, the guideline on the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome, updated in 2011, explains that the available data suggests that therapeutic fasting has improved symptoms such as depression and anxiety.

However, there are still no studies that are of high quality. "Therefore therapeutic fasting should only be considered in selected cases and only under strictly controlled conditions", it concludes.

Does it make sense to fast if you want to lose weight?

Fasting is repeatedly promoted as a miracle therapy against obesity. The German Obesity Society (DAG) takes a critical view of this: "We fundamentally reject fasting as a means of weight loss," says DAG President Hans Hauner, who holds the chair of nutritional medicine at the Technical University of Munich.

Cardiac arrhythmias, vitamin and mineral deficiencies and other problems can occur. "Fasting can then be risky, especially for older people." Especially since it is not guaranteed that this self-mortification will bring lasting success.

The nutritionist Nicolai Worm also finds fasting as a weight loss method "nonsensical": When fasting, the body switches to an emergency program and reduces its basic energy metabolism. After fasting, the body really replenishes its stores - that is the yo-yo effect. "Pure fasting also leads to muscle mass being reduced - you don't want to lose your powerhouses, you want to lose fat."

To prevent this from happening, Nicolai Worm recommends the so-called protein-modified fasting for overweight people: "You can consume up to 500 kilocalories per day with protein shakes. These then provide all the important amino acids and fatty acids that the body needs but cannot produce itself. "

Nicolai Worm propagates this fasting method in a downright messianic way. That doesn't always go down well in specialist circles. Once again it becomes clear that it is difficult to say which method is the best for fasting or for losing weight.

Talk to a doctor before starting any fast

For Hans Hauner from the Obesity Society, protein-modified fasting is only "second choice". "The first choice should be a change in diet in which you eat just as much as before, but in a more balanced way and with fewer calories," says the nutritionist.

You don't even have to buy expensive light products. "It's enough to eat ham or beer sausage instead of salami; they have just as much taste, but less fat and calories." Obese people could lose five to ten kilograms in three to six months, says Hauner.

"But if you really want to fast, you can of course do so - but only if a doctor has given his okay and recommended a trustworthy fasting facility." This advice applies not only to overweight people, says Hauner, but to everyone who wants to fast.

Not watching TV - you can fast that way too

If you don't want to fast so radically and still want to do something good for your body, it can sometimes be enough to go without certain foods for a certain period of time, such as sweets, alcohol or cigarettes.

Nowadays, fasting no longer just has to mean going without food: some people fast by leaving their car behind for a while or by not watching TV.

Years ago the Protestant Church launched the "Seven weeks without ..." campaign. Everyone should consciously experience and shape the time between Ash Wednesday and Easter. For example, stress, excuses, shyness or emotional tightness should be avoided. This extraordinary fasting method has many fans: around two million people fast every year.