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Though you’ve certainly heard about the starvation myth before, you may not realize how it’s playing a role in your journey to becoming more fit and healthy. Even if you’re not aware of the studies or scientific reasoning behind the starvation myth, you may find yourself becoming worried during a time of temporary fasting or dieting. You might begin wondering: What if my body holds on tighter to the fat because I’m not eating enough food? What if this is actually unhealthy or a shock for my body? As it turns out, starvation mode isn’t really a thing, and here’s why the truth matters for you.

Fasting Causes a Rise in Metabolism

A recent experiment disproved what the longstanding starvation myth has communicated to dieters around the globe for so many years: as it turns out, fasting or calorie restriction actually causes an increase in your metabolic rate, causing your body to burn through fats faster, not slower. This experiment, which studied the effects of short-term starvation, involved 11 healthy participants who drank only water for 84 hours. By the third day, the participants’ basal metabolic rate had increased by an average of 14% due to the rise of the fat-burning noradrenaline.

On top of that, a 2005 study by the American Physiological Society revealed that fasting improves insulin sensitivity and it is also said to give your digestive system a break to ultimately speed up your metabolism for the long-term.

Tips for Safe Fasting

Fasting doesn’t mean starving yourself. It’s also not something you do all the time. It’s a diet pattern, not an actual diet. You’ll want to do a lot of reading and research before you start and you may even want to check with your doctor, nutritionist or naturopath.

  • Drink lots of water: This will keep you hydrated and assist in flushing your body of toxins.

  • Take it easy: Don’t over exert yourself while fasting, your body is already experiencing something new, so be good to it and treat it nicely!

  • Choose the best fast for you: Fasting doesn’t have to mean no food—choose a juice, water or one meal per day fast—whichever is right for you.

  • Be smart: If you have a condition that may make fasting dangerous for you, check with a doctor first.

  • Know the symptoms: Fasting can cause you to feel differently than you normally do. Be aware of these changes and always listen to your body.

  • Break it carefully: Your first meal after a fast should be light and nutritious—you don’t want to shock your body.

Essentially, fasting should be something you do very purposefully. It should never be about trying to make up for a day that you ate a few too many sweets.

Starve Now, Binge Later?

Since we now know that short-term fasting won’t cause your metabolism to slow down or your body to store fat longer, we can look at what might be the culprit of this widely accepted myth: binging or overeating post-fast. Often what occurs when dieters restrict their calorie intake is a period of destructive binge overeating that would negate (or possibly reverse) any weight-loss experienced during the period of dieting. Bad habits are hard to break!

So the starvation myth is just that—ultimately purposeful fasting won’t cause your body to shut down. But if you’re exercising, remember that you still need to be consuming calories to keep up with all the energy you’re burning through! Without taking enough calories in, you’ll be putting yourself at risk, so be smart and plan your fasting around your workouts.

Photos: George Dolgikh / Shutterstock, Kaboompics

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Mykonos, Greece

Mykonos, Greece