The idea of ‘fasting’ seemed absolutely ludicrous to me when I first came across the idea…
As an athlete, avid gym bro, and utterly brainwashed into all the conventional jargon; skipping meals seemed like the WORST thing you could possibly do when you were trying to be fit, and look good doing it.
I dismissed the idea of fasting for years… and finally came around to it when I finally broke down the walls arrogance (and moreso ignorance) I had built through years of misinformation and poor influences. Realizing everything I knew about optimizing health and performance was skewed, or completely wrong.
After seeing amazing transformations of those who incorporated fasting into their lifestyle, it would have been crazy of me not to at least give it a try. For reason far beyond just losing weight and trying to look good. After adopting intermittent fasting, there has been few other tools as powerful in creating a healthier life.
And I hope you find benefit in this approach too!
First things first:
You can't fast your way out of a bad diet.
Transition to eating a whole foods based diet first: Plenty of veggies, some fruit, nuts, seeds, pasture-raised animal products, wild-caught fish, healthy fats, raw dairy,
Anyone can benefit from fasting. Whether you’re looking to shed a few pounds, improve digestion, help control your blood sugar, curb food cravings, simplify your daily schedule… or all the above! There are stipulations of course, and not everyone should necessarily adopt daily intermittent fasting depending on various factors, but for a period of time, it can be a tremendously powerful health approach.
Instead of thinking about fasting as 'starving yourself,'
think of it as a way to alter your eating patterns to optimize your overall health.
In fact, physiologically we are designed to fast for periods of time. If we couldn't, there wouldn't be a human species.
The vast benefits of fasting have long been known, but have been suppressed in our modern society. Various cultures have utilized fasting for centuries; many times unintentionally as going for periods of time without access to ample food supplies. It hasn’t been until recently that we have access to food everywhere, of any kind, from almost every corner of the planet. Not too long ago, you couldn’t get a banana in January. Not long before that, could you get a banana at all! Not to mention in nearly every religion, fasting is a common spiritual practice.
For good reason! As the benefits span far and wide into every aspect of health: mind, body, and soul.
When you eat, it’s not just your digestive system that has to respond to the food you’re putting in… multiple systems have to synergistically work together to process the food, and the components of the food once broken down. The process starts in your mouth with the production of various enzymes and the subsequent stimulation of the brain to initiate the stomach to prepare for the influx of food. As the stomach is breaking down the proteins and other components of food, the small intestine also begins to initiate special processes to further breakdown and digest the food coming from the stomach. The pancreas begins to secrete various hormones, and the gall bladder releases bile to breakdown and emulsify fats in the intestine.
Nutrients are transported and processed at the gut lining, some shuttled to the liver, others out to other areas of the body. During this time, the body is making other changes and adaptations to the nutrients and energy coming in; requiring nearly all systems of the body to participate. Kidneys, liver, cardiovascular system, lymph system, etc. Your nervous system is directing a lot of energy to control digestive functions, and even your immune system is hard at work protecting your body from potential pathogens. Some studies suggest that as much as 70% of your immune system resides in your gut!
There’s much more that goes into this process, but as you can see, this is a complex process that requires a lot of energy and resources. Overall it will last 3-7 hours after eating.
Just imagine… if you’re constantly taking in food, from 6am to 10pm… that’s a lot of stress on not just your gut, but your entire body.
That’s why fasting can be such a powerful tool.
It gives every system a break; giving your body the chance to HEAL. The immune system can divert energy elsewhere. Quell inflammation. Rebalance hormones. Process and move the contents out of the digestive system. Gotta clean out those pipes!
Improved Metabolic Flexibility
Fasting, ESPECIALLY when coupled with a keto-ish type dietary approach, will catapult your body into a new state of metabolic flexibility. As most of us are depending on sugar as a primary fuel source, it can take some time to adapt to utilizing other fuel sources for energy. Eventually, your body will be primed to convert to utilizing fat stores for energy production; through the oxidation (breakdown) of lipids into ketones.
Improved insulin sensitivity
Insulin sensitivity is an important factor in regulating blood sugar levels, as insulin is the hormone responsible for driving glucose from your blood into your cells. For most, this sensitivity has been dulled over years and years of over-consuming sugars and excess carbs.
By driving down blood sugar and putting less stress on this system, the body has a chance to heal and rebalance.
Improved Immune System Resilience
The research shows that after a couple days of fasting (or by mimicking fasting through other dietary approaches), there's a significant shift in the health of your immune system. Once your immune system balances, it's able to divert energy to cleaning up other things within the body; bacteria, viruses, dysfunctional cells, scar tissue, and damaged proteins.
This is true cellular healing.
Your body is constantly turning over old, damaged cells and replacing with new, healthy cells. Your immune system is able to devote energy to this process and flush out dysfunctional cells; thereby reducing cellular aging and improving metabolic health. Further protecting you against DNA damage, inflammation, and cancer.
People commonly report better quality sleep.
And quality trumps quantity.
Increased growth hormone, oxytocin, testosterone, etc.
Yep, that's right. It's a natural response to extended fasts, your body will endogenously produce these healthy hormones that so many of us strive to artificially induce, or take in the form of a pill.
How to Fast
Technically… it’s quite simple! It doesn’t require anything. Actually, it requires you to do nothing.
Gratitude and happiness
The cheapest, yet most powerful health promoting tools on the planet.
The scientific literature, and various fasting experts in the world do promote several different methods; all of which provide amazing benefits. When applying it to your life, find what works for you, and what you can sustainably commit to! It may even be a combination of all of these methods.
This approach tends to be the most daunting. Water, minerals, herbal tea, essential oils ONLY. With an extended fast, you will catapult your body into a new metabolic state, quickly. As well as induce autophagy quickly and efficiently. Some will do an extended fast like this on a yearly, or ever quarterly basis. These types of fasts are typically best done under the supervision of an expert, especially if it's the first go-around.
Single day fasts
These can be a couple times throughout the week, once a week, every other week, once a month… regardless of what you commit to, there can be benefits to extending your fasting window for a full 24 hours period every so often.
Lower calorie diet: typically 500-700 calories/day, depending on the individual. Carried out for 5-10 days. Sustaining a caloric deficit diet for an extended period of time has been shown to negatively impact basal metabolic rates, thyroid function, nutrient deficiencies, and other systems.
This is typically the most feasible approach, especially when first starting your fasting journey! It can be incorporated into anyone’s lifestyle.
Basically; you fast from about dinner time to lunch the next day. Yep, just skip breakfast! And no, you’re not missing the ‘most important meal of the day’. There hasn’t been any solid evidence to support this notion. But it is a solid marketing tactic for all the processed junk food companies…
For most of us, this is very doable, and helps with solidifying in our mind that we shouldn’t reach for that late night snack… at 10pm just before you go to bed. Give your gut, metabolism, immune system, and nervous system a break! You won’t starve overnight, I promise you.
[Again, fasting, as well as intermittent fasting is not for everyone. And those that are good candidates for fasting, should not overdo fasts... more in an upcoming article.]
Create your Plan
Take it a step further by choosing a fasting/eating window to stick to. It can be easier in planning your day:
Hours Fasting : Hours Eating
Dawn to Dusk