We have to break free from the notion that we need to eat 3 meals a day. Fasting is one of the best ways in which to reboot the body and mind and to regenerate cells.
A window of 18 hours between meals (called Intermittent Fasting) is enough to reap the benefits.
Fasting for longer than 24 hours has been proven to be hugely beneficial in treating diabetes and degenerative diseases; it starves cancer cells and leaves them more vulnerable to destruction
The process of digesting food causes inflammation, therefore giving the body a break from this demanding process means that the energy can be redirected to healing the body!
A brief history of fasting
Fasting has unintentionally been practiced by all our ancestors due to the lack of available food at times. It has also been practiced consciously by many of the most intelligent and spiritually advanced people from all walks of life!
In biblical times fasting was a normal part of everyday life. Jesus fasted for 40 days before beginning his ministry.
Hippocrates believed that during illness food had to be abstained from as he believed that the more you fed the body the more harm was done.
The biggest challenge is to break free from societal programs which dictate that we need to eat 3 square meals a day plus snack in between!
Intermittent fasting and other forms of fasting are utilizing your body’s ancient wisdom in your DNA carried on from your ancestors. If you want to take care of your body the way it was designed to, through fasting, it is important that you are equally focusing on both fasting and feasting.
When you are feasting on healthy, nutrient-dense foods, you flood your body with essential nutrients it needs to repair and create health. You stimulate metabolic pathways that are needed to burn fat for fuel and have proper lean body tissue development.
What you need to remember is that you need to create a healthy balance between fasting and feasting. When you are fasting, fast, don’t cheat with small snacks here and there. However, when it’s time to eat, feast until you are full and satisfied. Don’t overeat, but don’t limit yourself. Satisfy and nourish your body with much-needed nutrients from healthy food
I am a huge fan of fasting and practice Intermittent Fasting (IF) 5 days out of 7. It may sound extreme to those of you that have never tried but the benefits are such that it soon becomes addictive!
Not only am I in good physical condition but I have also honed the art of self discipline which in itself is hugely liberating. Furthermore my digestive system enjoys an 18-hour break which means that all the energy that would have gone into digesting food is redirected to repair damaged cells, boost my immune system, and reboot my body and mind!
Imagine waking up, exercising, working and not having to eat until 1pm and not feeling ravenous.... all because your insulin levels remain low and your blood sugar doesn't drop due to the fact that your body is busy munching on the fatty acids that are produced during ketosis.
A 2006 study found that both Caloric Restriction (CR) and intermittent fasting (IF) can prolong the health-span of the nervous system by affecting fundamental metabolic and cellular signaling pathways that regulate life-span.
During times of nutrient deprivation such as fasting, exercise, etc. the body needs to load up on raw materials to fuel the metabolic machinery to produce the necessary energy for survival. To do this, the innate intelligence within our body signals to break down the older cells and cellular organelles that are working less efficiently to create newer, healthier cells. This process is called autophagy.
The more cells that are able to repair themselves before they become permanently damaged the less inflammation and metabolic waste is produced. This recycling process is very clean and smooth for the body and conserves energy for other vital functions and help us feel significantly better in our mind and body.
CR and IF affect energy, free radical production, and cellular stress response systems in ways that protect neurons against genetic and environmental factors to which they would otherwise succumb during aging.
Specifically, the researchers found that both IF and CR induce a mild stress response in brain cells, which results in the activation of compensating mechanisms.
According to the researchers, IF regimens have previously been demonstrated to lessen and even stop damage to the nerves in the brain and improve outcomes in animal models of both neurological trauma such as stroke and also age-related neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's disease and Huntington's disease.
Someone with a high level of metabolic flexibility and energy efficiency will immediately be able to produce high levels of strength and speed in order to complete a task. They are also able to think clearly and be optimally productive and efficient in their endeavours. Finally they are also comfortably able to go without food for 16 - 18 hours.
Fasting, for as little as three days, "flips a regenerative switch" which prompts stem cells to create brand new white blood cells, essentially regenerating the entire immune system.
The new research shows that this could be particularly beneficial for people suffering from damaged immune systems, even cancer patients on chemotherapy. And it could also help the elderly whose immune system become less effective as they age, making it harder for them to fight off even common diseases.
When we use glucose as our primary source of energy, we end up producing a lot of free radicals and metabolic waste that damage the mitochondria.
Unless regular bouts of autophagy are stimulated, we end up with a large number of dysfunctional mitochondria that are metabolically inflexible and can only rely on glucose for fuel.
Autophagy may keep the cell in tact but degrade the dysfunctional mitochondria and reuse the raw materials to form new, metabolically flexible mitochondria. This process of mitochondrial recycling is called mitophagy
There are a number of different ways to improve your overall metabolic flexibility and energy efficiency:
1. Intermittent Fasting, Fat Fasting or Water Fasting
2. Ketogenic Diet or cyclical Ketogenic Diet
3. Interval and Resistance training exercises
4. Improving Gut Health
5. Nutritional Supplementation
Thousands of years of food scarcity has led our bodies to develop a protective mechanism in order to adapt to alternating phases of abundance and scarcity.
During the latter times, our cell membranes become more sensitive to insulin so that it ensures that every bit of food is efficiently used or stored.
During times of abundance, the body desensitises the cells to insulin in an effort to avoid the stress of a heavy calorific intake.
This results in an elevated insulin level, increased fat storage, and increased oxidative stress and inflammation.
Due to the fact that most of us have access to food anytime and anywhere, most of us tend to overeat which inhibits key tissue repair hormones that in turn have powerful anti-agin effects.
Human Growth Hormone (HGH) and Insulin are endocrine opposites. This means that they trigger your physiology in an opposite manner to one another. HGH is designed to improve tissue repair and signalling efficient fuel usage and anti-inflammatory immune activity whereas Insulin works to stimulate energy storage and increases both cellular division and inflammation.
When conditions are such that insulin dominates- such as when food is consumed (especially starch and sugar) - then HGH is inhibited.
A ketogenic diet mimics fasting and you get some of the same benefits of fasting while still eating food. By blunting insulin, the ketogenic diet primes autophagy pathways and when we apply intermittent fasting, we get into a state of autophagy much quicker than if we were not keto adapted.
This results in the body using insulin more effectively so that less insulin is required when eating. By reducing the overall demand for insulin, systemic inflammation is reduced and HGH levels will improve.
Tips for Fasting
Fasting for extended periods of time is by far the most powerful way to stimulate autophagy mechanisms in the body. You will achieve peak levels of autophagy around Day 4 and 5 of a water fast.
Another approach is to do a partial fast for 5 days each month or two. One researched example of a partial fast is the Fasting Mimicking Diet, which has the individual consume between 800-1100 calories for 5 days and has powerful studies behind its impact on autophagy.
However, you can also stimulate a healthy level of autophagy through daily intermittent fasting where you restrict meals to an 8 hour or less window each day. This would mean you would fast for 16 hours without taking in any calories each day. As an example, you could eat your meals between 10am – 6pm.
There are many fasting strategies you can try where you go anywhere from 12 to 36 hours without food. You can also do a 3 - 5 day water fast.
With fasting we have what is called the building window and the cleansing window:
Building window - this is the time between your first meal and last meal of the day. This can also be called the 'eating window'
Cleansing window - this is the time between your last meal of one day and the first meal of the next day. This may also be called the "fasting window"
For example if you ate between 12pm and 8pm and then fasted until noon the next day , then you would have an 8 hour building window and a 16 hour cleansing window.
Simple Fast: Basic fast with only water or herbal teas for 12 hours between dinner and breakfast which gives the liver a chance to complete its cycle.
Brunch Fast: This is where you do a 14 hour fast between dinner and breakfast. It is called a brunch fast because you will eat breakfast a bit later than usual.
Cycle Fast: Three times a week you fast for 16 hours by skipping either breakfast or dinner.
Strong Fast: Each day consume all food in a 6 - 8 hour eating window each day. You will eat 2 meals per day and fast through either breakfast or dinner.
Warrior Fast: Ancient warriors would often march all day and would eat at night. Consume all food in a 3 to 5 hour eating window each day.
1 Day Food Fast: for 24 hours one day a week consume only water, herbal tea or bone broth.
You could also do a green juice as long as it doesn't contain any fruit (other than lemon or lime). For example make a juice with lemon, celery, cucumber, kale, parsley and ginger root.
In order to develop the metabolic flexibility and energy efficiency make sure you have a consistent pattern with IF. If you have never fasted before, begin with a simple fast and stick with it for a while until you feel that it is easy. Be sure to drink 1.5 - 2 litres of water during the day, starting with a mug of warm water with apple cider vinegar to help reduce morning hunger, prolong the fast and improve the cleansing process.
In the beginning make sure that your blood sugar is stable before you embark on fasting. Your blood glucose will naturally stabilise over time but patience will be required initially especially if you are diabetic or have insulin resistance.
Exercising whilst Fasting
High intensity interval training and resistance training while fasting can ramp up autophagy, stimulate fat burning and improve mood and mental focus.
Fasting and exercise both create an environment of stress for the body. That might not sound very appealing in theory, but intermittent doses of that stress can help with weight loss and improve mental clarity.
Exercise releases fat loss hormones called epinephrine (adrenaline), norepinephrine and endorphins.
These hormones also help your ability to focus, clear brain fog, and improve mood. Your brain processes things more quickly and your hearing and vision even become more precise. All of these things can help concentration.
Exercise in a fasted state of 12-16 or more hours also helps increase the autophagy signaling mechanisms as the body senses it needs more nutrients to produce energy. As muscle cells are being damaged during the exercise, the body goes to work breaking the cellular material down and rebuilding it.
High intensity exercise and resistance training help stimulate human growth hormone (HGH) which creates an environment that favours fat burning, autophagy and muscle tissue repair and preservation. The boost in HGH is higher when the individual is in a fasted state.
I recommend working out in the morning or mid-day on a 12-16+ hour overnight fast. You must be well hydrated; take in a pinch of salts for electrolytes and consume some green tea or organic black coffee if you like.
If you are new to fasting, begin with exercise on a 12 hour fast and have a good quality protein shake after your workout. If you have had a lot of success with fasting you can get a great workout after 16-24+ hours of fasting and then replenish with a good meal after the workout.
A word of caution- fasting for health reasons as cited above should only be undertaken under the auspices of a professional.
If your aim is to lose weight, fasting should not be embarked on without first getting a check-up from your health care practitioner, especially if you have diabetes or blood sugar disorders.
Furthermore I would not recommend water fasting until you are first comfortable with intermittent fasting as your body may revert to starvation mode and although you may initially lose weight it is likely to rebound as soon as you start eating normally again. This will also interfere with your metabolism which is the reason why serial dieting does not work.
If you choose to follow a liquid fast then consider vegetable juices or soups. And yes, you will lose a small amount of muscle mass and the only way to prevent this is to go on a fat fast as fat is protein-sparing.
A fat fast can only be done if you are ketone-adapted meaning that you would need to follow a ketogenic diet for at least two weeks before attempting a fat fast.
Three days a couple of times a year is a good rule of thumb. However even one day every few months will be of great benefit if you are looking to improve your health.
Fasting is one of the few health modalities that actually saves you money, improves your health and deepens spiritual practices. An all-round win!