I did a 3 day fast this week where I only consumed water. Why on earth did I do that? Lots of studies have looked at fasting & the associated benefits (*Note: many of which have been done with mice and are currently being replicated with humans). Before reading on, please note fasting must be done properly – it’s not something to play around with if you haven’t done the reading. Here’s a handful of the benefits found in clinical studies & the main reasons for my fast:
1- Widespread Healing: By reducing the energy demands of our digestive system, energy can be used for other areas of your body that require repair + rejuvenation. This includes removal of toxic or potentially cancerous cells, cysts, etc. ⠀⠀
2- Digestive Health: During a fasting period, you give your digestive system a very rare chance to stop processing food & actually cleanse itself. When was the last time your stomach was empty for a full day or longer? If you eat breakfast, lunch & dinner plus snack every day the chances are that your stomachs been working pretty much nonstop for years. Try doing that to your washing machine without giving it a service. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
3- Mobilise Fat Without Burning Muscle: You get a spike in human growth hormone. By 24-36 hours into the fast, Human Growth Hormone goes up 500% which facilitates muscle maintenance/gain, fat burning/decreased fat storage and slows down cellular ageing (1). Note: each day, an 85kg person will mobilise around 150g of fat. If your body fat is 10-12% & we work on 6% being the lowest you should ever go as a male then you have around 5kg of fat stored as energy that can be burned safely. Day 1 your body will use up any free amino acids for energy, then glycogen storage (around 500g) as fuel (insulin levels drop dramatically) & when there’s no more glucose you start burning the fat for energy at around the 150-200g a day mark depending on your size. If you are one of those people that eat regular meals every few hours all day to boost your metabolism, then please have a think about this – the body prioritises the metabolism of macronutrients inversely to the bodies ability to store those macronutrients. Let me explain this further – the body can store unlimited fat, can store a small amount of carbohydrates (glycogen) and cannot store amino acids. So when it comes to metabolising macronutrients for energy, we use them in this order – amino acids, then carbohydrates then fat. If you are eating every few hours you boost your amino acid and possibly carbohydrate metabolism, but because they are prioritised before fat metabolism, typically by the time you have your next close meal you haven’t entered into fat metabolism. Hence, widening the time between meals is the way to enter and stay in a state of fat metabolism for energy.
1- Avoid vigorous exercise/any heavy strength training on fasting days
2- Drink 6-8L of filtered alkaline water a day
3- If you’re super hungry, remember that’s not true hunger. That’s your eating routine tricking you / you have stored fat that’s fine to use as energy for a short window. Grab 4-5 Pink Sea Salt rocks & place them on your tongue if you’re about to crack and that will tie you over.
I would strongly recommend you don’t start at 60 hours. I typically fast from 8pm to midday (called the 8 hour eating window) around 4x per week so I’ve been able to get comfortable with the process and understand how my body and hormones respond. I don’t do it every day because, to be honest, I like to be social & enjoy breakfast with friends and family on certain days, especially the weekend.
You will see amazing results doing an 8 hour window frequently across a week as a starting point. It is also probably the easiest form of Intermittent Fasting to incorporate into your diet ongoing. Remember that during your eating window you can still consume the same number of calories/number of meals as you would, it’s just eating over a shorter period of the day. From there, once confident, you can increase to over 24-36 hrs where the research shows a lot of the benefits start to head up another gear.
During my fast I went from 86KG to 81KG (remember a large chunk of this is water and glycogen too). After the fast I eased back into foods with mainly low GI carbohydrates like sweet potato. This meant I was able to restore my glycogen content and with that, suck in 3g of water for every 1g of glucose into muscle tissue. This gives you a full muscle belly appearance. It’s important not to binge eat when coming off a sustained fast like this. The other foods that are good are things like watermelon, pineapple, rice crackers with peanut butter, etc. I keep foods pretty basic and in small serves for the day or so after a sustained fast.
Lastly, fasting isn’t recommended if you’re unwell, underweight, pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to conceive, so please keep that in mind when discussing this with your friends & family members.
Since this post I have done a separate post addressing some common questions I received on fasting.
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