So, this week’s topic is fasting. Fasting is one of the newest dietary trends circulating around out there right now but fasting has been around basically forever. Our hunter gatherer ancestors practiced fasting all the time because they had to! They didn’t have a surplus of food lying around like we do today. They didn’t have refrigerators or grocery stores or pantries full of food ready at their disposal at all times of the day like we do now. And as you know I’m a huge proponent of mimicking our ancestor’s diets as closely as possible. Nearly every major religion practices some form of fasting throughout different points of the year. Today is actually the last day of Ramadan for those of Muslim faith. Their version of fasting is not eating between sunup and sundown.
The most popular version of fasting currently trending would most likely be intermittent fasting. In this fasting method those who practice only eat within a certain window of the day. Typically, an 8-hour window or less. This means you can start eating at say noon and then stop eating around 8pm. Or you can start eating at 7am and stop by 3pm. The most popular version of intermittent fasting would be basically skipping what is traditionally known as “breakfast” and waiting until around lunch time for your first meal which at that point you would break your fast. That’s actually where the word breakfast was derived from as it literally means to “break fast” aka breaking your fast with your first meal.
The other version of fasting is known simply as fasting or otherwise known as extended fasting. Instead of fasting every day, you’re going to do a prolonged fast of anywhere between 24 and typically 72 hours. And this prolonged fast would be done periodically throughout the year. Now, this is definitely a more extreme method of fasting, so today we’ll mainly be focusing on the intermittent fasting. I like prolonged fasts; I’ve done a lot of 36 hour fasts myself. I think they’re great, but since intermittent fasting is way more popular these days, we’re going to focus on that today and get into the extended or prolonged fasts at a later date. Alright so with that out of the way let’s dive into the top 5 problems with intermittent fasting.
- Can create too much stress – Not meant for everyone as it can create too much stress in certain people. I especially would not recommend fasting for high stress individuals. High stress individuals do not seem to respond well to fasting. High stress-high functioning individuals sure, but for those who seem to get run down a lot and stress impacts their immune system, probably not a good idea. They tend to actually hold on to body fat and burn muscle versus the intended effect of fasting which is to burn fat and preserve muscle. So, fasting is definitely not for everyone. In addition to that, often times trying to keep the fasting schedule itself is too stressful for people. Fasting doesn’t always work, I remember I had a client we were trying it with, and she was getting so stressed out about fitting all her meals within her eating window that she was rushing out of work driving way over the speed limit on the way home and running into her house and into her kitchen, all for the sake of staying within her eating window. Needless to say, this was creating more stress and therefore more inflammation than it was helping to get rid of, so we had to scrap it. Remember the purpose of a good diet is to decrease stress and inflammation, not increase it.
- People think they can eat whatever they want during the window – This is simply not true. Food quantity and food quality still matter. Inflammation still matters. Definitely will see this lie a lot online. I remember I saw an ad of some bodybuilder guy all juiced up on steroids in his kitchen eating like 5 huge bowls of cereal and candy and proclaiming BRO you can literally eat whatever you want as long as it’s within the “eating window.” Obviously, this is a ton of crap. Just because you’re compressing your eating window doesn’t mean you can eat whatever you feel like and get away with it forever.
- May feel like crap at first. When you first begin your fasting protocol, you may experience hunger pangs, headaches, irritability, anxiety, poor concentration, fatigue, trouble sleeping. All these will go away eventually but are very intense at first. And this is a potential issue because if you start your fasting during a particular busy or important week you don’t want to crash in the middle of a big meeting or during a time when you need to be at your best so make sure you plan accordingly and prepare for this.
- Fasting is not safe for everyone. Special populations should actually avoid it. These include people who are trying to become pregnant or who are pregnant or breastfeeding, people with immunodeficiencies, people with current or past eating disorders, people with a history of brain injury, and people on certain medications such as birth control, blood thinners, and anti-depressants.
- The 12pm-8pm eating window isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The most common skipping breakfast method may not be as effective as once thought. Often times intermittent fasting is pitched as “well, it’s not that different from how you’re eating now, all you need to do is just skip breakfast.” One thing that isn’t taken into account with this method is that the vast majority of your “fasting” hours are spent asleep. Sounds great, I know, but you’re not really burning as many calories when you’re sleeping. Everything is slowed down when you’re asleep. You still burn some calories, but not nearly as many as when you’re actually awake and up and moving around. So that being said it would probably be a better idea to have your fasting window end earlier, maybe around 3 or 5. This way you spend more waking hours fasted and you also will not be eating close to bed, which is always a good idea. Additionally, just because you eat all your meals within 8 hours, doesn’t mean your body is actually in a fasted state for the rest of the 16 hours of the day. You’re still digesting for 1-2 hours after your last meal, so really, you’re only in a fasted state for 14 hours. So, try and keep the window smaller if you can.
5 reasons to try it
- Great weight loss method – Fasting has been proven to improve insulin sensitivity. The more sensitive we are to insulin, the more efficient we will be able to digest and assimilate carbohydrates. So not only is this good for weight loss, but it’s also good for diabetes prevention. In addition to that, most people tend to eat less while doing intermittent fasting, so less calories most of the time equates to weight loss. Also, fasting boosts metabolism.
- Great for the brain – fasting will help increase focus, and also protect against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, as well as improve outcomes in those individuals already diagnosed with those diseases.
- Reduces inflammation – There have been multiple studies that demonstrate that fasting can help improve inflammatory markers on blood work. More specifically, tumor necrosis factor and interleukin markers, which are both used to track inflammation, have been shown to decrease after just one month of fasting.
- Good for heart health – blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, all those markers all improve. And with heart disease being the number one cause of death, I think we should try and normalize fasting as much as possible.
- Anti-aging and anti-cancer – Speaking of causes of death, fasting has ALSO been shown to have anti-aging and anti-cancer properties. One study showed, albeit in animals, that animals who fasted had an 83% longer life span than those who didn’t. Another study showed that fasting helped block the formation of tumors. In fact, it showed that fasting was just as effective as chemotherapy drugs on cancer formation. Here’s my best analogy for how fasting may help in cancer prevention. So, cancer is basically a mutation of normal cells that proliferate and multiply. So, it’s basically like playing Russian roulette, the more times you fire the gun, the more likely it is that a bullet will come out. Or, in this case, the more the cells need to be multiplied and divided, the greater the chance there is that cancer will develop. By fasting and giving the body a chance to rest and to heal, we’re basically placing the gun down, instead of firing it over and over again hoping a bullet won’t come out. Obviously, that’s a bit of a rudimentary example, but it helped me understand it.
Alright guys, that’s it! I personally think fasting is awesome, and we’re only beginning to scratch the surface with it in terms of clinical research. Is it necessary to be healthy and live a good life? No. Could it help? Absolutely! If done correctly, with the correct individual. So that’s it guys. Thanks for joining me once again, make sure to like and subscribe on YouTube, Soundcloud, and it’s on Spotify as well!