Our Cro-Magnon ancestors had to fast intermittently because food wasn’t available all the time, and, as I’ve explained in a few occasions previously, they were healthier than us.
Prophets and religious leaders must have known the health benefits of fasting also, as almost all religions have fasting as an integral part of their teachings.
There are alternative ways of going about fasting, but first a note on who should NOT undertake it:
*Those with a history of disordered eating
*Chronically stressed people
*People who don’t sleep well
*Those who are new to dielt and exercise.
As explained in the previous post, “Does Your Body Use Sugar as Fuel?”, if you have not converted yourself from a Sugar Burning Machine to a Fat Burning Machine, the hunger you will feel while fasting could make it very difficult to continue.
So first, learn the essentials of good nutrition as put forth in my Nutrition/Health post.
If you want to give it a try, begin with the gentle protocol I will give you soon.
Why would you want to fast?
*Insulin and leptin sensitivity, reducing the risk of chronic diseases from diabetes to heart disease and even cancer
*Your ability to become “Fat Adapted”, which increases your energy by burning stored fat
*The rate of HGH (Human Growth Hormone) production, which has important health, fitness and slowing of the aging process implications
*Your brain health
*Triglyceride levels, decreasing your risk of heart disease
*Inflammation and free radical damage
*Weight gain and metabolic disease risk
While fasting, an interesting body process called AUTOPHAGY kicks in and consumes the aging proteins in your cells. Thus, your cells, and you of course, are rejuvenated and you are nourished at the same time. An interesting experiment with mice proved this. The mice were in a fasted state and were made to “exercise”. Since they were not being fed one would expect their muscles to loose volume. Well, just the opposite happened, the volume of their muscles increased because they were being nourished thanks to autophagy.
The moral of the story: Don’t skip your resistance training session if you are fasting.
I would like to suggest this gentle protocol for beginning fasters.
7:00 – 11:00 FAST
Another easy protocol is the following.
7:00 – 13:00 FAST
I know that some of you are saying, “Hey, this guy is telling us to skip breakfast, the most important meal of the day!” Well, it is a proven fact that this is just hype put forth by the breakfast cereal industry, so that you will buy their products. The same as the bottled water industry’s hype to drink 2-3 liters of water everyday. God gave us the feeling of thirst so that we would not get dehydrated. If you don’t trust this examine your pee; if it is NOT clear and pale then you should drink some water.
Now, let’s look at some alternative fasting methods. The first one is A COMPLETE FAST, where you consume only water for 24 hours. This has well documented health benefits, including life extension, but is very hard to comply with. More so, if you are not “fat adapted”.
I fast every Tuesday. Why? Because it is our helper’s day off and I didn’t want to bother my wife with preparing the big salad that I take to the office everyday. I drink water, water with lemon juice, sparkling water and herbal teas all day. My fast starts at the end of our Monday dinner and ends at dinner on Tuesday. Yes, 24 hours.
The only thing WRONG with my fast is THE REGULARITY; every Tuesday. Our bodies are programmed for randomness; not regularity. Think about the Cro-Magnon, he didn’t have the luxury of saying “I’m not going hunting today; it’s my day of fasting.”
I should fast on different days of the week.
Other kinds of fasting include, Alternative Day Fasting (Dr.Krista Varady) in which you consume only 500 calories on fasting day and have no calorie restrictions on non-fasting day. You, obviously, fast one day and don’t fast the next.
The last kind of fasting I want to pass along is called Mini-Fasting – The 5:2 plan, which was popularized by Dr. Michael Mostly, where you are allowed to eat “normally” for 5 days and on the 2 fasting days you are restricted to 600 calories or less for men and 500 calories or less for women.
We have discussed the health benefits of fasting but there is an aspect that is just as important: The mental discipline that it induces and builds up. You know, that “I did it” feeling.
As I’ve stated above, if you want to give intermittent fasting a try, begin with a gentle protocol. You can even start by skipping a meal. The thing you should keep in mind is to pay attention to how you feel.
Stop intermittent fasting if:
*Your menstrual cycle stops or becomes irregular
*Sleep problems emerge
*Loss of hair becomes noticeable
*Dry skin or acne develops
*Recovery from exercising becomes harder
*Injuries heal more slowly
*You become less stress tolerant
*You have mood swings
*You notice irregular heartbeats.