I believe that each and every person on this beautiful planet, including you, was born with a unique purpose or calling and to achieve this purpose we must equip ourselves with a sound body and mind and take the necessary steps to live for as long as possible. My purpose is to get to my 100th birthday, feeling happy, healthy and fulfilled. Fasting is one of my primary strategies and whether you do it daily, weekly or monthly, this ancestral practice is probably the most important and potent tool to promote healthy ageing and longevity, as well as improve and maintain ideal body composition (weight loss), optimize performance and just to feel energized and amazing.
Now that we got the belief part out of the way, the real question in everybody’s mind is: How to start a fasting routine that works for you? By the time you finish reading this week’s blog, you will see why you should fast, learn the various forms of fasting and intermittent fasting that anyone can start and, most importantly, how to implement fasting in your routine.
Why Should We Fast?
Three years ago if you had asked me to skip breakfast, I would have laughed and walked away! Like most people, I was grazing all day, having snacks, energy bars and power drinks between my meals and to give me a boost for my daily workouts. Little did I know at the time that this constant feasting mode could have some serious long term implications for my health and my longevity, such as…
- Increased risk of inflammation
- Inefficient digestion and elimination of waste
- Always using sugar for fuel as opposed to fat
- Increased fat storage, especially if you have a sedentary lifestyle
- Poor defenses
- Prevention of the body’s natural process of rejuvenation .
At that time, when a friend of mine told me all the benefits that a simple 12 hour fast could have on your body I started being interested.
Here are a few of the benefits of fasting:
- Weight loss
- Increased fat burning and the mild ketosis
- Lowered blood insulin and sugar levels
- Improved mental clarity and concentration
- Increased energy due to increased fat metabolism and ketone production.
- Reduction of brain fog
- Possibly increasing growth hormone.
- Can contribute to a reduction in the risk of Alzheimer’s disease
- Reduced inflammation
- Depending on the length of the fasting, activation of cellular cleansing by stimulating autophagy which is the cellular self-cleansing process that breaks down and recycles damaged molecules and cellular organelles.
- Better blood lipid markers including cholesterol, blood sugar, triglycerides and blood pressure.
- Get lean without losing muscle mass by stimulating growth hormone and testosterone.
- Potentially increase longevity, as when you are fasting your body finds ways to extend your life.
- Normalise appetite by regulating ghrelin, the hunger hormone.
- Improve sleep quality
This is like taking a magic pill that extends lifespan and promotes anti-ageing effects. So what is fasting?
What is Fasting and intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is probably the most popular way to get the benefits of caloric restriction without starving yourself. In simple terms, Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern where you cycle between periods of eating and fasting. There are several different intermittent fasting times, all of which split the day or week into eating periods and fasting periods. Water, black coffee and unsweetened tea during the fasting period are typically fine.
- Time-restricted feeding: Consuming all foods within a 3 to 12-hour window, so you have at least 12 hours of fasting daily. That’s right, just by changing your mealtimes and reducing the number of hours you eat, you are already getting most of the benefits of fasting. This is not a diet, and during your feeding time, you don’t count calories nor restrict them.
- 12:12 Overnight fasting; Fast all night long for 12 hours Feed during the day in the remaining 12-hour window.
14:10 Fast for 14 hours, feed in a 10 hour window.
16:8 The 16/8 method, also called the Leangains protocol is probably one of the most popular ones for weight loss, where you skip breakfast and restrict your feeding window to 8 hours, such as from 12.30 to 8.30 pm. Then fast again for 16 hours.
8 hour feeding window is one of the most popular ones.
- Alternate day fasting (ADF): As the name indicates, you eat normally for 24 hours and then not eat ( fast ) for the next 24 hours. Dr Jason Fung outlines that ADF in humans has been found to both improve metabolic health by promoting improved blood glucose management, blood lipid profiles, and metabolic flexibility, while also reducing weight. However, this is not recommended as a long term approach for most people.
- Eat – STOP – Eat, is one of the simplest fasting methods as you fast for 24h (for example, fasting from 8 pm to 8 pm the next day) once or twice a week. This a more manageable approach, I used to fast on Mondays and Thursdays. Mondays were easier to do as weekends were my feast days.
- Warrior diet: Fast for 20 Hours, feeding window 4 hours;
The Warrior Diet is quickly becoming a common option and choice among fitness experts for losing fat and gaining lean muscle. The diet itself was created and researched by Ori Hofmekler, it extends the fasting window to 20 hours and compresses the eating time down to just four hours. The warrior diet encourages some snacking throughout the day, by munching on things like raw fruits and vegetables. Then, it suggests a feast at night, usually in the form of a large dinner.
- One Meal A Day (OMAD)Fasting window: 23 Hour and only 1 hour eating time
This is one of the most controversial dietary options due to its limited food intake throughout the day. However, the OMAD diet has been proven to be beneficial for the human body.
Feed: Choosing your feeding window is important. It may be best to eat breakfast or lunch to ensure proper sleep. If you choose dinner, ensure it’s at least 3 hours prior to bedtime.
- Fasting mimicking diet( FMD): For 4 to 5 days reduce your calorie intake to about 40 per cent of your normal food or calorie intake. Then go back to normal.
A 12-16 hour fasting window seems to be ideal for most people. Females tend to do better with longer feeding windows, like 10-12 hours. My most preferred window is also the 16 hours fasting between 8 pm and 12 am because it fits with my working schedule as I simply ignore breakfast and carry on my fast till lunchtime.
Prolonged or Extended Fasts
Amongst the fasting experts, it is believed that the most dramatic anti-ageing benefits are attained if the fast is prolonged between 3 to 10 days. It’s recommended to work with a medical provider before undertaking a fast longer than two days. In essence, the real benefit of prolonged fasting (more than 3 days) is to fully activate the rejuvenation response associated with fasting. Dr Valter Longo believes that this is the time frame when autophagy up-regulates and cellular regeneration peaks. Cognitive function improvement is also frequently reported.
In Jason Fung’s book “The Obesity Code”, he outlines two example methods of fasting; 24 hours & 36-hour fasts. Find out here 2 PDF download.
How do you do intermittent fasting?
Just to quote Dr Michael Eades “Diets are easy in the contemplation, difficult in the execution. Intermittent fasting is the opposite – it’s difficult in the contemplation and easy in the execution.”
If you have never gone more than 10 hours without eating, you will need to be introduced gently into intermittent fasting. Gently means that you should do it at your own pace, it is a trial and error practise that must fit around your busy schedule. But the chances are that in your lifetime you have already skipped a meal and therefore have already been introduced to this fasting notion.
Before you start your fasting, make sure your last meal contains protein, fibres for slow digestion and fats to provide you with a long-lasting energy source.
1 – Start by 12 hours fasting and, for me, the easiest was from 8.30 pm to 8.30 am the next day. In truth, pick the time that suits you best, just after your evening meal, add 12 hours and that’s the time you can refuel with breakfast. Then once you have mastered the 12 hours fasting gap, over a 2 week period, then increase it by one hour every 2 weeks. See how you feel, take your time, this is not a race, and if you want to stop at 12 hours, this is a great achievement.
2 – Regardless of when you fast, stay well hydrated with water and drinks such as herbal tea throughout the day. Some people recommend black coffee, no sugar, no milk or cream, to stave off the hunger pangs during the fasting time. Needless to say that the water quality that you drink during your fasting is of the utmost importance. So pick some good quality glass bottled water or get it from a countertop reverse osmosis filtration system.
3 – On fasting days avoid strenuous activities like a heavy gym session, CrossFit or long-distance running. Instead, opt for low-intensity cardio, like a long walk or a light yoga routine.
4 – During your eating period, it is recommended to eat several small meals and snacks to stabilise your blood sugar levels and to keep your hunger under control. The quality of your food is crucial and you should avoid the wrong calories, including refined carbohydrates, sugar/fructose and grains.
5 – Once you have extended your fasting window from 12 to 16 hours, I would recommend maintaining it for at least a month, so it becomes a new habit. I would typically have lunch at 1 pm at work and enjoy my evening meal with my family at around 9 pm. Breakfast was typically a meal that I would eat on my own, so skipping it wasn’t a big deal. Do whatever works for you.
6-Once you are comfortable with fasting for 16 hours a day and have done for at least a month, then jump to 24 hours fast is your next goal. I’ve done 24-hour fasts in the past, there is a wide range of variations and options but making it work into your schedule was by far my biggest hurdle. For example, in my case after skipping breakfast, if I was to skip lunch or work through my lunch hour, I would then refuel in the evening. Another perfect opportunity to throw in a 24 hour fast is during a long day of travel or the day after a big holiday feast.
7 – There are many reasons why people fast, mine was merely to promote healthy ageing and longevity, maintain my ideal body weight, feel energized and amazing most of the time. So with this in mind, I came up with my ideal weekly fasting routine. This routine was simple but effective for me.
Monday 24 hour fast, from sunday 8.30 pm to monday 8.30 pm
Tuesday 16 hour fast, from monday 8.30 pm to tuesday 1.30 pm
Wednesday 16 hour fast ,from tuesday 8.30 pm to wednesday 1.30 pm
Thursday 24 hour fast, from wednesday 8.30 pm to thursday 8.30 pm
Friday 16 hour fast, from thursday 8.30 pm to friday 1.30 pm
Saturday and Sunday, feasting time, I allow myself to eat whenever I feel like it !!
I would follow a 80 to 90 % varied plant based diet.
Frequently asked question?
How long do you fast for? Simply put, it means you stop eating completely, or almost completely, for a certain stretch of time. A fast usually lasts from 12 to 24 hours, but some types continue for days at a time. In some cases, you may be allowed water, tea, and coffee or even a small amount of food during the fasting period.
Is fasting good for your health? Regular fasting can decrease your low-density lipoprotein, or “bad,” cholesterol. It’s also thought that fasting may improve the way your body metabolizes sugar. This can reduce your risk of gaining weight and developing diabetes, which are both risk factors for heart disease.
Is it safe to fast for 3 days? While fasting for 3 days is relatively safe for most people, it can be quite dangerous for some people. These exceptions include patients with diabetes, as it can lead to dangerous dips and spikes in blood sugar, pregnant women, new moms or breastfeeding women.
Should I intermittent fast every day? This cycle can be repeated as frequently as you like — from just once or twice per week to every day, depending on your personal preference. 16/8 intermittent fasting has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years, especially among those looking to lose weight and burn fat.
How many hours should I fast to lose weight? While men will typically fast for 16 hours and then eat for 8 hours, women may find better results by eating for 10 hours and fasting for 14 hours.
During these difficult times, where many of us are forced to be at home, it is easy to revert back to overfeeding, snacking, and constant grazing. I am not here to blame or judge, as my carefully planned feeding week went completely out the window during my first lockdown. Now home again for the second time this year, I didn’t want the same thing to happen again, so I tightened my schedule, injected a bit of discipline and came up with my new lockdown routine.
I would love to hear your take on fasting during lockdown, and what works best for you?
Take care my friends, eat well ( but not too much) and see you next week.
DISCLAIMER; The material on this post is for informational purposes only. As each individual situation is unique, you should use proper discretion, in consultation with a health care practitioner, before undertaking the protocols, diet, exercises, techniques, training methods, or otherwise described herein. The author and publisher expressly disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects that may result from the use or application of the information contained herein. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinicians.