There's a new study out on fasting while exercising and I thought it a good time to reflect on my own fasting practice. I've been Intermediate Fasting for almost 5 years now and personally really can't think of any other way of eating/living. It's so habitual for me and my body is fully acclimated that I just wake up, drink my 16oz of filtered water, and go about my day with better energy than I've seriously ever had in my life. WHAT I WANT YOU TO COME AWAY WITH: There are many roads to fitness performance and as long as you take one that is involving both clean eating and maximizing your hormone regulation that is all I ever recommend. I'm hoping my clarifications in this post help those who are on the precipice better understand so they can apply fasting to their lifestyles successfully on all levels. Modifications can be made depending on circumstance and person, but the main essence remains the same at the core and everyone, yes I mean everyone, CAN practice some form of intermediate fasting that will work wonders for their overall health, energy, and waistline.
SCUTTLEBUTT: There's been a lot of chatter about fasting as of late and I thought I'd run through typically what I do and what my brief thoughts are on the subject.
Here's my take on Intermediate Fasting based upon my experience and research in a nutshell.
HELLO MORNING GLORY: When you wake up in the morning, you're basically in a fasted state as you haven't eaten anything in as long as 8-10 hours. The following also holds true for those who fast, which keeps the immune system efficient, and the individual fitness experience will be optimized results based upon increased recovery hormones being engaged.
When we eat ongoing, especially foods that continually spike our insulin levels such as any grains, sugary, or starchy food- no matter how healthy it may seem- what are you left with?
1) A slower metabolism long-term 2) An ineffective workout energy and recovery wise 3) Fewer calories burned over the course of the day
I don't think that sounds all that beneficial, do you?
EXERCISE AND FASTING: Now on to the other side of the equation....actually fasting prior to exercising benefits us how? Well there are 2 body states where we burn the most calories, fat, and engage glucagon(fat burning hormone) & growth hormone, and keep insulin resistance. One is while exercising and the other is while fasting. Put both of those together and...
What benefits does fasting have on your workout?
1) Stronger & longer workouts 2) So much more energy during the day (This happens because your body gives your digestive system a rest and puts the energy into other processes for you.) 3) More calories burned 4) Higher direct fat loss 5) Improve lean muscle instead of decreasing it 6) Improved recovery
YOUR PERFORMANCE: Where performance is concerned most folks don't want to just perform, but truly desire to perform very well- to the absolute best of their abilities.
There are many roads to fitness performance and as long as you take one that is involving both clean eating and maximizing your hormone regulation that is all I ever recommend. I get both of those with my Intermediate Fasting lifestyle. There are several different fasting protocols which one can introduce into their daily life in order to find which one will be the best one for them and their performance needs.
What I have found to be extremely beneficial is to adapt oneself on progressive fasting protocols in order to achieve the daily water fast. I'm not talking about eating some berries and small fruits here and there, but going as long as you can each day while adapting to the fasting process by drinking a lot of water. Your fasting goal doesn't have to be a full complete no food water fast, but get to the point where you're eating very little during the day and consuming most of your calories in the evening. I'm talking about going about fasting progressions in order to do this the proper way- water fast only with the exception of a post workout recovery meal or smoothie if you exercise during the morning or daytime.
K.I.S.S: Keep things simple and don't over-complicate anything. Water fasting may be the ultimate fasting state for health and fitness performance, but not all bodies are created equal in the regard that everyone should be a water faster. Be patient with yourself. It may take some people several months to a year or longer before progressively adapting intothis lifestyle, but with proper and intelligent progressions of the right food, food timing, food combinations, adequate food volume, proper water intake, etc... it will definitely happen. Keep things simple.
WHAT'S GOIN ON: There is a big difference between water fasting and even eating a small amount during the day if need be, compared to eating regular portioned daytime meals, due to the insulin spike and Parasympathetic Nervous System engaging.
Personally my own workouts, and that of every one of my clients, are very, very intense. Many people have attempted and went away never to return. It is my motto that hard work produces results so with that being said, give everything you've got when you workout so you reap the greatest rewards. Of course with a super high intensity of that nature one can maintain this only a few times a week without over-training so definitely pay attention to your body and listen to it when it needs recovery. Only with this mentality and applied work ethic will one truly achieve their potential.
WE'RE NATURALLY PROGRAMMED FOR FASTING: Daily Intermediate Fasting is a very natural and genetically embedded eating style into all humans naturally. If you have ever previously attempted an intermediate fasting protocol and did not experience optimal results while practicing or feel you currently couldn't then I would almost guarantee you did not give yourself enough time to fully adapt and acclimate to your program. Then again some people, due to various reasons, should probably not be full fasters, but can live a hybrid lifestyle of fasting intermixed with daily clean eating. Most who have "unsuccessfully" attempted fasting, I'm finding, do not clearly understand Intermediate Fasting practices and/or don't follow it properly and then chalk it up to not working. I speak to a lot of people, both online and in person, about I.F. and find that too many people sing the same song.
EVIDENTIALLY: All of the evidence in research is in support of fasting, not undereating. In fact there's been more research on fasting than any other type of diet style. I believe it is the utilization and recycling of one's own tissues and fat stores that makes the biggest difference between eating all day and eating at once. The body can either have constant fuel coming in to use and add to its stores and grow old, or it can constantly be recycled and replaced with new cells comprised of new atoms. Additionally fasting allows one's body to balance the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous Systems as well.
MYTH BUSTED: I'll lose muscle if I fast won't I? It takes about 72 hours at a complete fast for the body to begin to cannibalize it's muscle tissue. In fact as long as you eat quality natural foods and getting in nutrients the body will be fine. Additionally when the hormones are triggered due to an intermediate fast, such as increased testosterone, growth hormone, and glucagon the body is in a verybeneficial state.
If you constantly eat, your body is changing its acid/alkaline balance constantly, and isn't allowed to return to its natural pH. A proper pH balance everywhere from saliva, to the stomach, to the blood is needed for a strong immune system. For example, if you are too acidic, your body leeches calcium from your bones to bring pH up. Conversely, if blood is too alkaline, calcium deposits may form. A good hi-fat diet, which will produce ketones (acidic) is easily compensated for by increased oxygen levels in the blood unless one is in a state of diabetic keto-acidosis which is an entirely different condition altogether and produces much higher levels of ketones.
QUICK BREAKDOWN: Alternating between high-fat and high-carb days allows the body to negate any ill-effects of one or the other. While a high fat meal is digesting for 10 to 12 hours after your evening eating window, intramuscular triglycerides are constantly being capped off and excess fat is being excreted as ketones. Once this process is over, because the IMTGs are full, the body is in a state of preferring fat-fuel, and will then use your body's own fat stores at a MUCH higher rate than if you put carbs in. You will lose a bit more glycogen without putting fat in again, but this is not severe and is easily compensated with the evening's protein and veggie consumption.
GETTING YOUR FLUSHING FLUIDS: During your fast drink a lot of water and that means all the water you drink is on an empty stomach which is the best time to drink water. You will also clean out your colon much more efficiently and a clean colon is essential for ideal health.
The amount of caffeine most people consume regularly drains their adrenal glands which will do a great number on their overall energy. It most cases it takes a good 6-9 months of being clean from stimulating drugs(caffeine is one of them) before the adrenals are completely replenished. If you began the detox process, through proper nutrition and diet, you will feel the positive effects inside of a few days to a week. Then one could rely on one's own energy stores instead of seeking external unhealthy alternatives such as coffee, power drinks, etc.
FEEL YOUR FOOD: If you ever need to eat during the day as you slowly acclimate your body to an Intermediate Fasting lifestyle you want to do so with very minimal insulin spikes. Honestly there are some days where I too need something during the day too, but most days I go until the evening before eating anything food wise. This is NOT what I recommend the beginning faster to do. Your body will not accept this as it is accustomed to hourly rising blood sugars. So a slower transition is highly recommended for adaptation to the lifestyle fasting habits and benefits.
Regularly eat better absorbing fat that's more alkaline instead of acidic (ex. steer clear of animal fats & dairy foods). I recommend 80% or higher dark chocolate, avocados, raw nuts such as almonds, pecans, and walnuts, a tablespoon of unrefined organic coconut oil at anytime of the day makes you feel A LOT, and I'm talking A LLLLLLLLLLOOOOOOOOOOT, of energy. It's a medium chain fatty acid that acts like a carb when consumed; however never gets stored, but in fact used as energy as well as assists in releasing some stored fat along with it.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON INTERMEDIATE FASTING: Don't do this overnight. Take your time and progress into this lifestyle over a 30-90 day period. When fasting it's VERY important not to simply eat a meal in a sitting and then just munch a bit. You must truly stagger your meal so you're eating over the course of a 2-4 hour period in the evening. The evening is best so that your body can use your food as fuel rather than fat storage AS LONG AS you are consuming the right sorts of foods. No matter what time of day you eat crappy foods you are going to having your body react in a negative way (fat storage, low energy, hormones unbalanced, mental alertness suffers, etc) Enjoy your food. Enjoy your meal. That means you don't have to sit down and scarf everything in one sitting, of course you can do that, but I find it better to eat here and there over 2-4 hours. I typically begin eating around 5 or 6 and then keep going throughout the night. BUT remember, I am eating the right foods in the right combinations. Keep it simple.