All things fasting
Fasting is an amazing practice that in MY opinion, is underutilized in the United States. In the last decade however, fasting, particularly intermittent fasting, is becoming more popular as more are learning about it's therapeutic benefits such as weight loss, longevity, and improved immune system functioning. Many other studies have shown it's anti-cancer, anti-aging, and cardiovascular system benefits. Fasting is not the same as "starving yourself". It is the planned, and short-termed absence of food in order to bring about benefits on the cellular level. Sure, a large number of people use fasting for weight loss, but there are just too many benefits that come with it to label it only as a weight loss strategy. Discovering fasting was the best thing to happen to me. Learning that it was natural, safe, and effective was all I needed to begin practicing this way of life. I had to learn a lot first. I'm never one to just jump into something without feeling 100% comfortable, informed, and genuinely supported.
I became interested in intermittent fasting when I was looking for videos that explained if it was okay to skip dinner. I was about 4 months pregnant at this time when I had this aversion to any food after about 3pm. Eating only between 8am-3pm was my eating window, and it felt very natural. Eating this way for the vast majority of my pregnancy resulted in minimal weight gain. But, I was obese, (I gained 5 lbs during my entire pregnancy, and lost 11lbs the day after delivery) and had a normal blood glucose throughout.
A Little 101
A true fast for therapeutic purposes, is when you pretty much abstain for food long enough to raise human growth hormone, lower baseline insulin and have your body operate without continuous reliance on ingested food. This process may take you anywhere from 12-18 hours. At this point, all food that has been consumed has completed digestion, basal (baseline) insulin is low and now your body is looking for an alternative fuel source: stored glucose.
The first few times you fast, especially when you still eat plenty of carbohydrates, your body will dip into glucose stores. So the first fast, your body may use of 1/3 of glucose stores. The second fast, the second 1/3, and the third fast, your body has probably used up most of the stores. Moving forward, during your eating window, a little bit of those carbs go into stores, but very little. Most of what you eat will be used up for energy, leaving very little to be stored. So if you fasted for 16-18 hours for a few days, what happens next since your glycogen stores are pretty low? Well, for the fourth fast, you'll likely not have enough stored glycogen for your body to use for energy during those periods of not eating, so your body will need to look for an alternative fuel source: stored body fat. If you continue to fast 16-18 hours, it's almost a sure thing that it will begin burning through fat since there is no more stored glucose in the liver. DISCLAIMER: For the very obese, or for those who eat tons of carbs, it may take a lot longer for you to deplete your glucose stores and start burning ample amounts of body fat. If you are on my website, you probably know that I am an advocate for the ketogenic way of eating. Check out my Ketosis Lifestyle page for more information. After 18 hours, your body MAY begin the process of autophagy, in which it begins to break down dysfunctional proteins and rebuild them as new, or repurpose them. Your body also is beginning to clean up and strengthen your immune system and begin multiple processes on a cellular level that support anti-aging and anti-inflammatory processes. The longer you fast, the more your body will go through these beneficial processes.
*Medical Disclaimer: While I am a registered nurse, I do not practice in this scope to give medical/nursing advice to you without you being a registered client of mine. This information is for educational purposes and I personally ask that you consult with your medical professional before fasting, because it may not be for you. Some people on certain medications or those with certain medical conditions may need to be supervised while starting a fasting regimen, no matter how short the duration.
There are different ways to fast. Some fast for 16 hours a day, and have a specified eating window of 8 hours (16:8), while some prefer fasting for 18 hours with a 6 hour window (18:6), 20 hours with a 4 hour window (20:4), or eating only one meal a day (OMAD) . You should choose what works best for you, your lifestyle, and your tolerance. Others prefer more intensive fasting regimens for deeper therapeutic purposes such as diabetic control, insulin resistance, cancer, and obesity. These intensive fasts commonly involve fasting for more than 24 hours and are done several days a week, with alternating days of fasting and eating. Below is my current fasting regimen:
I fast for 38-42 hours, 3 days a week. This means I stop eating at 6pm or 8pm on an eating day, and do not eat at all the next day, and the third day, I break my fast at 10-12 pm, depending how hungry and ready I am. If I break my fast at 10 am, I still eat until 8pm, which is a 10 hour eating window or a 38:10. If I break my fast at 12pm, my eating window still ends at 8, which would be an 8 hour eating window or a 40:8.
During my fasts, I only drink water and black coffee, tea occasionally (look out for sweetened flavored teas, they can cause an insulin response) and do not consume anything else, including artificial sweeteners, dairy, or broth. I do occasionally add salt or other electrolytes to my fluids to maintain proper hydration.