FASTING IS ROOTED IN SPIRITUAL PRACTICE THROUGHOUT HISTORY AND MANY RELIGIOUS TRADITIONS. WHY?
It teaches us how to let the spirit control the body. When you are hungry, it is your body that is telling you to eat. The goal is not to let your body control you; you want to be in control with your logical mind!
When you are in control, you can make permanent and lasting changes rather than ones rooted in bodily urges.
Food availability in our modern world is quite different from what it used to be.
Evolution has shaped our bodies. Food was scarce for Paleolithic man – the period between waking up and eating for the first time was extended after gathering, hunting, preparing, and cooking food. Talk about an all-day affair!
This way of life conditioned the body to use multiple fuel sources, known now as metabolic flexibility1.
Unfortunately, in our world of fast food and microwave meals, we have lost a fair amount compared to what we have gained.
THE FACTS OF FASTING
The definition of fasting is, at least in my definition, “simply refraining from foods for a determined amount of time.” There are two categories of fasting, the prolonged fast of twenty-four hours and more, then time-restricted eating, where you are decreasing your eating window for a day. Neither are necessarily fun but have their practical uses.
We usually associate the idea of fasting with “losing weight no matter what,” even if that means starving. Eating disorders have contributed to the misconception that fasting methods are extreme and unhealthy. But that’s not the case; fasting correctly increases your metabolism when used appropriately!
Here are just a few of the benefits of fasting:
Reduction of inflammation in the body.
The ability to use multiple fuel sources for energy, AKA Metabolic flexibility.
Additional power behind cellular repair.
Reduced insulin resistance.
Decreased risk of heart disease.
The study “Flipping the Metabolic Switch: Understanding and Applying the Health Benefits of Fasting”2 provides sound evidence that time-restricted eating is effective for fat loss. It switches from using the primary energy source glucose to using stored fat for energy.
IS FASTING SAFE?
Yes and no. Let me explain.
Fasting can be harmful if you are unhealthy and cannot use fat for energy, AKA metabolic flexibility (which is a reason to fast). Other experts disagree that fasting can be dangerous, like Dr. Valter Longo. Longo stated, “There is no evidence at all that fasting would be dangerous, while there is strong evidence that it is beneficial.” I second Dr. Longo’s advice; fasting is safe, effective, and critical for fat loss!
For fat loss, I recommend time-restricted eating. The goal of time-restricted eating is to eat in or around an eight-hour window. The goal is to reduce the number of meals and time used to take them in, not calories – so caloric loads stay the same – who doesn’t like the sound of that!?
Start slowly by reducing your eating window one to two hours per day. A healthy end goal of an 8-hour eating window is optimal. Let’s explore two types that I use for fat loss.
The first type is known as circadian fasting. Dr. Satchin Panda is a professor and researcher at the Salk Institute who has become recognized as one of the leading experts on circadian rhythm. It is his findings that form the basis of this fasting method.
The circadian rhythm is the natural, internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats roughly every 24 hours. Dr. Panda’s findings provide substantial evidence that working with your body’s circadian rhythm using a shortened eating window that begins within two hours upon waking is the most beneficial form of time-restricted eating.
It would look like this:
Wake – 6:00 am
Breakfast – 8:00 am
Lunch- 12 noon
Dinner- 4:00 pm
Is more popular because it fits better with most people’s lifestyles, such as being able to attend family dinner every night. While the benefits are not as substantial as circadian fasting, family interaction will make up for it. If you eat dinner at seven pm, then you would start eating at eleven am.
It would look like this;
Breakfast -11:00 am
Lunch – 3:00 pm
Dinner – 7:00 pm
HOW TO START
Pick a plan that works for you, and be flexible! My eating window typically is from 8:30 am until 4:30 pm five days per week.
Too often, people quit because they can’t do it daily. Don’t quit; you do not have to do it daily. Start slow and work your way up. If your eating window is 16 hours, start by reducing it to one hour per day until you reach your goal.
Eating counts for anything you have to digest, such as the added cream in your coffee, drinking an energy drink, having a mint, and any artificial sweeteners! If you are not active, you can get away with having a shortened eating window. You may need a longer eating window when working out intensely if you are active. I tend to shift my eating window from 8:30 am until 5:00 pm; this seems to work best with my intense workout schedule. Just remember, if you use your mouth, you likely have to account for something!