This lesson discusses all of the myths surrounding fasting. You’ll learn about cutting edge scientific findings regarding autophagy (programmed cell death), fasting while still taking in some food, how humans are well-equipped to run on much less (or no food) for stretches of time, and how being in ketosis before a fast makes it a very comfortable experience.
- We’ve been given false information – fasting does not slow metabolism
- Fasting and starvation are very different
- Fasting can aid in long term reduction of body fat
- Temporary weight loss from loss of fluids during a fast will and should be expected return
- Fasting is not ideal for all populations
- Nobel prize award winning science has emerged demonstrating the powerful cellular and gut healing benefits of fasting
- Ketosis helps to create a comfortable transition into fasting
- People who fail to enter into a state of ketosis will have a far more difficult time attempting to fast
- Human metabolism is well equipped to thrive on the absence of food
- Many believe fasting unlocks our bodies natural ability to rebuild
When I started hearing a lot of information and people in the integrative medical field talking about fasting, Not only was I skeptical. I was adamantly against the idea of fasting probably because, like you, I had been conditioned to believe skipping meals, even just breakfast, would slow your metabolism.
I believed fasting was dangerous and anyone who thought about fasting did so because they were desperate for quick, temporary weight loss. Then I started researching. I realized the beliefs I had weren’t based on facts. They were based on what I had heard over the years and repeated as a health and fitness professional. I had not seen any research about fasting until I started to dig. As I began to look into the science, I quickly realized it was convincing. So much so that I began to wonder why it wasn’t common practice or common knowledge. Why wasn’t everyone fasting at least once, twice, three times, or maybe even four times a year? Of course, I was really excited and sufficiently convinced I needed to give this a try myself, and that’s where ignorance, again, became my enemy.
While I had done plenty of research on fasting, there was little available in the literature that explained how to prepare yourself to do a fast and how to help your metabolism become flexible, which makes transitioning into a fast more comfortable and easy.
Let me tell you, my first three-day fast was brutal. I recruited a few friends, or guinea pigs, to do it with me. Since that time, I have learned so much more about fasting and the body and our metabolism and the way our body uses energy; that I now know how to make fasting a breeze, and you will know too after this lesson.
In this lesson, I’m going to dispel many commonly held beliefs about fasting. I will summarize the emerging research and I’m going to help you understand how this may or may not fit into your own blueprint.
As with all things related to your diet, this is a choice you will make. You will decide what is right for you. You will also have the information you need on whether fasting is safe, ideal, or just practical for you. As with all decisions, it’s important that you make a really informed one so as you listen to this lesson, I ask you to do so with an open mind.
Separating Fact from Fiction
Let’s talk about some popular beliefs about fasting. The first is that it’s dangerous or risky. Actually, fasting is safe for most healthy adults. Yes, there are certain populations that experts advise should avoid fasting: breastfeeding mothers, anyone with a past or current history with eating disorders or other obsessive behaviors, diabetics, children, men with less than 5 percent body fat, women with less than 10%, as well as anyone who’s been diagnosed with a metabolic disorder. There’s a checklist in your downloads for you to do a self-evaluation.
The second most common myth is that it’s an effective way to lose a few quick pounds. This one’s tricky. Yes, you are likely going to lose weight when you fast, almost everyone does, but that shouldn’t be the purpose of your fast. Don’t do a fast if your goal is weight loss.
Fasting is not the best way to achieve permanent long-term weight loss. It’s one of the tools in the process and it’s one of the most powerful ways to repair metabolic function, improve gut permeability, and burn more stored body fat. Obviously, all of these things are going to aid in your efforts to accomplish weight loss, but it’s not just the fast. Some of the weight you’re going to lose while fasting is water weight. Water weight returns—and it’s supposed to. When you fast, you’re burning off all the leftover or remaining stored glucose. People eating a low-carb, higher healthy fat diet the week leading up to the fast have an advantage over most people who just jump into a fast. You will have already burned through many of your glucose stores.
The lower you take your carbs and the higher you take your healthy fats this week, the easier the transition into a fast will be for you. As you reduce your carb intake and increase your healthy fat intake, your ketone production increases, and that helps your body begin to burn more fat. Nutritional ketosis is how you get your body into fat-burning mode. You do it by increasing the ratio of healthy fats and decreasing the macronutrient ratio of carbohydrates. Nutritional ketosis is more complicated than pure fasting. With pure fasting, there’s nothing to count. There are no rules. There’s nothing to track other than the fact that you’re not eating.
While some may find it takes them days, weeks, or even months to experience nutritional ketosis, almost everybody goes into natural ketosis within 24 to 36 hours of pure fasting.
Fasting jump-starts metabolic flexibility. Even if you’re struggling to get into nutritional ketosis, or a state of fat burning by shifting your macros, after you fast your body becomes more metabolically flexible, which means after your fast it’s going to be much easier for you to stay in fat-burning mode.
The next common myth about fasting is that once you go off it, you’ll gain all the weight back. This is not entirely true. Yes, water weight will return. It’s supposed to. Body fat weight, however, will only return if you put the body fat back on, and that doesn’t have to happen. Water weight is supposed to happen. You should expect it to come back. Your intestines carry that fluid during the whole digestive process. Foods higher in carbs carry more water in them. Because you’ve been reducing inflammation while fasting, that means your body is going to expel additional fluids it doesn’t need. The result is temporary weight loss. You won’t just lose water weight. You’ll also lose body fat. Yes, studies show you can lose up to half a pound of body fat per day while fasting.
Let’s just say you lose a total of five pounds in three days. When it’s all said and done, you put some of that weight back on in the form of water. But over those three days, you also lost half a pound of body fat each day. I don’t know about you, but I will take a pound and a half of lost body fat, I’ll take that without complaint.
Another common belief about fasting is that starvation mode slows your metabolism. Extended periods of time in starvation mode can slow your metabolic rate, but this happens when we’re still holding onto glucose. We’re still in sugar-burning mode, trying to just cut calories and exercise more, or trying to fast cold turkey. But when we work to get into fat-burning mode via nutritional ketosis and then transition into a fast, this just doesn’t happen.
When fasting, after about the 20- to 30-hour mark (it’s different for everybody), your basal metabolic rate is likely to increase by as much as 10 percent. Your metabolism doesn’t shut down at all. It switches its fuel sources from burning food and glucose, to burning body fat. Once it’s burning body fat, your body is like, “Hey, it seems like there’s plenty of this stuff around. Let’s burn our normal, or even higher rate, of calories.” Pretty cool.
This is also why fasting tends to increase your energy, as opposed to feeling drained, which is another myth. If you’re overweight and lethargic, fasting could help unlock stored energy you didn’t know you had. Fasting forces your body to access those fat stores, and as your body gets more fat-adapted to this process, it’s not uncommon for people to feel a limitless supply of energy.
Fasting also helps improve other biochemical systems in your body. It also improves mitochondrial function, allowing your mitochondria to, in essence, regenerate. It’s not just simply turning on an enzyme that switches you into fat-burning mode. It’s a pretty complex process that up-regulates every part of your body to become healthier.
And muscle loss? I’m sure you’ve heard this myth before. Studies show an increase in human growth hormone production happens while fasting, sometimes up to as much as five times the amount that’s produced when not fasting. Human growth hormone, as you probably know, aids your body in fat loss and muscle development.
Your pituitary gland secretes human growth. HGH is important because it promotes the use of fat for energy in your body. It creates a leaner physique. HGH diminishes inflammation, which of course, creates weight loss. Any time you’re losing inflammation, you’re going to see a loss on the scale. It also decreases your hunger levels, increases muscle development and bone density, and helps in the metabolism of fat.
Another belief about fasting is it increases stress hormones. This one has some truth to it, and it’s important you’re aware. As you know, I don’t believe there’s one approach that is going to work for everyone in this program. You have to evaluate how it will work for you. You may not be an ideal candidate for fasting. Here’s what you need to consider about fasting as it relates to the stress hormone cortisol. Anytime you go without food for long periods of time, that’s a stressor. But remember, some stress is good—even exercise is considered stress.
This stress, however, can stimulate the flight or fight hormone and increase cortisol secretion. That happens so your body mobilizes these energy stores. For those who are highly susceptible to stress and/or who have a pre-existing elevated cortisol level, any abnormal eating can increase cortisol levels. The problem with being someone who is susceptible to stress is you don’t always know it.
Some of us just don’t realize that we’re really susceptible to stress and that our body is trying to tell us something. Either way, high cortisol levels are negative in that they trigger you to want to eat more. They make you crave food, and for some of us, it can really create obsessive thoughts around food.
The second effect of fasting when you’re a really stressed-out individual and cortisol increases is that it can activate neurons, which basically trigger insomnia. In those already suffering from adrenal fatigue, it can create insomnia, nightmares, and difficulty staying asleep.
Let’s say you decide to give fasting a test. You’re going to experiment with this, and a couple days into it, you realize, “Gosh, I’m not able to sleep. I feel restless at night. I’ve had nightmares. I wonder if this means I am one of those people who shouldn’t be fasting or that maybe I, in fact, have adrenal fatigue.” That’s a possibility, and as always, I recommend getting some testing done.
Work with an integrative medical professional to find out where your hormone levels are or put some smart sleep practices into your routine. I don’t mean to complicate things, but there are many people who have normal cortisol levels, lower stress or moderate stress, and they experience these feelings of wakefulness or difficulty sleeping, even insomnia, once they start fasting.
This is because your resting metabolic rate has greatly increased, and so has your energy level, so it’s hard to answer, “Am I experiencing this insomnia because I’m suffering from adrenal fatigue or am I experiencing this insomnia because I have so much energy I don’t know what to do with it?” As much as I’d like to give you a black and white answer, there isn’t one. That’s why this process is fun. It’s your experiment.
Next, I want to address the idea that fasting can improve your immune system. This one is true and it’s exciting. In fact, research from the University of California, led by Dr. Valter Longo, recently illustrated that fasting for as little as two days resulted in a replenished immune system. Fasting up to four days further helped to improve the bodies’ ability to fight off infection. Dr. Longo stays fasting essentially flips a regenerative switch that triggers stem cell-based regeneration of new white blood cells.
In essence, fasting is a natural means by which to renew your body’s defense system.
During the fast, your body gets rid of dead, old and broken cells. This process is called autophagy. Dr. Longo’s clinical human studies demonstrated the ability to create autophagy on even a supported fast. Now, what do I mean by supported? I mean Dr. Longo was able to substantiate that people could mimic fasting, in essence, by eating certain foods and nutrients, but make the body believe it was fasting. That’s exciting because it means we can gain all of the benefits of fasting without going entirely without food.
Fasting also affects the levels of a substance in our body known as IGF-1. Reducing it diminishes tumor growth and the future risk of developing cancers. Researchers tested the effects of fasting for two- to four-day periods over six months on first, mice, and then humans. In both cases, fasting lowered white blood cell counts, essentially to help fight infection.
Fasting is now being touted as the most natural line of defense in the fight against neurological and autoimmune diseases. You know who doesn’t like hearing this? Yeah, the big drug companies. There’s nothing to sell. It’s your body healing your body, so you can imagine that a lot of these researchers and scientists are fighting an uphill battle. It’s easy to get research funding from large companies that have a pill to sell. They have a vested financial interest. It’s not so easy to get research funding for something the body does naturally.
Fasting is also incredibly beneficial in healing leaky gut. Remember, 80 percent of the population is experiencing leaky gut, probably because of the fake foods we’ve been eating for so long. But if you’re experiencing leaky gut, no matter how healthy your food is, you’re not absorbing those nutrients until your gut is healed. One of the best ways we can improve our weight and hormone levels is through proper nutrition. To get it, we need to be able to digest and absorb those nutrients. To do that, we’ve got to heal our leaky gut.
When we fast, we starve down that overgrowth of bacteria that may be happening in the gut, creating a clean-slate condition to begin repopulating the gut biome and intestines with both good and bad guys. Repairing and healing your gut is the cornerstone to hormonal balance, disease prevention, brain function, proper nutrition, and weight loss. This stuff is amazing.
We provided you with some links to recent research on the benefits of fasting. Participants were able to reduce overall weight, body fat, blood pressure, insulin levels, and increase human growth factor. Now, that’s cool, so check it out.
I also suggest you consider the four following things when deciding if testing a fast is right for you:
- Are you doing this for the right reasons (which should include appetite correction and teaching your body how to regulate hunger hormones)?
- Do you want to become a fat burner? There’s no better way to become metabolically flexible than to get into natural ketosis—to naturally get into a state of fat burning, which happens for almost everybody at around that 20- to 30-hour mark. But don’t forget, you can also do a supported fast. You’ll hear about that next.
- Do you want to improve your immune system?
- Do you want to improve gut health?
And as with anything, consider your Four S’s before deciding: Science, Self, Success and Sanity.