18 reasons to start fasting
Whenever I mention fasting to most, I seem to get the same reaction I used to get when I mentioned meditation years ago. Peoples mind automatically go to a place of extremes, they think it's great but just not for them, they think it's inconvenient, they believe it's only for the spiritual or religious and they think at the back of their head that it's not healthy and even painful. It seems that we often allow our preconceived notions of what something should be based on our modern view that overconsumption and more is better mentality, we often allow these old programs to run in the background telling us that new is silly and it won't work for me.
Food creates a huge release of dopamine in the brain; otherwise, we would have no incentive to go out and find food; this natural pattern of rewarding neurotransmitters is the whole premise of food-seeking behaviour. We are addicted to food, the hardest thing for me to explain is that hunger is predominantly emotional, not only due to the nature of the signalling but also due to our current lifestyle. Unless you are very unfortunate, you have probably never experienced real hunger in your life, by that I mean an actual need for food where your body will start to shut down if you don't get any food. During the earliest of our years on this planet as humans, it was cold with very little food around, we had a much more physical life and would be lucky to eat more than once a day. We seemed to thrive pretty well on then and before you brain jumps too but we live longer on average now, yes we do, but people often forget that babies would often not survive such harsh conditions bringing the average age right down for early man. There is an argument that we have de-evolved over the last 15,000 years as our brains have shrunk 3 grams since then.
The major point is we can survive without even half the food we eat today and thrive, but this by no means I advocate never eating and telling others to live a life of abstinence. Fasting has been shown to have many great health benefits and even performance-boosting benefits, there are many ways to fast, and all have a place for certain goals.
Fasting has shown to improve digestion, immune system, energy, cognition and even some diseases.
At this point, I feel that I need to add a disclaimer that eating disorders are serious and this is not condoning those choices, fasting is not a tool for quick fat loss but health although that is a side effect.
Now that's out the way let's look at some of the types of fasting.
Water fasting – Water fasting is your standard fast, but you're allowed to drink only water, this can be a great thing to do to kick start a healthy eating plan to increase receptor sensitivity, think of it like a restart. It can also be used for longer fasts of 7 days or even more without needing too much thought.
Dry fasting – This is much more extreme, the idea is not to eat or drink anything and in my opinion, is more of a spiritual and personal thing rather than a health thing. Some believe it is possible to live on just air and sunlight (Breatharians) and while its technically true we make water in our mitochondria and can draw electrons from the sun and grounding to make ATP with I won't be trying to become a Breatharian any time soon.
Intermittent fasting – This type of fasting is the most popular and very sustainable over your whole life; many think it is much closer to how we should be living and how we are designed to eat. The idea is to eat all your food in a short window of around 6 hours; this leaves much of the day fasting and stimulates autophagy (cellular recycling) which is hugely important in slowing the ageing process and speeding up recovery. I most people will tend to start their eating later in the day which works fine. Still, I prefer to start eating first thing as it stimulates leptin sensitivity this way, Leptin acts as a master hormone and communicates the energy balance of the body to the brain and acts as a satiety hormone, important for fasting if you ask me.
Cyclic fasting – This is my favourite for health but is less convenient for some then the intermittent fasting as it's a little harder on the mind. Cyclic fasting requires you to eat only once a day, you would eat over an hour a large meal and then only drink water from there. Lots of people assume that this can't be good for performance, but if done right, it can have huge effects on boosting performance through many positive biologic side effects this creates. Men like Dr Amen Ra a champion deadlifter, a DR and overall strong man swears by this kind of fast and so does Wim Hoff the iceman, a man that holds records such as running a marathon in the snow barefoot and climbing mount Everest to base camp in nothing but shorts and a light jacket. Two men achieving great feats doing something very counter-intuitive but they both also embrace nature and spend a lot of time outdoors which I would something very counter-intuitive, but they both also embrace nature and spend a lot of time outdoors which I would say is a huge support in these feats.
Each type of fasting has its place and time, and I think everyone should try each of them to challenge their own conception of food, need and hunger, but I also believe some form of regular fasting is very much needed for optimum health and to convince you here are 18 reasons why I fast.
Better digestion – fasting will give your body a break, and it will have a more efficient, stronger system to rely on digesting what you eat.
Improved absorption – the lining of your gut specifically can get inflamed and damaged if you eat to regularly fasting will actually improve the nutritional uptake of food.
Improved receptor sensitivity – when the receptor's that receive various hormones are constantly bombarded inflammation again and resistance like insulin resistance can occur
Energy – despite the belief food is energy it actually takes a tremendous amount of energy to digest food, and then it still needs to be broken down through metabolic processes to used as energy or raw materials (electrons) to build new parts. We can gain energy in many other ways like using stored energy, water, grounding and sunlight, all of these methods can donate electrons to create ATP. The energy we save by eating less often is much greater than the energy we gain.
Improved mood – ghrelin the hunger hormone is released when the stomach is not being stretched but apart from telling us to eat this hormone also elevates mood, fights anxiety and depression. If your leptin sensitivity is good, you won't need to worry so much about hunger as it will block ghrelin binding to the hypothalamus and block the hunger sensation.
Improved immune system – fasting stimulates an increase in various hormones that create an increase in immune function as well as elevate mood which in turn boost your immune system and cognition but if that wasn't enough it also flips the regenerative switch by stimulating stem cells to create more white blood cells.
Cognition – Due to the various other side effects like more energy, cleaner fuel sources, less free radicals & elevation in mood it's not a surprise that improved cognition comes with it, but there is one more trick, increased BDNF (Brain-derived neurotrophic factor). This is the key to repairing and creating new brain cells at any age.
Autophagy – one of the biggest benefits is autophagy or the body's natural recycling process, the key to anti-ageing is young cells, and this is how to maintain young cells. Instead of old dead or dying cells, your body recycles these cells for parts and creates energy or new cells; this also reduces the risk of cancer and mutated cells that miss replicate. Autophagy can also aid in physical recovery after a heavy workout which is very counter-intuitive for the bodybuilding types that have been told to eat every 5 minutes if that want to be big.
Improved sleep-eating late will actually hinder your sleep affecting the natural repair that should happen at night as well as limiting the release of growth hormone and autophagy. Increased leptin sensitivity – again eating late will hinder Leptin's ability to bind at the hypothalamus at night and report the body's energy status.
Fat loss – when Leptin binds at the hypothalamus at night it reports the body's energy status if we have consumed excess kcal it will burn it off as free heat, as well as the fact that fasting will induce a kcal restriction and induce the body to use stored energy otherwise known as fat stores during most of the day.
Improved energy metabolism – when the body has no food in acute time frames it will start using stored energy from our glucose store and fat stores once it runs out of glucose it will start to create ketones, between fat and ketones the body will create much less free radicals.
Increase in growth hormone – fasting actually creates an increase in growth hormone and the use of fat and ketones as fuel actually also has an inhibitory effect on glycogenesis ( the breakdown of muscle for glucose).
More time – you cook and eat less, so you literally add time to your day.
More productive – you have more energy better cognition and more time which equals more productive. Learn to love your food again – eating becomes something that gets in the way of your day or a guilty pleasure; fasting brings back the love to your mealtime and respect for your food.
Self-control – to walk away from something because you make a choice rather than be constantly driven by self-gratification is a huge boundary to many things in a persons and mastering this will improve that natural will power.
Emotional well-being – you will learn a lot about your self fasting, we eat to ignore and make our selves feel better all the time, fasting will help you readdress the issues causing you grief day today and you will start to recognise hunger not as I need to eat but rather that you might be upset about something.