Everyone Should Fast.
Important Physiological Facts About Fasting
We gain and lose weight because of hormones, not specifically because of food and exercise.
It’s difficult and perhaps a little uncomfortable to believe, but give me a chance to share some science. Pretty much everything we’ve been taught about a healthy weight being linked to diet and exercise is, unfortunately, a bit incorrect.
While diet and exercise do play an impact role on the overall health of the body, where weight comes into play is around the amount of time you go without eating. During that time (fasting), your body undergoes a precious and necessary process of utilizing those energy stores for the overall functioning of your body. When you feed it too often, you’re not giving your body the opportunity to use up those stores — so they go into a sort of backlog — creating weight gain over time.
Eating a nutritious diet is good for a healthy microbiome and we should care about that. Certain foods can increase or decrease the probability of a host of deadly health issues — so it’s very important to be mindful of what we feed our bodies. It’s similar with exercise — it’s great for us physically and metabolically; strengthening your heart, increasing oxygen in your body, building endurance and strength, contributing to strong muscles and bones — but it’s not the most important factor for losing weight. Not by far, actually.
When it comes to losing weight, the most important factors are around the frequency of our eating, first; and second, the quality of the food we choose. Exercise is great for us and prolongs our health and life, but it’s not the key ingredient to weight loss.
You can dramatically decrease your body weight by fasting. If you want to maximize your efforts, follow a diet which is lower in carbohydrates, higher in vegetables and healthy fats, and moderate in protein. Because our fasting and eating windows are what impact our weight losses and gains, we can use intermittent fasting and extended fasting to reach our goals; once reached, we can then maintain our healthy weight by regulating how long we go between meals.
More on that in a second, but first…
Let me break down the physiological experience from eating. When you eat, your body produces insulin. Insulin is used to create and regulate the amount of glycogen in your bloodstream. Glycogen is used as energy to power all the workings of your body. Excess glucose gets stored in the liver as glycogen or, with the help of insulin, converted into fatty acids, and circulated to other parts of the body to be stored as fat in adipose tissue. The amount of time between eating determines whether we store or use that glycogen.
So…basically…the Standard American Diet is making us fat.
Fasting is magical because after your last meal, your body uses up the existing glycogen reserves, shuts down your digestion (which allows your body’s resources to focus on the repair work our cells need) and then moves toward using your stored fat for energy. You are not starving yourself if you have fat to lose. It’s that simple.
Fasting is great for a myriad of things — improved blood pressure, improved blood sugar control, overall heart health, cellular regeneration & improved cellular structure, improvement in skin’s elasticity and youth, increased memory, cancer prevention, deeper sleep, and overall energy — so you should want to fast for all those reasons and not just for the weight loss. But I know many people still have discomfort around fasting, and I believe it’s due to the misconceptions around the practice. So stick with me and I’ll give you more pearls to consider!
If you’re just beginning your fasting journey, a healthy way to start is to begin with intermittent fasting and then increase your fasting window as you adapt.
First, let’s address a couple things that people are commonly uncomfortable with when it comes to fasting: hunger and starvation.
Hunger. When you don’t eat for several hours, your body emits a hormone called ghrelin, which triggers the feeling of hunger. The intervals in which this hormone is triggered is entirely dependent upon your existing eating schedule (hours between meals). Because our body is designed to keep us alive — and eating is a crucial part of that — the experience of hunger is simply your body’s way of demanding food to “stay alive”. Beautifully, ghrelin actually adapts to your eating patterns. So if, right now, you’re eating more frequently, you can train your body and the ghrelin hormone to adjust to your lengthening fasting windows. Important to note: ghrelin production greatly reduces at 24 hours of fasting, regardless. So if you’re easing your way into fasting, when you eventually get to the point of fasting to the 24 hour mark, you’ll notice that you’re actually not hungry anymore.
Starvation. Along that same wavelength, many people assume that fasting is starving oneself. But remember, if you have stored fat, you will burn that as energy. Between fasts, focus on a healthy meal to really get the most out of the process — your body knows what to do.
After intermittent fasting for more than 5 years, I can tell you with honesty that your body really does adjust to its hunger cycles. I’m rarely hungry anymore — I eat based on interest (or boredom — which is when I’ve gained weight), or when my body truly needs sustenance. Additionally, you’ll find that you feel so sharp and on point while fasting that you’re not so quick to exchange the immediate gratification of a certain food or drink over the incredible and euphoric feelings you experience while clear of the heaviness of food. I’m not going to lie, it’s pretty incredible.
BONUS — If you’re wanting to increase your creative power, FAST. If you want to lose weight, FAST. If you want to look and feel younger, FAST. If you want to experience a decrease in joint pain, FAST. If you want to sleep deeper than ever before, FAST. If you want to improve your sex life, FAST. If you want to save money on groceries, FAST. If you want to be more connected to your divine, FAST.
Begin with something manageable.
Start with a fasting window of 12–16 hours and increase after a week or so. I personally like to start with a 16 hour fasting window — I have my evening meal relatively early, stop eating at 7pm and then most of the fasting is done while sleeping. Easy!
Did you know that your body has a “set weight”? Keeping this in mind for when you start decreasing in weight, note that it takes around 21 days for your hypothalamus to accept your new weight. This is important to keep in mind because after you’ve achieved your healthy weight through intermittent and extended fasting, you may worry about gaining it all back.
Keep in mind that you probably won’t have to fast quite this “aggressively” for the rest of your life. Achieve your healthy weight and then maintain it with intermittent fasting. Remember, you simply need to allow your body to use up all the glycogen in your system as its energy source so that you do not hold onto that and store it as extra weight. Once you’ve achieved your healthy weight, just allow your eaten glycogen stores to be depleted (8–12 hours), and you should be good to go. Adjust as needed.
A beautiful new reality…
Yes, you can go a little nuts on vacation! Yes, you can splurge on your favorite things here and there. Just remember that you can get back to your healthy weight by abstaining for long enough to allow your body to use up all the stored glycogen.
I suggest you always try to eat whole, healthy fats and foods — because that’s what your body needs to be strong and healthy. But you can splurge once in a while and not feel the consequences if you live in this lifestyle.
Keep yourself motivated and encouraged by reading up and everything you can about fasting. Buy Dr. Jason Fung’s book, The Obesity Code. Educate yourself. Watch YouTube clips and documentaries. This has made all the difference in me getting past the initial 24 hour hump and being able to see the immediate impact and success I have with fasting.
With all my heart: ENJOY!
Benefits of Fasting Timeline (5 days)
Intermittent fasting is one of the most powerful ways to reduce inflammation, boost immunity and enhance tissue healing. Here’s a timeline to show the physiological benefits of fasting.
4–8 hours: Blood sugar falls. All food has left the stomach. Insulin is no longer produced.
12 hours: Food consumed has been burned. Digestive system goes to sleep. Body begins the healing process. Human Growth Hormone (HGH) begins to increase.
14 hours: Body has converted to use stored fat as energy and starts producing ketones. HGH starts to increase dramatically.
16 hours: Body is ramping up fat burning.
18 hours: Intermittent fasting from 16–18 hours has been shown to boost HGH levels by 50–100%!
24 hours: Autophagy begins! The body empties glycogen stores (a stored form of glucose, derived from carbohydrates and found in body tissue — predominantly in muscle tissue). Additionally, men, who had fasted for 24 hours, had a 2,000% increase in circulating HGH; women had a 1,300% increase in HGH.
36 hours: Autophagy increases by 300%! Additionally, fasting up to 36 hours has been shown to boost Brain Derived NeuroTrophic Factor (BDNF) levels by up to 400%! The shock of fasting leads the brain to create new cells! As neurons are coaxed to grow, the brain becomes more resistant to the effect of protein plaques that underlie causes of Alzheimer’s, or the damage inflicted by Parkinson’s Disease.
48 hours (2 days): Ketones continue to rise. Hormones are optimized. The body raises up the stem cells and knocks down the overreaction of autoimmunity. Increased energy. Microbiome continues to reset. Note: you may start to feel colder because as your hormones go down, your cells become more sensitive to the hormones. For example, fasting lowers T3 thyroid hormones to spare your muscles — so we feel cold. Although T3 lowers, the body is now more sensitive to smaller amounts of hormone. It’s able to utilize the hormones available.
96 hours (4 days): Continued autophagy and new stem cell growth. Continued drop in glucose and rise in ketones. Continued hormone optimization. Increased levels of energy and better brain functioning. An overall sense of well-being. Decreased cravings, hunger, and irritability. Cortisol increases glucose, so be prepared to combat that by not pushing yourself too hard in physical training (exercise); increase your meditations, prayer, or focus toward healing. Do restful and relaxing activities now.
120 hours (5 days): Stem cell production in high gear today (on day 6 when you feed the stem cells, the body will heal and create new white blood cells). Ketones may begin to drop, and glucose may slightly raise. Massive HGH rise (goes up every day), but the highest surge is on day 5), and puts you in a fat burning mode for the next 36 hours to replace the glucose!
HGH (Human Growth Hormone): Helps to regulate body composition, body fluids, muscle and bone growth, sugar and fat metabolism, and possibly heart function. Growth hormone levels are increased by sleep, stress, exercise and low glucose levels in the blood.
Ketones: Chemicals that your liver makes. You produce them when you don’t have enough insulin in your body to turn sugar (or glucose) into energy. You need another source, so your body uses fat instead. When fasting, that means your stored fat (weight loss). Your liver turns this fat into ketones, a type of acid, and sends them into your bloodstream.
Autophagy: A normal physiological process in the body that deals with destruction of cells in the body. It maintains homeostasis or normal functioning by protein degradation and turnover of the destroyed cell organelles for new cell formation. During cellular stress the process of autophagy is upscaled and increased.
Brain Derived NeuroTrophic Factor (BDNF): BDNF plays an important role in neuronal survival and growth, serves as a neurotransmitter modulator, and participates in neuronal plasticity, which is essential for learning and memory. It is widely expressed in the central nervous system, gut and other tissues.
Stem Cells: When fasting, there is a sharp increase in stem cell production and activation. Stem cells bring substantial benefit to people suffering a wide range of diseases and injuries.They’re known to express various growth factor (cytokine) receptors, but also respond to various cytokines by activation of conventional cytokine signaling pathways.The number of new stem cells and the level of HGH (human growth hormone), significantly surge during days 3–5 of a fast and then afterwards decline again. After a fasting period of 3–5 days, extracted and cultured stem cells showed a double in their regenerative capacity!
Sample Alternate Day Fasts (ADF)
If you like having a guide to follow, I’m including a few options for alternate day fasting (ADF) below. You still get a ton of the benefits of fasting, but it’s in more manageable cycles, so you can build up to longer fasts, if you want to.
To be successful, have a plan!
- Start with removing any temptations from your view. Hiding the wine in a cupboard or putting the chips on a higher shelf really does help.
- Meal prep ahead of time — your family can pull from the fridge or freezer or have a partner or child cook! You can do something else, like read a book in the bath or take a nice walk.
- Replace the times where you’d normally eat with something that feels decadent or special. A face mask and a phone call to an old friend; a book in the tub; an herbal tea and guilty pleasure reading; a movie or a nap.
- Look into apps for fasting (I use “Life”) — it helps you stay motivated, and it provides encouraging info on the phases of your fast so that you feel encouraged to keep going!
Alternate Day Fasting (ADF) Schedule
15 hour fasting window
On Sunday, at 6pm, Start Fasting ➤➤➤
Monday, at 9:00 am, End Fast & eat healthily
→ 15 hour fast
On Monday, at 6pm, Start Fasting ➤➤➤
Tuesday, at 9:00 am, End Fast & eat healthily
→ 15 hour fast
On Tuesday, at 6pm, Start Fasting ➤➤➤
Wednesday, at 9:00 am, End Fast & eat healthily
→ 15 hour fast
Follow this eating routine throughout the week until you get to Sunday morning and break your fast at 9am. From there, eat normally (healthily) until Sunday at 6pm
When you’re ready…
Increase Fasting Window with a New ADF Cycle
- Increase your eating window to 20 hours, 36 hours, 42 hours, etc.
- Eventually, if you choose to do an extended fast (EF), you can use the “Benefits of Fasting Timeline (5 days)” above to choose how long you wish to fast.
Important Tips While Fasting
- Drink plenty of water: try to drink between 0.5–1 oz of water for each pound you weigh (WebMD).
- Drink unsweetened tea or coffee: No cream or sugar (although Stevia or Sweet Leaf drops may be added to coffee).
- Get at least 8 hours of sleep per night
Samples of Fasting Schedules
From here, your body has adjusted to fasting! You may want to try your first 48 hour or 72 hour fast for additional benefits. If you choose to do that, just be sure to follow a few simple rules…
Important Notes on Extended Fasting (more than 3 days)
If you fast for 72 hours or more, you must supplement with electrolytes (sodium, magnesium, and potassium).
To create your own electrolytes:
- 10–12 oz water
- 2 tbsp ACV
- ½ tsp cream of tartar
- ½ tsp pink himalayan salt
Or purchase ready made electrolytes.
- I use LyteShow Electrolyte Supplements (Amazon.com).
Lack of electrolytes will cause some real discomforts, including:
- Brain fog
- Muscle cramps/weakness
- Irregular heartbeat
- Abdominal cramps
- High blood pressure
- Rapid heart beat
Note: you do not need to add electrolytes if you’re doing intermittent fasting (IF) with less than a 72 hour fasting window.
I would love to hear about your journeys with fasting! Blessings and love to you all! ❤