The Power of Fasting

One recent "puzzle piece" fit for me and many others has been to greatly reduce my “eating windows” and more consistently practice intermittent fasting (IF). A powerfully positive health-promoting intervention is to just not eat for various periods, for example, 16 hours, 23 hours, or 35 hours, with occasional longer stretches (each person should consult with professionals before doing this, especially if already on a medication that might have to be adjusted). This can be done intentionally. However, many practitioners of very low carb and zerocarb diets have reported spontaneously not being hungry for long periods. This this case, IF becomes an outcome of the eating strategy more than an intentional practice. That said, being open to IF allows one to be open to the option of not eating, even for long periods, when hunger is simply absent.

Instead of a diet book, by a man too busy to write one.

Instead of a diet book, by a man too busy to write one.

Fasting traditions have been around and recognized as health promoting on many levels for at least thousands of years worldwide. A contemporary challenge for fasting for health is that no one is positioned to profit from fasting—except the person actually doing it. There is no special food to order and no special drug to consume.

Already being fat-adapted and in ketosis makes fasting far easier, almost unnoticeable, except for the improved concentration, freedom, and flexibility from always being locked into having to have that next meal or snack. While adaptation is required, anywhere from days to weeks and beyond, once there, myself and many others have reported consistent benefits from nutritional ketosis, fasting ketosis, and their interplay.

I think of fasting as intentionally replicating a "bad-hunting day" from the paleolithic past. Of course, no self-respecting paleo hunting group would have decided to have a bad-hunting day, but they would have had some nevertheless. Our systems would have adapted to these periodic fasts, perhaps even come expect them. Yet today they go missing. Moderns may have to take intentional steps to replicate that.

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In case of a bad-hunting phase leading to hunger, one should expect our bodies to send the following message: get out there and hunt, and hunt more effectively than in the past few days. That means: more energy and enhanced concentration and attention should follow. It certainly does not mean getting cold and depressed in the cave, a sure path to non-survival.

The problem is that the modern approach to reducing calories while still eating the same regular means, just smaller ones, has a set of effects opposite to the positive affects of fasting, as Dr. Jason Fung argues in The Obesity Code (2016). With chronic low-calorie dieting, metabolism sinks, energy and concentration fall, hunger is constant, and one feels colder.

This is the opposite experience of actual fasting (especially after adaptation). However, it is just this “reducing” as opposed to true fasting that is the one doomed constant in almost every failing “diet” plan out there. A central reason for this difference is now clearly understood from controlled trial and biochemical research: the two conditions have completely different impacts on the key phenomenon of insulin resistance. Fasting improves it.

This page has suggested the importance of not eating sometimes. Next, when we do eat, what should be on the menu? What should we eat to thrive?