By Ryan Williams
Fasting is an old concept that has found relevance in today’s age of trying to implement optimal habits and routines that improve your life.
Most fasting mentioned today pertains to intermittent fasting where you regularly have a set window you are allowed to eat and not eat.
I am mainly focusing on 24 hours or longer fasts.
It is a process that makes sense to at least try if you think about how we have evolved as humans.
Before we had stocked pantries and grocery stores and restaurants, we actually fasted without choice.
When we hunted and gathered for food, we never had a guarantee of something we could kill or fruits or vegetables we could harvest from day to day.
Sometimes we might have gone days without finding anything worth eating, if we didn’t starve to death.
Our bodies had to adapt to be able to withstand going days at a time without food leading to a lot of beneficial processes happening inside us when we go without food for a while.
One of those processes is called…
Let’s break the word down first.
“Auto” means self and “phage” means to eat.
So it essentially translates to eating yourself.
“Gee, Ryan. You’re really selling me on this fasting thing.”
Let me explain what happens during autophagy.
Autophagy is the “reset button” I told you about.
It is where you go without food for a while and have to try to find something within your body to sustain yourself.
Registered dietitian, Scott Keatley RD, CDN, says that in times of starvation, autophagy keeps the body going by breaking down cellular material and reusing it for necessary processes. “Of course this takes energy and cannot continue forever, but it gives us more time to find nourishment,” he adds.
So it is kind of your body’s way of stalling until you can find sufficient nutrients.
Your body has to break down your weaker and damaged cells in order to sustain itself during this time.
It will also have to start regenerating new, healthy cells to take their place.
Various studies believe autophagy is essential for helping prevent cancer, dementia, and other diseases.
Your body naturally does this during sleep because you are technically fasting then as well.
But many studies say around the 20-24 is when autophagy really ramps up.
My Own Experiences with Fasting (The Good, Bad, and Ugly)
I have done several fasts ranging between 24-72 hours and want to give you my insight.
Despite studies saying autophagy kicks in around 24 hours I still do an occasional 24 hour fast because simply giving my digestive system a break does a lot for clearing up brain fog and giving me better overall cognition.
Most of my fasts are 48 hours and when I am feeling good at 48 hours, I occasionally push myself to do a 72 hours.
Fitness Volt provides a helpful Intermittent Fasting Calculator Here
Now to do these fasts, your body can’t have any caloric spike, so I stick to water, black coffee, and green tea.
If your body receives calories, it will just use that energy instead of eating away at your damaged cells and halt the autophagy process.
The coffee and tea don’t have any calories as long as you aren’t adding sugar or cream.
They help curb hunger and the caffeine helps keep your energy levels up.
I will also add a bit of salt and lemon juice to get a little sodium to help retain water and the lemon juice helps to add a little flavor and curb hunger as well.
Now as far as how I feel during a fast I said there is some bad and ugly so let’s address that.
I do experience some slight headaches and my energy levels are definitely lower.
You will probably have people asking “What’s wrong” multiple times a day just because you won’t look your normal self.
But you’re typically fine, just a little tired.
As far as hunger, it is not much of a struggle for me and can usually be curbed with drinking some water.
The main negative is just low energy levels and perhaps a bit grouchy.
So warn your spouse and friends you are gonna fast ahead of time.
When you break a fast, ease yourself into it with something light like soup or bone broth. Then have a lighter meal about an hour later.
I know this won’t be an appealing thing to implement in your life to everyone, for those that are interested, I can’t recommend it enough.
I wouldn’t suggest doing any heavy lifting during a fast as your body isn’t getting anything to help it recover.
I mainly stick to some light cardio.
I also need to add that you probably won’t go “number two” for much or any of your fast.
Altogether, it is good to give your body a break from food aside from trying to trigger autophagy.
We often times eat out of boredom or routine and not because we are hungry.
Fasting teaches you to be a lot more mindful of your eating habits.
The clarity you feel when your brain doesn’t have to tell your digestive system to work is incredible.
Time slows down and you find yourself being much more aware and present.
I haven’t even started to cover many of the other benefits like decreased inflammation, better discipline when it comes to eating, better insulin sensitivity and many others.
With all this said, this article is only my experience and research into fasting.
I am not a licensed dietician and this is not medical advice.
I’m just a dude wanting to give my two cents about something that works for me.
I hope if this article entices you to try a fast you enjoy it as much as I do.