Fasting: The Easiest Diet Ever
Updated: May 29
What’s easier than not eating? It sounds crazy to some, but intermittent fasting has become one of the hottest trends in dieting.
Access videos on intermittent fasting here.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting, or simply IF, is not eating for any designated period of time. If you’re not eating, you’re technically fasting. Intermittent fasting implies an on and off, flexible approach that enables you to work this into your life without it becoming your life.
The difference between fasting and Time-Restricted Eating (TRE)
Fasting is easily incorporated with time-restricted eating. Briefly, TRE is eating to the body's natural clock, or circadian rhythms. Every cell in our body operates on its own rhythm, almost like a hum in a very specialized orchestra, and is affected by the earth's natural light and dark/day and night patterns. Research by biologists such as Satchidanada Panda suggests that eating within your body's peak time (from rising until 3PM) positively impacts your hormonal responses and could be a viable solution for weight loss. If you ate your first meal around 7 am and your last at 3 pm, this eating schedule would mean a 16 hour daily fast.
Fasting Is Awesome
Benefits from fasting are far-reaching, the most wonderful being autophagy. Autophagy is your body’s cellular cleaning crew. Specialized cells will literally consume and get rid of old, broken cells that are no longer functioning properly in the body. This affords your body energy to create new, healthy cells. Think of this like when you trim a plant of dead leaves to give energy for new ones to grow. Same concept. It's spring cleaning for your cells! Your body already does this on a regular basis, but fasting speeds up the process tremendously. A fast of about 48 hours or longer will get you into this mode.
Access videos on intermittent fasting here.
Along with autophagy comes the benefits of detoxifying the body. Contrary to popular belief, we do not need 6 meals per day. Constant overeating plus consumption of unhealthy, processed foods bogs down the digestive system and affects elimination pathways. Allowing the digestive system to rest is important so the body can focus on all that housekeeping it has to do. As short as a 24 hour fast can work wonders to help the body detox naturally.
Type 2 diabetic or pre-diabetic? Experiencing unstable blood sugar? Being able to lower blood sugar levels is another great side effect. If you’re used to seeing high numbers on your glucometer, fasting will start to bring those down. Think about it: When you eat, blood sugar increases, then insulin steps in to ensure it doesn’t reach high levels and begins to help your body use and store that glucose as glycogen in the muscles and liver. Once the limit is reached to store this glycogen, the body begins turning that glucose into fat.
Fasting is the reverse of this process. Insulin decreases and you begin to see your blood glucose levels balance out naturally as your body dips into those glycogen stores, uses them up, and instead begins to provide a cleaner energy source for the brain and body in the form of ketones.
Let’s not forget about weight loss. This same process mentioned above continues by tapping you’re your fat stores. You’ll burn stored fat on a longer term fast and increase human growth hormone. (Remember that popular diet several years back where people took HGH pills? Yeah, your body can totally produce this on its own.) To paraphrase well-known fasting expert Dr. Jason Fung, MD, there is intention in your body’s design. It’s not so stupid that it will use up muscle before fat. Fat is stored there for a purpose: as an energy reserve for times when food is not so plentiful. Fasting will get your body into fat-burning mode quickly.
Fasting used to seem absolutely crazy to me. How could anyone go more than 4 hours without food? Wouldn’t you starve? Would you start to lose muscle? What about keeping blood sugar stable?
Fear not. This is what your body is designed to do and is totally normal. Your body is intelligently designed to use stored and dietary fat for fuel. If you're worried about muscle, you need to work out more, as you can't eat your way to muscle gain. Fat is stored for use during hard times. In the absence of food, you do not starve, you actually re-train your body to dip into your fat reserves to use as fuel. In The Complete Guide to Fasting, according to Dr. Fung, starvation and fasting are polar opposites in terms of control. Starvation is something imposed on you but you make a choice to fast and for how long.
Fasting will actually stabilize blood sugar by switching from burning glucose to burning fat for fuel in the liver via a process called gluconeogenesis.
Who Should Attempt It
Fasting isn't for everyone. Remember, it is important to consult with your physician before implementing any fasting or new diet program, especially if you are diabetic, taking medications, have gout or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). People who are severely malnourished or underweight, under 18 years of age, pregnant &/or breastfeeding should NOT fast.
If none of these apply to you, and you have your physician's ok, then go for it!
How to fast
Entire books have been written on this topic and to try and fit it all in this post is laughable. I’ve compiled a quick list of tips based on my own experiences and what I’ve learned from the likes of Jimmy Moore, Dr. Jason Fung, Megan Ramos, Mark Sisson, and Dr. Satchin Panda, to name a few.
Access videos on intermittent fasting here.
Drink LOTS of water!!
Drink plenty of water-at least half your body weight in ounces-throughout the day, adding in a pinch of pink Himalayan sea salt to maintain electrolyte balance. Some people also allow herbal tea, black coffee &/or bone broth into their fast as well.
Although water-only constitutes a “true fast”, this is for YOU and if some tea or coffee makes it easier, so be it. Dry fasting (where no food or liquid is consumed for a period of time) is mildly dehydrating and not recommended. If you’re aiming for autophagy then be forewarned that adding in more than a few calories per day (a splash of cream in your coffee, or even too much bone broth), will slow this process. Dr. Panda even states that anything other than water begins enzymatic reactions in the body and can “start the clock” on your eating window, meaning you possibly won’t get full fasting benefits. This is still up for debate, however.
I say aim for progress, not perfection. You’ll still reap amazing health benefits. Don’t let that deter you!
Ease in slowly to flex that fasting muscle.
Don’t go for an all-out weeklong fast your first try. A good idea would be to eat your last meal at dinnertime, preferably a few hours before bedtime, and let sleep be part of your fast. It’s easy to not eat when you’re asleep! For example, if you stopped eating at 6, then ate again the next morning at 8, you’ve fasted for 14 hours! Make this a habit for a few days, then try increasing your fasting time gradually, like another half hour or hour more until you’re able to make it for longer periods without feeling any ill effects.
Listen to Your Body.
Feeling hungry is normal and believe it or not, drinking some water with a pinch of Himalayan pink salt or other mineral salt will help the hunger wave pass. Other symptoms like dizziness, weakness, extreme exhaustion or illness, pain of any kind, hypoglycemia, etc. should not be ignored. It’s ok to end your fast if you’re not feeling well. Just try again when you’re ready.
Don’t fast at the wrong time.
What’s the “wrong time”? Any time where you are either highly stressed or social events. Big life changes such as moving, switching jobs/careers, taking care of a loved one are just a few times of high stress. Vacations, parties, family gatherings are all times to enjoy food and company. It is far more difficult to fast under these circumstances and probably better if you wait until you can be relaxed and away from temptations.
Eating on the run isn’t preferable anyway, as your body has trouble digesting in a stressful sympathetic state. When you keep occupied and away from food you can easily control cravings. Believe it or not, it's more of a mental struggle to forgo food than an actual physical issue. Go for walks, run errands, or play with the kiddos. Avoid having to cook if possible (not gonna happen in my case, as I’m the cook of the family!)
Don’t tell anyone.
This may seem counterintuitive to those who need to tell others to hold themselves accountable. In my experience, the only people who should know are those who understand the benefits of and reasons for fasting. Most people just don’t get it and will convince you not to do it.
Be fat-adapted first.
Not exactly a requirement for fasting, this tip is just to make it easier for you. Being fat-adapted means you can go longer without food just due to the satiating effects of ketosis. Especially if you’re going for a long fast, it will be a rough first few days if you’re used to eating lots of carbs for energy and you’ll likely not want to ever attempt it again.
How Long Should I Fast?
This is a highly individualized question and only you have the answer. Fasting can be incorporated in a number of ways for any duration you choose. It also depends on what results you're going for. A 24-hour fast can be done weekly, whereas a longer fast of 4-5 days or more may be best done a couple times a year. I like to aim for at least 16 hours fasting each day, followed by an 8 hour eating window, but I am fat-adapted and also NOT perfect at this. Sometimes I only fast for 12 hours, other times 18 or more. Strenuous exercise can greatly affect whether or not you need to adjust your eating window.
Just do what feels right and let your body tell you what it needs.
How do I break my fast?
Jimmy Moore has done a ton of great n=1 experiments on this. According to him and Dr. Fung, the longer you fast, the gentler you should be. A fast of 24 hours or less likely won’t be any big deal if you eat a regular meal to break it. Longer fasts may require a very small snack at first, then wait before eating a bit larger meal. In my NTP opinion, I’d add that your digestive health is the determining factor in how you approach this piece.
I want to do this. How do I get more help?
Get the ok from your physician and let’s chat! I can definitely coach you on your fasting journey. Schedule a consultation appointment on my services page.
You can also access my FREE video series on intermittent fasting here.
Check out my quick guide with tips to get you started!
I've linked some print resources to my Amazon affiliate links. (Purchasing through these links may give me a small commission.)
My favorite book is The Complete Guide to Fasting by Jason Fung, MD with Jimmy Moore.
The Keto Reset Diet by Mark Sisson includes some ways to incorporate IF.
Jimmy Moore has a great podcast called KetoHacking MD and you can find out more about his recent n=1 fasting experiments in the first few episodes. His first podcast on fasting is called Fasting Talk. It is no longer producing new episodes, but should be accessible.
Dr. Satchin Panda conducts research on eating according to your circadian rhythms and is a wealth of knowledge on time-restricted eating. Click here for one of his interviews.
Look up Dr. Jason Fung on YouTube and you’ll find tons of great info there as well. Here's a link to one of his talks. Click here.
**Just a reminder: This Information is for informational purposes only and not to be considered as medical advice. This information is not intended to diagnose, prescribe, treat, or cure any medical condition. Statements should not be taken as a substitute for medical advice from a licensed physician. It is recommended to consult with your physician before implementing any dietary or lifestyle changes. In using information contained within this post you accept the terms and conditions of this disclaimer.