This article on intermittent fasting was written by Matt Bate my ‘365 Days of Wholeness’ business partner and friend. He is incredibly knowledgeable & inspiring.
Intermittent Fasting is something I have done on and off for a few years now. In my experience it has changed my life and the way I think about eating.
In our not so distant past, before the advent of supermarkets and the ability to ship foods across countries and continents, we were forced to live off the land, which meant the amount of food we were able to consume on a daily basis was largely dependent upon our own labour and efforts. We would have been forced to fast (abstaining from everything except water) for extended periods of time between meals as there certainly wasn’t a Woolworths or Coles supermarket available just up the road to instantly satisfy our hunger pangs.
It would have been a rather questionable design by Nature if we were designed to become more tired and fatigued when hunger wasn’t instantly satiated. If that had have been the case back in the days of hunting and scavenging for our food, then we would have been a humorous sight to watch as we slowly trudged along the forests and the fields, yawning as we searched for our next meal, before finally succumbing to fatigue and collapsing in a heap on the ground. If this was the reality of what happens when we miss a meal or two, then the human race would have been in trouble indeed. Luckily for us, Mother Nature is very clever, and it seems that she knew that to develop, procreate, and evolve as a species, having the energy, strength, and mental poise to find our next meal, despite not having food available, was absolutely crucial.
When we miss a meal or two, and abstain from food for a lengthy period of time, all of our bodily functions become extremely enhanced and superior. This includes our 5 senses of sight, smell, touch, taste, and feel. Our energy levels also increase, and the brain begins functioning at a higher level and releases feel good neurotransmitters such as serotonin into the system, giving us a bright, cheerful, and poised demeanour. Your body burns fat at a higher level, converting stored calories into energy. Your body’s detoxification processes speed up considerably as your body burns through superfluous tissue and harmful toxins, eliminating them from the body, or even converting them into useful nutrients. In a nutshell, you become primed in every way to go hunting, and searching for food, and your health increases dramatically. Sound too good to be true? Well it’s not. The only problem is that in modern society we have been programmed to eat systematically, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, every single day, so very few people have experienced the benefits that missing a few meals can provide.
So how does it work?
The best way to incorporate IF (Intermittent fasting) into your life is to try it out for just 1-2 days a week to get used to it. Everyone is different in terms of how often they like to IF. If you’re anything like me you will fall in love with the results you get and I now IF at least 5-7 days of the week, and it has become firmly embedded into my routine. Some people like to IF just 1-2 days a week, some like to IF from Monday to Friday and then let their hair down on the weekend. Whatever you decide to do, it will no doubt provide a massive benefit to your overall health.
How to IF?
The smartest way to IF is to make dinner your last meal of the day, so that your 6-8 hours of sleep is included in your fast, making the fasting window feel much shorter. I personally like to finish eating by 8pm, and then resume eating later in the afternoon of the next day.
How long to IF?
This is entirely up to you. If you stopped eating at 8pm and then missed breakfast the next morning, and began eating again at lunch, let’s say, 12pm, then you would have fasted for 16 hours. This would give you considerable benefit, especially if you maintained it most days of the weeks. Every hour you fast after around hour 15 seems to enhance the benefits of the fast significantly, so I like to push my fast out to 18-20 hours, and sometimes even 22-24 hours if I feel like I need the extra recovery. So by ceasing eating at 8pm, and resuming eating the next day around 4pm, will give you a 20 hour fast.
Do you have to IF every day?
No, you will receive great benefits from fasting just 1 day a week, but if you have the discipline to do more, you will receive many more benefits.
How should I break the fast?
As the digestive organs get to go to sleep for an extended period, it is best to wake them up gently, just like how you would like to be woken up in the morning. The best way to do this is through a cold pressed fruit and vegetable juice, or some juicy fruits. These are perfect because they provide the body with high quality minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, pure water, and natural sugars to replenish depleted muscle and liver glycogen stores. The best thing about these foods is they require very little energy for the digestive system to break down so you will still feel energised after eating them. These foods need to be eaten first because of food combining reasons, (you can check out my video on food combining here), and I recommend allowing at least 1-2 hours for them to be fully absorbed and cleared from the stomach before eating more of the cooked whole-food recipes that we talk about in our book 365 Days of Wholeness.
What do I do if I become really hungry during the fast?
Your body generally asks you to eat by signaling hunger when blood sugar levels begin to drop. When this happens is dependent upon the person and their size, sex, and levels of activity. I find that I begin to get a little bit hungry around hour 15, which is usually about 11am-12pm. Sometimes the hunger at this stage can seem intense and people give in to it as they don’t believe they can continue functioning. I can promise you that this stage is only short lived, and if you drink some more water, or a green tea, or maybe a black coffee (I personally don’t recommend a coffee as it is quite acidic but it doesn’t affect the fast as long as there isn’t any milk or sugar in it.) then you will get through it just fine. Another trigger for hunger is triggered by old patterns of habitual eating that is based on the time of the day that you usually eat. So if you normally eat breakfast at 8am, or lunch at 12:30, and you have been doing this for years, then you will likely feel hungry at these times even if your body doesn’t really need the food. This is a false hunger that is best to be totally ignored and after a few days this false desire for food will disappear.
The hunger pangs from dropping blood sugar around hour 15 or so will only last for around 30 minutes or less in my experience, then your body will realise what’s going on and it will withdraw the hunger and instead utilise previously stored calories and nutrients for nourishment. This is a process known as Ketosis. From here on it becomes smooth sailing and actually incredibly easy and even pleasant to avoid food. In fact, I find many people have totally forgotten about food by hour 20 and could easily keep going another few hours. The exciting thing is that when you do begin eating, the food is the most delicious thing you have ever tasted as your body is very ready to take nourishment, and the joy you get from this experience makes the wait well worth it.
Another thing to note is that IF normalizes the levels of Ghrelin in the body, which is known as the ‘hunger hormone’ as this hormone regulates your levels of hunger throughout the day. This may take about 3-4 weeks to occur, so the first few weeks of implementing IF into your life can be slightly challenging and require a bit of will power before this happens. Once Ghrelin levels are normalized hunger becomes an entirely new experience. Rather than the ravenous hunger people have become accustomed to, where you cannot think or function properly until you have eaten something. Hunger becomes a pleasant sensation, and all you experience is a mild longing for food. Once you begin eating you seriously enjoy the food, but you could easily wait another few hours if necessary and still function at a high level. This is even after fasting for 20-22 hours! For me this has been an amazing side effect as hunger no longer dominates my life as it used to.
Why isn’t IF more well known and spoken about?
The research and science to support IF is growing stronger and steadily every year, and it is now becoming mainstream. So with so many amazing benefits, why don’t more people know about it, and why have we always been told to eat 3 hearty meals a day with snacks in between? There could be many answers to these questions, but one major reason I believe is that the food industry is a huge industry generating billions of dollars each year. Imagine the amount of companies that would go under if millions of people began skipping breakfast and even lunch! There are many powerful corporations in the world who wouldn’t want this to happen. Also, if people started becoming extremely healthy and minimising disease rates, imagine how many billions of dollars the pharmaceutical and medical industries would lose! IF could be the human race’s chance to create a silent revolution against many unethical companies supplying and marketing low nutrient, and calorie dense processed junk foods, and regain back our health in the process.
Now I’m going to expand on what I have said so far and list the 5 benefits you will receive by implementing IF into your life.
1) Increase of energy levels.
Energy is a precious thing, and without it life is harder than it needs to be. Everything in life demands energy, from exercise, to work, relationships, travel, and harnessing your creative spirit. What a lot of people don’t realise is how much energy is used up by the body in the process of digestion. Digestion doesn’t just mean eating food, it includes breaking down the food into usable nutrients, absorbing these nutrients and calories into the bloodstream, distributing them to the trillions of cells in your body, and then eliminating any unnecessary waste products. This entire process can take hours and hours depending on how much and what type of food you ate. Most people in modern society consume many complex foods throughout the day, including meats, dairy, grains, junk and packaged foods. Many of these foods take a large amount of effort and energy for the body to digest, absorb and eliminate. As a result the digestive organs, including the stomach, intestines, liver, kidney, pancreas, gall bladder, and spleen are working overtime, and often all day long, using up precious energy. This is why we recommend an easily digested, and predominantly raw plant based diet for long-term energy and health. That is a topic for another time however, and we cover that in great depth in our new book 365 Days of Wholeness.
If repeated day after day, this constant drain of our precious energy stores on our digestive system, can leave us feeling chronically fatigued and irritable. The only thing that can regenerate energy is rest and sleep; we all know this. Each night we sleep and regenerate our energy stores and hope to wake up the next day feeling refreshed. However, many people wake up feeling sluggish and tired, and require a coffee just to get going. This is because their internal organs have been working overtime all night long, using up precious energy stores and not allowing the body to recuperate as it should. Your internal organs need rest just the same as your brain and muscles need rest. Intermittent fasting allows them to finally rest, and this frees up much energy for the body to catch up on its healing and recuperating efforts. I personally found that after just a week of IF I was able to ditch the stimulants and was bouncing around like a little kid again! My productivity went through the roof as I was able to work for longer hours without stopping, and my mood levels and happiness went through the roof. Who doesn’t feel good when they have tonnes of energy?!
2) Brain function increases and moods improve.
Dr. Mark Mattson from John Hopkins University has spent many years studying the effects of IF. He says that the brain views fasting as a challenge, and responds by getting stronger and coping with stress more effectively. He says that this is an evolutionary adaptation by Nature, as the brain that can’t find food must get smarter and stronger so that it can find some nourishment and survive. This is very similar to how the body responds to exercise by becoming stronger and fitter. IF also has other similar benefits to exercise. You may have noticed that during strenuous exercise you might not be enjoying it too much, but afterwards you feel very blissful and relaxed. This is because exercise promotes the production of the “happy hormones” known as endorphins, as well as dopamine and the chemical seritonin. These hormones and chemicals provide a morphine like ‘euphoric’ feeling in the body, which is why exercise can become a very positive addiction. IF also promotes the production of these hormones, which is why people get very excited about it, and is why IF could potentially be a very promising treatment for depression. On top of this IF also promotes the production of proteins in the brain called Neurotrophic factors. These proteins promote the growth of new neurone pathways in the brain, allowing it to becoming stronger and smarter by increasing learning and memory ability. (You can view Mark’s Ted talk on this topic here.)
3. The body burns fat at a much higher level.
When the body doesn’t receive its normal hit of calories as blood sugar starts to drop, the body adapts to this by finding its energy source from previously stored calories. This process is well known as Ketosis, which is where the body utilises stored fat as its main source of energy. Below is a photo I took of myself after just 2 weeks of IF. Yes I was already quite lean but I had never been able to get my abs to pop like this, and this was during the off season of football so I was in a middle of a 3-4 week block where I wasn’t training as hard as usual.
I have also found it much easier to increase lean muscle as the body and its internal organs have received more rest and thus have more energy to be able to regenerate muscle tissue.
If you want to burn fat extremely fast with IF, then a good idea is to do some cardio in the morning. This will deplete your muscle and liver glycogen stores (stored sugar), and your body will be forced to go into Ketosis very early in the day, and you will be burning fat like crazy all day long, until your eating window begins. I’ve seen people who notice changes in their belly and bum after only 2-3 days of doing this, and significant changes within 1-2 weeks. They key is however to be disciplined when your eating window begins. It’s extremely easy to gorge on whatever foods you want because you are such a keen bean to begin eating, and will eat anything in sight. I have found IF burns fat so well that I can cheat a lot more on my meals and still get away with it, but for the sake of getting great results and becoming very lean I recommend sticking to clean wholefoods during your eating window. What to eat exactly in the eating window, and how to exercise during a fast is something I’ll have to cover in another article.
If you still have doubts about IF’s ability to sculpt your body and build lean muscle, then watch this video from 1 minute 40 seconds in as Hugh Jackman explains how he got absolutely jacked (pun intended) by fasting for 16 hours a day for his role as wolverine.
4. Detoxification and healing increases significantly.
As mentioned earlier, during IF your body has an abundance of energy that has been freed up because it isn’t being used on digestion. This allows the body to catch up on some much needed house cleaning through a process known as Autolysis. This is where the body scans itself and begins breaking down superfluous and unneeded toxins and bodily tissues. I view this as a self purification process, and it dramatically improves the overall health of the body and it’s systems. The added benefit of this is that it is also a beautification process. I have found that after a few weeks of IF fine lines on my face began disappearing, and I have seen numerous people’s skin improve dramatically, age spots disappear, growths diminish, hair and nails growth stronger, eyes become clearer, breathe and sweat become odorless, the face becomes more naturally blushed with a healthy glow, and the entire body becomes more symmetrical and sculpted as fat disappears and lean muscle increased. Imagine how much they would charge if this could be put into a pill!! And all you need to do is to miss a couple of meals.
5. It is being linked to human longevity.
- Fasting has been shown to increase Human growth hormone (HGH) production in women by up to 1300% and 2000% in men, especially when combined with HIIT (high intensity interval training). HGH assists with slowing down the aging process and also aids in increased fat metabolism and overall fitness and health.
- The ketones produced as a byproduct of ketosis are an ideal fuel for the brain, and can potentially prevent and treat dementia.
- Fasting reduces the accumulation of free radicals in the body, thus limiting the oxidative damage to bodily cells.
- Caloric restriction and cyclic fasting are known to suppress secretion of the peptide insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I), an agent implicated in accelerated aging and disease.
Hopefully this article has provided enough evidence and persuasion for you to give IF a go, even if for just 1-2 days a week. It can also be an exceptionally good tool to maintain energy levels throughout your work week. Let’s say you have a few too many drinks on a Saturday night, or spend a day overeating, or you have overexercised or overworked in any capacity. Just a couple of days of 16-20 hours fasting can significantly improve your energy and productivity throughout the week. When others are crashing on the couch at the end of the day, you will have more energy to invest in your passions and relationships. Or if you see the long term benefits like myself and many others do, then committing to IF 5-7 days a week will give mind blowing results.
IF is just one element of health, and there are so many more things to talk about in future articles. To make sure you don’t miss any great content please go to our website here (wait for the pop up subscribe button), and subscribe to our newsletter. By doing this you will also receive the first 3 chapters of our book for free.
One other thing we are extremely excited about is our upcoming ‘Health and Healing’ Bali retreat, in the beautiful Ubud, which we believe is one of the spiritual and heart centres of the world. The retreat is designed to help you completely master your health and go deeper and deeper into bringing yourself and your loved one’s back to a truly natural way of living. We also have the one and only Tyler Tolman making a guest appearance. Tyler is a master and exceptional authority when it comes to natural health. He’s especially experienced in fasting, detoxing, and healing chronic diseases. To have Tyler at our treat is a rare honour and we will be in as much awe at his knowledge as the retreat attendees will be.
The retreat only has a few spaces left, and we have extended the early bird special for one more week to the 15th of October.. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more enquiries, and further information can be found on the flyer below.
To your health and happiness,