I’ve been fixated on fasting a lot over the past year. This isn’t some starvation diet fixation, although it can be used for losing weight too as I am about to lay out. This is on the potential health benefits of doing moderate fasting, intermittent up to a few days, for things like cutting cancer or diabetes risk. A month ago I ended my “exercise only” diet experiment with good results on changes in body composition and biomarkers. Unfortunately the intervening month I didn’t continue the plan at all so I backtracked a little . Wanting to try to jump start things again I’m looking at doing an experiment that ties in fasting as a regular protocol.
I’m sure that in our modern culture the idea of fasting for a day sounds extreme, and in a negative way too. We don’t think much of eating twice as many calories on a feast day, yet the idea of abstaining from eating for a day almost seems psychotic. Fasting wasn’t always a rare thing. Obviously if you reach back to hunter/gather days we probably went days between large meals. Our system learned to adapt to that. So while it feels like you are going to pass out from exhaustion if you don’t eat every few hours, I know I can feel like that, in fact the body is designed to handle not even for a day or even several days. If you want evidence of that just look at how much the people on Naked and Afraid get done with minimal food consumption in most episodes.
That’s not to say that I advocate or am trying to abstain from eating for weeks on end as a weight loss tool. However if I look at my nominal diet I end up eating pretty healthy five of seven days. Then for two days I go into “feast” mode, and eat a bunch more junk food (appetizers, desserts, alcoholic beverages). When I’m doing a lot of exercising it nets out. While I should be doing more exercising, the purpose of the previous experiment, it occurred to me that I should probably be balancing my weekly feasting with some weekly fasting too. What better way to do that than to incorporate that into some self experimentation!
I’ll write more about some of the proven and hypothetical benefits of fasting over all, and some protocols that have been developed to do this. I’m keeping my experiment simple though. I’m going to for the most part fast every other day of the week. On fast days I will be doing a water fast. I will drink non-caloric beverages like black coffee, tea, or seltzer water during the day. At night I will have a “dinner” of vegetable or bone broth. I may have some low-calorie beverage like a kombucha too. On non-fasting days I will eat “normally.” During the experiment my “normal” day is going to look as much like my 80/20 ETL diet. That is 80% of my calories should be coming from whole food plant based sources, with 20% coming from processed foods, oils, or animal products. I’ll be limiting my exercise on fasting days to light walking and yoga. I’ll be doing my working out, when I get my butt to the gym anyway, on non-fasting days. I’m going to try to ramp back up to exercising six days a week again, although the primary focus of the experiment is the fasting not the exercise.
Through this process I’m hoping to see a well regulated and measurable body composition change that will be in line with my calorie budget calculations. I’m hoping to see an improvement in biomarkers like resting heart rate. I’m hoping to see a reduction in impulse eating, which is a substantial percentage of my “bad” calorie consumption. I’m also hoping to see my body adjusting to fasting days to the point where it doesn’t feel atypical at all. Lastly, I’m hoping that this can be grafted into a sustainable lifestyle with eating very healthy on 4-5 days a week. Having my typical weekend feasting for 1-2 days a week and then fasting for 0-1 day a week, depending on what it takes to even things out.