Intermittent fasting is all the rage these days (do people still say that?) The vast majority of people who fast are doing it for weight loss. One thing I’ve noticed is that when something like weight loss is the goal, an unhealthy obsessive mentality can start to surround fasting in ways that are detrimental to health.
Done correctly, fasting is an incredible tool that can completely enhance your overall quality of life. I just want to share a few things I’ve learned and picked up along the way from experimenting with fasting for the past four years.
Trust Your Hunger
This first one is completely shunned by most people pursuing weight loss. “Trust your hunger” simply means don’t eat when you’re not truly hungry. If you can possibly ignore the hunger—ignore it and stay busy.
However, when you ARE truly hungry—you should eat! Many people set arbitrary windows like a 20 hour fast and 4 hour eating window, or a 23 hour fast and 1 hour eating window (OMAD). That’s all fine and dandy, but what happens when your body tells you at noon that it needs food? Do you just push through the fast? Drink more coffee to blunt appetite? Struggle?
This isn’t a good strategy. You want to listen to your body and eat when it needs food. Why? Well by ignoring those signals, you’re putting your body in a stressed state. On top of the million stressors of modern life, you don’t need to add fasting to it. Your energy and productivity will rapidly decline if you try to work while hungry.
My advice? Aim for an intuitive approach to fasting.
Nutrient Density is King
How long you can fast as well as how good you feel while fasting is heavily dependent upon what you eat when you’re not fasting.
For example, as a vegan I had huge issues with fasting. I could fast for a little while but then suddenly hunger would strike and I would feel a ravenous, almost frenzied hunger that would send me running off in search of food. Nothing else mattered, except getting something to eat. This was because my body was dependent upon glucose for its energy. When I would fast, liver glycogen stores get low and since I was glucose dependent, my body hadn’t developed a great ability to burn fat at higher levels.
Nowadays, I follow a carnivore diet. I eat meat, eggs, and fish daily. My body rarely gets exposed to glucose or any sugar for that matter and because of that, I’ve become an exceptional fat burner. It’s made it VERY easy for me to fast throughout the day and I never have a ravenous hunger. There is no hangry feeling anymore and I can easily fast for the whole day. In fact, I often do this when I’m very busy.
Coffee is Amazing
One of the most enjoyable ways to fast is utilizing some black coffee during your fast. On an empty stomach, black coffee is super potent. I love working in the mornings and its usually the most productive time of my day. This is due, in part, to the fact that I fast in the mornings and have 1-2 cups of black coffee.
The mental benefits of coffee are well documented. It enhances your cognitive abilities and leads to an overall sense of euphoria.
I recommend not adding butter, heavy cream, or anything like that to your coffee. If you must, I would say a tiny splash of milk or half and half (we want to keep calories as low as possible while fasting). Heavy cream and butter simply have way too much fat.
Don’t overdo the coffee! If you’re consuming 4+ cups of coffee in the morning, it will simply lose its potency. You will require that many cups to even function at baseline. I would recommend just sticking to 1-2 cups a day. Enjoy the coffee—don’t become dependent on it!
Extended Fasts Should Be Rare
Extended fasts have a slew of benefits. When you go 24+ hours without food, your body really begins tapping into its own body fat stores. Growth hormone also spikes spectacularly.
I’ve noticed that after a prolonged fast, I actually look more muscular and leaner a few days later as my body fills out again. I attribute this in part to the effects of growth hormone.
One of the most incredible benefits of extended fasts is the huge increase in autophagy. Your body essentially begins scavenging any dead, dysfunctional, or even cancerous cells and can consume them and recycle them. Your body really begins cleaning house during extended fasts.
If you truly want to do a cleanse—forget the celery juice, apple cider vinegar, and charcoal crap. Just drink water and do an extended fast.
But don’t do these too often! Extended fasts should be done quarterly, if at all. Personally, I rarely ever do them because I just don’t care to. If you do these too often, it’s a huge stressor to the body and your stem cells can actually become exhausted from having to produce so many new cells that it can shorten your lifespan. *note: This is a recent idea I’ve heard discussed by leading influencers in the health community including Robb Wolf. I’m not a medical professional!*
Electrolytes Are Important
While fasting, your body will release lots of salt and electrolytes. If you are sleep deprived, stressed, exercising hard, sweating, or drinking lots of coffee—you will expel even more salt. So during a fast, you may find it beneficial to occasionally supplement some salt!
I recommend Redmond Real Salt for the great mineral profile of their salt. I simply take a teaspoon of salt, put it under my tongue, and drink it back. The other option is to mix it in with some water. None of the options are appetizing, but who cares. Just do it.
You might also want to take a magnesium citrate supplement at night! This will help relax your body and help you destress. Most people are magnesium deficient so I highly recommend taking this! My preferred brand is Natural Calm.
My Current Fasting Routine
Wakeup at 4:30am
Exercise until 6am
Drink coffee at 6:30am
More coffee at 8am
Eat first meal at 10-11am
Eat dinner at 6-7pm
My first meal is often just a snack to keep me going while I work. Hard boiled eggs, beef jerky, cold cuts, salmon all fit the bill. I don’t really focus on mindful eating or anything like that for lunch. I just eat while working.
For dinner, I like to be a lot more mindful and I will usually cook my dinner. I take much more relish in dinner, it’s more of a feast while lunch is more of a snack to keep my going.
This style of eating is incredibly productive for me! It leads to a very high nutrient density diet and my calories are naturally pretty low thanks to my style of eating—carnivore w/ macro breakdown high protein, moderate fat, no carb.
Most days I will probably have around 200+g protein, 100-150g fat, 0-10g carbs (maybe if I have berries or add condiments to meals—like Primal Kitchens sauces). With these meals, I’m making sure to salt them well so I can have a great workout the next day, have a healthy thyroid, and be able to fast comfortably the next day! Just salt to taste, no need to oversalt your food.
I hope this was helpful! How do you like to incorporate fasting?