Fasting is nothing new. It’s been a proven technique of physical and mental detox across all major religions for centuries. But recently, after the dark ages of frequent snacking dogma, fasting is getting back to the spotlight. Fasting is something that really helped me get leaner and make my life easier. There are many different approaches to fasting, and I’m currently practicing daily intermittent fasting with occasional 36 hours long fasts.
The cheapest and most convenient diet
It goes without saying, but fasting costs you nothing, and since you don’t eat, you don’t have to buy food, you don’t have to prepare it, you don’t have to do the dishes, so you save a lot of time for something more exciting or important than stuffing your face. Since fasting costs you nothing, it also means nobody can profit financially from it, so you won’t find anyone injecting money into fasting marketing since there’s no return on investment.
On the contrary, there are some companies which feel threatened by fasting, because fasting customers stop buying their products so they try to spread false claims about fasting, how dangerous it is, how it can damage your health and so on.
The most popular claims are that your brain needs a constant income of glucose; otherwise, it will shrink, or that when you fast, your body will burn muscles. Both of these claims are absurd and desperate moves. Not only fasting won’t decrease your muscles, but it will increase IGF1 to protect them actively. Your brain is totally fine without glucose coming from food because its needs are covered from glycogen storage for 24 to 36 hours and after that, new glucose can be made from fat in the process called gluconeogenesis without the negative side effect of insulin spikes.
Fasting for the long-term weight loss
Fasting causes depletion of glycogen storage which results in low blood sugar and low insulin. It’s like eating all the food from your fridge. Once insulin is out of the picture, we can finally access the freezer full of fat waiting down there in the cellar and start using what’s stored there for energy.
The most significant difference between fasting and other diets is that fasting doesn’t decrease basal metabolic rate. This means that once you lose weight on fasting, you’ll be able to keep that weight off. Yes, short- term-wise, like in 6 months, you can lose weight on any diet, but in long- term, you’ll very probably gain it all back and some more. You know how it usually works. You eat less, you decrease your basal metabolic rate, the weight goes down, you feel like shit, you can’t withstand it, you start eating more again, and the weight goes up, usually even higher than where it was at the beginning of that diet. With fasting, there is not this yoyo effect, and the reason is that while a regular weight-loss diet is based on caloric restriction, fasting means no food whatsoever for a specific time which sends the body totally different message.
DIF to make the difference
Even before I changed what I eat, I managed to lose a considerable amount of fat from the waistline by practicing the daily intermittent fasting, which I shorten to DIF because it really makes the difference. I didn’t reduce my caloric intake at all; I just compressed my eating window to 8 hours, letting the fasting effects to do their miracles for 16 hours without food.
Each day, I ate exactly the same amount of food, so there was no reason for my body to decrease my basal metabolic rate. I just postponed breakfast and stopped eating earlier in the evening, so I could take advantage of the night when I didn’t eat anyway.
With 8 hours of sleep, I already had 8 hours of fasting without even noticing, so I only had to add 6 to 8 more hours. I ate my last meal at 5 p.m. and the next day I had my breakfast at 9 a.m. I practiced this regimen for about 13 months with great results. Later, I pushed my first meal of the day even further and implemented Bulletproof coffee 2.0 as my energy drink in the late morning.
This way, I achieved pure fasting for 16 hours followed by Bulletproof coffee 2.0 around 9 a.m. and an early lunch at 11 a.m. My last meal was an early dinner at 4 p.m. to make sure that I finished it before 5 p.m. Recently, I moved Bulletproof coffee 2.0 after lunch, so my pure fast lasts for 18 hours.
Even though you can go cold-turkey and jump right in with both feet, I strongly believe that it’s more comfortable and probably even more enjoyable to start slowly and give your body some time to accommodate to the new way of eating. Therefore I recommend in my Superhuman weight-loss protocol to stick with your current meals for the first few weeks. You don’t have to make any changes whatsoever in what you eat to lose weight, just postpone your first meal of the day.
Later, you can start shifting your diet from processed to natural and more satisfying food, but even without this step, you can start losing weight just by eating less frequently. From this point of view, DIF is simply the perfect diet for anyone who doesn’t want to eat less because we already discussed why eating less doesn’t work in long-term. On DIF, you don’t eat less; you can actually eat even more and still lose weight because you send your body the right signals for your hormones and as you already know, losing weight is not about calories, it’s all about hormones. You’ll learn everything about the Superhuman weight-loss protocol later including the specific phases I recommend for a gradual and smooth transition.
Pure fasting is the process where you are allowed to drink only water, coffee or tea without any additions of proteins, sugars or fats. So cappuccino, honey in tea and cream in coffee are forbidden. Since my Bulletproof coffee 2.0 contains hefty amounts of fats from ghee and the Brain Octane Oil, I don’t consider it pure fasting after drinking this beverage but I implemented it deliberately in the Superhuman weight- loss protocol as the first source of calories because while we fast, our body basically runs on stored fats and when we break the fast with fats as the first meal, it will stay in this desirable fat-burning mode.
Fat-burning on autopilot
Another effect of fasting is that your body is forced to switch from sugar-burning to fat-burning. When you eat your sugar-based diet, you create an energy backup in the form of glycogen stored in the liver and the muscles, but this storage can last only for about 24–36 hours. Once this glycogen backup storage is depleted, the body starts tapping into your fat storage, because it has no other choice. Back to the bank accounts analogy, once your regular account is empty, you have no choice but to use the money from your savings account.
From the longevity standpoint, this is probably the most exciting benefit of fasting. After more than 12 hours without food, the body starts cleaning the house by recycling the old and damaged parts of cells. In some cases, it can even initiate apoptosis as we already discussed. The principal regulator of autophagy is the mammalian target of rapamycin a.k.a. mTOR which turns the autophagy off if there’s protein consumption. Since mTOR detects protein, not fat, theoretically we can keep autophagy turned on even if we eat, provided we don’t consume any protein in the meal.
There’s currently quite a hot debate in fasting community about how much protein should we eat. I don’t have a definite answer, but I would say that people are usually afraid of low protein consumption, even though it might be beneficial, because old and unused protein gets recycled, like for example disposable skin we end up with after losing lots of fat tissue.
Once we combine fasting with a fat-based diet, we get the holy grail of health. Not only we will burn clean energy in our mitochondria, but we will also teach the body to use fats instead of storing them for later use. On top of that, our body will do the regular detox each day and destroy cancer-prone cells.
Gym goers are often asking about the effects of fasting on training. It seems counterintuitive or at least in sheer contradiction to generally held beliefs about the precious 1-hour window we supposedly have after physical training to refill the energy with the combination of fast sugars and proteins.
I think this might be a valid argument if your primary goal is to gain muscles and this goal means everything for you, even if it could interfere with the benefits of fasted training.
I’m more inclined to the research which says that body actually protects the muscles while fasting, so I’m not afraid of wasting something precious by not eating before and immediately after the gym, even though that’s precisely what I’ve been doing for the most of my life. Anyway, I’m happy with the overall results of my current regimen which means eating the first meal of the day 4 hours after the morning workout.
Learn more in my latest book THE NEW FITNESS: Forty Years Old Dad in Twenty Years Old Body.