Long a practice for those seeking God and spiritual connection to Him, Fasting has very real benefits for health and fitness. The most productive and simplest form of fasting is termed Intermittent Fasting, and I explain the easiest way to do this below, but first some background that led me to start using it.
I started looking at strategies for staying healthy for life when I was 30 years old, seeing my waist grow as an engineer who mostly sat for a living. At first I took up jogging and thought I could become a distance runner. I proved to be slow and fragile. I found out in my 60s that I had a defective coronary arterial system and part of my heart suffered from poor blood supply, and my pulse rate commonly exceeded 300 bpm by the end of most of my runs.
At 33 I decided to join a gym and build legs that would run better, but quickly found that I loved ‘pumping iron’ and the visual impact it was having on my body shape and fat content; I looked like I was far more healthy. We “body builders” were encouraged to eat a lot, and eat 6-7 times a day, grazing was the word – never be hungry. I did that for 45 years, looked great and steadily watched my blood sugar and cholesterol numbers get worse and worse. At 61, I started to have strange sensations in my throat and chest during uphill walks and gym workouts, submitted myself to an angiogram and the next morning underwent a 4-way heart bypass operation. All my coronary arteries were over 80% blocked.
Over the last 30 years metabolic science has come to the understanding that eating 6-7 times a day pushes most humans toward insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, leading to increased blood sugar, and a revision of lipoprotein particle production by the liver (the carriers of cholesterol and triglycerides) toward higher levels of smaller, more invasive, plaque-forming LDL cholesterol particles. It will help someone overweight lose weight in the short term and improve health, but long-term it leads to a lower weight person with serious metabolic illness and shortens life considerably with increased risk for heart/vascular disease, cancer and dementia.
The antidote to this is periodic or Intermittent Fasting, and it slows aging and prevents the common diseases of aging; heart disease, cancer and dementia, and lengthens our youth-span. Strangely, most of what fasting accomplishes in the body, but not all, is accomplished by reducing calories from carbohydrates. So switching to a Paleo or ketogenic diet can drastically improve overall health and prevent much of the degradation of aging.
But, the most effective fasting is the overnight fast from dinner to breakfast. Toward the end of a 10 hour fast, most of our cells turn on a process called autophagy (Greek for self-eating) where they begin to break down and recycle cellular junk. This cleanup process prolongs the life of cells, and turns on genes that foster longevity and lengthen youth-span.
The simplest way to improve overnight fasting benefits is to increase the time between dinner and your next meal: don’t eat a late evening meal, don’t snack after dinner and delay eating the “Break-Fast” meal. Shorten the “feeding time” window and allow the body to spend longer in a fasted state, in the state of autophagy, and the benefits will be better health and added years of fitness before we crash and burn. Add more fat to meals and reduce starches and sugars and most of between-meal hunger will disappear. Don’t snack! Drink a big glass of cold water when hunger hits and watch how it just goes away.
By reducing our feeding time window to under 10 hours, metabolism can be improved toward youthful operation. Lately, in retirement, I’ve been frothing a tablespoon of grass-fed butter in morning coffee and not feeling hungry until about 9:30. I finish breakfast about 10:00, eat lunch around 1:30 and finish dinner by 7:00 PM. Now if I could just put the wine glass down after one…
To your greater Health and Fitness,
Your Fitness Coach – Frank