I’ve been experimenting with intermittent fasting since 2016. Like many great discoveries, I learned about fasting due to a painful accident. As I tumbled down the mountain on my bum while my skis were still attached to my boots, slowly and painfully, most of my left knee major stabilizing ligaments tore themselves apart. So instead of the traditional knee reconstruction surgery, I had a stem cell procedure that used my own cells to regenerate these poor babies. And so, I started fasting to ensure that none of the cells that would help to regenerate my ligaments would turn into cancerous cells. I’ve been incorporating intermittent fasting into my daily life since. In the beginning, it was a bit tough. I would argue that fasting is primarily a mental game. However, once I figure out, for the most part, the mechanism and what works and doesn’t, I came to appreciate the simplicity, convince, and benefits of intermittent fasting, and I hope I can help you find what works best for you.
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What is Fasting?
Our ancestors didn’t have refrigerators, Whole Food stores, and other conveniences of modern life. So we, humans, have been practicing some form of intermittent fasting since the dawn of time. Nowadays, the subject of fasting pops up whether you are trying to extend your lifespan, get healthy, lose weight or prevent disease. Typically, we categorize fasting into time-restricted, intermittent fasting, fasting-mimicking diet, and prolonged fasting.
Time-Restricted Fasting Based on Circadian Rhythm
As the title implies, time-restricted fasting is not about how much you eat but when you eat. Of course, the time-restricted, intermittent, and prolonged fasting overlap on the feeding window. No matter who or where we are in this beautiful universe of ours, you are subject to circadian rhythms based on the changing environment of light during the day. These universal rhythms dictate when you go to sleep and wake up. A circadian rhythm is a roughly 24-hour cycle in the physiological processes of all living beings. Modern scientific and ancient texts agree that it is best to eat when the digestive fire (in ayurvedic terms) is stronger during the day.
Humans tend to conduct most of their activities and rest at night during the day. Simply put, we have an internal clock in the brain. Dr. Rhonda Patrick explains that the brain’s internal clock is the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). The SCN contains about 20,000 nerve cells and is located in the hypothalamus (an area of the brain above where the optic nerves from the eyes cross). But light is not the only external queue we have. We also have food influencing what is known as the peripheral oscillators that occur in peripheral tissues such as in the liver and influence metabolism.
Where light is the primary queue for circadian rhythm, the timing of food intake regulates circadian rhythm in the peripheral tissues.
According to Dr. Rhonda Patrick, restricted eating begins with the first bite or drink other than water. Even compounds in black coffee such as caffeine can be reasonably expected to produce metabolic effects that influence these peripheral oscillators, including activities in the liver. The circadian rhythm is essential to consider when we talk about fasting. The clock regulates thousands of genes somewhere in the neighborhood from 10% to 15% of expressed human genome, which means that our basic metabolic physiology is meant to behave differently depending on the time of the day. Even bacteria in our gut have circadian rhythms!
Of course, with the invention of artificial lighting, our eating time is extended to much later in the evening. But, as you may guess, it can have negative consequences.
To conclude, late-night calories are bad news. It will reset your internal clock and would misalign the metabolism. So, #1 cut snacks if you can, especially late-night snacks, and, instead, eat earlier in the day. Don’t eat when the sun is out to make it super simple.
The prolonged fasting lasts between 2 to 5 days. Based on some studies, prolonged fasting can shift stem cells of the immune system from a dormant state to an active state of self-renewal. Results from experiments with mice and a Phase I human clinical trial showed that long periods of fasting significantly lowered levels of white blood cells. I would not recommend DIY prolonged fasting. Talk to your doctor first.
Fasting Mimicking Diet
The Fasting Mimicking Diet (FMD) is a meal program with pre-made food. The diet is based on plant-based ingredients to be consumed for five days. Your body is not recognizing that it is eating. In other words, it is prolonged fasting with food. The FMD was developed and clinically tested at the Longevity Institute in Southern California. Led by Dr. Valter Longo. You eat very little, and your body goes into starvation mode. I think five days is reasonable. Yet, when I experimented with a fasting-mimicking diet (eating very little) for over three weeks, it ruined my menstrual cycle for a bit. So, both prolonged and fasting-mimicking diets would require more caution.
The benefits of FMD are the same as prolonged fasting. However, it is much easier to sustain.
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a cycle between eating and not eating or fasting. It does not imply any specific diet. Simply put, you can incorporate intermittent fasting by skipping a meal. For instance, you can skip breakfast, eat your first meal at noon, and your last meal around 8:00 pm. So, you are fasting for 16 hours every day and restricting your eating to an 8-hour eating window. This is the most popular form of intermittent fasting, known as the 16/8 method. By fasting about 14 to 16 hours a day, you will give your body more than enough time to shift into fat-burning mode. Alternatively, you can skip dinner or lunch. You can even eat one meal per day.
How Can You Start with Intermittent Fasting Instantly?
Set Your Intermittent Fasting Mindset
Intermittent fasting is a mental game. Most of us eat not because we are hungry or to nourish. Instead, we use food for entertainment, numb the pain, or social reasons. So, you may find it challenging to skip a meal at first. However, like any other healthy habit, the prize lies outside our comfort zone. Start easy and slow, cut out snacks, skip breakfast or dinner just a few times a day.
Choose Your Fasting Method
I recommend finding one fasting method and sticking with it for a month or longer before trying another. Remember, there is no such thing as a universal fasting guidebook. You have to do your research and find exactly what works for you. Always go with simple! I fast on my up-cycle, and I mostly eat one or two plant-based meals per day drink plenty of tea and coffee.
- Fasting turns on the body’s defenses against disease and aging.
Intermittent fasting promotes cellular health, increasing Autophagy and Apoptosis in stem cell production.
- While Autophagy clears away damaged cells to use for energy. At the same time, Apoptosis causes the damaged cells to self-destruct.
- Both of these processes prevent the damaged cells from becoming cancerous cells.
- When we clean away damaged cells, it also means that these cells are less likely to become senescent.
- Note: A senescent cell is a living cell. Yet, these cells are not functioning in a way consistent with maintaining the overall health of an organ – quite the opposite. A senescent cell can accelerate the aging of nearby cells and promote tumor growth by secreting pro-inflammatory molecules. So, a senescent cell is a bad news. As we age, they are everywhere, from our livers, brains, hearts, etc. And they accelerate the aging process.
- Fasting has a robust effect on increasing stem cell numbers. The regenerative power of tissues and organs declines with age. It is stem cells that provide this regenerative power. Because stem cell numbers decline with age, so does organ function. This means anything that counters it is a win.
- Fasting also causes cells to clear away damaged mitochondrial and recycle the defective components for energy called mitophagy, creating new mitochondria.
Who should not fast?
Although intermittent fasting for short periods (16 to 25 hours) is considered safe, you have a medical condition like heart disease or type 2 diabetes or are a woman trying to conceive, pregnant, or breastfeeding. We also need to consider hormones, genetics, and food-related desires (anorexia, binge-eating, and so on). As you know, I am not a doctor and only try to express my opinions and experience. However, be a responsible adult, consult your doctor, and your common sense!
- mycircadianclock.org Dr. Satchin Panda mobile app store: zero
- Valter Longo, Satchin Panda, Ruth Patterson
- Introducing “Zero,” a New App to Help You Fast by Kevin Rose, Medium
- Tim Ferris Blog
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. The entire contents of this website are based upon the opinions of Anna Sheinman. They are not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, and they are not intended as medical advice. Instead, they are intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from my own research and experience. I encourage you to make your own health care decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.