24 Hour Fast
Fasting, especially “intermittent fasting”, has recently become somewhat of a trendy thing to do in the nutrition realm, but fasting is nothing new. Going prolonged periods of time without food has always been a large part of the human experience and has played a role in our evolution; whether it’s fasting during the typical overnight period, during more extended periods of food scarcity, or for religious/cultural reasons.
What is new is that we are starting to realize we can take advantage of different forms of fasting and use it like a tool to further our health and wellness. We now have clinical data indicating that fasting and or intermittent fasting helps to regulate blood glucose levels/insulin sensitivity, control blood lipids, manage body weight, decrease inflammation and improve cognitive functioning. Basically, it’s the wonder drug that literally requires doing nothing and spending no money.
You may be wondering how this is possible, well, let me explain what happens in your body during a fast.
While fasting affects everyone differently, the same essential processes are happening within the body during a time of caloric restriction. Firstly I’d like to point out that when it comes to fuel and energy, the body is constantly using both fat and carbohydrates simultaneous, it just may be burning predominantly one or the other depending on what you are doing. During a fast, your body will first burn through its stores of carbohydrates in the blood stream and then the stored muscle glycogen, then it will slowly shift to burning predominantly stored fats in the form of ketones. This energy utilization shift is one of the main reasons for the numerous health benefits of fasting, it is often referred to as being in a state of “ketosis”. You may have heard of the “keto” diet, this diet essentially aims to simulate the effects of fasting while still getting calories (since most of your calories are coming from fat sources on this diet).
But ok, why do we want to be in Ketosis? You ask…
There are several reasons, as seen below, but the main being that ketones burn more efficiently and more cleanly as a fuel source for our bodies. Think about carbohydrates as fossil fuel, they produce a lot of energy and they’re cheap, but they can do some damage in the long run to the environment (aka our bodies). Now, if carbohydrates are fossil fuels, ketones are the clean energy sources like wind or solar, they might take more effort to get but they don’t producing pollution. Now, when I say “pollution” in this case I’m referring to the production of free radicals when we burn energy in the body, these pests are responsible for chronic inflammation which can show itself in many ways in the body, a few most common ways being: arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, Crohn’s disease, cancer and Parkinson’s.
So maybe now you can see why reducing the production of inflammation may be good for us, and this bring us to the other health benefits of fasting that ultimately result from reduced inflammation.
Health Benefits of Fasting:
- Neuroprotective: fasting has shown to increase the production of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which activates brain stem cells to repair old brain cold and create new ones! This can greatly slow and even prevent Alzheimer’s.
- Boosts Metabolism: short-term fasting actually increases your metabolic rate by 3.6-14%, helping you burn even more calories through the day.
- Improves Mitochondrial Function: the energy production centers of our cells become more efficient, which increases energy levels and prevents chronic fatigue.
- Normalizes Insulin Sensitivity: helps us to better regulate blood-glucose levels, which is especially important for those with diabetes or prediabetes.
- Promotes Longevity: gives the body a chance to repair and clean up damaged proteins via autophagy and has also been shown to increase telomere length (so cells will actually live longer).
- Resets Hunger Hormones: decreases hunger hormone ghrelin, so that we can get back in touch with what it really feels like to be hungry/full and listen to our bodies instead of eating out of habit.
- Releases Toxins and Clears Skin: fasting can give the digestive system a rest and thus the body can focus on regenerative processes like clearing toxins from the organs and skin.
Ok so how long do I have to fast to benefit?
These health benefits can been seen in as little as 12-16 hours (most often the time frame utilized by intermittent fasting) but for the best results at least 24 hours is recommended. Prolonged fasting longer than 24 hours shouldn’t be done unless you are experienced with fasting or are under the supervision of a health professional.
Intermittent: fast from 7pm to 11am-12pm the next day OR if you like sting in the mornings Fast from 4pm to 8am the next day
24 Hour: Fast from 5:30pm to the same time the next day breaking your fast with dinner, or from 12:30pm-12:30pm the next day, breaking you fast with lunch.
I have experimented with intermittent fasting and tools like “bulletproof lattes” that keep you in mild ketosis but keep you satiated, but I had never performed an internationally prolonged fast even though I’d read over and over again about the health benefits of doing so. I decided it was time to give it a try and recorded my experience with it. I also decided to include zero calorie drinks like green tea and black coffee on my first fast because they not only act as hunger suppressants but they can also increase the rate at which you attain ketosis (burning body fat for fuel).
My 24 Hour Fast Recap:
8:00pm previous day: last meal
7:00am: wake up, 12 oz of water
8:00am: slow jog followed by a dip in the pool which also turned my hair green, good way to start the day (I’d recommend light exercise like long walks, jogs, yoga or swimming while fasting instead of high intensity training)
9:00am: post jog, 12oz of water
12:00pm: 8oz matcha green tea with just water for antioxidants and hunger suppression
1:30pm: feeling a little tired, 8oz of water
2:30pm: I caved, 8oz black coffee for a pick me up
3:30pm: 8oz of water
5:30pm: feeling a bit light headed when I stand up quickly
6:30pm: the hunger is starting to set it, so I distracted myself with some John Oliver and more water
8:00pm: I could eat my weight in nachos right now…
8:30pm: it has finally technically been 24 hours now but I feel like it’s a bit too late to eat, it may disrupt my digestion at this point (poorly planned out) so I’m gonna try to make it until the morning
12:00pm: woke up ravenous, ate 3 pieces of emergency dark chocolate I keep in my bedside table (shhh)
+1 8:00am: bulletproof Matcha, actually not even that hungry! Whattt
+1 9:00am: first meal in 36 hours at my favorite Ubud Cafe called Mudra, I got a black bean Rosti with poached eggs and a green juice.
Overall this was a great experience, it really helped me see food as fuel rather than entertainment and how I should be using it as nourishment for my body instead of emotional gratification. Once you get in the mindset that you aren’t eating for a full day, it’s not that hard to go without, our ancestors had to do it all the time. This was also a good practice of self control and “mind over matter”, my recommendation for first timers would be to try a 12-16 hour fast first and work your way up, preferable on a day where you don’t have to do too much. I like fasting from 7pm the night before to 11am or 12pm the next day.