Many different cultural and spiritual groups espouse the tantric sexual, bowel-cleansing, purifying, toxin releasing, and mind clearing benefits of fasting. For all of human history we have fasted. As hunter gatherers, we often couldn’t find food, so we fasted. Later, almost every major religion incorporated fasting into their worship practices. Paradoxically, modern nutritionists tell us we should eat every three hours and insert a whole grain bagel into our mouths within five minutes of waking up. These nutritionists base their beliefs on their own colleague’s “expert opinion” and precisely zero scientific studies. This bad advice has been screwing the rest of us over for the last 30 years. It’s time to get back to our roots as humans and take a break from eating.
One of the undeniable benefit of fasting is the reduction of insulin. This gives us a chance to use some of our stored fat on our back, belly, and penis* as fuel. If we eat six small meals per day, like we are told, our bodies never have a chance to burn our stored fat. One recent study showed that groups of rats that ate for only 12 hours per day were thinner, healthier, and by all accounts much more sexy than their all day eating rat counterparts, despite both groups consuming the same total number of calories per day. This concept of eating for only a set part of the day is called “time restricted eating (TRE)” or “intermittent fasting (IF)” and is so hot right now.
Unfortunately, extended fasting can be a special form of torture if done incorrectly. So you need a game plan to get the benefits of fasting and to avoid unnecessary suffering, unless you are into that sort of thing.
Before you start fasting, it’s better to be in (or close to) a fat burning state with low levels of insulin. Insulin stops our ability to burn fat as a fuel. When we have high insulin levels and we stop eating, our body literally runs out of fuel because calories are low, and we can’t get to our fat. So we go into the dreaded “starvation mode” when metabolism slows, hunger peaks, and energy sucks. This starvation mode is why many traditional dieters eating a low fat, high carb diet, will lose more muscle and less fat and feel miserable in the process. If you do have high insulin and start to fast, eventually your insulin will drop, it will just take longer to start burning fat and it’ll be more painful, but it still can be effective. Here are some intermittent fasting options:
The-Six-hours-of-eating-with-an-18-hour-fast-fast (6:18): For an entire 24-hour period, simply only eat your meals during a 6 hour window of time. It’s not important which six hours, but I prefer the evening, usually between 1PM to 7PM. This eating window, along with the fatty food you consume will keep you from getting hangry during your fasting remaining 18 hours of the day. The 18 hours of fasting is ample time for the body to use up the glucose in your blood. Then when more energy is required, you will start burning fat your body stored during the Christmas holidays or whilst aboard a cruise ship with unlimited room service and drink package. This 18 hour fasting lifestyle can be your new normal. If it’s not your new normal, it can be your temporary tool to get down to your goal weight.
The eight hours of eating and 16 hours of fasting: It’s just like the 6:18 but a little easier and a little less effective, but is still a great option.
The 23 hour fast (5:2). About twice per week, I do a 23 hour fast, which is way easier than it sounds. I start with a delicious and fatty dinner, usually on Sunday and Thursday night. I then proceed to not eat anything until the next night’s dinner. That’s it. Super easy. I usually drink black coffee, plain tea, and lemon water, all with a sprinkle of salt. This salt supplementation eliminates headaches and fatigue. Be sure to stay hydrated BTW.
Consider that if you were to run a marathon, you’d burn about 2500 calories, but then consume a bunch of gatorade and bananas and really only have a 1000-2000 net calorie deficit for the day. When I fast for just one day, I eliminate about the same amount of calories without the soul crushing misery of running 26.2 miles. I also avoid marathon related issues like bleeding nipples, pooping my pants, thigh chaffing, bib malfunctions, and boring the shit out of my coworkers by telling them the details of running a marathon and how I almost beat my P.R. P.S. nobody cares.
The-all-day-fat-fast (technically not intermittent fasting): For those of you who aren’t ready for any of the above fasts, here is a modified version. For a whole day (24 hours) only eat small amounts of coconut oil, butter, cheese, olive oil, whipped cream(no sugar), homemade fat bombs, Bulletproof Coffee, a small amount of fatty meat (max 5 ounces), or up to four eggs. Basically, eat something small and fatty, only when you are hungry, without restrictions on food timing. Alternatively, you could have a very low calorie food like a pickle or broth. It’s best to have some of these items on-hand for when you get hungry. Technically, it’s not an actual fast, but it’s a good start and will prime your body to burn fat and prepare you for an actual no-food-fast. Soon you’ll find that you are slimmer and sexier because of lower insulin levels. This technique will also physically shrink your stomach, making you better at fasting and more easily satiated when you go back to eating more regular meals.
Why fatty foods and not foods high in protein? Our goal during IF is to reduce insulin but also fight and reverse the aging process. Protein is a signaler of insulin, although not as strong as carbs. Also, protein activates something called mTOR which tells our body that it is being fed, thus partially negating the effects of the fast. Fat does not activate insulin or mTor, and it’s satiating, so it’s the best thing to reach for if you are going to have to eat something during a “fast”.
Because of external forces pushing us to eat outside of our chosen window like Sunday Brunch, College Football Season, backyard BBQ’s, and Shark Week; short and long fasts may not always fit into your lifestyle. It’s OK. Don’t beat yourself up. Remember the 80/20 rule. Just try to incorporate fasting and the time restricted eating, when you can, as another weapon in your arsenal to stay healthy as f**k.
I discuss the details of how to do longer fasts here.
*Don’t freak out. You don’t actually lose any fat from your penis when dieting. In actuality, an increase in penile size is noted after substantial weight loss, probably because of the reduction in the surrounding fat pad or as a secondary side effect of the associated increase in testosterone and cardiovascular health, resulting in better erections. Increased fat consumption is also associated with increased testosterone levels in men, as fat is a precursor for sex hormones like testosterone.