“. . .fasting gives me singularly happy afternoons.” ― Adalbert de Vogüé
Fasting, specifically intermittent fasting, is garnishing great attention in biohacking and other health circles. I like it, and therefore recommend it as the final piece to our weekly habits for super-human success. To be clear, fasting, in any form, is not starvation! Starvation is by definition, starvation, and is usually followed by death. Fasting is a calculated length of time where the individual abstains from food, or greatly restricts calorie intake, to experience certain benefits that result from short periods of time without food. And yes I said benefits! There are some really cool things that can occur when the body goes more than 12 hours without food. I am also not advocating week long hunger strikes with this approach either. Recent studies have concluded the majority of the benefits kick in after about 12 hours. So you can go 12 – 24 hours without food to trigger these positive changes before rewarding yourself with your next meal.
So what are the benefits? Well from a survivalist point of view, if you go too long without food, your body has to be able to obtain it. As a result, your body will trigger the appropriate changes, so that you can solve the “where can I get food” problem. Hormones reset and regulate better. Your body goes into DNA repair because it starts thinking longevity rather than reproduction. Your five senses will heighten. Fasting also improves brain function. It boosts the production of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF.) BDNF activates brain stem cells to convert into new neurons, and triggers numerous other chemicals that promote neural health. “This protein also protects your brain cells from changes associated with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.” (www.lifehack.com ‘10 benefits of fasting that will surprise you’ Nathan Hewitt)
Aside from BDNF being produced a host of other neuro-transmitters kick in, basically making you momentarily smarter, in order to help you solve the task at hand, finding food.
Research in mice shows huge increases in longevity, up to 40%. In humans the latest research shows reduced risk for cancers, heart disease and other inflammatory chronic diseases. Insulin sensitivity improves, which also leads to being able to better access your fat stores. Which, from the survivalist perspective would give you the energy boost to go find your food.
But let me remind you that these benefits are short term and are dependent on you ultimately finding food. Go to long, and your body then actually switches to starvation mode, which flips everything into energy conservation. So now you won’t burn fat and you won’t have improved metabolic rates. In starvation mode your body shuts down, which is why starving yourself as a weight loss protocol backfires so badly on those who try and use it.
So because I have included this in our weekly habits series this is something you could try and implement one day out of the week, and it does not have to be a full 24 hours, but it could mean from sunrise to sunset. Or, not “breaking fast” until later in the day and only having a late lunch and dinner. Or, instead of fitting it into a weekly schedule, you could do it every 3 months on a quarterly basis, or time it with certain holidays in the year. Those preferences will be up to you to experiment with, some of you may find your faith has set times in the year for fasting that you might, now knowing the benefits, enjoy following. I will also add that trying this on the days you work out may not be the best time, especially when starting out, but preferably on a day that you can spend relaxing. Like on a Sunday, just as an example off the top of my head.
With this, all the pieces for our weekly habits are put into place. Each one by itself is good, but is by no means a silver bullet. However, in combination, I think you’ll find the combined effects of all of them really something extraordinary! In this way the whole is greater than the parts and being super-human will become your new normal.