Fasting: the secret I don’t want to keep
“Life is an experience, nothing happens until you do it.”
– Joey Diaz
Most people freak out a little when they read the word ‘fasting’. Like we’re going to pass out from low blood sugar or something if we don’t eat every 4 hours… with small snacks in-between and a peppering of candies, gum, and drinks of all kind.
We’ve become the culture of chronic eating.
Is this a healthy cultural practice? Could this be influenced by distant emotional triggers related to insecurity about food supply or the craving for mouth pleasure? Who knows…
Say you have your first sip of coffee at 7 am, that’s when the digestion clock starts. You finish the day with a light evening snack and herbal tea that you sip until 9 pm (stop the clock) – that’s a 14-hour eating window leaving only 10 hours of fasting. Up to very recently, this was me – not too good as I came to learn.
Your digestive tube is a muscle. As soon as you swallow anything (except water), that muscle goes to work and a cascade of chemical reactions is initiated.
The fitness community understands that training every day without proper rest leads to breakdown (catabolism). So why not give your digestive muscle a break? At night when you sleep, your system can pause from processing food and focus on maintenance, repair and clearing out biological waste (things like inflammatory cytokines, senescent cells, free radicals and amyloid-beta plaques in the brain).
Here’s a good starting point: select a fixed eating window
Health benefits have been observed starting at the 12-hour eating window mark. Anything less than a 9-hour eating window seems to be socially awkward for most people (eating with friends is sometimes more important). Starting with a 12-hour eating window and working your way down as far as you are prepared to go seems to be a good strategy.
The optimal eating window seems to be between 11 and 9 hours.
This alone has helped me improve my sleep quality and wake up with more energy. Check out www.mycircadianclock.org for help in setting your new habit.
There is also this handy little ‘Zero’ app which I use regularly. HINT: improved endurance performance has been noted at the 9-hour eating window (15 hours of daily fasting).
Your microbiome and hormone systems also function on a circadian rhythm and are primed for food intake during the day, not at night. Check out the ‘Business Traveler’ section of the website for help with jetlag. Timing food intake and using periods of fasting can quickly reset your biological clock.
Don’t be afraid of going without food for a few hours. You were built to last weeks without eating. That’s how you and I got here in the first place.
Thanks for reading,
PS: Be careful and don’t play doctor.
Next Article: Fasting (part 2) – cellular regeneration