Often when the word fasting comes up it stirs up negative feelings in people. Fasting is not eating and people like to eat. Just like the rest of your eating plan, fasting could help you improve the way you feel and your overall heath. I was just listening to a podcast the other day and fasting was one of the subjects covered. I had heard about the positive effects of fasting before- increased insulin sensitivity (a good thing), accelerated weight loss (makes sense since I'm not eating), a stronger immune system, and decreased risk of cancer. As I have stated before, I am not a Dr and these are my own experiences that I share in hopes that they may help you to your health goals. The last blog had a lot of photos- this one not so much. But I will reward all your reading with what I had for dinner last night.
The History of Fasting
If you happen to be Catholic, you have certainly heard of fasting. Catholic fasting is perhaps the only thing called fasting that allows you to eat three meals a day- "When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal." The Muslim faith takes fasting much more seriously- "If you choose to eat or drink, for any reason, then your fast will become invalid", and practices it for the entire month of Ramadan. I also learned that they may not have sexual intercourse during this time, but that type fasting will not be covered in this blog. The Ramadan fast is from sunrise to sunset each day....this sounds a lot like Intermittent Fasting.
Intermittent Fasting (IMF)
IMF is a fancy name for not eating for several hours or skipping a meal or two. If you are on a traditional high carb diet, this probably doesn't sound like a lot of fun. You get hunger pains, can't think, become hangry (angry from hunger) and then you eat a Snickers bar thus flooding your blood stream with sugar and starting this vicious cycle all over again. But if you have been eating as I recommend in this blog, you are probably already doing some kind of IMF several times a week without even realizing it. Often times I will get busy with work and not have time to eat breakfast and lunch. Missing a few meals doesn't bother me at all, as I don't get any hunger pains, irritability, or any of the other side effects commonly caused by hunger. In fact I have gone almost exclusively to a noon snack (cheese & nuts) and late afternoon meal as my only sources of food each day. I do make sure to drink plenty of water and take an S! Cap each morning to give myself some salt for the day. This narrows by feeding time to about a 4-5 hour window. Many people much smarter than me argue that limiting your feeding window each day is not only good for all the reasons listed above but it also have a very positive effect on your life span and the good bacteria that live in your gut.
One of the best parts of limiting my eating window to the middle of the day is that I get much better sleep. Does anyone sleep well after eating a big dinner right before sitting on the sofa and then going to bed? This practice commonly causes heart burn, crazy dreams and a poor night's sleep. Then when you wake up you still feel full and bloated, making a morning workout sound like the last thing you want to do. Instead, if you eat your big meal of the day in the late afternoon (4-5pm- take advantage of those early bird specials!) that gives your body several hours to process that food before you go to sleep and you wake up feeling two things- that need to go #2 right away (no coffee needed) and well rested, energize, and ready to workout. If you can start your day with a highly successful #2 and a strong workout, you are well on your way to having a great day!
My 72HR Fast
Although you get many benefits from the IMF, many studies show that you can't kill off some of those more troublesome cells (like ones that often cause cancer) unless you extend your fast for a few days. I'm all for killing off pre-cancer cells so I figured that I needed to get in a good 4-5 day fast at least once a year. As the title of this section indicates, I was not entirely successful. First, if you are going to try this type of fasting I highly recommend that you are well adjusted to a very low carb diet prior to starting. If you jump right into a muli-day fast from a high carb diet it will be a very unpleasant first few days for you (as in don't plan on operating motor vehicles or being a productive member of society). But being well adjust to an OFM diet, I though I could knock this out while following some runners across my home state of Nebraska. Just me, the road, the wide expanses of grass, cows, and no food.
The first day went by pretty much like any other day, since I very regularly go 24 hours with out eating. But at about the 27 hour point I did get a slight headache and realized that I needed to up my water intake and take a salt tab. I was operating a motor vehicle so I figured taking salt was preferable to passing out and driving into a cow. Here in my electronic journal (iPhone notes) it was noted at 32 hours that "walking past food is becoming more difficult- not because I am terribly hungry but because eating is a habit that is so ingrained into our daily life." In fact much of our lives revolve around eating. You get your breaks at work to go snack or have a meal, the only times families get together is for a meal, and when you are driving across the most isolated stretches of Nebraska your only chance for social interaction with a human is to eat at a restaurant. Restaurants are not real big on folks stopping in for water and a salt tab (unless you are a really good tipper).
I continued through two days and found that my brain was working overtime. Ideas where coming at me faster than I could put them down on paper and I was consuming very complex podcasts like some freak out of a movie. The last time I felt this was when I switch from a very high carb diet to OFM. Once the haze of the transition cleared and my brain got a taste of those sweet, sweet ketones it was game on! But I think that my brain had now grown accustomed to working off of ketones so that higher level of function became my new baseline. But by cutting out food for a few days, my ketone production was probably in high gear and I got to experience that superhuman feeling again. I even went running that night (about 45 hours into the fast) and it was a pretty great experience. It was one of those effortless runs and I felt like I was able to take in tiny details of the landscape, distant smells, and hear each insect. I do remember wondering if the mosquitoes sucking my blood down will benefit from my elevated ketone level and become some sort of freak mosquitoes.
The third day of fasting went much the same as the second, but alas I was seduced by something even more powerful than my ketone burning super-brain. Something that has had a mysterious power over me since a young age. Having grown up in the state #1 in cattle exports and having just driven hundreds of miles through the heart of Nebraska cattle country, I was powerless when the front desk at the hotel told me how good the steakhouse next door was and that smell of grilled Nebraska beef floated through the air. A few hours later, a glorious 20oz medium rare ribeye broke my fast at the 72hr point.
If I was to do this again, which I think I will, I would change two things- I would do it at a time when I was busy with several other tasks so that I didn't have time to think about the fact that I was not eating. Second, one of my favorite parts of traveling anywhere is eating- so I would do it at home were I don't feel the need to taste the local fare.
Bonus Section- Last Night's Dinner
These days I pretty much get all my new recipe ideas from Facebook. I have joined a few low carb pages and those folks turn out cooking videos like it is going out of style. So last night I had a little spare time so I decided to try out three new recipes to go with our nice Nebraska ribeye and bacon wrapped filets. Keep in mind I only watched the videos, didn't actually read the recipes so I may have made a few errors/changes. The videos are linked in the name of each item.
Zucchini Parmesan Chips Appetizer
These little guys are so easy to make and were very tasty. I skipped the bread crumbs and instead just sliced the zucchini, tossed it in some olive oil, and then covered them with that cheap Parmesan like you get at the pizza place. I then laid them out on parchment paper and cooked them in a 400 degree oven until they were on the verge of burning. We let them cool and then dipped them in some taziki I had just picked up on sale at Sam's Club. Although I forget to get a photo of them, they actually looked like the video and were really tasty.
Avocado Feta Crack
If you have a knife and cutting board, you can make this. Chop up half an onion, Chop up some cilantro (I used this instead of parsley because parsley seemed too boring). Chop up some tomatoes. Dump in some olive oil, oregano, salt/pepper and red wine vinegar. (I skipped the garlic since eating low carb already makes my breath somewhat challenging). Stir. Throw some feta in there and stir some more. Then right before you are ready to eat it- put in a few diced avocados! We ate it as a 'salad' side item.
Low Carb Gnocchi
This dish bears almost no resemblance to Gnocchi, but what the hell. You just melt a bag of mozzeralla cheese, mix in a few egg yolks, italian seasoning, salt/pepper. Then you make it into ropes and cut it into small pieces. Just before you are ready to eat, boil it for a few min. I may have boiled mine for a little long, as it came out looking pretty much like a clump of boiled cheese. Never the less, it was very tasty.
If you have a great, or not so great fasting story please leave it in the comments. Also if you figure out how to make that Gnocchi look like Gnocchi, please let me know. Until next time keep the carbs low, the fat high, and the fasts intermittent. (I always wanted a catch phrase)