Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
9 Aug

Is Intermittent Fasting Healthy?

If only I weren't so skinny!

One thing is certain in the field of health: what is common wisdom today can easily become “misapplied science” tomorrow. What’s “in” this year may be “out” next year. Often it’s hard to arrive at the right answer.

For example: Oily fish is good for you because the Omega-3’s are so healthy, but oily fish is bad because it can be contaminated with heavy metals, but oily fish is good because recent tests prove it’s not actually very contaminated, but oily fish is bad because the fishing industry paid for those tests…you get my point.

The Fats vs. Carbs argument is another. So when a reader recently asked about regular fasting as a means of maintaining good health, I had to re-evaluate my point of view slightly. What I found surprised me and convinced me to add a new twist to my ongoing health-and-anti-aging regimen. It’s called Intermittent Fasting – or IF.

Twenty years ago, as I was first forming my Primal Health point-of-view (based on a model of how humans evolved), I found it very easy to embrace the concept of “grazing” that seemed to represent the collective conscious of the weight-loss-and-health movement at the time. After all, eating several small meals a day – grazing to maintain even blood sugar and to avoid having your body go into starvation mode and start hoarding gobs of fat – seemed to fit my picture of early humans roaming the plains of Africa foraging for roots, shoots, nuts, berries, grubs and the occasional road-kill leftover from a hyena feast. The explanation that we in the weight-loss business gave the public was that by maintaining this steady supply of protein, fats and carbs throughout the day we would never experience a wild swing in blood sugar due to rapid rises and falls in insulin, therefore we would be less inclined to store fat and more inclined to burn off our existing fat stores. Heaven help us if we skipped breakfast, overate or starved ourselves periodically. That would surely wreak havoc on the delicate hormonal systems keeping us in homeostatic balance.

Well, maybe not.

The truth is, many people have succeeded in losing weight and keeping most of it off using this simple grazing method, which consists of eating 5 or 6 small meals or snacks spread evenly throughout the day, with no single meal exceeding 600 calories and where each meal or snack contains a little protein. This grazing method is the ultimate in portion control: take the 2400 (or more) calories you might otherwise scarf down in 2 meals and simply spread them evenly throughout the day. I think it’s reasonable to project that many more have avoided or postponed getting type 2 diabetes using the same method.

But like many behaviors in the fitness and health world, there comes a point where the benefits decrease and we find ourselves on the dreaded plateau.

The first thing most people will tell you about their attempts at grazing is, while it usually works well if you are diligent, it’s pretty difficult to stick with, since you need to be near a source of quality food every few hours. If you work at home most days as I do, it’s not a problem, but it can make life difficult if you work in an office setting or happen to be a road warrior.

The next common issue is that after a few months of progress, you arrive at a frustrating point where the weight stops coming off, the initial high energy levels decline or you stop building muscle. That makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, since the body is so well-tuned to adapt to any situation – including a perfectly even flow of nutrients. In this case, the body’s reaction to this steady supply of nutrition is to actually decrease insulin sensitivity. It “knows” there will always be food, so it “down-regulates” insulin receptors, and probably down-regulates other metabolic systems as well.

In my Primal Health articles here at MDA, I am always looking at ways we can harness our DNA blueprint to maximize health. I like to see how we can shake things up a little and trick the body into burning more fuel, creating more lean muscle, repairing cell damage and staying injury- and illness-free. So when my 79-year-old buddy Sid at the gym started raving about his weekly 24-hour fast over a year ago, and my friend Art started writing about his own fasting experiences, I decided to look into it further.

The results were surprising and impressive.

Numerous animal and human studies done over the past 15 years suggest that periodic fasting can have dramatic results not only in areas of weight (fat) loss, but in overall health and longevity as well. A recent article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition gives a great overview of these benefits which include decreases in blood pressure, reduction in oxidative damage to lipids, protein and DNA, improvement in insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake, as well as decreases in fat mass.

How can you argue with results like these? And it all makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, because our predecessors almost certainly went through regular cycles where food was either abundant or very scarce. The body may have established protective mechanisms to adapt to these conditions by sensitizing insulin receptors when it was critical that every bit of food be efficiently used or stored (as in famine), or by desensitizing them when there was a surplus, so the body wouldn’t be overly-burdened by grossly excessive calorie intake.

Beyond insulin sensitivity, it appears that caloric restriction and intermittent fasting may “turn on” certain genes that repair specific tissues that would not otherwise be repaired in times of surplus. One could surmise that this adaptation serves to allow certain cells to live longer (as repaired cells) during famine since it’s energetically less expensive to repair a cell than to divide and create a new one. That might help explain some of the extended longevity seen in animal studies using caloric restriction and/or intermittent fasting (read about here, here, and here). Intermittent fasting has also been shown to reduce spontaneous cancers in animal studies, which could be due to a decrease in oxidative damage or an increase in immune response.

So, what are the practical applications of this research?

It depends. There’s probably no right answer (remember what I said at the beginning!) Art suggests mimicking the experiences of our ancestors, which is to say don’t plan any fast, just surprise your body every once in a while with 24 hours of little or no food. My friend Sid does his fast every Tuesday like clockwork, so he has a light final meal on Monday night and doesn’t eat again until Wednesday breakfast. He does drink water and a little juice on his fasting day. Some fasting programs suggest you take a two-week “cleansing” approach where you eat regularly every other day and fast (or eat 40% of normal) on alternate days for two weeks twice a year.

One thing that is most interesting about the intermittent fasting studies is that slightly overeating on the non-fasting days (to make up for the lack of calories on fast days) yielded similar results, so it wasn’t so much about total calories as it was about the episodic deprivation.

As for me, I’m going to try the once a week deal, but I’ll start by no longer agonizing over a skipped breakfast or late dinner. What I used to think was the end of the world might just be the beginning of a new one!

Let me know of your own fasting experiences.

UPDATE: See this post on Women and Intermittent Fasting.

Further Reading:

My Carb Pyramid

Healthy Recipes

Sponsor note:
This post was brought to you by the Damage Control Master Formula, independently proven as the most comprehensive high-potency antioxidant multivitamin available anywhere. With the highest antioxidant per dollar value and a complete anti-aging, stress, and cognition profile, the Master Formula is truly the only multivitamin supplement you will ever need. Toss out the drawers full of dozens of different supplements with questionable potency and efficacy and experience the proven Damage Control difference!

Subscribe to Mark’s Daily Apple feeds

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Hey there,
    I thought in order to make sure we do not lose any muscle mass during a fast, we had to be in ketosis first? Has that changed?

    D wrote on November 27th, 2009
  2. Ensure you are exercising your muscles during a fast to avoid them being used as food. The exercise will trigger Ketosis very quickly when fasting. I’ve actually gained a couple pounds during 14 day water fasts as I was exercising daily – muscle weighs more then fat. The more often you fast the better this physiological process works. Ketosis activates a critical process called ‘Gluconeogenesis’. If you don’t exercise while fasting your body will absolutely start to each some muscle.

    Jordan O'Hara wrote on November 27th, 2009
    • There’s no possible way you gained weight by fasting. The body cannot create matter. Basic law of physics.

      Joe wrote on November 14th, 2010
  3. Interesting reading all these posts. I am mainly experimenting with an Eat Stop Eat style of IF – that is, for example, you eat at lunchtime, then nothing till lunchtime the next day, and repeat this once or twice a week. By the way – this is a true 24-hour fast — the original post here refers to someone eating on a Monday night and then nothing until the Wednesday morning — that is actually a 36-hour fast.

    Oliver R wrote on December 5th, 2009
  4. Hi Oliver, you are only actually missing two meals – sounds very do-able… nice one… I would do that but it’s important to my husband that I eat with him in the evening… so “Fast 5” works well for me… we’ve been away on a two week holiday where we were less than careful about what we were eating and I was very surprised to weigh myself on my return and find that I had not put on weight… my main tactic while away was to low carb and keep portion sizes down… it worked… now I’m back though I will “Fast 5” in earnest… tomorrow will be my first day after the two week break – wish me luck…

    Wyngem wrote on December 5th, 2009
  5. Fasting is ketogenic. The purpose of ketosis primarily is to keep the body from consuming itself. Which is why I beleive that it is even more importatn to go low carb when doing IF.I am low carb and do IF on a daily basis 20/4. Sometimes I eat once a day. I would wager that hunter gathererers went much longer between meals than just 24 hours. They had to hunt plus they had no access to refrigerators, Mickie Dees or the A&P. They truly roughed it so I would suspect that they did not eat on a daily basis.

    mary titus wrote on December 6th, 2009
  6. I tend to wait til 1-2PM to start eating and stop at 6-7PM daily. And I eat lower carb usually and if carbs are involved I eat brown rice, potatoes, whole grain stuff. I used to eat 5-6 small meals a day blah blah blah. I have GREAT results so far with this. I workout 3-4 days a week plus run 2-3 days too. Drink as much water as I can and yeah I look the best that I ever have, and my muscles are getting bigger too:)

    Jeff wrote on December 6th, 2009
  7. Mary, I was pleased to see someone doing something similar – yours is a Fast 4 – I prefer the eating window to the simply eating once a day – it lets me eat something earlier than just waiting for dinner – and it works for me – I’ve lost three kilos doing this over the last couple of months and I’m now at my goal weight…

    Jeff – your post pleased me greatly as it seem almost exactly what I do except you exercise more than I do – I have limited opportunities to work out – my son has a two hour tutoring session three times a week and I go to the gym… I probably could drink more water so I will try to take a leaf out of your book – I do drink copious cups of green tea during my fasting hours…

    thanks Mary and Jeff for your input…

    Wyngem wrote on December 6th, 2009
  8. Wyngem, I also throw in a 2-3 days a week where I eat just once in a 24 hour period. That really keeps things under control. But, when I eat oncw within 24 hours I prefer to eat ealier than the regular supper time. So I do this on the nights that I come home late. That way, I can eat at 4:00 without having to eat when I get home because supper time is over. Now that I won’t be having rehearsals in the evenings fr a few weeks, I’m gonna have to develop another strategy. But Saturday has been working out well as a one meal a day, So I can at least count on that

    mary titus wrote on December 6th, 2009
  9. Using intermittent fasting, I lost 25 lbs of fat and 7 inches off my waist in 6 months.

    Specifically, on June 14, 2009, I weighed 186 lbs, had a 42.75 inch waist, and 27% bodyfat. On Dec 4, 2009, I weighed 159.5 lbs, had a 35.5″ waist, and 17% bodyfat.

    I started off with alternate-day fasting, but eventually the weight loss slowed down. I realized that it was easy for me to eat too much on my feast days with things like ice cream and quesadillas. I dislike counting calories, so I switched to eating just one meal every day. If my progress continues at this rate, I’ll be at 8% bodyfat sometime around June of next year, which is pretty exciting.

    I have a desk job and live a sedentary lifestyle, except for my every-other-day exercise routine which consists of about 11 pull-ups/chin-ups (I used to do them with assistance, now they are unassisted), 150 or so squats, and 50 or so push-ups.

    In June, I could do no pull-ups. Now I can do 2 chest-to-bar pull-ups (with no break in between) and 3 chest-to-bar chin-ups.

    I’m a 35 y.o. male, 5’8.5″ tall (yes, that half inch is important to me!) I measure my bodyfat & weight with Tanita scale, and my waist at the navel with a flexible tape measure.

    Khevlar wrote on December 7th, 2009
    • Khevlar, this is such an inspiring story for me! I’m currently at 27% body fat myself, and desperately want to bring it down. I definitely want to give this 1-meal-per-day routine a try. I’ve done the Warrior diet previously, and grazed on fruits all day but it never had a significant impact on my BF% or weight. Perhaps omitting the light eating will make the big difference.

      Is it ok to drink coffee, tea, & diet sodas while fasting?

      Melissa wrote on February 3rd, 2010
  10. Oh, and for my one meal per day, I have whatever the hell I feel like, which so far means I consume mostly burgers, fries, root beer floats, quesadillas, chips, lemonade, pizza, coke, fried dough, all kinds of chinese& indian food, ice cream cookie sandwiches, candy bars, etc. One of the things I liked about IF was never having to give up foods that I enjoyed. Also, eating for me is a social activity, so I didn’t have to give up having a big meal with friends – I just had to limit myself to once a day, which has actually been pretty easy.

    Khevlar wrote on December 7th, 2009
  11. well congrats on the weight loss Khevlar… I can’t say I’m down with your food choices but hey, if you are losing weight and you are happy – it’s good for you…

    good on ya for your exercise achievements as well… well done…

    Wyngem wrote on December 8th, 2009
  12. Hey Mary T – I like your style – I wish I could do the once a day meal occasionally but I’m not there yet…

    Wyngem wrote on December 8th, 2009
  13. Mary T – what kinds of foods do you eat? you said you were low carbing…
    I have started vegetable juicing to add nutrition and I’m loving it… the cabbage juice is a bit hard to swallow though but it’s supposed to be so good…

    Wyngem wrote on December 8th, 2009
  14. I keep my diet as ketogenic and as healthy as I can …which is the way I like to eat anyway. Protein is primary on my diet. I eat lotsa beef, chicken and fish, organ meats. I prefer the fattier cuts and if it is lean< I make sure that I add some butter. I eat a huge variety of vegetables such as collard greens, asparagus, brocolli,turnip greens,green beans, yellow squash, jicama. But I rarely eat more than 2 servings of vegetables a day. The fruits on my list include avocado,bell peppers, raspberries, blackberries, cantalopes, tomatoes…things that are low glycemic yet extremely nutritious. I also keep coconut oil and MCT oil in my diet.I snack on cheese, pepproni ( rarely ) nuts. Now, that being said…I rarely snack.

    The days where I will eat once a day, my one meal is like a feast. I may have steak with a side of salad ( sliced avocado,onion,tomato and cooked shrimp ) and turnips for example.I eat until I am full.

    I also include vegetable juices when I am in the mood for them.In my honest opinion, nothing beats this diet.;-)

    mary titus wrote on December 8th, 2009
  15. Wow – thanks for the feedback Mary – your food choices look really good…

    Wyngem wrote on December 8th, 2009
  16. I just googled ketogenic diet – thanks for enlightening me – I’d never heard of it before – it led me to a very interesting article on the Inuit people – I may just re-evaluate my own eating philosophies – still researching… thanks Mary…

    Wyngem wrote on December 8th, 2009
  17. What you say seems to make sense, and I would like to try it. Except, here’s the problem: my body seems to absolutely detest the idea of fasting. The longest I’ve ever gone without food was about 6-8 hours. Past that mark (but usually earlier) my body starts to physically go apesh*t if I don’t give it food. I get either a monstrous headache, or serious jitters (I’m talking can’t hold a pen jitters), or I get so lightheaded that I have to drop what I’m doing and sit down or I’ll fall down. Sometimes I get all of it at once. I can’t think, I can’t concentrate, and I can’t function AT ALL. Until I eat. This happens even when I make sure to eat a high-protein, low-carb meal such as steak and egg-veggie omelette, or chicken breast and a side of vegetables (usually broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, cabbage, eggplant, zucchini, peppers). What gives?

    Maria wrote on December 10th, 2009
  18. I’m no expert Maria but from the research I’ve been doing it sounds like carbohydrate withdrawal symptoms or blood sugar issues… you can work through it…

    Wyngem wrote on December 10th, 2009
  19. Wyngem is most likely correct. Imagine eating a high carb diet for years and years and years.Your body has to make adjustments when that diet has changed.I think that it is best to make this attempt when you have the opportunity to stay at home. For one week go for eight hours without a meal…it is much easier than you think. Say you have dinner at 8:00 then do not eat breakfast until 8:00 A.M.the next day-That’s 12 hours there. So be mindful of the fasting hours that occur while sleeping. Then push yourself as far as you can without becoming delerious ;-)If you can go for 6 or 8 hours that will put your next meal at around 2:00 or 4:00 PM. Now here is the hard part, well it is at least hard mentally.Instead of having an omelette have a TBone and 2 eggs and a glass of V8 juice. Add a teaspoon of MCT oil to the juice. Now for me, I find this deeeeliiishous. It is nutritious and it is very filling….you may not want to eat again until supper time.

    Basically what I am saying here is, you can’t jump into it but you can do it if that is what you want do. It takes adjustments. Now as far as headaches are concerned, try taking a tablet or two of magnesium. Headaches are often symptoms of magnesium deficiency

    mary titus wrote on December 10th, 2009
    • Thanks for the suggestions, Mary! The problem I have with having a big meal in the morning is that I’m simply not that hungry. Sometimes I don’t get hungry until 3-4 hours after I’ve gotten up. Some days I don’t eat breakfast at all and then have a steak-n-eggs or other protein-rich meal for lunch. But you’re probably right, it’s carb withdrawal. I’ve been trying to eliminate non-vegetable carbs little by little, and recently cut out the last one – rice. Hopefully things will get better once my body realizes it’s getting no more of that stuff! :)

      Maria wrote on December 11th, 2009
  20. Maria, I just found this info (in parenthesis below) on magnesuim rich foods – if you have a juicer, try juicing some cabbage or broccoli (with a green apple to make it more palatable) for a headache… only need a small glass – might work…

    “Green vegetables such as spinach are good sources of magnesium because the center of the chlorophyll molecule (which gives green vegetables their color) contains magnesium.” reference

    Wyngem wrote on December 10th, 2009
    • Thanks Wyngem! That’s interesting. I’ll try either the juice or the supplement, see if that works.

      Maria wrote on December 11th, 2009
  21. Maria, waiting a few hours after waking,in my opinion is even better. That would give you a fast of at least 16 hours. It does not matter when you break your fast. That would get you through until noon. Eat your first meal of the day at noon, then eat your second meal of the day when you get hungry. There are various ways to mix it up. Just find which way works best for you.

    mary titus wrote on December 11th, 2009
    • Hey Mary,

      Thanks for the tips! I did that today. First meal was around 11 (woke up at 7), and I haven’t eaten since. It’s almost 6, and I’m only slightly hungry, and no bad side effects. Maybe my body has finally gotten over the carb withdrawal. :)

      Maria wrote on December 11th, 2009
  22. good on you for persevering Maria – it does work and it feels great…

    Wyngem wrote on December 12th, 2009
  23. Today I had one glorious meal. I broke my fast at 6:30 PM with several slices of pork roast and collard greens and a glass of merlot…absolute bliss.I am topping off the evening with a cuppa joe with some heavy cream.

    mary titus wrote on December 12th, 2009
  24. Sounds good Mary.
    Maria, I found an interesting site you might like to read if you are just starting at IF… check it out…

    Wyngem wrote on December 12th, 2009
    • Thanks for the link, Wynghem! Interesting reading. This is what confuses me: I was told (many times) that if you keep your caloric intake to below 1200, your body goes into starvation mode and hangs on to its fat stores for dear life instead of shedding them. What’s your experience? True or BS?

      Maria wrote on December 13th, 2009
  25. To tell the truth Maria I don’t count calories at all – I do what is called “Fast Five” i.e. I have a five hour eating window every day fasting for 19 hours each day between 7pm and 2pm – eating betwee 2pm and 7pm – I’m not ready for one meal a day yet although I’d like to get to that stage eventually… Eating for me is quite social so at 2pm I have breakfast (alone) at 4pm I have a snack with my son after school and at 6pm I eat dinner with my husband and my son…
    The kind of food I eat is very important to me so I keep it low carb and high nutrient as much as possible – I never binge and detest junk food…
    Having said I do this each day – I actually only do it Monday thru Friday as on the weekends my husband and son are home and I eat with them at regular eating times – but maintaining the low carb – high nutrient way of eating as much as I can… the main changes for me that have caused me to lose weight doing this is that I no longer eat any of the white starchy carbs (although I do have small amounts of potato if I want but not every day) I never drink soft drinks and keep alcohol to an absolute minimum. I now do vegetable juicing with the more unpalatable types being sweetened with green apple but only enough to make it good to drink…
    I largely eat till satisfied so counting calories doesn’t come into it…

    I work out at the gym three days a week only as I don’t wish to burn out but each gym visit is an hour and a half – 30 minutes cross trainer, 30 minutes treadmill (walking on a decline) and 30 minutes stretching on the mat… this makes me feel fantastic and I’m sometimes tempted to go an extra day but the rest days are as important as the work out days (for me anyway)

    this is my experience…

    a year ago I was ten kilos overweight – I lost five kilos the traditional way and then I hit a wall – I was looking for something to challenge my body and I found Fast Five by researching the net… I have now lost the other five kilos (which is traditionally the hardest to lose – the last 5) so now I’m at my goal weight and I want to make this new eating part of my lifestyle so I’ve no intention of changing it simply because I’ve arrived… I’m not losing weight now so my body has worked it out – I don’t want to count calories – it’s so boring don’t you think?

    Wyngem wrote on December 13th, 2009
    • I completely agree. Not only is counting calories boring, but it strips life and food of all joy and spontaneity. I just find it confusing – if you eat low-carb and high-protein, chances are you’re also consuming a lot of fat, which means lots of calories, and I haven’t learned how to balance yet. Yesterday, 50% of my calories came from fat and I was freaking out. :)

      Our foods and working out ways are pretty similar, only I do like my wine (try to keep it at no more than one glass though) and I do aerobics and intervals/free weights instead of the machines.

      My story is also similar. I lost about 20 lbs 2 years ago, then hit a wall. I’m at a healthy weight now, but I feel I could benefit from losing another 10 lbs or so, and I feel low-carb is the way to go. I’m not a big fan of fasting, though. I’m all for it when it comes naturally (i.e. when I’m not hungry/suffering for hours on end). But I feel that if my body is hungry, I should feed it, and if I don’t, that’s not healthy. So I don’t really want to keep myself constrained by any sort of strict schedule. Anyway… Thanks for sharing, and for the tips! 😀

      Maria wrote on December 14th, 2009
  26. I also do not count calories. I suspect that regardless of what my caloric level may seem to be, it’s a lot higher because of my fat intake. I add cream and coconut oil to my morning coffee. So even when I am not taking in solid food, I am consuming fat.

    The word “starvation mode’ has left a nasty taste in my mouth. I believe it does exist but not the way the experts would like for us to believe. Ketosis exists a protective measure to maintain the body during famine. When we experience famine, our bodies will begin to produce ketones. THese little soldiers protect the organs, muscles, circulatory system, nerves etc.
    This actually adds strength to the body if famine is temporary.I have been practicing IF for 2 1/2 years. I just had a check-up and everything is in working order plus I lost 34 lbs.

    So the starvation mode that the experts like to believe in is most definitely BS.Ketosis is not.

    mary titus wrote on December 13th, 2009
    • Makes sense, Mary! :)

      Maria wrote on December 14th, 2009
    • Mary, regarding your statement:
      “I add cream and coconut oil to my morning coffee. So even when I am not taking in solid food, I am consuming fat.”
      I was wondering if this is during your IF time. Is having fat during IF period okay because it does not trigger an insulin response? I heard that coffee does trigger an insulin reponse, though. I would love to be able to have coffee and cream during the fasting part.

      Sharon wrote on December 30th, 2009
  27. This is a link to Dr. Eades blog on ketosis and metabolism. When I read it I felt like it was the ah hah to many of my ah haha moments. It also inspired me to continue fasting.

    mary titus wrote on December 14th, 2009
  28. excellent – thanks Mary…

    Wyngem wrote on December 14th, 2009
  29. Maria,
    My opinion only – but an adjustment in thinking might free you up – when you are not concerned with how many calories are in the food you consume you will find it quite liberating…
    low carbing is quite simple – it’s about taking out the old starch staples like rice, bread, pasta, too many potatoes cooked the wrong way – I actually do eat potatoes (in small quantities) but only in soups and stews and raw in juice… It depends on what you personally think you can live with/without… some people change to the wholemeal starches but I preferred to take certain things out completely… I do eat oats in my home-made museli but only a little…
    So then low carbing becomes “what can I eat with the foods I am allowing myself?” It will be different for everyone…
    my vegetable juicing means that I probably obtain quite a few carbs but I consider it worth it for the nutritional trade-off – I use green apple for taste moderating purposes but largely fruit is not part of my juicing routine as it has a high sugar content generally… that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have a nice fresh mango in season if I want – I’m not that extreme…
    Also on the hunger aspect of daily fasting – it’s again a mental adjustment more than anything – I have changed my own personal classification of hunger to suit the way I want to live my life… for me, a few growls in the tummy is not hunger – but perhaps falling down faint is – it’s personal for you… How you classify hunger for yourself is personal and nobody can judge that for you…
    I get growls in my tummy in the morning and I drink copious cups of Japanese tea (my current favourite) and if by 10am I’m feeling like I’m about to fall down – I’ll do a quick cabbage and green apple juice and it satisfies me nicely… it’s not solid food but it is solid nutrients that go straight to the heart of the matter…
    Coffee is good as a quick appetite suppressant but I just don’t like the bitter aftertaste of coffee… my personal preference (I’d love to love it actually – my husband brews up coffee in the morning and it smells so good)

    This is my experience…

    Wyngem wrote on December 14th, 2009
  30. Totally agree especially with the mentalisty of hunger. In addition to hunger, it amazes me that we equate hunger to starvation. I mean, I am often sleepy without equating that to being sleep deprived.But I hear comments on how you shouldn’t have to starve yourself. Well, going hungry for a couple of hours is far from starvation. Those who are truly starving don’t even feel hunger.

    mary titus wrote on December 14th, 2009
  31. I have to say that in January 2009 I lost 10lbs in one month by fasting. I exercised 40 minutes 5 days a week and at once a day around 2 or 3pm. I felt great! I became pregnant shortly after and had to discontinue. I will do this again once the new year begins and I know I will have great sucess. I felt great the entire time I was fasting. This is the best eating routine to follow and the easiest to maintain. Maitainence is key!

    Kelly wrote on December 26th, 2009
  32. I started my first rotation of IF on sunday night at 6PM. I went from Sunday at 6PM to Monday 6PM. I only drank water and calorie-free tea. It was surprsingly easy. I can say that fasting from 6pm one day to 6pm the next is easier than fasting a whole day from breakfast, because even though I am fasting a full 24 hours, I am still eating everyday! Today is Tuesday and i just started my 2nd 24-hour fasting rotation for this week. I will go until tomorrow at 6PM! Fasting is such an awesome tool!

    amy wrote on December 29th, 2009
  33. Nice idea for a posting! Longtitudinal studies are needed to verify any claims that alternate date fasting or fasting in general is healthful. You have to observe people’s health over decades to determine whether it’s healthful. Short studies of a few days to a few weeks are not enough of a window into the benefits or cons (says I!)

    Animal experiments have poor generalizability because they lead very different lives to humans. They have different sleeping patterns, social habits, activity levels, nutrition, and stresses. Lab animals are also bred for specific gene combinations and for all these reasons animal studies are pretty uninformative in this instance.

    Keep coming with the thought provoking material!

    James Williams wrote on January 3rd, 2010
    • I would like to fast for a few different reasons. The first is to lose weight. Right now, I have a BMI of 42 and I have reached a point in my life where I am tired of being like this. Secondly, I have become more and more aware of all of the toxins which I have ingestedover the years, 42 to be exact, and I would like to detoxify my body. Lastly, there are the spiritual reasons. So, my plan is to fast for 2 days, eat one, fast 2 days, and eat 2. I’ll continue this for an undecided lengthof time, then adjust my fasting/eating ratio as necessary. Anyone have any advice or input?

      lemontrail wrote on January 16th, 2010
  34. James W., There are many studies that support the healthfulness of fasting.I was one of those who decided that I was going to stop standing on the outside, looking in, and try it for myself.Afterall, my diet was already healthy, therefor I must be healthy enough to start this. From that standpoint, all of my residual joint pains ( that had not completely cleared up from initial low carbing ) vanished. Yes, my joint pain improved greatly since I began doing Low carb. I also coninuted having auras although I no longer suffered with migrains. However, after balancing my body with IF. The residual joint pain and auras became history. In my honest opinion a low carb diet accompanied with intermittent fasting is how I am healing my body. Now all of that being said, I feel free to declare that I lost 35 lbs since beginning IF 2 1/2 years ago. Yes, the loss was slow but I would much rather lose 35 lbs in 2 1/2 years than to gain it.

    Lemontrail, before you begin your journey into fasting, take the time to examine your diet first. If you feel like your body is full of toxins, you must feel unhealthy. In my honest opinion, fasting can only be as healthy as the food you eat. For example, if you eat a lot of high sugar/carb laden foods, your insulin levels must be helter skelter. Remove those from your diet first, or at least a huge part of them. Eat healthy meats and vegetables and allow yourself to experience ketosis. Fasting in itself is ketogenic so you do not want to fight with that.

    As you improve the healthiness of your diet then ease in to fasting. Keep in mind that fasting is actually something that we all do. If we didn’t the term “breakfast” would not exist. What you want to do is extend your fast beyond the usual 10 or 12 hours by eating progressively later in the day. If you normally eat at 8:00 A.M., eat an hour or two later each day until you can go until any time that you want.

    Then as your body becomes stronger and more adapted to your new lifestyle, then make the needed adjustments.

    mary titus wrote on January 17th, 2010
  35. Another thought James, earlier humans that had no conventional ways of cooking or preserving their food probably did not eat 3 times a day with in-between meals. They could not go to the local deli or purchase a months worth of food. They had no McDonalds, Krispy Kremes, or Pizza Hut. They spent more time hunting and gathering than they did eating. They spent more time building shelter and sewing clothes and fighting rival tribes than they did eating. Fasting wasn’t even a word…they just did not eat as often as modern humans do today.

    mary titus wrote on January 17th, 2010
  36. Hey mark, I just wrote a blog post about my first experience with Intermittent fasting. You can read it here: The amazing part was I got STRONGER in the gym in everything. I even hit 2 lifetime personal bests in a couple lifts. All while working out totally fasted. ….so much for conventional wisdom.

    Fixed gear wrote on January 27th, 2010
  37. when fasting during the day, is it ok to consume black coffee, tea, and diet sodas? should i worry that they would interfere with the fasting/cleansing process?

    Melissa wrote on February 4th, 2010
    • I consume coffee with cream during my fasting hours. I also put MCT oil in my coffee. I use fats during my fasting hours. In my mind it accentuates the ketogenic benefits of fasting.

      mary titus wrote on February 14th, 2010
  38. I think there are any amount of variantions of this… to be technically fasting then there would be no calories consumed whatsoever… I think most people would be sipping on something – even if it’s just water… but for me (and this by no way constitutes advice) I make my own vegetable juices – no pulp – I stick to carrot, beetroot, celery, cabbage and very small amounts of green apple (to make the cabbage more palatable) it works for me… I saw a post above where someone did papaya juice fasting so there’s another variation for you… I would stay away from fruit as it’s high in sugars… (having said that I do add the green apple to my cabbage juice) so play with these ideas and add your own… see how it works for you….

    Wyngem wrote on February 4th, 2010

    Fasting is the abstenance of food. Or to go hungry. You can abstain from food and still take in calories. You can take in calories and still go hungry. Fasting is ketogenic so I take in fats during my fasting period to support the ketogenic benefits of fasting. Fats provide energy without stifling hunger.

    mary titus wrote on February 23rd, 2010
  40. I just started intermittent fasting five days ago. I fast from 9pm through 4pm the following day. I have been observing a paleo diet and doing Crossfit 4-5 times weekly. On the fourth day of my intermittent fasting I did a new ‘hero’ workout at Crossfit that consisted of 3 rounds of 25 muscle-ups, 100 squats and 35 glut-ham situps. I had not eaten anything since 9pm the night before and the results were astounding to me. My first round was 12 minutes, my second round was 13 minutes and the third was 14 minutes. There was very little drop off from round to round when normally my later rounds in Crossfit work outs drop significantly. I never ran out of energy even though the most muscle-ups I have ever done in a single work out was 30. I was able to do the first two rounds of 100 squats unbroken, in the past my max was around 60-70.

    I am truly amazed at the amount of energy I have following intermittent fasting. True, it is early on but so far I have to say it has worked for me really well.

    Nathan wrote on March 2nd, 2010

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

© 2015 Mark's Daily Apple

Subscribe to the Newsletter and Get a Free Copy
of Mark Sisson's Fitness eBook and more!