Hello everyone Floyd Meyer here I am a Physician Assistant with a Master’s in public health, a degree in molecular biology, and I am currently working in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Today we are continuing our series on Resilience which is the ability to remain well, recover, or even thrive in the face of adversity.
During these last 4 weeks we have done a deep dive into how nutrition impacts resilience from macronutrients to micronutrients to hydration, but what about the absence of nutrition? How does fasting impact our overall resilience?
Fasting, especially intermittent fasting, is extremely popular right now, but is there any real science behind it?
Thankfully yes. There is a significant amount of research that has been conducted on the beneficial effects of fasting. Multiple studies have shown positive effects on weight loss, glucose metabolism, inflammatory markers, blood pressure, and even the gut microbiome. (Margină et al., 2020)
In general, fasting can be broken up into 4 main types.
The first type is periodic fasting. This is where an individual abstains from all food for a period of 24-72 hours. A very common regimen is alternate day fasting where you eat normal one day and then fast for the next 24 hours.
The second type is a prolonged fast. This would be any fast in excess of 72 hours. Generally these are done for either religious purposes or done under medical supervision as extended fasting does put one at risk for certain problems like electrolyte depletion, but they are being done more commonly in the general population to activate autophagy.
The third type is intermittent fasting. This is a fast for a period of 12-20 hours. This has become very common in recent years as a part of the biohacking and ketogenic movements. A common example is 16-8 fast where an individual is fasting for 16 hours, and then eating during an 8 hour window.
The fourth and final type is a fasting mimicking diet. This is a very specific diet pioneered by Dr. Valter Longo that is low calorie diet with specific nutrients excluded that allows the body to enter a fasted state while still receiving essential nutrients.
While all of these types of fasting can provide significant benefits they are not equal and not all individuals should immediately jump into a fasting regimen.
Fasting is a skill that needs to be developed over time.
You can think of it just like exercise. You wouldn’t want to go run a marathon if you have never ran more than 1 mile, and the same goes for fasting. Metabolic pathways need to be upregulated increasing your body’s ability to utilize stored glycogen and fat for fuel. This ability to switch between ingested food and stored energy is a term commonly referred to as metabolic flexibility.
As you increase this metabolic flexibility you are at the same time increasing your overall resilience. Your body will be better able to handle different fuel sources, or lack thereof, ensuring a high level of physical and mental performance regardless of nutrient intake.
In general my favorite type of fasting regimen is called Time Restricted Eating which is a type of intermittent fasting. Time restricted eating consists of having individuals restrict their food consumption to a set number of hours each day, guaranteeing a set period of fasting. This is commonly referred to as the “eating window”, and can vary from 3-12 hours, but most of the benefits can be obtained by sticking to a 10-12 hour eating window.
In order to start time restricted eating, all you have to do is determine WHEN you start eating each day.
So for example, if you wake up at 7 AM and then eat breakfast at 8 AM each day this would start your eating window. Now you just need to get all of your calories in, meaning all your food and drinks other than water, by 8 PM each night.
By eating during this 12-hour window you can assist with weight loss, decrease blood pressure, total cholesterol, and other markers of cardiometabolic disease without changing your diet at all!
I believe that time restricted eating using a 10 to 12 hour eating window is a fantastic starting point for those interested in fasting for increasing resilience.
If you are able to consistently implement this strategy you will gain control over your eating behaviors without having to count calories or follow a specific diet. Better yet, as you strengthen your fasting muscle and improve your metabolic flexibility you can slowly lengthen the fasting window to accommodate for your personal situation and goals.
Fasting can be an excellent way to increase your resilience, but it should be treated like a skill meaning you should start slow and increase overtime to achieve your personal goals.
I hope that this has been helpful. If you have any questions please leave them in the comments below. If this resonated with you please share with your friends and family and subscribe and follow for more of this content. The time for action is now. Again this is Floyd Meyer. Have a great day!
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