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11/Jul/2022

Fasting for six years

I thought it was a good time for me to personally reflect on the last six years of intermittent fasting. Yes, for the last six years I have been following a relatively strict program of fasting for 16-20 hours of the day. Usually this means having my last meal of the day around 6pm and my first meal the following day at 11am.

I remember first hearing about the benefits of intermittent fasting (IF) at a medical conference organized by the Association for the Advancement of Restorative Medicine back in 2016. After Dr. Denis Wilson M.D. spoke about all the clinically supported benefits of IF as well as his own personal journey with IF, I was sold!

Fasting and Climbing

That was around the same time I started to take rock climbing seriously. A was training 2-3 days per week and for around 2 hours each session. I decided it would be an interesting experiment to combine IF with my morning training. I was hitting the gym while in a fasted state (usually around 16 hours at that point) and would train as hard as I could.

When the body is in a post 14 hour fast it starts to convert fat into an energy source called ketones. This is because all the sugar stored in the body has been used up. Exercising while fasting speeds up this process. I was amazed to see how quickly this combination of fasting and exercise transformed my body and my health. Over the course of a year I lost 15lb and went up several grades in my climbing. My climbing partners couldn’t believe I was able to climb hard on an empty stomach, but I actually felt lighter and clearer. I would try to have my first meal of the day within an hour after workouts for optimal protein metabolism to build muscle. I would regularly get comments from familiar faces at the gym asking if I’m doing anything special outside of the gym. I simply told them that I’m fasting and climbing. Pretty simple but very effective.

Finding the right program

Over the following 5 years I had short 2-3 week periods where I would take a break from IF but would soon return as I felt my best, looked my best and climbed my best while on a pretty strict IF program. I have since recommended IF to dozens of patients, the majority of whom see results within a few months. One of my biggest supporters and now followers of IF is my dad. He saw such dramatic results that IF is now a regular lifestyle habit for him as well.

I dabbled a few times with doing pretty long fasts (20-23 hours) and eating only one meal per day but I found that this was a bit hard on my body. I was getting irritable and was not performing very well at the gym. I now have a pretty good understanding of how many hours my body likes to fast for and how many meals per day is best.

Everyone is going to find a sweet spot for themselves. I don’t recommend forcing the body into a particular program but to try fasting for different lengths of time and see what feels and works best. It does take a little getting used to at first but it is important to remember that this is a very natural state for the human body.

It’s only natural

Through most of human evolution humanity had to go for extended periods of time without food. In fact, an abundance of food at our beck and call is likely contributing to a lot of chronic disease in our modern way of living. Many religious traditions still practice fasting in order to clear the mind, body and spirit. Centuries of cultural practice as well as hundreds of recent studies are in support of fasting in one form or another. It is one of the cheapest, simplest and most effective medical programs I can recommend for a patient.

What lies ahead

Looking ahead to the next decade, I don’t see myself giving up IF anytime soon. There are a few other lifestyle changes I would like to implement but IF will continue to be the backbone of my personal health and wellness program. There are some individuals including in pregnancy where IF is not recommended. I encourage those of you curious about IF or trying it out, to at least have a consultation with a health professional like myself. The benefit of being supervised by a Naturopathic Doctor is the peace of mind that your are practicing something that is safe for your body, you have someone to answer questions as they arise and even to run blood tests if necessary. If I have inspired at least a few people to give IF a try then I have passed along a valuable lifestyle tool as it was passed to me six years ago. Happy fasting everyone!


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12/Sep/2017

Intermittent fasting is a different way of thinking about eating.

I’m suggesting that the majority of people have been eating too much and too often. I’m suggesting that breakfast is not the most important meal of the day. By following a few simple guidelines my readers can  loose weight, feel great and be healthier than ever before. The guidelines are:

 

  1. “6 to 8 and feel great”
  2. “Eat what you need”
  3. “Respect your food, respect yourself”

 

6 to 8 and feel great

Everyday eat within a 6 to 8 hour time frame. If you eat breakfast at 7:00am then your last meal of the day should not be later than 3:00pm. If you eat lunch at 12:00pm then your next and last meal should be no later than 8:00pm. In the first scenario you are basically skipping dinner and in the second scenario you are skipping breakfast. Water, tea, and even coffee are allowed outside of the 6-8 hour allotted time frame as long as there is no added calories, i.e. sugar, milk and or cream. There is also no snacking outside of your 6-8 hour window.

Now let me tell you why and how intermittent fasting works. Immediately after eating, a hormone in your body called insulin rises. Insulin tells your body to burn carbohydrates (sugar) for energy and to store whatever hasn’t been used in your liver and fat cells. This process continues for approximately 4 hours after eating. After 4 hours insulin drops and your body begins to dip into stored sugar and fat reserves for energy; or in other words that’s when you start burning fat.

It’s common practice for most people to eat 3 times a day with snacks in between, this means that we almost never dip into our fat stores. Therefore you would have to do some intensive daily exercise or eat incredibly small portions to loose weight. By following the 6-8 rule; you can almost be certain that you will be burning fat for approximately 10-12 hours per day. The only thing keeping you from shedding excess pounds is by being excessive with portion size and calorie intake, which brings us to the next guideline “eat what you need”.

 

Eat what you need

This guideline basically translates to portion control. One advantage about using the 6-8 methodology is that you will start becoming more in tune with your body and more aware of hunger and satiety. It is a great feeling to eat when you are actually hungry rather than out of habit. When we experience hunger, food is digested better. Hunger causes your gastrointestinal tract to prepare for food, including ample amounts of stomach acid aiding in the proper breakdown and absorption of nutrients.

Pay close attention to the point at which you no longer feel hunger and you are adequately satiated. Do not overeat. Eat to a point that you feel satisfied but not heavy and bloated.  You may notice that portion sizes become smaller. Now, because we are eating only two meals per day, it is also important that when we eat, we eat nutritious food and a variety of foods. Which brings us to the next guideline.

Respect your food; respect yourself

This guideline is about what kind of food you eat and how you eat it. As mentioned in the previous section, since we are essentially eating only twice per day, we want to be putting high quality foods into our body. Fresh, local and organic foods are what you want to focus on. The great thing about this diet is that it there are no restrictions on foods, it’s more about quality. Try to have meals that have a good quality protein, and complex carbohydrates such as veggies and whole-grains.

While making healthy choices is very important, it is also just as important not to stress over your food. Do your best to cook healthy while acknowledging that sometimes you will find yourself eating out, ordering fast food, and having desserts. Don’t beat yourself up about the choices you make, love whatever it is your eating, own it and do your best to eat healthy most of the time. Love your food and love yourself.

 

Final Thoughts

The guidelines I have purposed, although expressed in an original way, are not new concepts. Eating within a 6-8 hour window is also known as intermittent fasting; a lifestyle and medical intervention that shown to have a multitude of health benefits including lowering blood pressure, staving off cardiovascular disease and improving longevity. Presenting these ideas in away that is easy to incorporate into a daily routine can help to improve the lives of many people. I encourage you to try it out, give it a few weeks and let me know how you feel.

Fitness trainer Mike O’Donnell (2 meal mike) does a great job of further explaining intermittent fasting and how to easily incorporate it into your daily routine. I encourage you to visit his site http://www.theiflife.com


dr_shawn

Patient focused integrative health care. Utilizing effective natural approaches designed to be used alone or to compliment conventional medical care.


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