Fasting has been in the media quite a lot recently. Here’s my experiences with fasting and how it might help you.
For those who don’t know, fasting is simply the act of going for prolonged periods without eating. It’s a really simple concept, which is a bit demonised by the media.
When I first starting fasting my first experiment was to skip breakfast and have two meals a day. I remember when I told people they looked at me as if I had an eating disorder. They thought “Charlie’s really going through these extreme methods to try and lose weight.” That wasn’t even the case, I wasn’t trying to lose weight, I was trying to become healthier.
What are the benefits of fasting?
Let’s go back a little bit, back thousands of years ago, maybe less. Human beings didn’t have farms, we didn’t cultivate food. We didn’t have the abundance that we have today.
Humans were lucky if they ate every single day, let alone three set meals a day. Our bodies evolved around these periods where we didn’t eat anything. A good example would be, after 16 hours of fasting our gut starts to clean itself in a way that it does not when we are full of food.
Our insulin sensitivity is another example. Diabetes is on the rise and I believe that part of the cause is not just the processed nature of our food, but also the abundance the regularity of it. We never give our hormone levels a chance to rise and lower appropriately.
We are constantly topping up with food which causes ‘hanger’, where people need to maintain their regular eating as without it their sugar levels crash and they get very grumpy. Some people just cannot function when they are hungry.
My experience when I first attempted fasting
It’s the first problem I had when I experimented with fasting. I would skip breakfast and head to work, under the impression that I needed food for sugar as energy. I’d be teaching my classes and clients while drinking orange juice.
It made me feel awful. I spent a lot of time feeling confused and dazed, and it was simply because I was topping up my sugar levels only to have them crash again. It was only after I started to learn more that I discovered you need to be in a complete state of fast for it to really benefit you.
If you are not eating meals but snacking in between, our bodies have not entered the fasting state. We’ll still be having all of the same problems with insulin sensitivity.
I’ve been doing quite well with fasting recently. I don’t have any set schedule or plan. It’s simple, if I want to, I will skip a meal. It’s quite often down to convenience. If I wake up in the morning and don’t have enough time for breakfast, I’ll skip it, I’ll come to work and crack on.
If anything, it’s made me feel much more focused. I get a sense of clarity that I don’t get if I’m constantly filling my face with food. It’s also taught me a lot of lessons about hunger.
When most people think they are really hungry, they’ll say things like “I’m starving”. You’ve gone eight hours without eating, and you are starving? You can go forty days without food and still survive.
It’s only once we get to twenty four hours of not eating anything that we can really appreciate what hunger feels like. I’ve found, along with most people who fast, you learn to control your hunger much better.
If you try to stave off your hunger with a biscuit of a piece of fruit, it actually makes you hungrier and at the next meal you will eat more. If you are trying to lose weight and trying to eat small portions that don’t satisfy you, it would be better to cut those snacks and small meals out and have a bigger meal later on.
Eating this way, your body will respond more favourably to the bigger meal and absorb more of it. We also wouldn’t have the rise and crashes that really afflict temper.
Is fasting for you?
Everyone is in a different starting place with their diet. Some people find awful symptoms if they try to fast, which is often a sugar addiction. This person will be on a constant up and down of their energy levels, and without sugar to maintain ourselves we might feel like we are going to pass out.
Fasting probably isn’t right for everyone. This is where having me, another personal trainer or a nutritionist to help you talk through these things can be really important.
If you are pre diabetic for example, you could be in serious trouble if you go for a long time without eating. At the same time, if we start to extend that foodless window longer it could reverse some of the effects of the insulin sensitivity.
If you are struggling to maintain a sensible diet, simply eating less food is a fantastic way to lose weight. If you change from eating three meals and two snacks a day, to just eating three meals a day, you will lose weight. I’ve seen fantastic results with some of my clients from simply setting just three meals a day.
You don’t have to go for prolonged periods without eating at first. You can just cut out snacks, then build ourselves up.
Can fasting help me get leaner and put on more muscle?
Fasting isn’t just about weight loss. One of my goals is to put on more muscle and become leaner. I’m not looking to lose weight so to speak and through fasting I’ve managed to maintain my weight and lose body fat. This is the holy grail of exercise: I’ve gained muscle AND lost fat.
More importantly, it’s the way fasting will make you feel. The sense of clarity and energy I get from not eating is fantastic. It brings focus when I’m not constantly thinking about where my next meal is coming from.
I can have a workout, do other things, then head home and eat whenever I’m ready. It’s much simpler than thinking “I’ve just had a workout, I need to immediately have a protein shake otherwise my muscles are going to decay”. I see so many guys worrying that they are going to waste away if they eat less food, but it’s just not true.
Your body works very hard at maintaining muscle mass. When we eat a very carbohydrate and sugar rich diet we are sending signals to the body that we need to break down the muscle so we can process the carbohydrates better. This is a bit of simplification, but if you are struggling to put on muscle and become leaner, it might be because you are eating too regularly.
Fasting is the sort of thing you have to really think about, and take some time with. You have to adapt to it over time. If you are interested in fasting drop a message in the comments below or use my contact form and I’d be happy to discuss it more.