By Todd Walker
Abundance and scarcity. Are we meant to live in abundance always? In our modern world of food at all hours, convenience on demand, and an all out orgy of sensory stimulation our survival genes don’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of getting expressed.
I woke up in a warm home, crawled out of bed, went to the kitchen and made a pot of coffee in my electric coffee pot with water from my Berkey filter. Then I turned on my computer and started my daily routine. I’m sipping on a cup of joe with a teaspoon of coconut oil and some heavy organic whipping cream as I attempt to share my thoughts. Amazing! All our progress as a species allows me to enjoy modern invention and convenience.
Pursuit of pleasure is part of our genetic code. I’m all about enjoying and using these life luxuries. However, to be true to my genetic soup, scarcity needs to be introduced to make my genes really thrive. In Primal Connection, Mark Sission states that the genes we inherited from our hunter-gather ancestors haven’t changed when it comes to health related and survival issues. The paradox occurs because we engage in behaviors that were originally intended to enhance our survivability, but now there are no saber-toothed tiger adding selection pressure to our species. Today we live in overabundance with easy access to out of season fruits, vegetables, and treats that were once hard to come by.
Shocking our genes with scarcity takes a conscious effort on our part. It’s what our genetic soup expects. Intermittent fasting is one way to shock our system out of homeostatic boredom. Proceed with knowledge and caution before attempting IF.
First, here are few benefits of fasting intermittently
- Reduces inflammation: Inflammation is a major warning sign for many modern diseases.
- Reduces cardiac risk factors, such as triglycerides, weight, and blood sugar levels.
- Coupled with high intensity interval training, IF can counteract lean muscle loss. One recent study confirms the positive effects of fasting on human growth hormone (HGH) which works to protect lean muscle mass and metabolic balance – in a 24 hour window of fasting, HGH increased an average of 1,300 percent in women, and nearly 2,000 percent in men. As an added bonus, HGH plays an important role in anti-aging. At age 50, I like that 🙂
- Increased life span and cancer fighter
- IF’ing causes hunger and stress, which triggers your body to burn fat as a fuel source instead of carbohydrates.
IF is a supplement to a healthy lifestyle – not a magic wand
Is IF for everyone? The simple answer is no. NOTE: If your diet consists of processed foods loaded with toxins, sugars, and carbs, it would be wise to stop here and consider what you do eat before moving forward with any fasting protocol. Fasting may do more harm than good for Standard American Diet eaters. Check out The Primal Blueprint for how I eat.
When I opened one of my plumbing tool boxes last weekend before I headed to my in-laws to repair their kitchen sink, I notice a few tools I haven’t used in while. Memories of using them with my daddy rushed through my mind. I’ve kept these tools in my collection because one day I’ll need one to get the job done which only that tool is designed. I’ll never throw away these hidden tools because they have a specialized purpose – and sentimental value.
Before dismissing fasting and slamming the lid of your health and fitness toolbox, let’s examine fasting as a useful tool/weapon in your overall lifestyle. I love life hacks that create forehead-smacking, why-didn’t-I-think-of-that simplicity – little shortcuts to enhance my ‘Sherpa Simple’ lifestyle.
Sherpa Simple – Living life that is economical, sustainable, individualized, self-sufficient, comfortable, practical, resilient, and in harmony with nature and neighbors. It’s all about helping each other as we chase the simple life.
If things get too complicated, I’m probably doing something wrong. In the spirit of Sherpa Simple, here are my forehead-smacking-simple hacks for intermittent fasting.
1.) There’s no one right way to fast. If you’ve never tried fasting, you may imagine the experience to be a prison sentence or the end of the world as you know it – or it may prove to be a whole new world for thriving health. Intentionally skipping meals goes against many conventional wisdom advisers. Do your own research before starting IF. I’ll also add the obligatory “consult your physician before changing your diet or starting a fasting protocol” – which may be completely useless as I’ve found in my conversations with conventional medical practitioners. But there it is, my CYA statement.
Below are a few methods to experiment with. What works for me is a 16 to 18 hour fast. That means I skip breakfast and eat around 11:3o after my sprint workouts. I sometimes graze on nuts or eat a pickled beet egg before my allotted fasting time ends. That’s okay. Keep it simple and pay attention to your body. Don’t get all legalistic and dogmatic about IF. Do what works for you and be flexible.
These suggestions come from Mark Sisson’s excellent how-to guide on fasting. Mark’s work introduced me to IF after I started my primal lifestyle three years ago.
Skipped Meal:As Mark alludes to in his comment in the 1/3 meals post, he likes to miss meals naturally or on an unplanned basis. When we listen to our bodies rather than blindly follow routine we find we’re not always hungry when mealtime comes around. Let yourself skip a meal when this happens, or plan a meal skip during a convenient time.
Condensed Eating Window:
As shown in the comments from last week’s post, this is a popular option. The day’s food intake is condensed within a set number of hours, often somewhere between four and seven hours. The timing of this window varies depending on the individual’s schedule and preferences. The time since you prior meal or until you next day’s meal becomes the fasting period.
Early and Late:
For some, this option is more easily managed than the condensed eating window. The day’s food intake and nutrients are balanced between an early meal and later afternoon/early evening meal.
Single Twenty-Four Fast:
Most people choose to have a normal dinner and then fast until the following evening. Others choose to extend the fast until the following morning. For many people, this can be a weekly routine. Others may integrate it on a monthly basis or as an occasional event based on their sense of progress/plateau.
Alternating Day Fast for Week (or more):
This approach is often credited with a deeper “cleansing” character. Some people do it once or twice a year. Others make a seasonal commitment. You can choose to drink only water or include teas/small amounts of juices during fasting days. On the alternate days, some people choose to eat normally, and some opt for reduced caloric intakes.
Here are a few more alternatives to help you get started
- Leangains by Martin Berkhan. Try his method if you’re already working out with heavy things on a regular basis and can handle do so in a state of fasting. He recommends only drinking no caloric liquids during the fast. * WARNING* It’s not okay to drink diet sodas as he recommends.
- Fast and Feasting is a plan by Ori Hofmekler which combines under-eating, hunger, and exercise together to re-design our bodies and health. Read Dr. Mercola’s interview with Ori here.
Who should NOT be IF’ing?
- Chronically stressed individuals. Why add more fuel to the stress-fire?
- Non-fat adapted individuals. Folks that can’t go 3 or 4 hours without eating a meal. Can you skip a meal without feeling light-headed and dizzy? You may be fat adapted – you muscles are using fat as their fuel instead of mainly relying on carbs – the normal human metabolism.
- Pregnant or nursing mothers.
- Diabetics or persons with other eating disorders. Really consult your physician in this case.
- Elite athletes or even a person going through intense training most days of the week. Don’t add scarcity to your training menu.
IF is not for everyone. Although now might be the time to find out if it’s right for you (if you’ve met the prerequisites). The day may come when you have no other choice and experience forced fasting due to scarcity of food in a real TEOTWAWKI scenario. Building resilient food sources (free-range meat sources, community connections, and growing your own fruits and vegetables) into your lifestyle gives you an edge and ability to bounce back from unknown unknowns.
I can say that I’ve experienced resilience in my health from practicing IF. What about y’all? Got any IF stories to share?
I have been IFing for a few years. I really don’t know when I started because it happened naturally. I just stopped eating lunch. I normally eat breakfast and dinner. I am a small woman so I eat about 1700 calories a day. (I don’t normally count.) I’m never hungry either. I eat a high fat, moderate protein, and low carbohydrate. My carbs are the vegetative part of the plant, some fruiting bodies of vegetables, and some fruit a few times a week.
I think that there are a number of modern behaviors that we all do that are causing poor health. One thing I have been trying recently is cold thermogenesis and balancing circadian cycles. This involves sleeping with the window open and turning off the house breakers at about 8:00pm and turning them back on at 5:00am-6:00am. (People in my household wake up naturally in the morning in their own time.) I have saved a load on utilities but having the dark in the evenings has been so great for my family life. I know that sounds strange but some of my best conversations with my girls have happened in the dark.
Finally, daily easy walks with my husband has helped us focus and converge our goals. See The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt for the “walking effect” for converging thoughts.