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Some fasting cautions and observations from my most recent fast
Last week, I wrote about what happens to your body during a 5-day fast. That post generated a couple of great comments and questions. Thank you, Mike and Jerry. Questions let me know what I should have mentioned in the original post, so this post is to catch everyone up.
Here are couple of things I should have mentioned last week.
Some People Should Not Fast
My enthusiasm for fasting (and my irritation at overly cautious fasting advice) something leads me to omit cautions and contraindications that must be considered before fasting. So here are those cautions.
Type I (juvenile) Diabetics Should Not Fast. Not without talking to the endocrinologist who knows your situation.
Pregnant Women Should Not Fast unless under orders from your OB/GYN. (Pregnant men should not be reading this blog.)
People Who Struggle to Maintain Weight should not fast unless recommended by their doctors.
Sick People Should Not Fast. Fasting probably won’t be very effective if you have an active infection or are under treatment for certain chronic conditions. If you’re in the latter camp, find a good naturopathic physician to advise you on fasting.
Supplements While Fasting
Based on my research and the writings from about a dozen doctors who recommend fasting for many of their patients, you should continue taking zero-calorie supplements while fasting.
For convenience, and because I’m 59, I take Roman’s Testosterone Support supplement every day. It provides optimal levels of Vitamin D, zinc, magnesium, copper, and other micronutrients that a man my age needs. (It’s expensive, but super convenient, and they ship me a fresh supply every 30 days, so I never run out.)
While fasting, I add activated charcoal every day. Some doctors claim activated charcoal helps trap the stored toxins that your fat cells release as they melt down to provide energy. I don’t know if this is true or not, but I figure why not? Activated charcoal isn’t going to break the fast or hurt me, and if my body really is dumping toxins into my gut, I’d rather sponge them with charcoal quickly.
Does Bone Broth Break a Fast?
Consuming a small amount of calories in beef bone broth on days 3 and 4 of a 5-day fast is great, but it might pause some of the autophagy process for a few hours.
My suggestion is to fast more frequently (once a month or every six weeks) and be less of a perfectionist about zero calories the whole time. I would, though, try to keep the first 48 hours clean to quickly burn off the glycogen.
Your body whines (hunger, fatigue) when it has to dip into the glycogen reserves for sugar energy. Once the glycogen gets low enough, though, your body sort of capitulates and starts running on ketones. The faster you burn off glycogen, the more benefit and the less "suffering."
Also, if you’re really hungry and you don’t eat, you’re going to become cranky. Never let perfection become the enemy of good. But eat high fat, low or zero carb foods like bone broth.
Along these lines, also check out research on the Fast-Mimicking Diet. On this diet, you consume less than 500 calories a day of mostly fat and protein. Recent cancer studies have shown that these diets are about as effective as water fasting for treating cancer and assisting chemo therapy. Check out more here.
Working Out or Lifting While Fasting
A lot of fasting articles say you should quit your job and curl up in a blanket while fasting. This is total B.S. As Jesus said in Matthew 6:16-18:
16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.
17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face,
18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
That means, when you fast, live like you do normally. Don’t make a big deal out of it. Just don’t eat.
I absolutely do not intentionally go easy on myself just because I’m fasting.
My routine is to lift on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. If I start a fast after dinner Sunday, Monday and Tuesday’s lifts are totally normal. Thursdays are pretty quick for me, with chins and deadlift, so that’s no problem. But I do usually miss a rep or an entire set of squats on the fifth day of the fast.
Now, the reason for that Friday struggle is simple, and it relates to what mentioned last week about autophagy and rejuvenation of damaged cells. In fact, I’m grateful Jerry asked about this, because I should have elaborated on this process.
Fasting (aka, starvation) causes your body to slow or stop the release of certain growth hormones. Growth hormones (of which there are many) signal certain types of cells to grow and divide. I mentioned that lack of sugar slows down cell growth and division, which is true, but I failed to explain how growth hormones are involved.
Insulin and insulin-like growth factors drop quickly when you fast, and insulin is a major, powerful growth hormone. Insulin tells your body’s cells to grow and divide—especially your adipose (fat) cells. When no sugar is getting through diet, insulin drops. So does testosterone, by the way.
This means your muscle and tendon cells do not grow while you’re fasting. Damaged cells get repaired or replaced while fasting, but they don’t grow and divide—at least not as fast as they normally would.
Without cell growth (that is, muscle growth), your body does not adapt to increased stress from weight lifting. To grow muscle and tendon, you have to eat, mostly protein.
Since I squat on Tuesday and Friday, I can’t possibly be stronger on the Friday of a fast than I was on Tuesday. By adding 5 or 10 pounds to the bar on Friday, I have to miss some reps or sets because I have not gained in strength since Tuesday’s lift.
Does that make sense?
Still, I don’t let that slow me down. Lifting heavy is hard and dangerous. Years of careful and steady increase in intensity and volume trains our bodies to grow safely. Backing off for fear that we might miss a rep creates a psychological bogie man who will haunt us after the fast has ended. Don’t do it. It’s better to try and fail.
Thanks, Again, for the Questions
Please keep them coming. Questions make it easy for me to think of something to write about.
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