How I Discovered Fasting
While I had heard about it here and there, I didn’t really buy into fasting until I heard it discussed on Sam Harris’ podcast titled ‘From Cells to Cities’, where Harris interviewed theoretical physicist, Geoffrey West.
The prescribed gains of fasting that include the obvious, weight loss struck me - but what was more drawing was West’s conclusion that the scientific community was mounting evidence and data supporting the fact that fasting can lead to a longer life.
The Theory Behind How Fasting Increases Life Span
On the podcast ‘From Cells to Cities’, West perfectly explains the theory behind why caloric restriction leads to a longer life span. He explains that one’s metabolism which includes all the chemical processes meant to keep an organism alive, has within it processes that are inherently destructive as well.
Our metabolism “that is keeping us alive, has built into it what we call dissipative forces, for want of a better word, wear and tear. There is continual damage being done by the flow of blood through your circulatory system, certainly the blood flowing through your capillaries can be quite destructive. It is like pushing fluid through very thin tubes. It has a great deal of resistance - what that simply means is there is scrapping between the blood and the wall of the cells and that damages them. That damage creates entropy and that entropy creates cellular damage”, West describes.
Destruction of cells is the root of aging.
West goes on to explain “you have to reduce damage...due to metabolism. One way is to reduce your metabolic rate. How do you reduce your metabolic rate, just eat less - that is called caloric restriction”.
What The Science Says: Does a Decrease In Caloric Intake, Increases Longevity?
From worms, to mice and nematodes, scientists have provided for data that supports the above theory that indeed “caloric restriction and fasting slow aging and extend life span in many species”. (Science Magazine)
“Mice [on fasting regimes] outlived their peers by an average of 3 months, a substantial amount for the rodents, and they displayed numerous signs of better health". Eating less lengthens life because of West’s described theory above, but also “because overindulgence can lead to diseases ... A diet that cuts food intake by up to 40%, known as calorie restriction, increases longevity in a variety of organisms and forestalls cancer, heart disease, and other late-life illnesses” (Science Magazine)
This is great news!!....well that is if you are a worm, mouse or nematod…
Evidence in primates is still conflicting. “A major study designed to determine whether this regimen, known as caloric restriction, works in primates suggests that it improves monkeys' health, but it doesn't extend their lives". That outcome contradicts a similar study of monkeys reported 3 years ago.
"[Researchers] say the results are still encouraging. Although the monkeys didn't evince an increase in lifespan, ‘both studies show a major improvement in 'health span’, or the amount of time before age-related diseases set in, says physiologist Eric Ravussin of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge. ‘I certainly wouldn't give up on calorie restriction as a health promoter’ based on these findings”. (Science Magazine)
While science works to confirm if fasting in humans definitely increases ‘lifespan’, I have chosen to incorporate fasting into my day to day to at least increase my ‘health span’ - that is curtailing the onset of age-related diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart diseases by “improving insulin sensitivity, reducing blood pressure and inflammation” (Science Magazine). It doesn’t hurt that fasting helps with weight management as well.
Here’s how I fast with little to no effort.
How I Fast: Intermittent Fasting
There are many ways to fast, it is simply the practice of abstaining from food.
I intermittent fast which means I cycles between periods of eating and not eating. The most extreme would be cycling between 24 hours of not eating, then consuming food within a window of 24 hours thereafter. I am on a regime of time-restricted fasting where for 15 to 16 hours I do not eat and the remaining 8 hours of the day I eat, eat, eat! I manage this by trying to eat my dinner before 7pm or 8pm - that means I do not eat until the next day at 10am or 11am. This works because for most of the 15 hours I fast, I am asleep. I just have to distract myself through breakfast and have an early lunch.
Types of Intermittent Fasts
Here are other forms of intermittent fasting and ways to maneuver a pattern of on and off eating to help give your cells and metabolism a rest. (Source: Heathline) (Be sure to consult your doctor)
1. 16:8 Method | 16 hours of fasting, 8 hours of eating
This is the pattern I follow. You eat for 8 hours a day. Try to do your fasting around bedtime so a majority of your not eating phase is while you are sleeping.
2. 5:2 Method | 2 days a week of fasting, 5 days of eating
For 2 days a week you restrict to 500-600 calories a day, while for the rest of the week you eat normally.
3. 24 Hour Fasting
I think I would find this one quite difficult, but it involves not eating for 24 hours for once or twice a week. For example, eat lunch and don't eat again until lunch the next day.
4. Every Other Day Fasting
This method involves not eating, or limiting meals to 500 calories every other day - intense!
5. Fast Then Feast
To accomplish this form of intermittent fasting you fast during the day and have a big meal at night. Your window of eating said big meal is 4 hours and during fasting small amounts of raw food are allowed. Look up ‘The Warrior Diet’.
6. Do What You Can
Skip a meal here and there when you can or if you are not that hungry. The human body can handle it..