OMG that was crazy! Why would I do such a thing??? I’ll tell you why… the health benefits are huge! And experts keep discovering more benefits. There’s a right way and a wrong way of doing a fast of course. I’ll go over the benefits and the right way to do it but first I am reminded of a story about the doctor that discovered bacteria on hands. I am reminded of this story because there are a lot of people that will think fasting is crazy. And it is in a way. I’ll get into that too.
Doctor Ignaz Semmelweis
Doctor Ignaz Semmelweis theorized there must be something on people’s hands that is killing patients post surgery. He didn’t know what was on hands, but he started making his staff wash their hands and sterilizing equipment before surgeries and 80% less people were dying. Of course, he wanted to share his discovery with colleagues. Other doctors thought he was crazy, and he was ridiculed so much he ended up in a mental hospital, but still wrote his book about his discovery which wasn’t taken seriously.
Then someone else discovered the same thing and was praised for their findings. My point is any time we do something different or make head way, we tend to get criticized for it. Like the crab analogy. Ahem. If you put one crab in a tank you have to put a lid on the tank or the crab will climb out. If you put 2 crabs in a tank you can leave the lid off because every time one crab starts to get out the other crab will pull it back in.
There are a lot of new emerging diet ideas coming out and people are trying different things. Paleo, ketogenic, vegan, intermittent fasting, and the list goes on. It’s all fairly new and there isn’t a lot of data on some of these dieting ideas, so it may or may not be effective. The reason I am willing to try some of these diets is because doctors that I have been following for many years and I have learned to trust agree that some of these diets are healthy.
Doctor Valter Longo
Dr. Longo did over 20 years of research on longevity and fasting was found to be a part of a healthy lifestyle. Sugar activates certain gene pathways that age us and so does too much protein. It is important to avoid sugar and get about 0.35 grams of protein per pound of body weight. This amount of protein goes up for people over 65 by about 10-20% and for people that lift weights by 25% on workout days. That works out to an extra meal after a workout that consists of 30-40 grams of protein.
What doctor Longo also found was that human growth hormone also activated some of the same aging pathways as protein and sugar. Just like protein you need growth hormone but not too much. When we deactivate the pathways that age us by a moderate protein intake and low sugar intake we also boost regeneration; like in a fast.
During a fast your stem cells get turned on and then during the re-feeding phase regeneration happens. A process called autophagy gets put into high gear. Autophagy is the natural process of the body where old cells die off and new cells get created from basil cells to replace them. The fasting is the part where the body cleans out the old cells and activates stem cells. After the fast, when you nourish the body is when the regeneration happens. This tool can be a great supplement for cancer treatment as well. Dr. Longo says that 5 days is the right amount of time to fast for optimal regeneration.
I was mentioning the benefits of a 5 day fast to a client and told her I would do it with her. She said, “Let’s do it this Friday!” I couldn’t say no. I hadn’t prepared for it and neither had she, but I didn’t want to be that guy, so I said ok.
How To Do It Properly
Now, if you do it properly you get yourself into full ketosis before you start the fast. The reason you do that is, so you don’t feel so hungry. You’ll burn the fat off your body for energy and you can go a long time without feeling too hungry. We didn’t do that. We should have also done some intermittent fasting as well to prepare the body.
What We Did
I had the biggest meal of my life Thursday afternoon before going to the hockey game. It was at the Canadian Brew House. On Thursdays they have shrimp baskets on sale for $5.99 so I started with one of those and then ordered the John Candy burger. It is a loaded double burger so big you can’t fit it in your mouth; $25 burger. Then I ordered another shrimp basket. I was stuffed and didn’t eat the rest of the day.
In sugar burning mode, it didn’t take long, and I was starving. I’ve gone hungry before and it sucks but it’s doable so day one wasn’t that bad. I went to work and trained one client before going to the River Cree to work the Platinum Blonde event. Of course I was hungry and I had very low energy and was tired. The tired part would be normal for me on a Friday night, but I felt the low energy and thought, “Wow, this isn’t easy. 5 days of this is going to really suck!” Things got worse after that.
When you fast like this, you go into starvation mode and it is a stress on the body. You start pumping more cortisol which is the stress hormone and it doesn’t let you sleep at night. If you wake up and can’t get back to sleep, it’s possible that cortisol is the reason. I never go to bed hungry so I don’t pump cortisol and then can’t sleep. This night I went to bed hungry thinking I wouldn’t sleep. I was tired, so I slept ok.
Saturday I got up and went to work; Rogers Place for the Oilers skills competition. I thought one cool thing about this fasting thing is I don’t have to kill time with food prep. I just get up and get ready and leave. It felt like there was a giant hole in my midsection. I was in full starvation mode and had no energy and a bit of light headedness set in. I thought I better have a coffee.
I had taken a multivitamin and a krill oil along with some antioxidants and probiotics. I’m also relatively lean and didn’t want to lose muscle. In sugar burning mode, you will burn a lot of muscle because muscle burns in the sugar burning mode. If you’re in full ketosis, which is fat burning mode, you will more likely burn more fat off your body instead. To counter the muscle burning as much as possible I used 3 teaspoons a day of undenatured grass-fed whey protein powder. That was the meal I looked forward to each day. OMFG I felt like I was dying! And I was.
I went to Rogers Place and after grabbing my coffee I saw little sandwich bites they were giving away for tasters. I almost automatically grabbed one. It stopped me in my tracks for half a second and then I continued up the stairs to the main floor where they sell pizza and all kinds of other junk type foods that my mind couldn’t stop thinking about. In the first aid room people were eating all these steal from your grandmother type addictive foods. I have a lot of will power and determination; it’s one of my qualities.
After Rogers I met a friend at West Edmonton Mall and we had a coffee in the food fair then went to First Round for dinner. My friend had a Hawaiian burger with fries and beers. I had water. He said to me “Did you see that waitresses…” I said “No, she was carrying a plate of food! I saw the plate of food! Did you see that?”
I felt a little bit light headed and low energy walking around the mall. My friend said there is such things as appetite suppressants and suggested we go to the drug store to have a look. I didn’t like telling the pharmacist that I was on a 5 day fast but after asking about the appetite suppressants she said only by prescription or some herbal stuff that may or may not work. She may as well have said there’s a placebo the way she talked about it. And maybe I should have tried them. I didn’t.
We went to meet a friend at the bar that night and my friend said I would probably like a shot. I would have thrown it right back up if I did a shot. I didn’t want alcohol; I wanted food!!!
All I could think about was food! There are 3 things the human mind can’t help noticing; danger, food, and attractive people. My mind no longer cared about 2 of the above. I went to the Superbowl Party at River Cree for work. We sit in the back corner where the buffet was set up. They had all kinds of fried foods, fresh veggies, nachos; (The movie “Alive” kept coming to mind. If you haven’t seen it, people ate other people to survive in a mountain top plane crash.) It was all you can eat, and it was free for me. I sat there all day dying of starvation. I promised myself I would indulge when I was done my fast. At the end of the day I took a plate of dry ribs, chicken fingers, and mini burgers. I put it in containers in my fridge for when I was done my fast.
I had my “breakfast”; a teaspoon of protein powder and some supplements. I trained a client and did some errands before I had to go to work. I thought this would get easier. It doesn’t. But I can’t give up. I had my teaspoon of protein and went to work. The Oilers beat Tampa Bay and Connor McDavid got 4 goals! Great game! I was lightheaded.
One of the things we usually do when working the hockey games is we will eat first. I sat in the cafeteria with a crater in my midsection and watched my coworkers eat while I had water. My friend wanted to test my blood glucose level. It was 3.5 mmol. Normal is 4-8 mmol. Obviously, that's normal for a person that's eating.
I went home and meditated. I did a technique called tapping where you tap parts of your body and thank the body for the protective mechanism of feeling hunger so I don’t die and tell myself it’s ok though and I will be fine without the hunger pains type thing. It worked to get rid of some pain, but I still couldn’t wait to be able to eat again.
I was reminded of when I was a kid and I would play sports all day and then mom would be cooking dinner while I was withering away with a very growly stomach and almost in tears. Except this was 5 days of that. Only one more day of holding back the tears.
I kept myself busy with work all day. I trained 3 clients then went to my house for some business. I got offered cookies and although I would never eat cookies I was contemplating if there was enough calories in one cookie to disrupt my fast. If you take in 200-300 calories it may disrupt the benefits of fasting. Dr. Longo says you can still get the benefits with 800-1100 calories a day. Like I said this idea is still new so experts are not all agreeing on some points.
I trained 3 more clients and was thinking I had technically done 5 days of fasting earlier that afternoon. I thought I didn’t need to wait till the next day to start eating again and I thought for health reasons, maybe I had gone long enough without eating.
I finished work at 8pm and raced over to the mall. I promised myself I would indulge when I was done, so I did. I had 2 tacos and mexifries. I had 3 pieces of chicken and some fries at KFC. I had Singapore noodles. I had a papa burger at A&W with double cheese, onion rings, and some root beer... I couldn’t believe how much I had just eaten.
I went home and meditated. I finished the night with Kimchee. I was going to have a couple spoons of it but ate the whole bowl and some Nutri Cleanse which is a fibre supplement. I went to bed and felt sick. I didn’t sleep half the night. Bad GI problems… I lost 8 pounds and my abs were ripped! I felt great once I started eating again. I will incorporate intermittent fasting and will even do one of these fasts about once a year just for the health benefits.
For an active healthy weight person doing a 5 day fast once a year is good. For an obese person, once a month is good. Fasting can be beneficial for all kinds of health problems including cancer. It may be harmful for some people who aren't healthy like thyroid problems might be made worse. The health benefits are so huge though, it's worth it to give it a try but be cautious.
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