Intermittent Fasting (IF) – 101 2

What is IF?

It is not starving for sure !

So before going to discuss about Intermittent Fasting, let us first see, what is Fasting? You all have heard this word, Fasting. Isn’t it?

This is the most powerful, natural healing solution ever. One that’s been used by all cultures, all religion & all over the world but virtually forgotten today.

Are you scared? Are you thinking, by fasting am I going to starve? No, fasting is not the same as starvation. Rather fasting is the controlled voluntary absence of food for different reasons.

You can do it for spiritual reasons, you can do it for health reasons, and you can do it as a political protest… any reason. It is still called fasting. It’s not the same as starvation. In fact if you look back through all of recorded human history people have always fasted.

Think about when you get sick. When you have a cold, when you have flu, whatever. The last thing you’re thinking about is eating a big buffet. It’s something that naturally comes to us, our bodies are designed to fast. They’re designed to store food in times of availability and during times of scarcity to release it. And that’s just what comes naturally to us and it’s not just us, but all animals have the same ability. So fasting is not something unnatural, is not something that we’re just trying to force on our bodies. This is something natural and good.

Benjamin Franklin, who was world-renowned as one of the smartest men who had ever lived. He said the best of all medicines are resting and fasting. Think about that for a second. Resting, which is freedom from stress, relaxation and fasting which is designed to cleanse the system, which is what used to be called the cleanser or purification. Well, those are the two best medicines. Not drugs, not surgery. Resting and fasting. Amazing! Isn’t it?

Mahatma Gandhi also said a genuine fast cleanses the body, mind and soul.

The Muslim faith has also very profound believers in fasting. The prophet Mohammed said fasting brings us to the door of his palace. During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims would fast from sunrise until sunset every day for an entire month.

All of these religions did not prescribe fasting to their believers because they wanted to harm them. In fact that’s something that’s deeply intrinsically beneficial and we know this from the science that there are so many benefits. Benefits for weight loss, benefits for insulin sensitivity, and type II diabetes, for heart disease, for cancer, for liver disease, and also just to feel better, for mental clarity.

There are so many amazing benefits. But, people are always worried about fasting. They think “can I really do it?” Well, think about this for a second. Consider all these religions, Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Buddhist, all of these people… All of these people are fasting on regular basis every year for their entire adult lives. So can you do it?

Well, millions and millions and millions of people do it. There’s no reason why you can’t do it.

Should you do it?

You will find lots of people who will tell you not to fast.


Well, these guys…..Ronald McDonald or Col. Sanders (KFC)?

So, whom would you listen to?

Now, the big question. How can we burn fat? Well that’s what we all want to do. Isn’t it? Imagine that we can somehow manipulate our meals, so that we can maximize fat burning. How do we do this? Well first of all we have to understand what happens to our physiology when we eat.

So when we eat food the hormone insulin starts to rise. And insulin is a storage hormone. It stores some the calories in the form of Glycogen in our liver, some in muscles and all the excess calories in our fat cells. All the sugar ( from carb reach food) we eat gets stored in the liver as glycogen and fat gets stored as well. When we stop eating, the insulin levels start to fall and what happens is that we start to burn the stored (fat) energy. So when we’re fasting, usually during sleeping for instance, we don’t have to constantly eat to feed ourselves because we’re generating this energy from the fuel that we’ve stored away, and this is a normal situation. So, you eat, energy gets stored. As you don’t eat, the energy comes back out. Now there are two main fuel sources for the body. The body can burn sugar, and the body can burn fat. And you have to understand that the body can switch from one to the other without any problems. This is a normal situation.

Remember this. Sugar is like the money in your wallet. It’s easily available, but you can only store certain limited amount. So you can take it in, you can take it out, it’s very easy for the tissues to use. Fat on the other hand is like the money in your bank. There’s an unlimited amount of storage, but it’s not so easy to get to. You have to go to the teller; it’s not immediately available to you like the money in your wallet. And this really explains partially why it’s so hard to burn fat. Because it’s not that accessible to you. In fact you can only get at it after you’ve burned through all the sugar. Because your body is not going to bother of getting the energy from the fat when it has plenty of sugar.

How do we do it?

Its actually quite simple

Fasting is so simple to learn. It takes five minutes. And yet you can practice it for a lifetime of benefits. But first there are some people, and they really shouldn’t fast. It’s not appropriate for Children, for pregnant women or breast-feeding women, for the developing child. Also if you’re severely underweight then also you should not fast. But it’s good for everybody else. Now first of all you have to realize that there’s no single best regimen for fasting. It comes in all different lengths. There’s no set length, there are shorter fasting, less than 24 hours, and longer fasts more than 24 hours. The shorter fasts are generally less powerful, but they’re- done more frequently, may be daily. For the longer fasts, these are much more powerful, but yet you do them less frequently. For the daily fast you can do for instance a daily 12 hour fast. For example if you eat breakfast at 7 AM and eat dinner at 7 PM that gives you 12 hours where you’re eating. And that’s balanced by 12 hours of fasting. From 7 PM until the next morning at 7 AM you don’t eat anything. And in essence this is how we all use to eat. If you go 50 or 80 years back ( during 30s & 40s) we ate three meals a day with no snacks in between. You can extend that a little bit and go to 16 hours. So for example if you skip breakfast you might eat at 11 AM and go eat until 7 PM. And that gives you an eight-hour eating window. And that leaves you 16 hours of the day where you’re fasting. it’s also a very good regimen for lean gain ( If you extend that a little bit further you might do a daily 20-hour fast. So for example you might eat one or two meals from 3 PM until 7 PM and again leave 20 hours of the day for fasting. This is sometimes called the Warrior Diet. As you go into longer fast, you can do 24-hour fasting period. So for example you might eat dinner at 7 PM on day one and fast until 7 PM the next day. And these are very good, they’re very easy to fit into your schedule.

So these are totally based on one’s personal convenience and goal. So for example I do a 16:8 IF perhaps twice a week. And during my own fatloss journey, during my 1st three month, after following a strict 12:12 IF for 2 weeks, I then slowly switched to 16:8 for next 2 & half months. believe me, its much more convenient than anything else.

Now, before thinking of doing IF, you need to understand few basic things. You must stay hydrated always. So water is very important. You can drink still water, you can drink sparkling water. And you can flavor it with natural flavors such as lemon, cucumber, but try to avoid things like artificial sweeteners and artificial flavors. Number two, teas are great. Any kind of tea. Green tea, black tea, herbal teas. You can drink them hot, or you can drink them cold. Number three, coffee. You can take coffee hot or cold. A Bullet proof coffee is a great saviour during the IF period. But then, technically this is not a fast because it contains protein and it contains fat, so technically you are breaking your fast, but the effect is so small that it doesn’t seem to make a difference and for some people it really helps with the compliance.

How do you break your fast? Well it’s important particularly for the longer fast that you have to break them gently. You might try eating a small handful of nuts or a small salad and then wait a half an hour before you take your main meal. There’s a real temptation sometimes for people when they’re not used to fasting to eat a very large meal as soon as they break their fast. But really the main thing to remember is that there’s infinite flexibility. The longer you fast, the more effect you’re going to see in terms of blood sugars and in terms of weight loss. So there really is no best regimen, but really the one that suits you the best. The important thing is to fit it into your schedule, because fasting is just a part of life.

Now lets try to understand the benefits of fasting, before you really consider to adapt IF. There’s so many advantages to fasting as compared to a regular diet.

Here are the top seven.

Simplicity : Fasting is so simple that you can really explain it in two sentences. Don’t eat any food for a certain period of time and stay hydrated, drink lots of water. That’s it! That’s all you need! There’s no more of this “Oh, can I eat this? Can I eat that? How many calories is this? How many calories is that?” No. Fasting is so easy. Just don’t eat. Anybody can understand that. It’s so simple.

It’s cheap : There’s lots of great diets out there. Buying chicken, Egg, Fish, Paneer……….. can be expensive. Carbohydrates on the other hand are very cheap and filling. That’s why people eat so much of them. You can buy a loaf of bread for Rs. 20/- ( less than a dollar) . You could feed your whole family with a big plate of pasta for Rs.300/- ( maximum 5 dollar). Buying high-quality proteins and fats can be expensive and that can be a problem for many people. Fasting on the other hand is completely free. It’s available to everybody. If you live in the furthest town with no access to anything you can still fast. It doesn’t cost you anything.

Convenience : Think about it. There’s no more preparation time, there’s no more cooking time, there’s no time that you spend buying your groceries, there’s no cleanup time. It saves time, it doesn’t take time. So while there’s a lot of diets out there that say, “Well you should eat all your own home cook prepared from scratch meals.” That’s great, but who has the time for that?

Between taking the kids for practice, , taking them to the rink, working full time, being on call… Well it’s really hard to make a full meal from scratch every single day. Well, fasting takes care of that problem. It saves time.

It allows you to “Feast and to Fast.” Diets have to be intermittent. That’s important because you can’t sustain a continuous diet. There are going to be times when you want to eat. For instance say you have a big anniversary or a wedding. Who wants to be the big party pooper all the time? “Oh, I can’t drink alcohol, I can’t eat your wedding cake.” Well sometimes is just considered rude. And sometimes you just don’t want to be the guy who’s always missing out on all the fun. So this allows you for occasional “cheat days” where you can eat some wedding cake and really have fun and let loose. This is really the cycle of life; you feast and then you fast. It’s not all feasting and it’s not all fasting. Right? You don’t celebrate your big 10th or 20th anniversary with a big Kale or lettuce salad. You have a cake. Do it! Because you know you can fast. And that’s important.

Power : If you don’t eat for an entire week do you think you’ll lose weight? Well, of course. That’s pretty obvious. So fasting has unparalleled power for people to lose weight. And it’s unquestioned. The effectiveness simply cannot be questioned. There’s almost nothing more powerful than fasting, because how can you eat less than zero? It’s impossible.

Flexibility : Fasting can be done at any time, anywhere. There’s no special foods and you can stop at any time. This is very important.

Let me share a story. I know people who underwent bariatric surgery. This is a surgery where they cut her stomach to the size of a walnut and so she can’t eat. And so she’s lost a lot of weight. Unfortunately like a lot of other people who do the surgery, there were complications. And the problem is that these complications of surgery are completely irreversible.

In contrary, if people understand the advantage of fasting, and incorporate IF in their lifestyle, they do not have to go under the knife, and all those medical complicacies.

And Finally, “Add fasting to Any Diet.” In weight (FAT) loss there’s really two major questions that we have to answer; “What to eat?” and “When to eat?” So we’re obsessed all the time about what to eat. Should I eat Ghee/ Butter? Can I eat olive oil? Can I eat pasta? Can I eat bread? And those are all great questions. But we never think about the second question, which is “When are we supposed to eat?” And so if we’re only looking at half the question, we’re only going to get half the solution. So fasting, even if it’s only for 12 hours at a time gives us a major new weapon in our struggle against obesity and diabetes. Suppose for instance you don’t eat meat. You can still fast. You don’t eat dairy, you can still fast. You have a nut allergy? You can still fast. You don’t have time… well, you can still fast. Oh, you don’t have money? You can still fast. You’re traveling? Yes. You can still fast. You’re 60 years old? You can still fast. You don’t cook? You can still fast. What could possibly be simpler? This is because fasting is not something to do. It’s something not to do. In other words, it’s subtraction rather than addition. It’s not adding to your list of problems, is not adding to your problems. It’s subtracting them, it’s simplifying. Fasting simplifies your life.

Dt Satyajit Dash