As temperatures begin to drop, many of us will reach for warming comfort foods, wondering if fasting is really appropriate at times when our bodies may need more fuel for energy. With that in mind, M&F spoke to Steve Hendricks, author of The Oldest Cure in the World: Adventures in the Art and Science of Fasting, to learn the importance of fasting year-round. We soon learned that the desire to break a fast might be rooted in operational rather than health reasons.
are you fasting at all
Before considering whether or not to break a fast, you should first ask yourself if you are really on one. "Caffeinated beverages, even noncaloric beverages, almost certainly interfere with a fast, but scientists don't yet know exactly how or to what extent," says Hendricks, who has researched the science and results of fasting on both an academic and a scientific level has studied at an academic level Personal level. His research even includes stays at various fasting clinics around the world to gain a deeper perspective. “What we do know is that even a modest amount of caffeine, especially in the morning, will turn our circadian clock back. The question is: does morning caffeine also boost our metabolism and break our fast? Many scientists and I agree that since caffeine must be processed through our digestive system to reset these circadian clocks, caffeine almost certainly disrupts our fasting metabolism to some extent, but it's unlikely to be as large a disruption as is, say, eat a meal.
The same principle probably applies to vitamins. On the one hand, if your digestive system is processing a vitamin that alters important biomechanical processes, the vitamin is likely to break the fast. But then again, if the vitamin is zero-caloric or minimally caloric, say less than five calories, the break probably won't be drastic.
Are you using the correct sober window?
"Keep your daily eating window as close to six or eight hours as possible," says Hendricks. “And eat most of your calories earlier, not later in the day. As for prolonged fasting of several days or weeks; you can overdo it, which is why in most cases you should be looked after by a fasting doctor. It's not uncommon for people who fast for long periods, especially those who are less healthy, to experience nausea, headaches, rashes, fatigue, and other uncomfortable symptoms. Sometimes these symptoms can be part of what fasting practitioners call a healing crisis: the body's fruition trying to break down and excrete the things that are making it sick. But at other times such symptoms could be a sign that the body is under unusual stress and is not taking well to a fast, in which case the fast should be modified or broken. I advise you to speak to an experienced doctor when making this call.
Are seasonal breaks from intermittent fasting necessary?
"There's no need to take a break from daily fasting," says Hendricks. In fact, it's healthiest to eat at a narrow, early window each day, just as it's healthiest to get enough sleep each night. If such a regimen makes you feel bad, most researchers would probably say that your fasting is unlikely to be causing the distress. They would probably advise you to look at other areas of your life; Like your diet. You may need a diet that consists of more plants and less processed foods. However, it is possible to take daily fasting to an unhealthy extreme, for example by practicing the somewhat popular trend of OMAD (One Meal A Day). Scientists and doctors have strong doubts about cramming all of your food into such a narrow window in your gut, and most would probably recommend that you spread your food intake over at least four hours, and preferably six to eight hours. For Hendricks, the health benefits of intermittent fasting are too numerous and positive to even consider taking a break. "We have over a century of very credible reports from fasting specialists," he says.
Studies show positive results in terms of life expectancy for both intermittent and prolonged fasting, thanks to increased stress resistance and a lower likelihood of developing disease. When the body shifts from a state of using glucose for fuel and instead relies on ketone-based energy, fat levels are also reduced. So the take-home message is that for most healthy people there's no pressing reason to take regular breaks from intermittent fasting, but you should definitely re-evaluate your regime to make sure you're making the most of the appropriate window and how consistent you are in fasting.
Get a copy of Steve Hendrick's book, The Oldest Cure in the World: Adventures in the Art and Science of Fasting, here!