BY DEAN KARNAZES
The idea of eating three square meals a day is a very modern one. Unfortunately, so is the worldwide epidemic of obesity. The ancient Greeks practiced a form of fasting (oftentimes referred to as an Apostles’ Fast) as a way of, “purging impurities from the body and the spirit and normalizing metabolic functions.” Today, many progressive types are doing the same, including Tony Robbins and Tim Ferriss, as well of a slew of celebrities, like Beyoncé and Hugh Jackman. Indeed, intermittent fasting has become a mainstream practice in recent times.
I first started fasting years ago with little idea of what I was doing. All I knew is that as a species we evolved from a time when food wasn’t always plentiful or readily available, so it seemed inherently human to sometimes go without eating. I followed a regimen that could be loosely classified as time-restricted fasting: eating only during an eight hour window between 11 AM and 7 PM. Additionally, I ate my largest meal mid-day.
Within a week of starting this fasting practice I began to notice that I was feeling better. My sleep quality improved, my overall energy levels seemed higher, and I recovered quicker and more fully. This was prior to having widespread access to tools that can measure these things, such as Whoop and Ketone strips. But anecdotally I felt healthier even if I didn’t have quantitative proof.
There was one area where I struggled, however. If I did a hard run or workout early in the morning it was sometimes challenging to wait until 11 AM before eating. So I accommodated for that by shifting the time restriction forward from 9 AM to 5 PM. That seemed to work.
Though I should be clear, throughout this modification in eating habits I continued drinking coffee in the morning (black with no cream or sweeteners). Consuming coffee releases triglycerides and free fatty acids into the bloodstream, so my morning runs were likely fueled by stored body fat. That was probably the reason I could get through a strenuous workout without entirely bonking. If you drink coffee and don’t work out, however, those triglycerides and free fatty acids are reabsorbed. So on days I didn’t work out in the morning the circulating fats were just restored in the body.
I’ve now been practicing time-restricted fasting going on two decades. When I find something that works I tend to stick with it until I find something better. So far, I haven’t. In fact, more and more studies are validating the benefits of fasting, from improved blood sugar tolerance, reduced inflammation, greater mental clarity, and even anti-aging. I should also point out that during this period I’ve changed the types of foods I eat as well, which may be another contributing factor. I’ve eliminated junk food and sugary snacks entirely. My diet could best be described as a hybrid between Paleo, Mediterranean, Rawism, and sometimes Keto. Yes, I take this stuff seriously. My health and my performance demand it.
Needless to say, this article is an unapologetic endorsement of fasting. I’ve experienced great benefits from the practice so why not pay it forward to potentially help others? I see this as a responsibility, an obligation. Of course, consult your physician or other health care professional if you have any underlying medical conditions. And read up on the various protocols for fasting. I’ve experimented with many of them and continue coming back to the time-restricted plan of eating between 11 AM and 7 PM. It’s a simple program to follow and the results are dependable. And Hammer Nutrition’s new Hammer PHOOD makes it all the easier! (That was an unapologetic endorsement as well.)