How long can the human body go without food? It’s longer than we think…
A Canadian women survived 48 days stranded in the desert in Nevada only eating candy, and a small amount of trail mix. Mahatma Ghandi fasted for 21 days during his protest against violence, not bad for a 73 year old.
So: now that we know the extreme lengths the human body can last without food, let’s take a look at intermittent fasting (an eating pattern that involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting).
Fasting…Why? What? How? When?
Firstly, here is the research on intermittent fasting that is turning heads:
- Intermittent fasting has been shown to dramatically improve the life span in studies with rats
- Fasting has also been shown to potentially reduce the chances of getting cancer
- Enhance[d] cardiovascular and brain functions and improve[d] several risk factors for coronary artery disease and stroke including a reduction in blood pressure and increased insulin sensitivity
- Alternative day fasting (ADF) produced significant improvements in several markers such as LDL cholesterol in as little as eight weeks
Intermittent fasting (IF) has exploded in popularity recently, mostly due to this new research now clearly outlining the potential short and long-term benefits.
Not surprisingly, there are many forms of IF – I won’t discuss the specifics (you can find out more here) but I will address the benefits I observed while implementing the 16/8 method (details below).
I jumped on board the fasting train late last year and have since followed the pattern of eating my meals within a 8 hour window (2pm – 8pm) – this give me a daily fast of 16-18 hours (the name 16/8 is derived from 16 hours of fasting with 8 hour eating window).
After following IF protocol 4 times a week over the past 9 months, I am now at place where I can confidently report on the amazing benefits this eating pattern has had on my life; hopefully this will encourage others to give it a try.
I have also provided a helpful resource at the end of this article as a bonus: “The Ultimate IF Resources” designed to help people who are starting out, or for those who want to maximise the benefits IF.
What actually happens when we fast?
For most people, the primary energy source is carbohydrates (sugar/glucose). If we don’t eat for 10-16 hours, the body will instead burn energy from our fat stores – this process is known as ketosis, which is when the liver produces fatty acids known as “ketones” into the blood stream (this is good!).
Ketones are a much more efficient and sustainable way for our bodies to generate energy as they provide more energy per unit of oxygen used.
More importantly, the powerhouse cells in our bodies known as mitochondria (often referred to as the “energy factories”) thrive when we enter ketosis. A recent study shows ketogenic diets/intermittent fasting boost the number of mitochondrial enzymes within the cell, this has been shown to improve brain function (protecting memory and learning functionalities) while also improving responses to diseases.
After reading up on the astonishing benefits fasting has on the body and brain, I decided to give intermittent fasting a shot.
I, like most people, struggled with the idea of not eating food for 16-18 hours however, I decided to try it for a few weeks.
The results were mind blowing!
Here’s what happened:
Less Food Cravings
Sounds counter-intuitive I know. But the crazy thing is, one of the benefits of ketosis (mentioned above) is the body produces energy more efficiently, which means we eat less!
This is how we avoid sudden drops in energy due to low blood sugar (that feeling of dizziness/starvation even though we ate 2 hours ago).
Fat burning mode is how we beat food cravings.
Food cravings are a product of poor food selection – foods that cause blood sugar and insulin to spike – the proceeding crash leaves us feeling tired and starving. Breakfasts containing fruits, cereals, and breads are example of poor food selections that lead to cravings.
Not sure what else to have for breakfast?
Don’t stress! At the end of this article I have included a bonus section that will reveal some helpful alternatives to these insulin spiking foods.
I was someone who “needed” a large breakfast every morning (usually consisting of eggs on toast, and cereal) until I started intermittent fasting…
I have since removed these foods from my morning menu and my food cravings basically vanished.
I must admit, it was hard letting go of my beloved morning breakfast, but this didn’t mean bacon eggs were forbidden.
I made them a weekend luxury, I love dining out for breakfast so this made my weekends all the more pleasurable, and helped me stay committed during the week.
Over time, the mind begins to accept the fact breakfast is no longer a necessity in the morning.
Believe me, after observing the affects poor food choices have on energy, mood and well-being; I happily go without my bowl of cereal and toast in the morning.
I now hardly crave food at all in the morning. I don’t get hungry until at least 11 am, this when I use one of the secret weapons (included in the bonuses for this article) to extend my fast while curbing any food cravings.
How long does it take to prepare breakfast in the morning?
Say it takes 15 minutes – If I chose to intermittent fast instead (skip breakfast), that’s 1 hour saved during my working week (52 hours a year).
Time is our most precious resource, anything that can add time to my day while benefiting my health is a massive win.
Time is everything.
We waste valuable time during the day thinking about food, preparing food, and planning food.
Gaining an extra 15 minutes a day is priceless!
Increased Energy & Mental Clarity
A faster brain means more focus, more energy and better performance…
This is a side effect of intermittent fasting.
Here’s why: the body uses up to 30% of your daily energy expenditure digesting food.
This is precious energy wasted in the morning if we consume a large calorie dense breakfast.
I noticed after skipping breakfast, and then fasting until late afternoon resulted in me gaining insane amounts of energy, and mental clarity.
I no longer experienced those dreaded afternoon energy dips that would cause my eyes to get heavy and productivity to drop.
As I mentioned earlier, fasting puts the body into ketosis (fat burning mode), this has a profound effect on the brain.
Fasting kick-starts ketone production, so we burn direct energy from fat cells, the body and mind thrive!
This, for me, is the best thing about intermittent fasting.
The high level of mental clarity and focus when in Ketosis is unlike any caffeine stimulant or sugar high.
Ketosis is a natural process caused by the body reverting to its most efficient and effective state at producing energy.
The fasted state is not only beneficial for the body on the muscular level, but the cellular level as well.
The photo to the left shows my body’s response to weight training while in a fasted state.
The muscular response is astonishing considering this is 18 hours after my last meal!
Training before my first meal of the day causes my body to come alive with energy and strength.
It also makes my “break-fast”/lunch all the more satisfying.
Mark Mattson, senior investigator for the National Institute on Ageing, investigated the health benefits of fasting on the cardiovascular system and brain. He observed considerable similarity between how cells respond to the stress of exercise and how cells respond to intermittent fasting.
Research in animals also show muscle and cell regeneration is enhanced significantly when calorie restriction is used as a dietary intervention to treat age related illness. The same research showed animals had enhanced cognitive and motor function, and a lower incidence of diabetes, as compared to control animals that were allowed food.
The evidence is now becoming clear – fasting has a profound impact on the production of healthy cells – from a longevity perspective.
Fasting is the best way to boost your chances of living a longer, healthier life.
How to make fasting easier
Intermittent Fasting has some extraordinary health benefits that will supercharge the body and mind into elite-performance mode.
However, I realise fasting can be a daunting prospect for those who haven’t taken to the idea of not eating for 16-18 hours.
That is why I have put together a list of my 5 Ultimate Intermittent Fasting Tools
This list includes the things I use during my day when fasting, to help ensure my performance is still maintained and I’m not getting distracted by thoughts about food.
The list has helpful resources that are guaranteed to maintain high energy levels without the need for food.
- Breakfast is not essential, nor is it required to be in great shape, my experience with intermittent fasting proves this
- We save the most precious resource we have: time
- Intermittent fasting will reduce your food cravings
- Your energy and focus will dramatically increase
- You will build muscle faster
- You will perform better in life because your body and mind will now be operating at an optimal level.
Please share this article via the social media icons to the left – together we can increase awareness about Intermittent fasting so we can all live longer, happier and healthier lives.