Fasting: The Magic Cellular Reset Part: 2
Learn how to hack your fasts for maximum gains!
Become metabolically flexible for max results prior to a fast; teach the body use fat as fuel and spare muscle in the presences of caloric deprivation
Get into ketosis and practice a condensed eating window prior to your prolonged fast
Toxins stored in fat cells can be released during fasting, causing detox overload, so it's important to address this issue before fasting
Fasting hacks include using specific supplements, consuming some fats to keep hunger at bay, and addressing issues like toxicity and metabolic flexibility for successful fasts
In my previous article, I discussed the scientific benefits of fasting and how it can usher forth amazing cellular health. However, you may still be wondering how to properly fast. Fasting can be daunting, and there are both some effective and ineffective ways to approach it. So, in this article, I will share some fasting hacks that will be game changing in your protocol.
One of the most frequently asked questions about fasting is whether or not taking X, Y, or Z, will break a fast. Understandably, we desire the powerful reset that fasting offers while also maintaining some enjoyment in life. Fasting, however, is not as black and white as often made out to be. You may find that using specific supplements during a fast aids in how well you feel, or even consuming some fats helps keep hunger at bay.
Much of the magic in fasting comes from the prep, if your body is not prepared for lack of food you really want to take the time and get your body acclimated. Addressing issues like toxicity, or metabolic flexibility, the ability to utilize glucose or fat as an energy substrate, are some of the two main components for a successful fast.
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Metabolic Flexibility For Fasting
In the modern world, many people struggle to utilize fat as a source of energy. This is partly due to the availability of carbohydrates year-round thanks to global trade, which in turn, means their diets are typically flush with carbs. Although carbs have their place in our diets, we miss out on the benefits of diet variability and seasonal eating by over relying on them as fuel.
In colder months, much of the world would have relied on food rich in protein and fats. The fats consumed during this time would be converted into ketone bodies, which our mitochondria would burn for energy. This process trained our mitochondria to become both carb-burning and fat-burning machines, resulting in enhanced metabolic flexibility.
So, what does all this have to do with fasting? Well, if our bodies are not used to converting fat into ketones, it becomes challenging to signal the body to burn endogenous fat stores for energy when we don't have access to food. After all, that's why we store fat - to use it as an energy source when food is scarce. Hibernating animals do this exceptionally well.
When the mitochondria are not adapted to using fat as fuel, especially in a fasted state, they may turn to muscle for energy. This process is referred to as gluconeogenesis1 . Ideally, our bodies should turn to adipose tissue rather than muscle, as breaking down muscle for energy will turn you weak and frail. So, if you want to avoid excessive muscle breakdown during a fast, and use your fat as it was meant, what can you do?
After discovering the benefits of ketosis and fasting, I came across one of my favorite doctors, Dr. Dan Pompa, who emphasized the significance of preparing the body to become fat-adapted before beginning a fast. In his book, Beyond Fasting, Dr. Pompa outlines how combining ketosis with fasting can be a potent strategy.
Seasoned fasters typically don’t find this to be a significant challenge as they have trained their bodies to be thermodynamically efficient and utilize all available energy sources, including their fat stores. However, for beginners, it is crucial to implement this practice to the best of their ability.
Dr. Pompa recommends a 7 week prep prior to your first fast, with each week getting progressively more dialed in as you begin eating a keto diet and slowly close your eating window until you find a window you can sustain.
Personally I think a 7 week prep is too long, especially if you want to get started quick. I did a two week prep, eating a heavy keto diet, rich in fats while averaging a 4-6 hour eating window. By the end of that prep, I was well into ketosis and becoming fat adapted. I also used compounds that help boost you into ketosis faster like berberine, metformin, quercetin, resveratrol, etc.
If you are planning on doing a prolonged fast, think about prepping with a keto diet getting your body used to using fat as fuel. This lead me into my next fasting hack: what do you do if you have toxins in your body?
Toxins and Fasting
If you are a walking talking human living a normal life you are probably more toxic than you think. Becoming fat adapted is vital for a good fast, yet the toxin loads in our bodies can make fasting a not so fun experience.
The human body is pretty darn smart, when we accumulate toxins it stores them in a place they wont come jumping back into circulation. Where might the body store these toxins? You guessed it, your fat cells2 . This is a pretty well documented phenomenon and a reason why fat loss can often make people feel quite crappy.
This is another facet Dr. Pompa touches on brilliantly and a reason he takes such careful considerations for beginning fasters.
When we fast we activate a metabolic pathway named AMPK, AMPK then pushes its buddy pathway NFR2 into motion3 . NFR2 is one of of the bodies mechanisms for detoxifying the body. It helps activate the transcription of genes aiding in moving these toxins out of our cells4 .
Because fasting activates this detox process, one might face toxin overload as their body starts this amazing cleanup process. Toxins are liberated from fat cells, because we are using adipose tissue for its God given purpose 😉, resulting in the circulation of toxins throughout the body.
By not addressing this issue, you are probably not going to feel great while fasting. Furthermore, you might just end up re-circulating these toxins from unwell cell to healthy cell, causing a negative feedback loop.
The solution is simple: consider a detox prior to a fast and be prepared to take detox supplements like binders such as activated charcoal, zeolite, bentonite clay, etc. While also including supplements that support healthy bile flow through the liver and kidneys (bile is the main course of action for pushing toxins out of the body).
This will decrease the burden of your organs like the kidneys, liver and gut, giving your body more energy to take care of autophagy and replacing damaged cells.
What will break a fast
This is a loaded question, and the truth is that no one knows for sure. Personally, during fasts, I have found that taking certain supplements, such as spermidine, NAD, melatonin, binders, and bile support, helps me feel better. I believe that these supplements aid my body in its cleanup function during the fast.
One fasting expert, Valter Longo, has even developed a diet called the "Fasting Mimicking Diet," where individuals consume 500-700 calories per day for a five-day period. Longo claims that this diet can help maintain autophagy and provide many of the same benefits as a five-day water-only fast.
Biohackers like Dave Asprey and doctors like Joe Mercola share a similar rhetoric, as they claim that consuming 500-700 calories of fat during a fast will not break the fast and can prevent you from feeling terrible.
Regardless, play around with how you feel on certain supplements, foods, etc, while fasting. You may even find a water fast is easiest, so stick with that method.
Check out this article for amazing podcast playlists about fasting. If you just beginning to fast, take it slow and dont rush, fasting can be stressful, particularly when your body is not ready for it!
Chourpiliadis C, Mohiuddin SS. Biochemistry, Gluconeogenesis. [Updated 2022 Jun 6]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK544346/
Jackson E, Shoemaker R, Larian N, Cassis L. Adipose Tissue as a Site of Toxin Accumulation. Compr Physiol. 2017 Sep 12;7(4):1085-1135. doi: 10.1002/cphy.c160038. Erratum in: Compr Physiol. 2018 Jun 18;8(3):1251. PMID: 28915320; PMCID: PMC6101675.
Petsouki E, Cabrera SNS, Heiss EH. AMPK and NRF2: Interactive players in the same team for cellular homeostasis? Free Radic Biol Med. 2022 Sep;190:75-93. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2022.07.014. Epub 2022 Jul 31. PMID: 35918013.
Pall ML, Levine S. Nrf2, a master regulator of detoxification and also antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and other cytoprotective mechanisms, is raised by health promoting factors. Sheng Li Xue Bao. 2015 Feb 25;67(1):1-18. PMID: 25672622.