Fasting entails going without food and/or water for an extended period. This can be for one meal or longer. Fasts have been a part of communities, medicine, and religion for much of recorded history. They have been a part of the human condition for much longer.
The Ujido office is doing a five day fast at the moment, and we wanted to share what’s behind it for us. There are quite a few to choose from.
Types of Fasting?
Juice Fasting – This involves cutting out foods and replacing them with fresh juices, usually leaning heavily on less sugar rich vegetables in many of these.
Dry Fasting – Going without both food and water. Dry fasts are usually for very short times, such as 24 hours, as the body doesn’t do well without water for long. These types of fasts are very effective though. One day can supply the same health benefits as a three-day water fast.
Intermittent – As it sounds, this type of fasting involves going on and off eating. It has many variations, from fasting every other day to skipping one meal a day, and everything in between.
Partial Fasting – Avoiding certain types of foods for a time. Sometimes this is meat, processed foods, or simple sugars.
Calorie Restriction – Not a full fast, but cutting back on total caloric intake for a set time.
Reasons to Subject Yourself to a Fast?
Longevity – There is a ton of research going into longevity compounds and genes, but the only truly proven way to affect longevity right now is calorie restriction. This can be accomplished by eating about a third of what we typically consume. Fasts have a similar effect. Fasting for twelve hours or longer triggers autophagy, the self-destruction of older malfunctioning cells that contribute to aging. This clears the way for new cells.
Pain Management – Fasting takes the metabolic load off the body, allowing repair, renewal, and removal of built up cellular waste. Reduced inflammation is common as our many systems catch up, clean house, and revitalize. Many people report significant relief from chronic pain, swelling, allergies, sinus constriction, back inflammation, and more.
Evolution – Our bodies expect fasts. For hundreds of thousands of years, food has been scarce. We would find an abundance one day and then nothing for days. We toiled day and night to survive. Winter, pestilence, and famine hit often. Luckily, our bodies evolved to handle these extremes. We store food as fat and then switch metabolism over to use that fuel when needed. We’ve entered a time of permanent abundance that interferes with this evolutionary trend. We store and store without the switch taking place.
Keto – Keto diets often recommend some form of fasting. That’s because fasting is the original keto diet. Fasting kicks the body into ketosis, where it burns fat for energy rather than sugar. Keto diets mimic this effect by starving the body of carbohydrates without starving the body of food completely. Fasts kick you into ketosis faster, usually on day three or four. This makes fasts a good intro or addition to keto. It also makes fasts a good option for people who struggle sticking to the keto diet.
Gut Health – Candida, other fungal infections, and many less-friendly bacteria thrive on sugar. Fasts can starve these out, letting friendlier bacteria repopulate. Going without food gives your digestive system a much-needed break to repair. Reduced inflammation and cellular clean up doesn’t hurt either.
Self-Control – There is something powerful about telling your body what to do, rather than being subject to its whims and cravings. Fasts help develop self-control, mind over body, and general willpower. There is good reason fasting has been a part of religion, meditation, and spiritual journeys.
Weight Loss – Fasts naturally contribute to weight loss. It’s exactly how our bodies were designed. We make the switch to fat burning, and those pounds melt away to sustain us through scarcity. Fasts do more than just shift metabolism away from sugar, they convert white fat cells, the ones that store, to brown fat cells, the ones that crank out energy. This continues for some time even after the fast ends. It also happens with cold exposure, another evolutionary response to winters.
Blood Sugar – It shouldn’t be surprising that removing sugar from the equation allows the body to stabilize insulin and remove resistance to it. Sugar was never in such abundance before, and the constant load on our systems takes a toll. Prediabetics can benefit greatly.
Heart Health – Fructose must be converted to glucose by the liver to be useful. Our high fructose world floods the liver. An overwhelmed liver converts this excess into lipids, raising triglyceride and cholesterol levels. Fasts also seem to reduce blood pressure during and after for a time.
Brain Health – The brain runs on carbohydrates. It doesn’t convert well to other fuels, hence the lightheaded, foggy feeling that comes with skipping meals, but it does enjoy small breaks. Sugar metabolism constantly creates oxidative by products that damage cells and cause inflammation. Inflammation is one of the biggest enemies to our brains. It kills nerve cells, contributes to neurological diseases, and increases cellular waste buildup. Fasting gives the brain time to clean house and even encourages new cell growth.
Muscles – It may surprise you cutting intake of our muscles’ food (sugar) and its base source (protein) while depleting it’s stored quick energy (glycogen) can promote muscle growth. Fasting promotes the production of Human Growth Hormone, which is key to muscle strength. Longer fasts also let you exercise, once ketosis has begun in earnest.
Liver Rejuvenation – The liver is very good at repairing itself. It has to be. There is a constant need to filter our blood, repackage nutrients, and mark things for delivery or removal. Toxins run through that organ at an insane rate. Despite the liver’s superhuman abilities, there is still wear and tear, fat build up, and shortcuts to protect itself. Fasts let it heal more fully. Water fasts are also very good at flushing out the kidneys.
Mood – Hormone regulation is another process that can use a break from the constant barrage of metabolism. You may feel moody, depressed, irritable, and low at first, but fasts improve anxiety and stress long term for more well-being. They also help with that self-control mentioned earlier, which can aid anger management and impulses.
Sleep – Many of us struggle to get a good night in or have trouble getting up in the mornings. Many fasters report better sleep during and after a fast.
Why a Longer Fast?
Three to seven days of fasting sounds extreme, but when you weigh in all the benefits above, it becomes worthwhile. We here at Ujido chose to do a longer five-day fast partly for a larger, prolonged effect on our weight and health, but also partly for the ratio of good days to bad days.
The first couple days of a water fast aren’t great. You’re hungry, moody, focused on food, and spacy. Once ketosis kicks in, you get a boost of energy, your mind clears, and you can even exercise. Those fat stores are no joke. A five or seven-day fast results in more time in ketosis versus time suffering through the transition.
What Fast is Ujido Doing?
Every type of fast and subtype comes with rules. These rules were all made up by someone at some point, making them more subjective than they seem. So, we made up our own.
We chose to do a water fast that includes water of course, herbal teas with zero calorie sweeteners, sparkling waters, Matcha Energy to help us power through the rough first days, broths, one glass of tomato/vegetable juice for electrolytes and vitamins each day, supplements that aid cellular repair and inflammation like ginger, and the occasional pickle spear to feel alive. We also allowed a small amount of vices, like coffee and soda for those who would have had major headaches and withdrawals, as long as these were zero to a few calories.
We started the fast with a normal, sensible meal. Going big beforehand is a mistake. Loading up before a fast just means ketosis is delayed longer which prolongs the suffering. Overeating in anticipation of a fast is also the reason many people experience diarrhea the first couple days.
A light dinner is a good choice as your last meal. Then you sleep a good chunk of the misery away. Dig into the options above in the morning, but try not to go overboard with anything that includes calories, like that tomato juice. Too many calories and carbs will also keep you from getting into that fat-burning, energized zone you want to be in for as long as possible. We like the tomato juice for dinner. It feels more like food, and can be heated up with herbs for a warming soup.
Try not to do anything big or strenuous the first two days. Wait for the transition to fat to occur before hitting the gym, going hiking, biking, or doing much of anything. Your cells are depleting glycogen, so your muscles will feel slow and heavy at first.
End the fast with a light meal. You’ll be tempted to eat a ton, but this is another mistake that will end in diarrhea and regaining lost weight.
Who Shouldn’t Fast?
Everyone should consult their medical professionals before attempting a fast of any kind, especially a longer water fast. Don’t attempt a fast longer than seven days without direct medical supervision. It is wise to start with a 12 hour fast and move up to longer fasts as you grow more accustomed to them, spacing each one out. Longer fasts shouldn’t be done in succession. We do them quarterly at Ujido.
There are also people who shouldn’t attempt a fast at all. Diabetics, pregnant or nursing women, and people with severe illnesses that could be complicated by a lack of nutrients should not fast. People who operate heavy machinery or perform surgeries should also not do so the first few days of a fast. And people who do not have the fat stores to sustain them should not attempt fasts.