By: Lucas Meadowcroft – CVO
There’s plenty of evidence to suggest fasting is important in increasing longevity but the main purpose for myself is peak performance. The two main reasons for initially exploring this health route was to clean my gut and clear my mind. For years, I’ve had gut issues and sensitivity to food and drink. I also get foggy mind when I don’t look after my myself, when it comes to eating the right foods or drinking too much alcohol. So after many months of researching and speaking to experts, I decided to try fasting and I’ve been doing it since 2016
There are many types of fasting. I have focused on Intermittent, water and partial.
- Water fasting: Involves drinking only water for a set amount of time.
- Juice fasting: also known as juice cleansing, entails consuming only fruits and vegetable juices while abstaining from solid consumption.
- Intermittent fasting: Intake is partially or completely restricted from a few hours to a few days at a time and normal diet is resumed on other days.
- Partial fasting: Certain foods or drinks such as processed foods, animal products, or caffeine are eliminated from the diet for a set period.
- Calorie restriction: Calories are restricted for a few days every week.
Before I get into how fasting has benefited me, I should also mention that fasting isn’t for everyone. Throughout my research over the years, fasting may not be right for everyone despite the long list of possible health benefits associated with it. For instance, if you suffer from diabetes or low blood sugar, fasting can lead to spikes and crashes in your blood sugar levels, which could be dangerous. I have also read that it’s not recommended if you are young or old. If you decide to try fasting, be sure to stay well-hydrated and eat healthy during your eating periods to maximize the potential health benefits. Additionally, if you are fasting for longer periods, try to minimize intense physical activity, and get plenty of rest. Trust me, I have experienced the side effects of not following these guidelines and it’s not fun.
Cleanse the gut
I’ve always had gut issues from an early age. If I was to drink chocolate or strawberry milk or eat spicy food, I would need to go to the bathroom not too long after. Actually, if I was to drink an iced coffee, wow, I would need to run to the bathroom straight away. I also used to have really bad, stinky farts. These are all related. I never realised this until later in life that it was the combination of spicy foods, coffee, or milk that would set me off. For many years, I would be on the road having “coffee meetings” 5-7 times a day and I guess my body has built some resistance as it was only until the end of 2015 that I had to have all these meetings in a day. I ended up needing to see a naturopath to get tested on what was causing all my gut issues. It came to light that I was actually lactose intolerant and when mixing caffeine and milk together, it would surely set me off. On top of this, I found that if I consume anything that would release endorphins such as spicy food, would put me into the “runners high” state which means I need to find a bathroom quickly! Amazing feeling but not so good for the bathroom habits.
I quit caffeine and switched to decaf coffee only to realise 6 months later that decaf is actually really bad for you as it’s full of chemicals so I quit coffee completely on July 1st 2016. Since then, I have become addicted to tea but it doesn’t seem to affect me but maybe that’s cause I drink it straight, black, no milk. Either way my gut is so much better than it was when I was having my coffee meetings.
Alcohol still affects me. If I drink any type of alcohol and get up the next morning for a run, I will need to ensure there is a bathroom en-route as I know I will need to have a stop off between the 5k-10k mark. Back in 2015, I had to quit booze for 6 weeks during marathon training just to ensure I didn’t have to stop off during the race. I never really put 2 and 2 together back then re my gut health.
I have also always noticed that if I eat the wrong foods, like spicy food as I love it, my body wants to shutdown to process this. I get very tired and just want to lie down. It’s always the case right, you can’t have what you want. A healthy gut means you shouldn’t feel tied or want to lie down for up to 3 hours past your meal. For years, I would get tired quite often and even remember the lunchtime nap to be very common in the workplace. This can’t be normal, I thought to myself and only after years of just dealing with it, I thought I better look into how to fix this problem. If you look up on how to solve this issue, these are the 7 suggestions, as you can see a lot of what I had experienced tick these boxes, so I knew I had to change something.
- Eat a balanced diet
- Get regular exercise
- Drink more water
- Cut down on caffeine
- Get good sleep
- Ditch the alcohol
- Address allergies
Clear the mind and improve peak performance
After getting into business, more directly entrepreneurship, I found I was drawn to reading Tim Ferriss’s articles and books. I soon learned that he is the king when it comes to peak performance and achieving more with less, life hacking, lifestyle design, working smarter rather than harder. The 4-hour workweek and 4-hour body are two of my favourites books he has written. You can learn more about Tim here: https://tim.blog/
So how does fasting help to clear the mind!? A great outcome for fasting is Ketosis which is a natural state for the body, when it is almost completely fuelled by fat. Ketosis has many potential benefits, related to rapid weight loss, health and performance. There are many benefits of ketosis by giving your body and brain an almost unlimited supply of energy, you can increase your mental and physical endurance. Ketosis is a 100% natural state, under full control by the body.
In my eyes, the most amazing benefit of fasting stems from the activation of autophagy, a cellular cleansing process. One of the pioneers of research into autophagy was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize for Medicine in growing recognition of this major pathway of fighting disease. Essentially, this is the body’s mechanism of getting rid of all the broken down old cells and recycle with new components of cells, speeding up the process of what was already inevitable, all cells die. The quicker you can get new cells, the sharper mental clarity you will obtain.
In my previous experiences with fasting, both the 3day and 5day fast, mental clarity is just insane. It’s one of those thing that’s super hard to explain until you experience it yourself. Everything is just super clear and it’s like you have an out of body experience where your mind is working faster than your body can keep up. After a few fasts now, it’s addictive where your looking forward to the next quarter fast to just get this experience again.
16/8 intermittent fasting involves eating only during an 8-hour window and fasting for the remaining 16 hours. For example, I’ll finish eating dinner at 8pm and won’t eat again until 12pm the next day. This will improve blood sugar, brain function, and longevity. I have done this now since 2018 with the occasion of weekend breakfasts/brunches but during the week I have kept it pretty consistent.
Now to move from the 16/8 Intermittent fasting over to the 18/6 fasting, giving an extra 2 hours of fasting each day, giving yourself a 6-hour eating window rather than 8 hours.
Scientific benefits of fasting
So now to some of the facts, scientific research, that has proven the benefits of fasting short term and long term;
- Promotes blood sugar control by reducing insulin resistance which has proven to reduce the risk of getting diabetes
- Fights inflammation which may be involved in the development of chronic conditions, such as heart disease, cancer and rheumatoid arthritis
- Improves the health of your heart which causes 30% of all death’s globally due to heart disease and heart attacks
- Boosts brain function by introducing fasting into your lifestyle for more than 12 months has a positive effect on increasing your brain function and brain structure and aid in preventing neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s
- The most common benefit your all thinking is the main reason for fasting is Weight Loss. Some research has also found that short-term fasting may boost metabolism by increasing levels of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which could enhance weight loss long term.
- Increases the body’s human growth hormone (HGH) which is the key hormone involved in growth, metabolism, weight loss and muscle strength
- Delay aging and extend the longevity of life. This is still only proven in animals due to waiting 90+ years to know if the science is proven to be positive
- Preventing cancer or provide a more speedy recovery is still not known 100% but all signs have shown that if you have cancer fasting can block tumor development and increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy