Written by Austin Harrington
Editing by Sam Warner
Editing & Production by April Jane Harrington

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(Prelude)

Attitude of Gratitude

Let’s gooooo I’m so grateful for this platform and the ability to share the habits, routines, and against-the-grain approach that have made my life do a 180-degree turn from where I was in college. This is going to be a place of positivity, and a lifelong pursuit of personal growth. It really bothers me when people try to force their views or lifestyle onto someone; my ambition is to be the opposite of that guy. My personal goal is to shine a positive and inspirational light on the world around me, not to try to persuade or tell you how to live your life. So take what you can away from my insights; my hope is that you can add and adjust bits and pieces to form your own method!

Tim Ferris says he writes his posts as if he was talking to his best friends, and that is the basic inspiration for this platform; my brain wanting to get this information out to my buddies. I will be writing as if I’m talking with a best friend to ideally present the information clearly, relatable, and actually adoptable by the general person. Because seriously, how many multi-millionaires with private chefs and personal trainers will end up reading to this.

I do not have a PhD in nutrition, fasting, or fitness; I am an experimenter and will be presenting the experiences that have worked in my life. Most of the information to come is from my relentless studying of top doctors, personalities, and athletes – primarily through books, audiobooks, podcasts, ted talks, articles, and classic online digging. I do take pride in being able to sift through information to find what I believe to be credible and true, and I have always been a strong believer in following the beliefs and teachings of the people that you want to be like. In my opinion, the ideal learning approach is through someone with real-world personal experience, and a mountain of science backing it up.

Robin Sharma says it best, “Limitation is nothing more than a mentality that too many good people practice daily until they believe its reality of the world.” Form your own reality, dream big, and make an impact. Our world needs more daily heroes, be one for somebody.

Article #1

Intermittent Fasting & Fasting

“A sane man in an insane world is always considered crazy”

Here’s the rub

I had to choke down breakfast for 22 years. Unfortunately, all I had ever heard was that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Authority figures would say:

You need to spark your metabolism to burn calories!

You’ll have no energy without breakfast!

You must eat every 3 hours!

Okay I get it Coach, so why was I never hungry in the morning? Why did I feel sluggish and tired after I ate? Why did I always have an extra layer of fat in all my years of athletics? I understand not eating breakfast may go against everything you’ve learned about nutrition from your parents, trainers, teachers, ect. However, I believe if you have an open mind the principles and experiences to follow will start to make sense, and are backed by some extensive scientific data.

Before we get into the what, why, and when, of intermittent fasting & fasting, let’s look at the reason why most of society hasn’t been taught about fasting yet. The answer to that question is of course, as is the answer to most things, money. In fact, not just some cash, but billions and billions and billions of dollars a year. I mean the snack industry alone is projected to do $630 billion next year (2020)1. Large multibillion-dollar food corporations and government agencies have pounded into the general public’s head they need to eat breakfast and five to six meals a day. But let’s be honest, it’s not because they care about your health and wellness, it’s because of the bling. During my last physical, my doctor noted I am very healthy and asked if I workout and eat well. I said I am very active and try to eat healthy, but I’ve also been doing intermittent fasting for the last three years. She replied with, “Wow, that’s awesome. It’s really too bad that in the 1980s, major cereal companies pushed the agenda that eating breakfast is important for your health. It doesn’t make sense and if you aren’t hungry, don’t eat.” That was SO refreshing to hear in person, and of course I agree Doc. Most experts I have studied agree as well, specifically Brad Pilon. Pilon is one of the original fasting pioneers, he says, “It was in the early 1980s that food companies had no choice but to attempt to change the way we eat, as they were faced with stockholder demands for higher short term returns on investments”17. So to keep it brief, how do a select group of people change the way entire countries eat? Enormous amounts of money to fund research supporting only the health benefits they are looking for. Money is “donated” by a food company with the expectation the company can make a marketing claim from it. If so-called research says it is healthy then it will undoubtedly sell better. Health expert Marion Nestle says, “The real reason for health claims is well established, health claims sell food products.” I think we all understand how lucrative the newest health product or supplement can be for a business. It is unbelievable to me that marketing and business interests have framed the way we think about nutrition, not the actual scientific nutritional information. To say it simply, Pilon says, “To be clear, our entire style of eating in North America has been molded toward the interests of major food companies”17.

Corporations, fast food restaurants, and medicinal companies all make money off you eating food, being overweight, and getting sick. It’s a cycle of consume food, gain weight, get an illness or disease from it, see the doctor, take medicine, hopefully get better, repeat. I’m not saying all disease and sickness are caused from food, but let’s look at our habits, eating style, and the processed “food” being digested by our bodies before popping the 5th pill of the day. There is a term that I have recently heard a lot about, and I’m assuming is new to you: Integrative Medicine. This is the process of doctors prescribing changes in dietary habits and lifestyle to heal the body, most frequently to aid in traditional medicine. It is becoming more popular each day and is now taught at nearly 70% of all Medical Schools and Universities across the country2 — But integrative medicine is a subject for a different day.

So, if the world was to start fasting and eating 2 meals a day opposed to the 5 that most people do now, that might become a problem for these food companies right? Why would any business or investor support, fund, and market science that influences people to stop eating? Simply put, that’s bad business. No businessman makes money off you eating less, they need you to consume, and they need you to consume a lot. I could go into detail and spend all day citing statements about the food industry skewing research to help market their products, but I prefer to focus on the positive. Let’s leave the past in the past, and focus on what we can do moving forward to make our world a healthier place. As you will see in this article, the science sure doesn’t seem to support eating constantly, and neither do any of my personal experiences. I will have no monetary benefit from you fasting or not. I have no skin in the game, nothing to gain other than the satisfaction of knowing you feel better; I am just here to help.

Game Changer

Intermittent Fasting (IF) has absolutely changed my life. I would have never believed that something I considered as a new diet would have unthinkable life changing benefits, both mentally and physically. I now have incredible amounts of energy, focus, and mental clarity, as well as clearer skin, less body fat, increased lean muscle mass, and an overall physical health that I previously never thought possible. Food used to control my mood and life, but after implementing IF and fasting in general, I am not a slave to my hunger hormones. Truthfully, I am a much better version of myself when I am in a fasted state.

Intermittent periods of fasting is not a new health and wellness strategy, and is most certainly not the next restrictive eating plan, fad diet, or juice cleanse. It has been around since the beginning of time; unfortunately a lot of wealthy people and organizations have been trying very hard to keep you from realizing it. Fasting is an ancient method of cleaning the body and mind. For example, read any religious text or book written before 1900 and fasting will be a part of it (okay Jimmy you are right, not every single book made, but you get the point). Seriously not some new craze – simply getting back to the basics, the way I believe we were meant to eat.

On the average day, I start with my morning routine; water instantly, pliability session, reflection, gratitude, and then head to the gym for an intense physical workout. Generally this all happens before 7 am, with no food in my stomach, and I will continue on after without eating a single thing. I will drink at least 100 ounces of water, about 9 glasses for reference, and one amazing hot cup of black coffee before I eat any food. I will enjoy my first meal sometime in the afternoon. I will then continue to eat the most nutritious food I am able to find or afford until 7 or 8 pm. I repeat this cycle for 6 days of the week with exception to one day, where I will abstain from food the entire day.

You see, my body runs differently than yours. Tomorrow, if you were to do this eating style that I live every day, you would be irritated, tired, most likely have a headache, potentially feel sick, and your body may break down. This is because you would have no gas (food) in the tank. Imagine your body as a car. You drive around and complete your daily tasks, stopping for gas (food) to power you through your day right? Some people run on the best premium fuel (nutritious food) out there, and others run on whatever fuel is easiest and most convenient (processed fake food) like I did for many years. But the thing is, I don’t run on gas anymore, I sold that life and traded it in, deciding to become a battery-powered vehicle. You can’t just flip the switch, but after a few weeks and months of adjustment, you can absolutely change the way your beautiful car runs, and it won’t cost you $50,000. I will explain the science on how it works and the way to adopt it below, but understand my body runs on battery (fats and ketones) – a much more sustainable and consistent form of fuel, opposed to on gas (glucose; constant food – most commonly carbohydrates and sugar) a more mainstream source in our society today. For 22 years of my life my fuel source was gas. I was always up and down mentally – a rush of energy then a crash, never looked how I wanted to – the list goes on and on. I began intermittent fasting and fasting 3 years ago, and I will be doing it for the rest of my life.

Lifestyle

Intermittent fasting and fasting is one of the six pillars of my holistic Health and Wellness approach. The rest of the pillars will be coming in individual posts in the time to follow. If you are a ‘why’ person, and need to know the exact science, like myself, I have added 41 sources below of my favorite articles, podcasts, and books that will explain everything I don’t cover in this post. Again, I feel the need to mention that I am just the median and experimenter between the people who have actually done research and you wonderful people. Before adopting any principles to follow, please do your research, listen to your mind and body, and it never hurts to consult a doctor.

Life is never perfect, and I think we shouldn’t  try to make it that way. I of course will still have the occasional cheat meal, eat poorly, or give in to that annoying hunger hormone. Yes, I am undoubtedly in the best shape of my entire life, but at times will still divert to my occasional sweet tooth weakness (donuts are so good, I mean seriously), and I like to savor a tasty meal with family and friends. That is one of the beautiful things about IF; it is not restrictive, leaving you feeling constantly unsatisfied. I personally like the feeling of being full and totally satiated after a meal. Enjoying the life you are given is kind of the point right? Who really wants to live their entire life on a diet plan? That just doesn’t seem sustainable for daily enjoyment and long-term adoptability, at least not for me. The life and habits I have adopted may sound insane, but they are the reason I feel so amazing and enjoy my life. It is how I believe we were intended to live.

Before you completely push away the idea of fasting, thinking you could never do it, understand that you are tougher, and smarter than you know. Your connection with food is so much more emotional than out of necessity. The hunger you feel every day comes from habit and hormones, not starvation. You have learned your eating habits through social cues, routines, and environmental adaptations; it’s called food entrainment. Your body’s hormones and insulin levels expect food at certain times of the day based off cues in your daily life, dating all the way back to your childhood. But your body does not have to control your mind; it is so much easier to simply choose to stop eating for a period, instead of consistently having to make healthy choices all the time. You simply live in two different states, fed or fasted. The people I have introduced to fasting say that feeling free from constantly needing to consume something to live, is one of their favorite benefits of fasting. I think it is important to note that over the last three years, out of my 10 best friends on this earth, the ones who I pester about IF and talk through my exciting findings with, 8 out of those 10 people are now daily intermittent fasters, and most will be for life.

The benefits of Intermittent Fasting and Fasting

  • Fits my lifestyle and daily routine
  • Increased energy, alertness, and mental clarity
  • Burns body-fat for energy during fasting period
  • Shorter eating period makes maintaining a calorie deficit more attainable (if goal is to lose weight)
  • Protects lean muscle mass
  • Increases growth hormone and testosterone production
  • Decreases inflammation in the body
  • Increases lifespan (autophagy – cell cleaning & apoptosis – programmed cell death)
  • Aids in cancer prevention and preventing diseases – Alzheimer’s for example (autophagy & apoptosis)
  • Increases brain health- reduces oxidative stress, inflammation, blood sugar levels, and protects brain and memory function

Before we dig into the science, it’s imperative to note that although Intermittent Fasting is a great tool to lose body fat, it is not the only thing that matters. Burning body fat is only a bi-product of why I fast, but if your main goal is to get shredded, proper nutrition and resistance/weight training is essential. Poor nutritional choices and overeating (consuming food at a calorie surplus) will make it nearly impossible to enjoy a healthy life. Again, IF can be an awesome tool for you when it comes to burning fat, but you can’t eat whatever you want.  

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting or time restricted eating is not a diet; it’s a pattern of eating. For myself, it’s fasting for a 16-22 hour period from when I last ate, and then eating in a 2-8 hour time frame. On the average night, it starts at 8:00pm and goes until the afternoon the next day (ranging from 12:00pm to 6:00pm). It varies depending on the day, as it does not need to be ultra-strict or ridged. Ideally it’s a way of life, not a diet that needs to be monitored down to the minute. There are many ways to intermittent fast, the most popular being 16:8 (fast for 16 hours and eat for 8 hours), for some it may be 12:12, but for experienced fasters it is usually 20:4, one meal a day (OMAD), or even alternate-day fasting. Personally, a 16-20 hour fasting window is what works best for my lifestyle, as I am pursuing peak performance as an athlete and am not able to consume the calories my body needs in one meal. IF does not have to be a calorie restrictive diet. Yes, you will probably eat less food because you are eating fewer meals, but based off your health, fitness, and athletic goals, you may need to eat more during your shortened block of eating. For myself, when it’s feeding time it is time to EAT UP. Of course there is no need to binge eat, just ensure you are consuming the proper nutrition, vitamins, minerals, and calories your body needs.

We are simply eating in a shortened hour block and fasting for a longer period. Please note that yes, of course sleeping counts as fasting time. Also, you don’t have to skip breakfast; the time frame of a fast can vary by each individual. If you would prefer to skip dinner that’s great, the schedule of fasting is flexible. There is no correct way to do intermittent fasting; all we have is guidelines and experiences to help you decide what works best for you! I personally enjoy fasting in the morning because I am the most productive and feel the best when in the fasted state.

If a long fasting block just won’t work for you, I would suggest doing a minimum time-restricted eating block of 12 hours. Do your body a favor by giving it at least 12 hours without food to recover and reset. Any type of time-restricted eating is better than random eating, as studies in both mice and humans are proving this. Dr. Patrick PhD says, “By simply restricting food intake to 9-12 hours in a day, you may have a number of metabolic benefits like improved glucose metabolism, improved cholesterol, increased lean muscle mass, decreased fat mass, favorable gene expression patterns, and more.”11 All these benefits come from the timing of your meals while following the exact same diet! The constant around-the-clock consumption becomes strenuous on your digestive system, and takes away from all the other wonderful restorative functions your body can do. “The latest research says that eating every 3-4 hours sets us up for not only exhaustion and premature aging, but also less fat burning”6. It takes about 6 hours to fully digest food, which requires a ton of time and energy from your body. If not working on food, that energy could be used to clean up your cells. There are some incredible trials coming out of Dr. Ruth Patterson’s research group. “Woman who fast for just 13 hours overnight are protecting themselves from breast cancer. They had a 36% less chance of getting cancer”11. Similarly, studies in mice at the Salk Institute found that, “mice that ate on TRE weighed 28% less than mice eating on the exact same diet; the mice on a restricted window of eating additionally had zero health issues”18. Again, I will dig into all the science below, just understand I believe it is important to give your body a break when you can. It goes back to the breakfast talk: of course the actual word “breakfast” is meant for break-fast, but if no one in our western society is actually fasting anymore, can we still call eating right away in the morning breakfast? Or is it just another snack. Anyway, it’s not important to get technical about defining definitions; it’s just something to think about.

Adoptability

When you are starting out I’d recommend trying to do 12 hours or 13 hours the first week. Small improvements and changes over time lead to success, you don’t just jump in and become a master. You may experience some headaches, loss of energy, or uncomfortable hunger pains when beginning. This is due to low blood sugar, blood glucose levels, and insulin spikes when your body expects food. These side effects will be the strongest the first few days but will eventually fade away. Drink a ton of water; it’s vital to be hydrated. You can increase potassium and vitamins to your food when you eat, and add electrolytes to your water to ease the transition. As you change from constantly being in the fed state to training your body to function by burning fat as fuel, it really does take some time to make that adjustment. I think you will find that most of your hunger is out of thirst, boredom, or routine, but I know that doesn’t make it any easier to change. Try and stay busy when fasting. Do your most important tasks in the morning fasting window to avoid fixating on your cravings and irritability. Business mogul and former monk Robin Sharma says, “All change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and beautiful in the end.” For some it may be a tough adjustment due to the habits and routines you’ve ingrained your entire life, so celebrate each fast as a miniature victory. Each time you successfully complete a fast, you positively reinforce your identity of being healthy and in control of your body. Enjoy it – that is something to be proud of!

Some of you may be thinking about weekends and how it may be unrealistic to sustain this lifestyle when going out with friends, or enjoying entertaining events outside of your routine. If you miss a day of intermittent fasting for a fun brunch or to go out drinking with friends, that is okay! We all need an escape and a cheat meal or night out. It doesn’t ruin all you have worked for, simply start again tomorrow. Remember it’s not super restrictive, we are pursuing freedom and enjoyment in our health. In my opinion it is all about a life of freedom, and is just like nutrition, business, relationships, and life — you will get out of it what you put in.

It’s significant to mention that although men and women will both reap the amazing benefits previously mentioned from fasting, there are some obvious metabolic and physiological differences between the two genders. When it comes to fasting, it has been proven that woman actually release more fat during a fast, thus having an increased capacity to burn fat as fuel, and having more protective metabolic benefits than men17. When it comes to hormones, a vital part of our bodies function, woman’s hormones are less stable than men. This is due to the timing and sequence of their menstrual cycle. Being in long periods of calorie restriction, long fasts of over 24 hours, or having significantly low body fat may have negative effects on a woman’s menstrual function. If you are looking to get pregnant then extended periods of fasting may not be for you. If you are a healthy active woman I still recommend the simple 12-16 hour breaks from food, but maybe not a 36 hour fasting period. Furthermore, if you are currently pregnant please abstain from fasting. Your body, along with the growing baby inside of it, needs all of the nutrients and healthy calories available. It’s important to use common sense – if you are already a very active woman, then excessive dieting, eating a low calorie diet, and long periods of fasting may not be in your benefit.

Liquids during fasted state

This obviously means no food is allowed during the fasting period. We may only consume a cup or two of black coffee, or green tea. Be careful though because excess caffeine can take you out of the fasted state; if you are pounding 6 cups of coffee, some experts will argue you may not actually be fasting. No cream or sugar can be added to the coffee, no diet pop or zero-calorie energy drinks, and yes, that also means no pre-workout supplements for my fitness enthusiasts. The reason we can’t have any supplements or calories is because it triggers your digestive and immune system, taking you out of the fasted state. Once you have digested more than 25-50 calories, or any zero-calorie drinks that contain added ingredients, like aspartame for example, the process stops working. I think it goes without saying, but this also means no alcohol during the fasting period.

Liquid List

  • Water & water with electrolytes (allowed and necessary AMAP)
  • Green tea (allowed)
  • Black Coffee (allowed)
  • Sparkling water without coloring or sweeteners (allowed)
  • Apple cider vinegar (allowed but conflicting studies I don’t recommend)
  • Coconut oil (NOT allowed, but conflicting studies)
  • Milk, cream, and sugar (NOT allowed)
  • Bulletproof coffee (NOT allowed)
  • Pre workout powders and beverages (NOT allowed)
  • Coconut water (NOT allowed)
  • Bone broth (NOT allowed)
  • Diet/zero calorie soda (NOT allowed)
  • Alcohol (NOT allowed)
  • Unsweetened almond milk (NOT allowed)
  • Apple, Orange, or other juices (NOT allowed)
  • Gum (Has certain ingredients that are NOT allowed)

The Science

“Your body’s ability to heal is greater than anyone has permitted you to believe”

I’m now going to dive into how fasting works internally in your body. Again, if you need to know the exact scientific process, hit the links below! Your body is always in one of two states- fed or fasting. When your body is in a fed state it is eating, digesting, and storing food; otherwise known as the growth phase. This state generally lasts 3-5 hours. The post fed state lasts about 8-11 hours, and for most people this happens when they are sleeping. After 11-hours or so of no food is when our bodies transition into a fasted state. The fasted state is when you are not digesting food and burning calories. This is otherwise known as the repair phase. It is much easier to burn fat in the fasted state because insulin levels are low. Most people, unfortunately, never enter this fasted state and it’s hard to burn fat in a constantly fed state because of the high insulin levels. When you eat food, especially sugar or carbs, it is digested into glucose and spikes your blood sugar. Your body works to restore blood sugar balance with insulin. Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas, which works on the glucose in your bloodstream. Basically, as more insulin circulates in your bloodstream, more calories are stored6. There is no fat burning when insulin is present. Not only do variations in blood sugar and high insulin levels not allow you to burn fat for energy, they leave you feeling hungry, weak, lightheaded, and anxious6. Do you know that feeling? I have experienced it too many times. This consistent fed state and presence of insulin is why people who keep the same diet, but adapt intermittent fasting, burn body fat at a quicker rate.

Once we reach the 11-13 hour mark, our bodies enter the fasted state and begin to burn fat for energy. Principally, instead of using the food we would eat in the morning for energy, we are using our fat instead. Our bodies begin to engage in this process of basically utilizing itself for energy. Dr. Luiza Petre says, “When your body is using fat for energy, it is slowly digested and given to the liver for processing (ketones). It can then be utilized for energy, which means more energy, higher cognitive function, and concentration levels.”3 If we don’t have a fuel source, our bodies turn to itself to continue to run. This self-fat burning for fuel is a much slower and consistent process than a quick hit of blood sugar and energy, the process mentioned above when food is digested. Think back to my car metaphor – it’s the battery source instead of gas. But don’t we need to eat more often to spark our metabolism? It is true that you will burn more calories by eating, but it is such a small amount that it makes no sense to eat more to do so. It goes back to the food companies and clever marketing – if you eat a 200-calorie meal, sure your body may burn about 10-20 calories through the entire digestive process of that meal. So great, you burned 20 calories, but you just ate 200 calories, which adds 180 extra calories to your daily intake. Not only that, but you just made your eating window larger and lost the benefits of fasting.

One of the main reasons people fast is to lose weight, but not for me. Sure I enjoy seeing my abs and feeling confident in my own skin, but burning fat is simply a bi-product of the goal of IF & fasting. The biggest reason I fast is because of Autophagy. Autophagy is what aids in preventing disease like cancer and Alzheimer’s, slowing the aging process, and elongating lifespan. “Intermittent fasting aids autophagy, a cell-based self-cleaning function that tears down and recycles molecules that are damaged”4. Essentially, instead of your digestive system working on food in the morning, it works on your cells and cleans/restores them. Its removing the molecular garbage in your cells, usually damaged proteins. Dr. Colin Champ explains it like this, “Think of it as our body’s innate recycling program, your cells create membranes that hunt out scraps of dead, diseased, or worn-out cells; gobble them up; strip ’em for parts; and use the resulting molecules for energy or to make new cell parts”5. Instead of the body constantly having to break down food, with fasting it is finally giving it time to work on itself. “Autophagy makes us more efficient machines to get rid of faulty parts, stop cancerous growths, and stop metabolic dysfunction like obesity and diabetes”5. It really is an amazing procedure that takes place in our bodies. But it’s not just about the body, the process of ketone production is a great energy source for the brain. Fasting helps your brain grow and strengthen neurons that work to improve learning and memory function. This is one of the reasons why I feel sharper and focused when I am deep into a fasting period. It disappoints me to think that for 22 years of my life, I rarely gave my body the opportunity to work on itself.

Longevity

One of my favorites, Dr. Valter Longo PhD, is a professor at USC with a focus on aging and is one of today’s top fasting experts. He is the author of the book The Longevity Diet and uses a great analogy in the book. Like my first comparison, he relates our body to a car, whatever beautiful car you want to be. You can take care of your car; consistently providing it with the top oil and maintenance procedures possible, just like feeding our bodies the best antioxidants, nutrients, and food. But eventually, the engine is going to fail right? It’s inevitable – the better you take care of it the longer it will last, but what if instead of consistently trying to improve the parts, every few years you swapped them out for new parts? Rather than always adding to the engine and parts, we could recycle and add in brand new ones? That’s what this process of fasting does for our bodies. When we continue to stay in a fasted state our bodies start to clean out its bad parts. Sure, even with a newer engine the vehicle will eventually die, but it would last so much longer than a car that is constantly just fixing and trying to repair its engine, like people do with trendy diets or insane juice cleanses. Fasting gets our bodies back to a natural state. Insane right! This process of autophagy starts around the 12-16 hour mark after your last meal, and continues to grow stronger as you remain fasted and do not digest food.

Now, just because you did a 14-hour fast doesn’t mean you cleansed all the cells in your body. When it comes to autophagy, I like to think of it as a comparison between your living room carpet and stages of autophagy. (If you can’t tell by now I’m a big analogy guy). If you were to do a 12-hour fast, that is comparable to simply not spilling or staining your carpet. It’s making sure no damage happens. If you were to do a 16-hour fast, it may be like doing a super quick vacuum session. A quick vacuum session every day could help keep the carpet clean. A 24-hour fast would be similar to an extensive vacuum session, maybe even adding a little stain remover. It would be a focused clean. Finally, and by far the most effective, a 4-day water-only fast would be similar to hiring a carpet cleaning company. Something you may do once a year to make sure you have the best and cleanest carpet around. These aren’t exact, and it may vary by person or stage of life, but you get the idea. You get out of it what you put in, and all improvements make a positive impact!

Strength Training and the Athlete

If you are a serious athlete and seeking peak performance in your respective sport, please listen to your trainer, coach, or nutritionist. There have not been enough studies with fasting and peak athletic performance in humans, so please consult your trainer before adopting any of these methods. That being said, let’s quickly put to bed the myth about losing muscle when fasting, because I am stronger than now than all my years on the football field. For the last week, I have been using an InBody 270 to test my body percentages at my local Lifetime Fitness. The InBody uses a form of bioelectrical impedance analysis, not a perfectly exact form of testing like hydrostatic weighing or a bod pod may be, but it should give us a good idea. I used it every day for a week in order to get a consistent reading of my body fat and muscle mass percentages. My average reading was 88.4 pounds of muscle mass on my 172.4 pound body. According to the national institute of health, the average male with a sedentary lifestyle has about 33% muscle mass, the average active healthy male has about 40% skeletal muscle mass, and anything over 44% is considered extremely high, typical of competitive weight lifters and athletes. My average percentage of skeletal muscle mass was 51.2%. I am not the poster of fitness or the model of a perfect body, but I do consider myself a walking example that you are able to increase muscle gain while fasting. Don’t believe just me, get evidence from the studs I enjoy following. Look into the methods of NFL quarterback Alex Smith, actor/former NFL player Terry Crews, and actor Hugh Jackman. They are all religious intermittent fasters, and I think we can agree that those guys aren’t the smallest people in the gym.

For those of you thinner guys who say to me, “I’m not trying to lose weight bro I need to gain, why would I fast?” I understand that, and you will gain muscle while intermittent fasting if you are resistance training and eating an adequate protein/calorie intake. People with fast metabolisms who have been lean their entire life should still adopt IF. Fasting altars the fuel source your body runs on and helps you produce extra growth hormone and testosterone. The reason you are able to maintain and grow muscle is because your lean muscle mass is protected during fasted periods by the production of growth hormone. Dr. Berg says, “Growth Hormone is the most powerful fat burning hormone to protect muscle mass”9 and that “it will help protect lean muscle mass especially, when you are in the fasted state8. Anti-aging clinics sell growth hormone supplements to older men – they are flying off the shelves. Why not just aid in this production naturally?

Of course there is an important piece to this puzzle; resistance or strength training. Resistance training is the major factor in maintaining and increasing muscle mass. Simply put, you need to continue to lift weight and resistance train to maintain muscle. Brad Pilon states through his studies, “fasting does not cause you to lose muscle mass as long as you are resistance training, in fact, fasting may decrease some metabolic factors that are actually preventing you from building muscle, and with cellular cleansing (autophagy) fasting may perform critical maintenance and clean up work in your muscles that properly prepares it for extra growth. So in the long term, fasting may actually improve your ability to increase muscle mass”17.

Continuing to weight/resistance train is the most important factor when it comes to maintaining skeletal muscle mass. Pairing this with eating an adequate amount of protein/calories during the feeding period will ensure you refuel your body and aid in muscle growth. The challenge to maintaining or increasing body weight while practicing IF is to eat the same amount of calories that you would when not restricting the timing. You still need to make sure you are eating enough calories, especially protein. Remember, this is not a calorie restrictive diet, especially for an athlete – make sure you are eating. If you’re an athlete or elite trainer on a 4,000 calorie-per-day diet– just be sure to consume all 4,000 calories in that shortened eating block. I actually enjoy this style because I am able to eat more freely and actually feel a sensation of being full, instead of always being restricted to eating small portions. Just do your research and trust me, if you are working out and consistently increasing total volume in your lifts through progressive overload, and eating an adequate number of total calories each week, you will definitely increase strength with intermittent fasting.

The Early Workout Warrior

One thing I was super intrigued by and had to do some serious homework on, is the early heavy lifting workout followed by a fasting block. I wanted to dig into the optimal time to eat or train to maximize muscle gain. As an athlete trying to reach peak performance in a sport, this is important. An Athletic Trainer or Coach may say you need a protein shake or nutritious food immediately after a workout to maximize gainz. Tom Brady is one of my role models and is a huge advocate for a clean, organic shake immediately after workouts. This thought process is shared by almost every other trainer I’ve been around, but in my personal experience and what I am hearing from the people I want to look like, the immediate shake or meal may not be needed. I believe the feeling that we need to eat before or after a workout is far more psychological than physiological. Dr. Berg states the food you eat today isn’t digested and broken down until at least 24 hours after it’s consumed. He says it doesn’t matter when you eat, but that the total calories for the day is all that matters because it won’t be used in your body for at least another day10. Also in Engineering, the Alpha Bornstein says, “Your food doesn’t go directly to your muscles or gut, in fact research is saying a meal comprised of 50 grams of protein takes anywhere from 5 to 50 hours to fully be digested into your body, at 1 to 10 grams per hour based on your genetics, activity level, and health habits”18.The pioneer, Mr. Pilon, also explains this in his book by saying, “In general, it seems to be largely irrelevant whether protein is consumed before, during, or after exercise. Even during the post exercise period, there seems to be very little difference whether protein is consumed immediately or several hours after a workout, because anabolic effects of a workout last at least 24 hours. This is why protein sufficiency, rather than a specific timing of protein intake, seems to be the most important nutritional component of muscle growth”17. Finally, many studies out of Oregon, France, and Southern Italy support the claim that timing of food doesn’t make a difference, it’s the total amount of calories and type of food that matters. I’ll let the experts take that one; I just want to add that my experience in the last few years aids to these research findings.

If you are still concerned about potential missed strength gains, I do know that some people supplement BCAAs or amino acids during their fast to help aid in muscle growth. Terry Crews at times utilizes  this trick, but do note that although this supplementation will probably keep you in fat burning for fuel, it will most likely break the process of autophagy and its restorative functions. You will technically still be fasting, but are the “potential” missed strength gains more valuable than the process of autophagy? You have to decide that for yourself, but when it comes to my body, autophagy will win every time.

Endurance and Performance

Dr. Panda did a study on mice to test this theory of strength and athletic performance with time-restricted eating compared to a normal American diet. They wanted to test if athletic performance or muscle performance would decrease with time-restricted eating. They expected less strength gain in fasted mice, but actually found surprising results, “We realized that their grip strength, which relates to how much a person can lift, stayed the same as a mouse on a non restricted window of eating. But the endurance significantly increased and, in some cases, doubled” 11. Personally, I have noticed this increase in endurance in my workouts. Dr. Patrick states that she has seen this boost of endurance during her cardio sessions. She says she can notice a significant difference in how she feels when running when on a time restricted eating schedule, compared to a non restricted one. There is yet to be a human trial on strength and endurance with fasting, as this benefit has only been proven in mice. It is just a theory for now, and Dr. Panda does not know if human trials are even possible when it comes to athletic peak performance. He says, “There is no way we can do that kind of study in our labs, with subjects who are as competent or athletic as another individual, it would be very difficult”11. Pilon states that he believes athletes who are consistently training or involved in multiple long-period exercises per day should eat to maximize their performance in those tasks. He does state he still believes their bodies don’t need the food for maintain muscle or for physical gains, but that food may increase the athletes actually performance in their sport that day. I believe if you are doing long periods of exercise – like two-a-days in football or extended physical activity – then fasting may not be ideal for playing your best or having the needed energy to compete. However, if you are strength training or doing high intensity circuits under a few hours in duration, then fasting is applicable.

In all honesty, the experts don’t have enough data or trials with this. Like I mentioned earlier, fasting is just making its way back into society. I would be willing to bet very few professional athletes have even attempted fasting because it is so counterintuitive to everything we have been taught in athletics. Again, I am not a certified trainer and I don’t want to negatively affect anyone’s athletic career – listen to your professional specialist as long as you trust them. I just want you to know what feels great in my routine. Some people need to grind through two-a-days or perform in a triathlon – I don’t know what is 100% best for each individual – that’s ultimately up to you.

Back to the basics

Before we get into the 24-hour fast and the 4-day fast (I know it really does sound a bit crazy, I agree), let’s stop for a second and go back to the basics. Whatever ultimate creation or being that made this earth (whether you are religious or not does not matter), put all that we need to survive, in nature. I believe we were meant to live in nature, and you will see this simple nature/evolutionary theme in later posts as well. Dr. Longo says “Fasting, activates coordinated responses that are in tune with evolution, because starvation was encountered by all organisms well before our time. For this reason, it is clearly one of the most powerful interventions we can rediscover, to promote coordinated changes that do not disrupt the harmony of the human body”7. He has committed his life to helping people live longer and believes that fasting can help people live healthy lives well into their 90s and 100s. Why does he believe this? He has seen it firsthand in Ecuador, Southern Italy, and in several other places throughout his ruthless study of centenarians.

Although I love all that huge cities have to offer and understand the brilliant opportunity technology has given us, I don’t believe our society makeup today was the way we were intended to live. I’m not an absolute goofball, I am definitely going to utilize all that technology can do, specifically to help us connect and make life easier and more enjoyable, but I’m not going to base this advanced world on the general principles of my life. Again, let’s look back before technology changed everything. Your average person in the world, or caveman, if that helps you picture this better, would sleep, hunt, eat, and create life. Just like any other animal on the planet. There were just natural breaks from food when hunting or gathering.

Do you think any animal on this earth or past humans had the opportunity to stop at a gas station or convenience store?

Grab a protein bar or eat 6 times a day?

Carry snacks around with them while they completed daily tasks?

It wasn’t an option to stop and grab something quick. Our societal and economic growth has changed this dynamic for us. I have the same viewpoint when it comes to what food to eat. It’s simple, eat real and organic food that came from the earth. My diet is mainly comprised of nuts, fruits, vegetables, some but low carbohydrates, and meat; the main foods I imagine people ate before we colonized our world the way it is today. In my opinion that ho-ho that was made in a lab with 10,000 chemicals shouldn’t be considered food, and the fact that those are marketed and sold as such is silly. Dr. Mark Hyman says that the United States and Syria are the only two countries in the world that do not control marketing of food. There are laws and guidelines in place in all the other countries making it illegal to market and advertise certain foods, especially to children15. This could potentially make it hard to figure out what is actually good to eat right? Anyhooo I am off topic again as the food industry conversation is meant for another article. But the point here is simple; real and natural is the way I look at my life. I try to use this amazing society we live in as a tool instead of buying in to the technology and corporation hypnosis.

I can’t tell you how many times growing up I got angry, impatient, or really quiet because of how hungry I was. I wouldn’t act normal until I ate; similar to what I observe today with many golfers or friends I am around on a day-to-day basis. Countless times, half way through the day, I hear people say they are extremely hungry and need to eat right away, even though they already had breakfast and a snack to that point in the day. Most occasions they mention a headache, stomach pain, or just general fatigue because they haven’t ate in 4 hours. Contrastly, I am fasting all morning, only consuming one cup of black coffee on top of my normal excessive amounts of water with electrolytes for hydration, and generally have consistent energy and focus. I’ll get questions all the time from family and friends along the lines of, “Aren’t you hungry? You haven’t ate anything all day, how do you do that?” One of the main keys to intermittent fasting is freeing yourself from relying on food to live. I’m not telling you to never eat or go play your sport on any empty stomach, I’m encouraging you to understand the value food has for fuel and recovery, don’t let it control the schedule of your day. Let’s redefine our relationship with food, and it’s as simple as living life in the two different states, fed or fasted.

If you’re one of those people who really doesn’t care about disease and simply wants to shred fat and get cut, look better and feel more confident, that’s all good! This information can help you reach those fitness and body goals. If that is the case, I would simply recommend intermittent fasting. Start slow and eventually get to a point in that 16-20 hour fasting window. Once you have adjusted to it, your body will start burning fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates, or other foods, for fuel. Enjoy some freedom from food! For those of you who are like me and are captivated by the chance to prevent chronic disease, create longevity, slow aging, and the potential to cure your own body, lets dive into both the 24-hour fast and 4 day fast.

Fasting

There is another way to quicken this process of autophagy and that is with the full day fast. The 24-hour fast is an excellent way to accelerate autophagy and help reset the immune system to its natural state. It’s not even a full day off from food, it is just 24 hours from when you last ate, usually in my routine its from 7pm to 7 pm the next day. I do a 24-hour fast one time every week, or maybe every other week, depending on my workout schedule. So – how do you actually implement the day-long fast? Pretty simple: Drink water, a ton of water, and then some more water, and continue to go about your life. Get those crazy and goofy looks from friends and co-workers when you tell them what you are doing. For myself, the 24-hour fast is always on a day off from my training program. I still start the fasting day with a quick 30-minute high intensity, low weight workout, followed by a sauna session of at least 15 minutes. This 45-minute routine is to accelerate the process of autophagy, increases growth hormone production, block cortisol (the stress hormone), and release dopamine in my brain so I am ready to attack the day!

Here is the weird thing, not only am I the most productive on this day because my mind is in ultra-focus clarity mode, but by the time it is over I am not hungry. It is bizarre actually, when noon or 1pm rolls around, the time I normally eat, I get hungry for about 10 or 20 minutes because my insulin has spiked and my body expects food. But shortly after that period, I am no longer hungry at all. This happens again around 5 or 6pm, then goes away. Your daily hunger is so much more psychological than physiological. There have been countless studies done showing the similarity between the effects that drugs have on our brain compared to food, especially sugar. The way our brain reacts and release dopamine are staggeringly similar17. You need food to function as much as the gym-goer needs pre workout to lift, as much as the student needs Adderall to study, or as much as the chill guy needs weed to relax. These things may help you mentally, but your body doesn’t need them, you’ve just trained your mind to need it. Of course plenty of people exercise without pre-workout and attend school without Adderall. It’s just been ingrained in our minds at a fundamental level that we need to constantly consume something. I know this is a different style of thinking and of course I want you to continue to eat food, but let’s put our mind in control when it is time to fuel, recover, or enjoy a meal and not solely rely on the body’s hunger pang to decide for us.

I will finish my 24-hour fast with some sort of superfood smoothie with all the vegetables, vitamins, minerals, and nutrients I can get my hands on. I choose that meal because believe it or not, I actually enjoy it and it makes me feel good! If you are able to do a 24-hour fast, treat yourself after. I mean, don’t cram 3,000 calories of whatever you want down your gullet, but enjoy some food that you want to eat! The very first thing you eat should be greens or a food with vitamins and minerals, but after you let that sit for 30-60 minutes, enjoy something you like; you have earned it!

Back to Dr. Valter Longo. I think it’s worth noting that he donated 100% of his profits from the book and never took a salary for his labor. All the funds were donated to research. To me, seems like he just wants to help people… again can we say the same for that multi-billion-dollar food industry? Anyway, throughout his research he has conducted some amazing studies with rats and cancer. They performed trial-runs on rats and mice and analyzed those who fasted during their chemo treatment compared to the ones that didn’t. There were some staggering results; the mice that fasted before and after treatment had abnormal amounts of energy after treatment periods. The rats that were fed during this time were lethargic and sleepy, similar to most human patients receiving chemo. Most impressively, the fasted mice saw their survival rate increase 40% opposed to the ones that were fed. Dr Longo says, “Cancer cells cope badly with being simultaneously poisoned (chemo) and starved (fasting), but normal cells gain protection as fasting closes the pathways that let toxins in”7. After these studies and trials, Dr. Longo and his team shared this research with the public. Without an actual clinical study on humans, people undergoing chemo treatment took it upon themselves and started adopting prolonged fasting; and the results were astounding. Those who fasted during their chemo treatment had a night and day difference in energy a few days after treatment sessions, compared to the average patient. Specifically, a female judge and a male athlete who fasted during treatment were active, working out, and the guy was even running 10 miles a few days after sessions. In majority, people who are fed during chemo treatment are tired and sprawled out on the couch13. About 20% of all cancer deaths are due to the effects of chemo7, thus fasting during chemo could be a major breakthrough to minimize the side effects of treatment. The reasoning behind this difference is due to not only the cells regenerating and cleaning themselves in fasted patients, but also having fewer particles in them.  With their cells being cleaner it made them more available and accepting of the chemo treatment, thus making the cancer treatment more effective. This is less likely to happen when the body is constantly digesting and breaking down food. By the way, the judge and the athlete are now cancer free. There’s that integrative medicine thing again, pretty cool huh?

The Magical 4-day Fast

I understand this sounds crazy to do willingly, but the benefits seem to be just too great to ignore. Remember, a fasting period and starvation is by no means the same thing. Fasting is planned; it is abstaining from food for a short duration of time to reap the mental and physical benefits. Starvation is being restricted and unable to receive the proper nutrients or calories for extended periods of time, like months and sadly in some countries, years. There is no need to freak out; you will not lose all of your muscle, you will not be in a starving state, you will not be on your deathbed.

It may not be easy to do an extended fast in your daily routine, but what about during times of travel or rest periods from our busy lives? I am yet to do a 4-day fast personally but will be doing one soon here in june (2019). I am working with the lead trainer at my local Lifetime fitness club, as well as pursuing options at the mayo clinic in order to get everything tested before and after my fast. Im looking to test metrics like blood glucose levels, fat percentage, ketone levels, growth hormone, ect. The longest fast I have done to this date is 44 hours and I felt great after. This only excites me more to see the benefits of a full 4-day fast, it just hasn’t seemed to work yet with my workout and golfing schedule, as obviously swinging the golf club doesn’t sound ideal on day 3 of zero food in my body. If anyone wants to do this with me, please reach out. There is obviously no requirement to get tested. I would love to get a group together to hold each other accountable; accountability partners can be a powerful tool!

Again, the 4-day fast is simple. Drink water and drink a lot of it. One of the critical benefits this longer fast brings is a program called apoptosis. Apoptosis is programmed cell death, it’s “the death of cells which occurs as a normal and controlled part of an organism’s growth or development.14” Through apoptosis, the 4-day fast will kill approximately 40% of immune/diseased cells in your body15! Through this prolonged fast, not only are we disposing nearly half your bodies diseased-ridden-cells, but the body is resetting itself. Once you begin eating food after the fast, your body completely rebuilds the immune system, all fresh and clean. It’s basically a reset and reboot. Now hold on here, I really don’t want to get any angry calls or messages from parents yelling at me because I told their kid to fast for 4 days with only water in their body, and that they fainted at school in the middle of the lunchroom. To little seventh grade Billy, if you are reading this, don’t start fasting tomorrow. This is clinical fasting for longevity; communicate with your doctor and family, make sure you are in a safe and controlled environment, and ensure you have a game plan. Also if you are pregnant, over the age of 70, underweight, or potentially anorexic, please abstain from adopting fasting.

Nutritionist, celebrity body coach, and bestselling author, Kelly LeVeque has done the 4-day fast herself (she has a cool Instagram page, btw @bewellbykelly). She did it with a friend and tested everything in a lab. She mentions the fast really wasn’t as hard as they originally thought it would be. Kelly and I share the same fascination for longevity, but she has actually been doing the research. I’m just listening to audiobooks and reading articles, then rambling on to my friends about it. She studied cancer research for 8 years in a corporate space before moving to the personal coaching field. She states that our body’s cells breakdown and rebuild about 9 times in our lifetime. They rebuild off your old cells and the food you eat16. This is why people look younger when they take care of their health and dietary choices. Executing on steady intermittent fasts, occasional day-fasts, and prolonged fasts (once or twice a year), will help you clean up your current cells. Complement this with eating clean and you will help ensure the new cells are made up of healthy components. You can control how long you live, but more importantly how well you feel and enjoy each day in the present. Trust me, I’ve been on both sides and although I have a lot of room for improvement, the healthy side makes me feel way better.

If you think there is no way you can complete a 4-day water fast, I completely understand. Dr. Longo does have a Fasting Mimicking Diet (FMD) that is 5 days and he actually recommends this over doing a straight water fast because of its more realistic adaptability. It tricks your body into thinking it is fasted to maintain almost all of the benefits but involves small amounts of food and liquids. It includes 1,100 calories on the first day and then 800 a day on the remaining 4 days. The meals are comprised of mainly vegetables, soups, nuts, and supplements. His FMD has tremendous success stories and results, as inspirational personalities like Tim Ferris, Kevin Rose, and Lewis Howes have done it. Personally, if I’m going to do the fast I’m going to just do a full one without food. Its that evolutionary and natural mindset, but I do think this is a very realistic option! You can find details on his FMD in his book or on his website12.

I am going to say it one more time so there is no confusion; I am not a doctor. Please, please, please do your own research, and use the resources I have attached in the sources below. With that being said, I know this information can change the way you live and feel, because I’m living it. I really do hope this helps, and remember, “A sane man in an insane world is always considered crazy.”

Final comments

Thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to read this. If you have any questions or insights, shoot me an email at Harrington.AOGlifeofpassion.com or on Instagram at @Aharrington8. I thoroughly enjoy talking fasting and health, and it is always refreshing to connect with someone about fasting who isn’t necessarily a fasting expert or educator.

Again, intermittent fasting and fasting is only one of the six pillars that make up my health and wellness approach. I will be releasing the other 5 pillars in the time to follow, as they all work in synergy together. The other five pillars are gratitude and mindfulness, hydration and pliability, fitness, nutrition, and a life of passion.

Finally, the comments section below is to add any advice or thoughts about intermittent fasting & fasting! This is like my house, you are all invited in but if there is any negativity or someone starts breaking my stuff or causing a ruckus, I have no problem removing you from the premises. Keep it positive and interactive, and please share any benefits, experiences, or tips you have from fasting! For those of you brave souls who are pursuing a better version of yourself, you inspire me everyday, and I am forever grateful for you. Find the lifestyle that fits you, but never forget to dance and goof around, it doesn’t matter whos watching. Our world needs more daily heroes, go out there and be one for somebody!

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Sources

In order according to relevance and quantity of information provided

Valter Longo, PhD

Expert in Longevity, anti aging, cell biology and biogerontology. Professor/Director at USC Longevity Institute.

Eric Berg, DC

One of the words top ketogenic and Intermittent Fasting experts. 27 years of clinical practice.

US National Library of Medicine

Rhonda Patrick, PhD

Expert in aging, cancer, and nutrition with focused studies in biomedical science.

  • Website Found My Fitness
  • Podcast – FoundMyFitness by Rhonda Patrick, PhD
  • (11) Dr. Satchin Panda on Practical Implementation of Time- Restricted Eating & Shift Work Strategies
  • Dr. Valter Longo on Resetting Autoimmunity and Rejuvenating Systems with Prolonged Fasting & the FMD
  • Fasting Q&A with Dr. Rhonda Patrick and Mike Maser

Brad Pilon

Expert in intermittent fasting through 30 years of extensive research. Body builder, author, and nutritionist

Kelly Leveque

Expert nutritionist and wellness coach. New York Times best selling author.

Steven Gundry, MD

Expert in cardiology, medicine, and nutrition. Cardiac surgeon, clinician, and New York Times best selling author.

  • Podcast – Lewis Howes: School of Greatness
  • Ep. 521 Healthy Foods That Are Killing You
  • Ep. 772 Die Young at an Old Age

Luiza Petre, MD

Expert in cardiology and weight management. Professor, clinician, and owner of a private practice.

Mark Hyman, MD

Expert in functional medicine. Founder and director of the Ultrawellness Center. New York Times best selling author.

James Clear

Author, entrepreneur, and experimenter. New York Times best selling author.

John Romaniello and Adam Bornstein

Leaders in the fitness industry. Trainers, nutritionists, and experimenters.

  • Audiobook/book –  (18) Man 2.0 Engineering the Alpha

Colin Champ, MD

Integrative medicine and cancer researcher

Andrew Weil, MD

Expert in holistic and integrative medicine. Doctor, physician, and author.

  • Podcast – The Tim Ferriss Show
  • (2) Dr. Andrew Weil — Optimal Health, Plant Medicine, and More (350)
  • (13) Random show—Fasting, Biohacking, and Tony Robbins (133)

Alex Smith

NFL quarterback and daily intermittent faster

2 thoughts on “Article One – Fasting

  1. Pingback: Audio – AOG
  2. Austin!!
    Mannn you don’t know how much this article blessed me. I felt like you were sitting at the opposite end of the table with me drinking a beer, while having a very heartfelt informative teaching about a lifestyle that changed your life. This gave me so much insight into a realm I didn’t know much about, but will definitely be looking more into this because of all the benefits that it entails. Thank you for diligently providing all of the resources and studies as well.
    Keep this up. This is literally changing lives.

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