I’ve been curious for a number of years about this idea of fasting...when we take fasting into the real world however it can lead to a more stressful regime for our body than is really sensible with the pressures we put on it day to day. In fact I’m not sure whether fasting is compatible with a routine that involves high stress urban lifestyles. That doesn’t mean that all of us are working on the trading room floor in the stock exchange or in the control tower at an airport - all that our body needs in order to feel completely stressed out is a chronically overstimulating environment. Like death by 1000 pinpricks, the urban landscape that most of us base our lives inside is a heady blend of excess people, excess noise and excess artificial light, without the restraining and limiting influence of nature.
Essentially it’s a complete gluttony of energy expenditure and our nervous systems are extremely vulnerable to the twinkly lights, the noisy traffic jams and the push and shove that comes with living amongst a mass of people. The stress response that we provoke in our body by deciding not to eat then adds a further pressure, many of the benefits of which usually stem from this temporary stressful trigger, but if we continue to tell our body that food isn’t on the way during a stressful day, the cortisol patterning that we might induce would only further destabilise our health in the long term.
It’s really only my theory at this point, and there’s no studies relating to this. But we know fasting is stressful. We know that it’s benefits regarding weight loss, antioxidant defences etc relate back to the shock that it causes the body to go through. It’s frustrating for me personally because I LOVE fasting. I know that sounds bonkers but since I started engaging with this process a few years back, it feels like I’ve been well supported by it. My energy levels are the best they’ve ever been, and I find recovery from physical exercise seems to be greatly enhanced when I do it fasted…
So what has all this got to do with Christmas Dinner? By getting into all the science of fasting benefits, I think we (I) have the tendency to get lost in the weeds a bit, to ignore what our bodies tell us. But that’s modern, urbanised society for you - what we’re talking about here is a lack of feast and fallow, an absence of natural rhythms, which are the only way our body gets a chance to reset, and we’re going to have difficulty hearing our body screaming for help above the din of the whatsapp notifications from our smartphone.
Many studies have looked at the more extreme end of physiological reset processes that can be activated or accessed by fasting. In a chronically overfed (but perhaps undernourished) society, when we choose to extend the time spent between refeeding sessions, the body undergoes some magical transformations, and benefits can be seen throughout our immune, cardiovascular and nervous systems. Studies have shown reversals or improvements in type two diabetes, Rheumatoid arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis sufferers and more.
I think the fear of fasting is all that’s holding us back from some really extreme solutions to help us take some massive leaps in our health and longevity. I’ve been practising some kind of intermittent fasting protocol now for about six years and its benefits have been clear to me from very early on. What I’ve been particularly poor at achieving is finding the adequate and appropriate window for repletion - meaning that I tend to eat too much and too late in the evening to see all of the benefits that fasting can bring. And eating late, no matter how much I fool myself by fitting it into a fasting program, is just about the worst thing we can do to our bodies in terms of food timing. BIG OOPS. Time for change…?
So this Christmas I’m going to shake it up a little, by fasting for the entire day on the 24th, and feasting for the entire day (like usual!) on the 25th. And I’m going to have a secret weapon to support me. A supplement which to be honest I’ve never tried because I’ve always thought it too expensive to be worthwhile, but having read more lately about the potential upside of Exogenous Ketones, iI’m going to lower some of these to assist my body in extending my fast, hoping to feel the benefit of of feast and fallow in a very 21st-century supplement-supported manner!
Ketone esters are little molecules that are body produces when it’s starved of glucose and needs to make energy. They’ve been known about for over 100 years, and progressive medics and scientists like Otto Warburg sought to apply them to cancer treatment. The relevance of ketones to cancer treatment is such a hot potato that we’re not even going to allude to it here, but do check out the significant work being done by others in this field like Dr Dominic D’Agostino at the University of South Florida. Leaving this contentious topic aside, the established benefits of ketones are incredibly far ranging, providing an alternative to our regular glucose based energy system and supporting our brain and other organs in a much more stable manner, evening out our energy curve throughout the day. And in the case of something like Christmas day, once your body is trained to look for ketones as a fuel source (which can take weeks and months to get into gear), it becomes far more efficient at storing excess energy - say for example, um, half a bronze turkey crown and a small baby’s weight in bread sauce…??
So in closing, we’ll see how this all plays out when I’m in the throngs of Christmas Eve with all the goodies that tend to find their way into our usually healthy bubble (bauble?!) here in The Hopsack. But I reckon these exogenous ketones from Onnit may just be the ultimate cheat code in the playbook of intermittent fasting. Stay tuned to find out. Oh, and p.s. Jingle Bells etc! Thanks for tuning into our articles this year - we hope they’ve been fun and informative. Watch as the nutrition world evolves in 2020 and we all end up contradicting ourselves horribly about fats, fasting, veganism, antioxidants and all the rest next year!!