“When should I fast? How long should I fast for? What can I consume while fasting? Fasting for women versus men? Exercise and fasting?”
If you follow a low carb or ketogenic lifestyle, struggle with insulin resistance, or are simply concerned about your blood sugar levels, chances are you have heard about fasting. Chances are you also have lots of questions surrounding fasting and how you can feasibly incorporate it into your every day.
We are fortunate here in Toronto to be home to The Fasting Method, a program co-founded by Dr. Jason Fung (aka THE fasting guru) and Megan Ramos, designed to naturally treat weight and other metabolic related issues through various fasting protocols.
Our recent meet up included an all-star team with whom we got to dive into all things fasting, low carb, keto, and more! If you weren't able to attend or maybe want to review the information, the event was recorded and you can watch the video on YouTube! We summarized our Top 5 Takeaways (and one bonus!), just for you!
TOP 5 TAKEAWAYS
- Exercise that Fasting Muscle
- How to Fast
- Fasting Protocols
- Drinks and Foods That Break a Fast
- Fasting for Women
If you have never fasted before, your “fasting muscle” will likely be weak at first, but the more you train it, the stronger it will get! Just like you can hurt yourself if you go to the gym and overdo it too quickly, the same can happen with fasting… you must exercise that fasting muscle first!
If new to fasting: Consider where you are at and then start small.
- Begin by sticking to eating just three meals a day and cutting out snacks
- Then progress from there to a 24-hour fast…. and then a 36 hour fast… and so forth
The goal is to gradually build that fasting muscle! Take it slow, assess, and re-adjust.
Do not jump into a fast after over-consuming carbohydrates!
Why not? Consuming a higher carb intake can dysregulate hormones and lead to increased water retention (not ideal conditions for fasting).
What to eat before an extended fast
- Eat a little bit beyond satiation for the three days leading up to the fast
- Follow a relatively low carb/ketogenic diet prior to the fast
How to end a fast
- If it's a multi-day fast, go slow: have something small (e.g., a handful of veggies, nuts, avocado, a piece of cheese, olives, pickles) 20-30 minutes before your first post-fast meal
- If it's a 24-hour or 36-hour fast, gradual eating is less likely required and you should be able to consume your first meal right away. It's important to experiment with what works for your individual needs!
What about exercising while fasting?
- Perfectly fine to engage in fasted workouts!
- If you are new to fasting, however, you may have to practice fasting first, before incorporating workouts (remember: it’s all about training that fasting muscle!)
- Best to consume sodium and water at least one hour before working out
- 16/8 intermittent fasting involves limiting eating to an 8-hour window and then fasting for the remaining 16 hours
- For example, stop eating at 8 pm at night, and then break your fast 16 hours later, at noon. Your eating window would, therefore, be from noon to 8 pm.
24 or 36-hour fasts
- For women, in particular, best results are achieved when doing three, 36-hour fasts per week
- For men, best results are achieved when doing three, 24-hour fasts per week
- Also recommended to periodically engage in a 5-7 day-long fast
- Best completed twice a year, the same as you would do with seasonal cleaning
It is possible to fast too much! We are a highly adaptable species, and can therefore also adapt to fasted states. Too much of a good thing is not optimal either… always change it up!
IT ALL DEPENDS ON YOUR GOALS!
- The process in which your body seeks out old and/or damaged cells, takes them apart, gets rid of the bad stuff, and makes a new healthy cell
- If autophagy is the goal, then you want to opt for a “clean fast,” limited to water, salt, and electrolytes only
Weight loss, diabetes reversal, lowered blood sugar, other metabolic issues
- Fast with “training wheels” (anything that will help you adhere to the fast)
- Best training wheel options are: bone broth, tea, and black coffee (without milk, cream, sweeteners)
- Training wheels help you build that fasting muscle, with the goal of losing the training wheels once you have strengthened your fasting muscle
BOTH autophagy and metabolic repair
- Recommended to focus on getting blood sugar levels lowered first, to let the body adapt and get into a healthy state, and to then progress to water fasting for autophagy
Women get great results, the same as men! The trajectory, however, may look a little different:
- For the first two months, women may experience slower weight loss, compared to men. This discrepancy, however, narrows after the first months, such that in the long term, men and women tend to experience similar results
- Cyclewise, the 2-3 days leading up to menstruation may be more difficult to fast
- Recommended to engage in shorter fasts leading up to menstruation, resuming regular fasting protocol afterwards
- Eventually, hormones will regulate and fasting will be less sensitive to cycle fluctuations (after about 6 months)
- Fasting in women has been shown to enhance fertility, to lead to metabolic improvement, and to demonstrate some age reversal
- For women who work out fasted with the goal of burning body fat, research suggests extending time after the workout by a few hours (i.e., delay post workout meal) in order to maximize benefits of the human growth hormone (men can break fast right after workouts)
Contrary to popular belief, some sweeteners (e.g., stevia, erythritol, etc.) can actually increase insulin and blood sugar. Psychologically, sweeteners also perpetuate sweet cravings. Your relationship to sweeteners with ultimately depends on your own metabolic profile: individuals who are more insulin-resistant are likely to have more issues with sweeteners.
Bottom line: everyone is different! The best way is to test blood sugar levels and ketones before consuming the food, and then again two hours after. Experimentation is key!
The Fasting Method team has put together an incredible list of free resources and we reviewed their new website and picked their top 5 blog posts.
Meet the Team!
Megan Ramos is the co-founder and Program Director of IDM, a clinical researcher and an authority on fasting. She has also personally followed the IDM protocol and successfully lost 60 pounds (click here to read Megan’s own IDM patient profile).
Andrea is a physician assistant who specializes in family medicine, a nutritional coach with The Fasting Method, and the founder of Foodie Lifestyle Guide, a membership program curating incredible food businesses in Canada. Andrea has personally followed a ketogenic and low carb diet since 2014 and began experimenting with fasting protocols in 2016.
Oscar, better known on Instagram as @ihackeddiabetes, is an avid fasting enthusiast. Oscar was diagnosed with diabetes 5 years ago and began following ketogenic diet within the last 2 years. He fell into fasting by watching Dr. Fung’s videos on YouTube, quickly becoming a fan of both fasting and the IDM Program. Oscar identifies as a recovering carbaholic and diabetic and has used many of the IDM principles to help him with his own journey.