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Fasting FAQ’s

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Following on from my previous two posts Fasting 101 and My Top Ten Fasting Tips, here are a few of the most frequently asked questions from my clients with regards to fasting…

Should I consult my doctor before doing a fast?
Yes you should. Like any new endeavour, please make sure you check with your doctor if exercise, fasting or nutrition is right for you. I am not a doctor and don’t claim to have all the answers to fasting, nutrition or weight loss so please consult them first.

Will I get hungry?
More than likely yes. If you are quite fat adapted (see my blog post here) you body will prefer fat as its primary fuel source. It will be much easy to get through a fast if you have spent several months eliminating refined carbs (grains, wheat, flour, anything processed) and replacing them with a higher amount of good fats for meat, fish, eggs chicken and coconut oil, butter, heavy cream, avocados etc etc. This will help the body chose fat as its fuel source. If you are still concerned about hunger, ride it out it does not last. Use is as an act of self discipline, knowing that you can and will get through it and you will be better for it as you have refrained from breaking the fast!
If you need some extra tips or tools to get through get out my last blog post here, but you can have some black coffee or tea as they act as an appetite suppressant. Drink as much water as you would like. Have some home made bone broth which is full of minerals that help the immune system as well as reduce inflammation and heal the gut. Bone broth has minimal calories so you are technically not breaking your fast.

Can I still exercise?
Absolutely! Training in an aerobic heart rate zone will help to train your body to prefer fat as its fuel source, as whilst you are working in that low heart rate, steady state exercise zone you are burning predominately fat- this zone of approximately 180 minus your age gives you your maximum aerobic heart rate. Stay under this zone and you will increase you fat burn during a fast. Try to avoid any exercise that is too high an intensity and plan that for days when you are not fasting.
The benefits of exercising in a fasted state are:
*Recover quicker due to an increase in human growth hormone
*Burn more fat due to the higher fat oxidation rate
*Train harder due to increased adrenaline
*Wont bonk or run of energy if you stay in the aerobic or fat burning zone as you have an abundance or stored energy in you fat cells

How should I break my fast?
Do it gently, the longer the fast the more gentlier you should be! I would recommend breaking the fast with a small snack/appetiser then eat a small meal 30-60 minutes after that. Take your time, chew your food and enjoy the experience. Have smaller portions and break drink. Try salad, soup, nuts or almond or peanut butter.

What are the problems to watch for?
Low blood pressure:- often when standing up after squatting down or picking something up of the ground causes dizziness which can be due to low blood pressure or low electrolyte balance. Check with your doctor first if you have low blood pressure before starting and if experienced during the fast consider eating a small meal.
Electrolyte management: as above if you experience dizziness when standing up this could be due to an electrolyte imbalance. Try a magnesium supplement with a 250ml glass of water and a teaspoon of Himilayan rock salt to correct the imbalance.
Headaches: could be withdrawal types symptoms for a lack of sugar, refined carbs or coffee! Could also be a sign of dehydration. Drink more water, it if persists take some curcumin, if it continues stop the fast with a small meal and consult your doctor.
Constipation: it is not uncommon to see slight constipation or at least a decrease in bowel movements- especially due to the fact you are eating less!
Muscle Cramps: again supplement with bone broth and or magnesium tablets.

Will I be cranky?
Maybe- see question 1 to fix the hangry

Will my stomach always grumble?
No. Hunger passes-ride the wave . See my top ten tips here.

Will I be confused?
No you shouldn’t. As fat is a clean buring fuel people are often surprised that during fasting you have clear focus, mental clarity and have a more awareness and concertratrion. This could be due to that fact that your body can now focus on cleaning up cells and getting rid of celluar debris and not have to worry about being constalty focused on metabolism, digusting and processing food and making new cells. oss so please consult them first.

 

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My Top Ten Fasting Tips

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Top Ten Fasting Tips:
1. Drink Water– drink plenty of water, stay hydrated and use it as a satiating mechanism to cope with any hunger.

2. Stay Busy– you will find that not having to make, think, worry about and prepare food is liberating. It frees up a lot of time (and money). This does have a drawback, however, it that if you don’t busy yourself at work, home or with some tasks you may find yourself bored and thinking of food (See point 10). It might be a good idea to fit into your life when you are busier but not stressed or over worked and lacking sleep. Stay active, go for a long walk in the bush or spend time at the beach but make sure you keep busy, especially around meal time.

3. Drink Coffee- black coffee acts as a mild appetite suppressant and is full of beneficial anti-oxidants.

4. Drink a home-made bone broth– bone broth has minimal calories and chock full of minerals that help the immune system, like collagen, glutamine, glycine and proline. These helps the gut lining and reduce inflammation.

5. Ride the hunger waves- hunger won’t last, tough it out and see it as an act of self-discipline. It will make you stronger. I find that I get hunger between 950-10am every time I do an intermittent or 24-48 hour fast. Strange but I can tell the time by when I am hungry. Hunger pangs, must be 10am! That being said ghrelin, the hormone responsible for hunger or telling us when we are hungry has its own circadian rhythm, or 24 hour cycle, like everything else in our body!

6. Don’t tell people you are fasting- with telling people you are fasting comes the questions and the judgement. Why would you want to do that? You have to eat something or you will go into starvation mode? You’ll breakdown muscle. All untrue. However, if you plan on telling people you are fasting or you have a party and you don’t want to eat, think of an excuse that won’t having the judgement of others. I often say I have already eaten if it’s an afternoon thing or say I am not hungry.

7. Give it time– give yourself a month at least to try intermittent fasting or day long fasts. Don’t be discouraged or feel guilty if you give in to your hunger just try again another time. Being more of a fat burner helps (check my blog on burning fat for fuel here) as your body will prefer the clean burning energy and will switch to burning the abundant stores of fat on your body (over 40,000 calories!!!)

8. Follow a nutritious diet on non-fasting days– don’t eat poorly (high sugar, refined carbs, industrial oils) on your non fasting days, it really defeats the purpose. Stick with good nutritious non processed whole foods like meats, eggs, fish, chicken, vegetables and fruits and when breaking a fast do not chose junk food. Eat a small, nutrient dense meal. If you are hungry have a larger meal a bit later (1-2 hours) as you don’t want to make yourself ill by bingeing on food.

9. Don’t binge- either breaking the fast or on non fasting days.

10. Fit fasting into your own life– don’t try and be un realistic about it or do it on days of high intensity exercise or stressful periods of the week or month. Fit it about your schedule and you are more likely to succeed!

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Fasting 101

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There has been a lot of talk about fasting in the fitness and primal worlds of late so I thought I would share the few fasting protocols that I have found extremely beneficial for weight loss, performance and longevity.

Firstly, we should start with what is fasting? Simply, fasting is going without food or drink for a period of time. An absolute fast is refraining from everything, food, water, drink and supplements. There is also varying forms of intermittent fasting using bone broths, coffees and teas and supplements. A water fast, as the name suggests in drinking nothing but water for your fasting period.

There are a wide range of health benefits to fasting. These include:

  • Weight loss– studies have shown that fasting is an excellent way to reduce body fat. One study in 2015 found that participants lost 7% body fat and reduced inflammation markers without sacrificing muscle mass using alternate day protocol.
  • Normalises insulin levels– one of the markers for ageing, diabetes and inflammation is insulin levels. When you consume too many carbs and sugar you body releases insulin to bring the blood sugar levels back to normal. If this cycle happens too often your body’s natural production of insulin can breakdown- hence type 2 diabetes! Fasting can lower insulin levels and reduce insulin sensitivity helping to stop type 2 diabetes.
  • Normalises ghrelin levels- Ghrelin is the hormone responsible for telling your body you are hungry. Being fat adapted and being able to fast for extended periods of time allows your ghrelin hormone to normalise, following its correct circadian rhythm and tell you when you are actually hungry.
  • Lowers triglyceride levels– triglycerides are a indicator for heart disease. They rise in relation to bad cholesterol. Fasting helps to reduce or lower the amount of triglycerides in your blood.
  • Allows cellular autophagy– Cellular autophapy is the bodies mechanism for cleaning up debris in the cells causes by oxidation, metabolism and excess consumption of carbs. Autophagy is programmed cell death. If we are constantly feeding the body with food and fuel our metabolism is high and the body thinks we need to be always making new ells. Whilst this is good to some regard if you are wanting to build muscle, being go go go all the time doesn’t allow the body to heal and repair itself through this celluar clean up. Fasting allows the body to stop, slow down and repair. Fasting is a great way to rid the body of pre-cancer cells and allow our bodies to get rid of damaged cells (which is what cancer cells are!)
  • Promotes the secretion of Human Growth Hormone-according to Dr Axe HGH is naturally produced by the body and it has been effectively used to treat obesity and help build muscle mass, important for burning fat. HGH also helps increase muscle strength, which can help improve your workouts, too. Combine these together and you have an effective fat-burning machine on your hands.

So now you know what fasting is and some of the many benefits, what are some of the fating protocols you can do to get all these great benefits. The following 4 fasting protocols (and there are hundreds of others out there) are ones that I have personally used and have found to be efficacious in weight loss and management, better performance and building muscle.

  1. 18/6 Intermittent Fast– this protocol involves fasting for 18 hours with a 6 hour re-feeding window. This is my favourite fating type and I will do this 5 days a week. It involves eating dinner about 6pm and not eating again until bout 12pm then next day. I then will have two meals, lunch at 12pm and dinner again at 6pm. I will also have a snack in between. As you can see by the name you fast for 18 hours and then are ‘allowed’ to eat in the 6 hours between 12pm-6pm at night. I like this time frame but other people like to use 16/8 or 14 hours. This is a really good introduction into fasting and helps you get an understanding that you wont die from not eating, that it is actually quite easy to do, makes you feel like you have achieved something through self discipline and frees up time.
  2. 24 hour fast– As the name suggests you don’t eat for 24 hours. I do some travelling on day trips on an aircraft and I like to use this one where i know I cant get decent food. I usually eat dinner about 6pm one night, then not eat again until 630pm the next night, so as you can see you are eating every day, just 24 hors apart!
  3. 3- day fast– I have tried this one on several occasions but this one takes some discipline and preparation. I prepared bone broth, as well as supplement drinks as I knew this would diminish my electrolyte levels. Be very careful with this one. I found that the second day is hard but once you push through the initial hunger late on day two, you feel like you can go for ever!
  4. 5:2– the 5 and 2 periodic fast has been popularised by Dr Michael Mosely. I have tried this protocol and didn’t like it that much as it felt like the 18/6 IF but only for 2 days and you ate whatever you lied on the other days. It works for reducing Insulin Like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1) which is a marker for longevity but I feel (and I am not a doctor like he is …) you get more benefits from the 18/6 with regards to performance and weight loss. This protocol entails eating normally for 5 days a week and severely restricting your calories on 2 days a week, usually the weekend.

So there you have it what fasting is, the benefits and a few protocols to get you started. If you have any questions or comments about your own fasting protocols, I would love to hear about them in the comments section. Stay tuned for my Top Ten Fasting Tips in the coming few days!

 

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Hunza Water

Since the start of this year I have been following the Ketogenic Diet. I have been fairly strict for the most part, loosening up a little and increasing my carb intake after high glycolytic workouts, or workouts that have been of an intense nature like HITT that push me about my theoretical aerobic heart rate of 180 minus my age. Any activity that puts you above this heart rate zone is said to dip into your glycogen stores in the liver and muscles. Being “keto adapted” and having predominately fat as your food and fuel sources means that you do not have much carbohydrate/glucose floating around in your system for quick energy. This also means when you exercise at a high intensity like a sprint workout you are tapping into your bodies stored source of carbohydrates or glycogen in your liver and muscles. As we can only store about 150-400 grams of this sometimes I can tap out my stores. I know when I have done this as the next day I am a bit lethargic and lacking energy.

Anyway, for the most part of this year I have been ketogenic. I had been testing my blood glucose as well as my blood ketone readings for several weeks to see how I was tracking. This was taking up 10-15 minutes of my day, so in the end I thought, I feel great, this is a bit of a waste of time. Do  really need a monitor to tell me I am “in ketosis” or do I just need to worry about how it makes me feel? I thought testing was a good idea, but definitely didn’t need to do it just to find out whether I was producing ketones. I thought, I am an following a primal lifestyle and my hunter gather ancestors would not have had ketones monitors, they are just eating for survival. So I cut out doing that and focused on eating good, healthy unprocessed foods-predominately fats with moderate protein intake and very low carbs. And, as I said I was feeling great.

The only problem I did have was after bending down to pick something up I always stood up and felt light headed and dizzy. A very strange feeling that went away soon after I was standing again. However, after completing Robb Wolf’s Keto Masterclass, I did some “fault-finding” and found I was probably lacking electrolytes, these two symptoms being an indicator that I was not getting enough sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium. I looked at supplements and electrolyte drinks (not Gatorade or any sugary based sports drinks) but all where too sugary or with too many carbs. After hearing about Hunza Water on the Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast, I thought I would investigate.

What is Hunza Water I hear you ask? Hunza Water is a process of adding Himalayan Salt Chunks to water to increase its mineral content. There is a theory behind the process.

Hunza water is named after the Hunza Valley region in Pakistan and is regarded as one of the blue zones of the earth, a place where the longevity of people in the area is vastly superior to other areas on Earth. Dr Henri Coanda studied the Hunza area and its water for decades. He believed that the longevity of their lives came from the fact that the people in the area drank glacial water. He found that drinking water from the glacial streams of the Himalaya Mountains is perhaps the closest we can get to drinking from the Fountain of Youth. The technical source of Hunza water is water that comes from melted glaciers.

  • It contains negatively-charged hydrogen ions. This is important because hydrogen is one of the most powerful antioxidants. This helps to neutralise free radicals in the body. In addition to living in a society with little to no pollution or environmental toxins, it’s no wonder these people are living 120 years!
  • Mineral colloids efficiently deliver nutrition. Basically, a specific “activator” reduces the size of the nutritional elements of Hunza water. However, it doesn’t compromise the actual nutrition – it just makes it more compact, thus easier for the body’s cells to receive.
  • Lower surface tension. In essence, this means that Hunza water more closely resembles the water found around the cells in our body. This is getting a bit complicated, right? Here’s why that matters…
  • Increased “net charge.” Basically, fluids are able to move between cells, flush out toxins and absorb more water into the cells.
  • High alkaline pH. This can naturally help the body to neutralise acids and regulate pH levels which has been linked to reducing the risk of cancer and – you guessed it – a longer life!

You don’t have to go to Pakistan and the Himalayas to get a taste of this water. Coanda was pretty dedicated to getting down to the bottom of the ins-and-outs of Hunza water, so naturally, he figured out how to recreate it without having to drink water from the glaciers themselves.

So I created my own Hunza Water following his recipe and fixed my electrolyte imbalance with this simple trick!

What you’ll need

  • Large, clear glass jar or vessel with a lid
  • A clear mason jar that can be sealed with a non-metal lid
  • Chunks of Himalayan pink salt
  • Sunlight
  • High quality, filtered drinking water
  • A non-metal teaspoon

Instructions:

  1. Sterilise the large glass container, then fill it with filtered drinking water.
  2. Cover the container, and set it out in the for 24 hours to increase the “chi” or life force of the water. This step replicates the natural sunlight water would be exposed to whilst melting down the glaciers in the Hunza Valley. Make sure the vessel is grounded (touching natural earth-this helps to give it charge and negtive ions).
  3. Using large, rock-sized Himalayan salt crystals, place as many as you can in a mason jar. Remember, don’t cover your jar with a metal lid as it can react with the salt; choose a wooden or plastic lid instead.
  4. Fill the jar with your sun water, pouring it over the salt crystals. Refill the “sun water” and set it back in the window. You will have your “salt water” and your “sun water.”
  5. Let the crystals sit in the water for another 24 hour period. This will allow the water to become saturated.
  6. When “infused,” this water is called sole; you’ll remove about a teaspoon of sole a day, and continue to top the jar with more water as long as you can still see the salt crystals. Make sure to use a non-metal teaspoon to remove sole. Add a teaspoon to a full glass of sun water.
  7. Drink on an empty stomach in the morning and wait approximately 30 minutes prior to consuming any other food or beverage.
  8. Once the salt crystals in your sole are gone, you can start over the process.

And enjoy long life!

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Live Primal and Minimalism

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Living primally and minimalism fit well together. Once you have begun to live a more primal lifestyle you will understand that is simplifies your life, gives you focus and “declutters” your health, nutrition, exercise, movement and lifestyle.

Live Primal is about making things easier; simplifying your eating, exercise, and lifestyle to reflect the ancestral patterns of our hunter gatherer past. You can’t get much more minimalist than that.

Primal living is a simple approach to eating, training, moving and living. It is minimalism for life. It helps to cut away the excess, the unwanted and the unneeded to make things easier and add more value to your life. By reducing grains, sugars and industrial oils you are making it is an easier way to eat and adds value to your life by increasing your health, decreasing inflammation and making you feel better. Simplified eating is eating real, unprocessed, whole foods and ultimately eating nothing that comes wrapped in plastic. This in itself helps declutter with no packaging!

It is a simplified, minimalist way for exercising. There are three pillars of exercising to the Live Primal ethos:

  1. Sprint once in a while– do a hard 5-7 all out sprints workout every 7-10 days. This replicates being chased by a predator and helps shaped our evolution as it made us quick and most of all lean. Nothing cuts you up like sprinting.
  2. Lift Heavy Things- Lifting heavy things increases strength and muscle mass. Our ancestors would have moved rocks and logs around daily for shelter and protector.
  3. Perform long slow endurance- if our ancestors weren’t being chased by lions or lifting log around to build shelter they would’ve been performing long, slow endurance to hunt, catch food and to move locations during different seasons.

Getting out in nature, getting out in sunlight, enjoying play, going barefoot are all primal lifestyle approaches that are mnimalist and add value to your life.

PLAY:

Aim to get out and just “play”, no structured workouts, gadgets and unwind from your daily grind. What ever this may be, enjoy yourself, live in the moment and have fun. It may be spontaneous decision to go kayaking or paddle boarding or a trip to the beach.  For us adults the idea of play has been forgotten, we are told you are too old for that, or you need to buckle down and focus on work. However, in this day and age unwinding from the stress of the day is vital to our health.

Play necessitates mental modeling, critical thinking, and creative innovation. It helps decrease stress and contribute to overall physical and mental health.

Rediscover Nature: spend time in nature and you will find our involuntary awareness takes over, senses are highlighted, sounds quieter, eyesight is more expansive and sense of smell more acute. Being in nature reverses the effect of “Direct Attention Fatigue (DAF)” or always being on the go! Attention Restorative Theory is the counter to DAF and it is believed that regular frequent exposure to tranquil, natural settings help to increase the amount of Natural Killer Cells or NK cells. These are lymphocytes that fight off infection.

Negative Ions, tiny highly reactive molecules that energize the body, are found in nature where the water, wind and sun split molecules in the air. These molecules are vital for reducing pollution and helping to reduce inflammation in the body. Nature, especially where there is water, have copious amounts of negative ions, where as our homes, cities and workplaces have large numbers of positive ions and almost no negative ions.

So get out in nature, hike, kayak, go play to get the enormous benefits of stress relief, decreased inflammation and increase in feel good hormones.

Earthing: is the belief that the Schumann Resonance or the earth’s natural vibration holds many health benefits. Earthing entails making direct contact with the earth, not pavement but natural earth like grass, dirt, soil and sand. It is believed that the natural vibrations help with moderating the circadian rhythm (so a better nights sleep) and moderating the stress hormone cortisol. So this week try going barefoot as much as possible and get out into nature with direct skin contact with the earth! See next weeks post about the earthing qualities of “Glacial Water”.

These easy simple overarching ways to exercise are simple, you don’t need a gym or any fancy equipment and they add value to your health, adds years to your life and you can enjoy it more as you feel better, move well without injury and are more resilient.

Living primal is a simple approach to nutrition, exercise and movement that declutters the excess and adds value to your life-the definition of minimalism.