Fasting for Body and Soul, Week Three: Intermittent Fasting
This is the eleventh piece in a series on how to develop a fasting lifestyle. Read the entire series here.
Last week, we focused on time-restricted eating. This week, we’ll do some “intermittent fasting.”
Granted, these terms are often used as synonyms. That makes sense. If you eat now and fast later, then you’ll both restrict the times when you eat, and you’ll fast intermittently.
I’m calling this week “intermittent fasting” because we won’t just limit the time window when we eat during the day. One day will differ from the next. Some days will look like last week — a ketogenic diet and an eight-hour window for eating. Other days will look far more like a fast.
You’ll also have one mini-feast day.
The Warrior Diet
In 2002, a former member of the Israeli Special Forces, Ori Hofmekler, published a book called the Warrior Diet. The diet, he argued, mimics the diet and training of ancient Greco-Roman soldiers. It also taps into a more primal way of eating. Hofmekler promised to show would-be warriors how to gain muscle and energy, slay body fat and metabolic problems, and conquer hunger and cravings.
There have been a zillion versions of this diet since Hofmekler proposed it. But the basic idea is simple: You under-eat for most of the day — think little snacks of egg and veggies. Then you have one big omnivorous meal at night. Just like the Vikings did after a day of raiding Christian villages in Northumbria!
Or not. Who knows? In any case, this was a clever marketing pitch to all those guys who spent more time playing video games and watching Viking documentaries than they did working out at the gym.
And almost anyone who switched from the standard American diet circa 2001 to the Warrior Diet would see good results in the short run. Then they’d take to the internet to spread the word.
Which is more or less what happened.
23/1 Intermittent Fasting
Hofmekler published his book at the peak of the six-meals-a-day fad. That made his diet seem wild and transgressive. Looking back on it from 2018, though, it looks a lot like intermittent fasting. It just needs some tweaks to fit what we know about how fasting helps reduce blood sugar and insulin and boost ketones. The little snacks interfere with that. So, many people now do an updated version of the Warrior Diet. They fast from food for 23 hours of the day and then eat as much as they want (of keto-friendly foods) during one hour in the evening.
Some folks follow this 23/1 intermittent fast every day. (It’s also called the OMAD Diet — one meal a day.) We’ll use it as one step to reach our summit: the fasting lifestyle.
What to Do This Week
Don’t worry. We won’t go OMAD every day.
On days one, three, and five, you’ll limit your eating window to one hour. In other words, you’ll eat one big meal.
On days two, four, and six, you can eat what you need over an eight-to-ten-hour period. As before, eat until you’re satisfied — not stuffed. Then stop.
Here are a few tips:
- Start the meal with a warm glass of chicken stock or, better yet, bone broth. Don’t dive right into a T-bone fried in butter. Your stomach needs to warm up. It’s been in fasting mode for hours.
- Don’t force feed. Eat over the course of the full hour.
- As before, you need to get at least three fourths of your calories from natural fats, no more than twenty percent from proteins, and five percent or less from carbs. The carbs should come from mostly green vegetables that grow above ground. (See “Top 10 low carb vegetables” here.)
- Don’t forget to drink lots of water all day and keep up your intake of electrolytes (sodium, magnesium, potassium).
- On days one, three, and five, don’t try to restrict calories. You can eat as much in your one meal as you would across a normal day. But you probably won’t do that. If you’re not eating sugar, starches, and simple carbs, it’s hard to eat that much in one sitting. Especially when fats and green vegetables are involved. Trust me. I’ve tried it.
On day seven, have a “mini-feast day.” Eat throughout the day. Add in some low-glycemic fruit, such half of a red grapefruit or a handful of berries. Mix them with whipped cream (either unsweetened or with a bit of liquid stevia). Have a dark chocolate fat bomb (see the Richards’ recipe in the sidebar.)
Fat Bomb Recipe
1 – 8 1/2 ounce bar unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup coconut oil
3 Tablespoons unsweetened Hershey’s cocoa powder
2 1/2 teaspoons Truvia (or similar sweetener)
70 drops Liquid Stevia (we use Trader Joe’s brand)
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups toasted unsweetened coconut flakes
Put the coconut flakes on a cookie sheet. Toast them at 325 degrees F until slightly brown.
Melt unsweetened chocolate bar and coconut oil in a double boiler. Swirl in cocoa powder, sweeteners, salt, and toasted coconut flakes.
With a spoon, put the mixture in the compartments of a cupcake pan. (We use a twelve-cupcake pan and put in silicone holders to make it easy to remove the goodies.)
Place in freezer for about 10 minutes to solidify, then store at room temperature.
Eat such treats on a full stomach, so they have less impact on your blood glucose. If you’ve avoided sugars, simple carbs, and most artificial sweeteners for the last couple of weeks, these will taste much sweeter than you could have guessed.
Remind me. Why Am I Doing This?
You’ve spent most of your life running off of sugar. You’ve also trained your body, like a caged rat, to expect food at certain times of the day. It’s gonna push that little button for food whether you plan to eat or not. This makes fasting hard. Your belly goads you to eat every few hours by sheer habit and to keep your blood sugar stable. You might be able to fast here and there, but only by sheer acts of the will. And you probably won’t ever get the real benefits of fasting.
With this plan, you’re breaking down these barriers. You’re shifting your body from sugar-burning to fat-burning. To do that, you need to keep insulin levels low and become far more insulin-sensitive. Eating a ketogenic diet and spending a big chunk of some days in the fasting state will help speed that process along.
The good news? By the end of this third week, you will almost be adapted to fasting. And you won’t have had to endure a single day when you had to restrict net calories.
Another perk: You’ll have even more time on your hands. Don’t waste it. Like last week, use the extra hours for spiritual benefit. Pray. Read the Bible. Pray. Memorize new prayers. Pray some more.
Next, I’ll explain how you can prove to yourself that your body is really adapting.
Jay Richards is the Executive Editor of The Stream and an Assistant Research Professor in the Busch School of Business and Economics at The Catholic University of America. Follow him on Twitter.