3 common fasts that you can incorporate into your life
Episode: Fasting Facts
The following is a transcript from Dr Okojie’s Movement is Medicine podcast. Book your appointment with Doctor O today.
Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Movement Is Medicine. I’m Doctor Okojie. Today, I wanted to talk about fasting. The subject of fasting is gaining a lot of traction in the health industry, in the fitness industry, in the wellness industry, even in the medical industry. So I want to speak a little bit, a little bit about that today, dispel some myths and talk about whether or not fasting can be effective.
First of all, it's important to talk about what fasting isn't. So, fasting isn't starving. Starvation is a disease process where one is severely malnourished, and it’s typically not by choice. Fasting isn't a disease state. Fasting is usually done by choice by people who aren't impoverished people who aren't in a poor socio-economic situation. Like, typically people who are starving are so fast to get starving. Oftentimes, when you talk to people about fasting, they get kind of taken aback, and they ask, are they going to starve? Again, starvation is typically not a choice. Fasting usually is a choice.
Fasting in starvation is a pathology, fasting is not a pathology. So, for the purposes of this talk, and for the purposes of them, most people who are inquiring about fasting, understand that it's not starvation. So, what is fasting? Fasting is choosing to not eat food. Oftentimes, the word fasting can be used interchangeably with caloric restriction or time restricted eating, but it's basically a reduction of calories, or withholding of nutrition for a certain period of time, by choice.
The three most common types of fasts that I've seen in my clinical practices, what I'm going to talk about today, and why one would choose one over the other, and maybe some of the side effects that you might get from in any one of these types of fashion. So, the first fast is the 5:2 fast. This particular fast has been really well researched and well-studied. And it's been shown to be really effective for hypertension, aka high blood pressure, hyperglycemia, high blood sugar, and even type two diabetes.
A really well researched type of fast the 5:2 fast, meaning five days out of the week, typically Monday through Friday, one eats their normal, healthy plant based diet; fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, healthy types of grains, of course, avoiding dairy and meat, and processed sugar and alcohol, and refined carbohydrates, avoiding all those things, eating your normal, healthy plant based diet Monday through Friday, not worrying about how much you eat, just eating healthy. Saturday, Sunday, typically two days, the remaining two days out of the out of the week, you continue eating your normal healthy plant-based diet, but you restrict your calories down to 500 per day. And that's pretty much it. You just choose two days out of the week, where you only eat 500 calories.
So there has been some good research showing that doing it five days in a row and two days in a row can be effective. But I've known patients and even myself a couple times I've done it to where I have split it up. So, I didn't do my 500 calorie days back-to-back, intersperse them, I'll intersperse them throughout the week. And it worked out quite well. So that's the 5:2 fast.
The second type of fast, it's the most popular type of fast. I think a lot of athletes are doing it. A lot of celebrities are doing it and the most common that I see in my medical practice is intermittent fasting, aka time restricted eating. So that's kind of self-explanatory. You restrict the time that you consume food. Most typically people choose an eight-hour window. So for example, you're eating from 12pm to 8pm. Not eating any food before 12 noon, not eating any food after 8pm. And again, you're doing your typical normal plant-based diet or limiting your alcohols, your dairies, your sugars, your sweets, your animal products, and your refined carbohydrates. I think this is the most popular type of fast, because there's a lot of flexibility in that.
I know patients who you know do a 12 to four eating window as opposed to as opposed to the typical 12 to eight where they only they only eat for four hours. You can expand that eating window you can go a 10-hour eating window, so some people eat from 12pm to 10pm. Some people eat from 11pm to 7pm 11am to 7pm. So, the reason why I think this is really popular is because there is that flexibility you can increase the time window you can decrease the time window and you can change it on a daily basis depending on your activity level or depending on your stress or depending on your use. no access to particular types of food on that day.
So there's a lot of flexibility within the intermittent fasting window. And it's something that can be kept up, you know, compliance with it is really good because you are able to eat, and you're able to choose the amount of time that you're able to eat in, you know, a typical joke is like, ‘Oh, well, I do that I do intermittent fasting, I choose 12am, to 12pm!’ So of course, you have to use some common sense with it, you do want to restrict the time that you're going to eat, I would recommend 12 hours or less, as far as your feeding time.
Folks who are kind of new to fasting, I recommend starting off with a 12-hour eating window, and then maybe reducing the eating time by two hours every week or so. So, you can start off the first week eating from 8am to 8pm. And then reduce it eating from 8am to 6pm. The next week 8am to 4pm. And just kind of playing with those times, and gradually reducing it, reducing it, reducing it, and just seeing how well you do. So that's the intermittent fasting.
The last type of fast is the single day fast, where you just choose one day out of the week, and you don't eat. So again, I was also pretty straightforward. I've done this fast several times. And I would always choose Sunday, because I wasn't going to work, I didn't have to really do anything, I really had no obligations on Sunday. So, if you're going to do this, and especially if you're just starting out, choose a day where you don't have to exercise like out of your normal exercise routine. You know, don't try to go for your personal best and lifting weights, don't train for your marathon, I would advise not choosing a day where you don't have to go to work. Because oftentimes mental stress can make us hungry. So it'll be more difficult for you not to eat throughout the whole day. So choose a day where you can chill out and relax.
And on this day, I would suggest doing some gentle stretching, some deep breathing, drinking lots of water, maybe exposing yourself to the elements doing a nice walk. And just giving yourself an opportunity just to kind of chill out and relax because you're not going to be getting those calories that you're used to. So if you try to exert yourself, either physically or mentally, it could be quite stressful on the body.
Those are three types of fats. The 5:2 fast, really well studied, very easy to do. Five days in a row eating normal, two days eating 500 calories. Intermittent fasting: really popular lots of information out there about it, you just choosing a feeding window, common feeding windows and eight hour feeding window. The other hours out of the other 16 hours out of the day, you don't eat, you could do that every single day. It seems to be the easiest for people to do, and there's flexibility with an eating window. And lastly is the single day type of fasting, where you choose a day out of the week where you don't eat anything, any calories at all. Just drink water, the breathing. Don't do anything too strenuous physically or mentally. So, what are some of the drawbacks? What are some of the things that people would be afraid of when they fast? Well, we already talked about the starvation piece. So that's not a thing.
Commonly I hear patients say, you know, I get a headache, you know, am I getting sick because I'm not eating? Well, you have to think about it. Food. This is the standard typical American diet consists of a lot of refined sugars, a lot of processed meats, meat products, dairy, carbohydrates, fats, hydrogenated oils. And all of these things are chemicals and chemicals are addictive. So, if you've been eating this type of foods, some semblance of the standard American diet for the past decade, then all of a sudden, you don't do that. Your body's going to go through some withdrawals. Because you're addicted to the to these processed foods.
So headaches or hunger pangs or stomach rumbling. These are common symptoms that you get, when you're not doing things in a routine, your body's used to eating certain types of foods, your body's used to insert certain types of foods at a certain at a certain time. So if you deviate from that, your body's going to be shaken up a little bit. So, headache is something very, very typical. Stomach rumbling is something very, very typical. So I would say to combat this, of course, deep breathing and drinking lots of water throughout your fast is good.
But having a little bit of carbonated water can decrease a headache and some of those hunger pangs, but understand that you're not dying, you're not getting sick. It's just your body reacting to a break and its normal routine. And the more you fast, the more consistent you are with the fasting. The healthier you eat, the more on a plant-based diet you can get these typical symptoms of fasting will go away, they'll tend to dissipate.
Kind of side note; some other advantages of fasting if you're outside of losing weight. Outside of helping you maintain healthy blood sugar, outside of helping you maintain a healthy blood pressure, some of the things that you experience, and a lot of these things are experiential anecdotal, they're kind of hard to quantify. But they're true. There's a sense of mental clarity that you get when you fast in the beginning, and may be difficult, again, because you're breaking the body's normal pattern of eating a certain type of food at a certain amount at a certain time. But once you get past that, there is a sense of mental clarity that you get, oftentimes, I have heard patients say, and I've experienced this myself, your creative juices start to flow, you get a little bit high, high in a good sense, you know, high off of life, basically! Because you're not ingesting anything. But you just get a greater sense of mental clarity.
And I think the number one thing that you get is an understanding of your body, you can become more in tune with your body. If you're choosing not to eat and you get hungry, you may realize that you're actually thirsty. If you're choosing not to eat and you get hungry, you may realize that you're just perhaps dealing with an emotion and unresolved emotion. As we all know, oftentimes food is associated with every single type of emotion that you could have. Well, if you're fasting and you're choosing not to eat, now you have an opportunity to perhaps deal with that emotion.
So sometimes we're not hungry for food, we're actually thirsty. Sometimes we're not hungry for food, were actually hungry for, you know, wanting to deal with an emotion. So there's an opportunity, when you're fasting, to understand yourself better, there's opportunity when you're fasting, to deal with emotions, and to understand yourself. And to understand, hey, you know, I usually have a snack at the end of the day. But I'm not going to do that today. I can't do that today, I'm fasting. So, what else can I do actually have time now to do things, I don't have to go to the drive through. Maybe I might pick up that book and read it, maybe I might call a loved one.
So outside of the physical outside of the mental, you have space and room in your life to be more creative, you have space and time in your life to do other things when you're not focused on eating, thinking about eating, thinking about the next time you're going to eat, you know, some of those some of these things that occupy our brain tend to go away when we're fasting. And that is because you have that freedom in that creative space that comes with fasting.
That's just kind of a brief overview of fasting, that and the different types of fasting that one can experience and then one can do. I would encourage you to try it out. I would not do any type of fast that goes beyond the day without speaking to a doctor. There's clinics all over the country that do extended types of fast there's juice fast, there's raw food fast, but I think you're pretty safe with those three fasts that I described.