After 11 weeks of working on elimination and new routines, it’s time to implement something that adds time and energy back to your life. What I have in mind is something that will maximize your body’s ability to heal and regenerate at a most optimal time, priming it with more water, nutrients, movement, rest, recovery and awareness of feeling.
For this final week, I invite you to open up your detoxification and healing pathways by doing a 16-hour fast 2-3 times this week. Digesting food and assimilating nutrients is hard work and your body’s resources are a zero sum game. When you’re using energy for digestion and nutrient assimilation that energy can’t go towards anything else. Even though you may place a great deal of importance on recovery, for example, your body has a certain triage system in place that always focuses on putting out fires first and everything else second.
When you eat your body has to breakdown the food regardless of what else is going on, otherwise you wouldn’t get the nutrients you need and you would get incredibly sick with rotting, undigested food in your belly. When you eat gluten, which punctures holes in your intestines, your body must divert massive energy resources to the immune response sent to deal with the damage and inflammation and the rebuilding effort. That’s energy you could use for something else like fighting off a cold or rebuilding soft tissue damaged from an intense training session or injury.
When your body wants to convert stored body fat into energy for you to burn it has to pass through the liver for that conversion, however, the liver places a higher priority on neutralizing toxins and doing its part to digest a type of sugar called fructose. Picture your stored body fat waiting in line to get into the liver so it can be converted into energy but just as it gets to the front of the line, all the toxins and fructose from your meal get ushered in ahead of the body fat like they were in VIP. So, even though you may be burning more calories than you’re eating, if you aren’t helping your body out by freeing up resources you won’t lose body fat.
Intermittent fasting is also a good strategy to follow up a day of extreme indulgence to give your body time to neutralize toxins and metabolize sugar. Whether it was too much sugar, too much alcohol or both, you can minimize the damage by doing a 16-hour fast drinking only water and taking minerals the next day. Despite common wisdom, following a hard night of partying with greasy crap foods to “soak it up” is probably the worst thing you can do.
Fasting gives your digestive system a chance to rest, which allows your body to divert more resources to detoxification, fat metabolism, immune function, and tissue repair (healing). Occasional intermittent fasting done in conjunction with proper hydration and clean eating that’s low in sugar, high in nutrients and free of grains is a simple system for giving your body back resources that supercharge your health and performance!
Bullet points on Intermittent Fasting
During your fast drink lots of water, ideally half of your bodyweight in ounces of water that entire day. Organic black coffee or tea without cream or sweeteners is ok too.
Ideally you would start your fast at the end of dinner so a large portion of your fast occurs while you’re sleeping then it’s only a matter of skipping breakfast and you’ve made it. If you finish your last bite of dinner at 8pm you only have to make it to noon the next day.
Your last meal before the fast should be high in antioxidants and fiber. Think greens, veggies, fermented foods, bone broth and berries. The antioxidants will help open up natural detoxification pathways, which releases stored toxins. The fiber is important because it attaches to the newly released toxins giving your body the vehicle it needs to properly eliminate. Releasing long-stored toxins into the bloodstream without drinking enough water and eating enough fiber can be dangerous. It’s an important two-pronged attack. Remember to drink plenty of water to aid detoxification.
Resist the urge to binge on crappy food prior to your fast as the voice in your head starts telling you it’s ok because you’re about to do a fast. Flushing your system with crap food will keep your body busy with new toxins precluding it from processing old ones.
Don’t drink alcohol on the day before, during or after your fast.
If you’ve never fasted like this before you may want to try spacing your fasting days out by at least one day although it’s perfecting fine to fast like this 3 or more days in a row. Let your body be your guide and start slow if this is your first time.
This particular intermittent fasting protocol is a relatively gentle detoxification, but you may still feel low-energy or agitated, especially if it’s your first time trying intermittent fasting. If it becomes too much break your fast with a small meal of easily digestible food like fresh fruit or berries. Watermelon is a good choice. Bone broth is also good way to break a fast. Slowly work your way to more solid, substantial food from there.
Let your body be your guide when it comes to training. It’s still good to move, but you might want to throttle back the intensity. Use less resistance and pace yourself a little more. Remember that this is about opening up more resources for your body to use for healing.
If you normally train early in the morning on the days you choose to fast you may need some post-workout nutrients in your system to replace what you’ve lost from the training so you can make it to lunch time. In this case you want to take in something that is easy for your body to digest and assimilate. A protein shake like is ideal:
15-25 grams of whey or complete plant-based protein to aid tissue repair
1 serving of collagen protein to aid tissue repair
1 serving of nutrient-dense greens or reds powder
5 grams of L-Glutamine*
1-2 Tbsp of MCT oil for energy and nutrient absorption
Mix with cold water or real nut/seed milk like almond, hazelnut, or hemp seed milk. Be sure you read the ingredient list. If it says anything other than water and whatever nut or seed it’s derived from don’t drink it. The Silk brand is garbage and loaded with all kinds of sweeteners, binding agents, and preservatives. It’s tastier and less expensive to make your own anyway. And it’s something anyone can do regardless of experience or lack-thereof in the kitchen.
Optional: Drink bone broth post-workout along with your shake if you feel like you need something a little more substantial.
*Supplementing with L-Glutamine is a good idea any time you’ve eliminated gluten and/or going through intermittent fasting. L-Glutamine is an amino acid that plays an integral role in repairing the holes in your intestines caused by gluten. It’s also capable of passing the blood brain barrier to be converted by the brain into glucose for energy during times of fasting. Take it first thing in the morning with water during your fast and post-workout. I recommend two to three servings/day of 4-5 grams for the next two weeks while you continue to avoid gluten and experiment with intermittent fasting. After that you can continue taking 5 grams/day for another 2-4 weeks before you take a subsequent 2-4 week break.
My last piece of advice for this week is that while you’re in your fast take 5 minutes to pause your day to do the Graham Mead awareness exercise suggested in week 8. Spend the time focusing your attention inward to attune yourself to what’s going on in your body.
I think you’ll discover that if you can make it through the first hunger pangs by drinking some water and waiting for 15 minutes that this is really pretty easy.
Eating a healthy, nutrient-dense meal prior to beginning your fast will be a big deciding factor on how easy and how beneficial this exercise is.
I can’t believe it’s already been 12 weeks since we started this journey!
Those of you who have implemented the steps along the way, you’ve accomplished a massive feat.
Even if you were only able to integrate a few of the weekly routines you’ve still done a great thing for yourself. Congrats!
It may not be the right time for you to undertake the entire journey and that’s ok.
There will be a time when you’re ready to go deeper and this knowledge will always be here when you’re ready to take the next steps.
Remember, it’s a journey, not a destination.