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November 2022

"The Complete Guide to Fasting" - A Book Review

Jason Fung, MD, is a graduate of the University of Toronto medical school and he completed a fellowship in nephrology at UCLA. Dr. Fung runs the Intensive Dietary Management Program in Toronto, where he works with patients suffering from obesity, insulin resistance, and diabetes. Jimmy Moore is a blogger, author, and host of several low-carb podcasts who achieved a stunning 180 pound weight loss due to a combination of dietary change, exercise, and fasting. These two gentlemen teamed up in 2016 to write "The Complete Guide to Fasting." I was recently asked by a client if I had any book recommendations on intermittent fasting. I had read many articles on the subject and learned about the concept as part of several medical and nutritionally-themed books, but had not come across a book specifically dedicated to fasting. A quick search on Amazon brought me to this title, so I went ahead and purchased the book.

Fasting, very simply, is what happens when we are not eating. Much of what passes for modern dietary advice is flat-out wrong, and over the last 50 years or so we have been conditioned to believe that eating smaller meals spread out throughout the day is the healthy way to go. Nothing could be further from the truth. Fasting is something that has been around for thousands of years, and it has its place in many cultures and religions all over the world. Dr. Fung gives a very concise explanation of what happens when we fast. He says, "Insulin levels drop, signaling the body to start burning stored energy. Glycogen (the glucose that's stored in the liver) is the most easily accessible energy source, and the liver stores enough to provide energy for twenty-four hours or so. After that, the body starts to break down stored fat for energy." So the idea is that we want to tap into our reserves of body fat to use as our primary energy source, which can only happen efficiently when we are in a fasted state. Insulin is the key hormone; its purpose is to help nutrients get into our cells. Lower insulin levels mean you are maintaining insulin sensitivity, which is a good thing. Higher insulin levels can be dangerous to your health, and are often associated with heart disease, stroke, obstructive sleep apnea, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and many other diseases of modern civilization. Chronic high insulin can also lead to Type 2 diabetes. Fasting forces your body to use fat as its primary fuel source. If you temporarily deprive yourself of food, the body will use the resources it already has.

What are the benefits of fasting? I believe there are some psychological improvements that can be achieved through fasting (especially a feeling of accomplishment after an extended fast), but Dr. Fung discusses six key physical improvements that can be obtained through regular fasting.

  1. Stimulate growth hormone. This is key for tissue repair, as well as building and maintenance of lean muscle mass.

  2. Regulate insulin, other hormones, and blood sugar. Energy levels will be kept relatively stable, thus avoiding peaks and valleys at various times throughout the day

  3. Apoptosis, or programmed cell death. This is a normal part of an organism's growth and development, and can help you avoid certain types of cancers.

  4. Autophagy. Similar in nature to apoptosis, but this is a regular form of cellular cleansing that can only occur when you are in a fasted state.

  5. Increased alertness. Think about what happens after a large meal (certainly topical, with Thanksgiving just around the corner). We've all heard the term "food coma", but you're usually groggy, and it's not only because of the tryptophan. Being in a fasted state means that blood is not concentrated in your gut, helping you to digest a large meal. You feel more awake, and your thinking is more clear when you fast.

  6. Lowers cholesterol. Cholesterol, in and of itself is not a bad thing, since every cell membrane in your body contains this substance. According to Dr. Fung, "...Since excess carbohydrates are converted to triglycerides, the absence of carbohydrates means fewer triglycerides. Remember that triglycerides are released from the liver as VLDL (very low density lipoprotein), which is the precursor of LDL (low density lipoprotein). Therefore, reduced VLDL eventually results in lowered LDL."

One particularly interesting chapter of the book deals with some of the myths about fasting. Here, Dr. Fung does a wonderful job of exploding these myths, and hopefully this educates people who have been misinformed. One commonly expressed reservation that people have about fasting is that they think it will cause them to burn muscle. As the author explains, "Muscle, on the other hand, is preserved until body fat becomes so low that the body has no choice but to turn to muscle. This will only happen when body fat is at less than 4 percent. (For comparison, elite male marathon runners carry approximately 8 percent body fat and female marathoners slightly more.)" Most of us carry around more body fat than that, so the risk of losing muscle is practically nonexistent. Another myth that has become accepted as fact is that fasting causes low blood sugar. Not true. According to Dr. Fung, "If you fast for longer than twenty-four to thirty-six hours, glycogen stores become depleted. The liver now can manufacture new glucose in a process called gluconeogenesis, using the glycerol that's a by-product of the breakdown of fat. This means that we do not need to eat glucose for our blood glucose levels to remain normal." The popular version of what we have been told about fasting, from both the mainstream media and establishment medicine is wildly inaccurate.

How should you go about fasting? My personal recommendation is to start by fasting for 12 hours per day, and gradually work up to 16 hours per day, with an eight hour feeding window (the time between your first and last meals of the day). Each individual is different, and the great thing about fasting is that you can customize how you do it in order to best suit your lifestyle. You can avoid fasting during the holidays or if you have a wedding to attend (or any social event that involves food), and then get right back on track afterward. Dr. Fung details some of the programs that he uses with his patients, and he often utilizes 24 hour, 36 hour, or even longer fasts. Co-author Moore devotes an entire chapter to his personal experiences with fasting and the ways that he experimented and experienced great success. If you're doing an extended fast, it's a good idea to consume plenty of water and a multivitamin, to avoid becoming nutrient deficient. Drinking bone broth is also a good strategy. Fasting is safe and effective for the vast majority of the population, but should be avoided if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, under the age of 18, or severely malnourished. The last point I'll make is that fasting is most easily accomplished if you are on a ketogenic diet, or eat a diet consisting largely of single-ingredient whole foods, with plenty of saturated fat. This will make you less prone to hunger.

Dr. Fung writes well, and the insights provided by Mr. Moore adds a nice touch to the book. The concepts are fairly simple to understand and listed in a way that makes for easy reference if you are a health professional. However, this book is not written for the professional; it's written for the layperson that wants to make a significant change to their health. There are even helpful recipes located in the back of the book, as well as some sample fasting schedules that can be adopted.

Fasting, in and of itself, is very simple (but not necessarily easy) to do. Encouragement from friends and family members will go a long way toward success. It doesn't require money or a product, all it entails is not eating for designated periods of time. I highly recommend incorporating intermittent fasting along with your regular Total Results workouts in order to facilitate fat loss and maximize metabolic effect. It will cost you nothing and will give you a huge return on your exercise investment.

Posted November 22, 2022 by Matthew Romans

Simple Solutions to Chronic Health Problems

According to Wikipedia, Occam's Razor is, "the idea that, in trying to understand something, getting unnecessary information out of the way is the fastest way to the truth or to the best explanation." Please keep this in mind as you read on.

A friend recently recommended that I check out a blogger/writer that calls himself Raw Egg Nationalist. The name itself was enough to make me curious, so I looked into it. What I found refreshing was that he believes in very straightforward solutions to simple, but chronic health problems, and I believe that he sees the world through a very rational lens. I watched a podcast interview that Raw Egg Nationalist did with Lauren Southern where he explained his viewpoints and gave simple advice on how to improve one's health.

This gentleman encourages people to educate themselves about their health as well as the world they live in. If you are constantly looking down at your phone, or you routinely have earbuds in your ears you are missing out on what's going on around you. Knowledge truly is power, and striving to learn more will also keep your mind sharp even as the years advance. This will also bring about a sense of empowerment and a feeling of taking charge. REN (as his name is often abbreviated) correctly points out the failures of big agriculture to make us healthier over the past 60 years, which is illustrated in the skyrocketing rates of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and autoimmune disorders during that time frame. The quality of our food has steadily gone downhill compared to previous generations. In order to combat this, REN recommends that you be in control of what you put into your body; stick with single-ingredient whole foods that give you the greatest nutritional value, and don't fall for clever advertising. He also believes (and I concur) that big food companies don't really care about your best interests; they simply want to make as much money as possible. The same goes for the big pharmaceutical companies; they see you as a milk cow and a customer for life. Since the CDC and FDA are essentially shills for the drug industry, don't expect their help either. You have to put in your own work and do your own research in order to optimize your health.

Chronic health problems are largely the result of poor lifestyle decisions, but environmental factors also play a role. If you live in an industrial area with heavy pollution, this can have a negative impact on the air quality as well as the water supply (think Flint, Michigan), which in turn isn't particularly good for your health. Respiratory infections, heart disease, and lung cancer can result, and are much likely to occur in people who are already chronically ill. It may not be easy for everyone to just pick up and move to an area with less pollution, but sometimes "voting with your feet" is the answer. In the book "Diagnosis: Mercury", Dr. Jane Hightower chronicles her work with patients in the Bay Area of California that had elevated mercury levels in their blood. This caused many patients to suffer from memory loss, mood swings, skin rashes, and muscle weakness. Dr. Hightower cautions us to avoid or severely restrict consumption of large predatory fish such as tuna, swordfish, and shark, as these contain the highest levels of mercury. This neatly ties in with what I mentioned above about the CDC and FDA being essentially worthless. Throughout the book the author discusses how these two organizations can't even agree upon what a safe level of mercury is for humans. It's a good idea to look into where your food comes from. When it comes to fish, sometimes responsibly farm-raised is better than wild-caught.

Many health problems can be reversed or greatly improved by taking simple, proactive measures, but it has to start from inside you. Perhaps you find yourself constantly in a fog and tired much of the time. Start by regulating your bed and wake time. The term "body clock" is very accurate, and our release of hormones (which have an impact on our sleep) still coincide with the rise and setting of the sun. You may also want to take a look at what you're putting into your body, namely the foods you eat. A typical western diet contains too many processed foods, carbohydrates, and sugars, and will lead to wild spikes in insulin and energy levels, as well as systemic inflammation. Take REN's advice (and ours) by consuming single-ingredient whole foods with plenty of protein and essential fats. If you are mineral-deficient, start supplementing. Get outside and expose yourself to the sun, so that you can elevate your Vitamin D levels (also supplement). If you feel weak or are constantly injured, you need Total Results exercise. Prepare your body for the rigors of life and make everyday tasks easier by making yourself as strong as possible. If you want to lose fat, start incorporating intermittent fasting into your lifestyle. Fasting requires discipline, but start out slow and work your way into it (more on this in a future article), but the best thing about it is that it costs no money. Finally, realize that all prescription (and over the counter) medications have side effects, many of them quite severe or even deadly. I recommend getting off medications as soon as possible. Have a frank discussion with your doctor before doing so, but don't back down. You are in charge, not your doctor; he or she works for you.

Chronic diseases aren't the mysteries they once were. We know exactly what causes many of them, especially heart disease and diabetes. Genetics play a role, but just because you have a family history of a disease doesn't guarantee it will happen to you. Life is often not as complicated as it seems, but education is the real key. You have the power to take charge of your health, but your body is your responsibility alone. It all starts with desire and a plan of action. Above all else, keep it simple!

Posted November 10, 2022 by Matthew Romans