Fitness for Body, Mind and Spirit

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Fitness for the body, mind & spirit

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Reflections...My 5-Day intermittent fasting challenge...


Welcome to GreenNote Fitness Reflections.

Each month I share with you what I’m doing for longevity - to live my life fully with joy while serving others.

We will deep-dive into optimizing brain function and mitochondrial health while

maintaining strength and balance of body, mind, and spirit.

Read or listen to any longevity expert in the world and they will no doubt mention the importance of the human body to periodically go without food for long periods of time with a time thereafter for a re-feed. Our hunter and gather ancestors of course did this; there was a period of feast and a period of famine. So it’s nothing new. However what is new is pushing a button on your phone and having ample amounts of food delivered to your door. You may have had to hit the pause button on your Netflix binge but it wasn’t long until you could be surrounded by bags and bags of food. Thus the need for us modern humans to understand that the digestive system needs a break. Enter fasting.

For the second year in a row, I’ve taken my normal 3 days per week of intermittent fasting and strung together 5 consecutive days of not eating for 16+ hours. For additional discipline, I removed drinking my beloved morning coffee and evening dark chocolate. Although both very beneficial, I used these five days to cycle off of those treasures. And of course, no alcohol!

My friends over at Kion (pronounced KEY-ON) hosted this second annual 5-day fasting challenge. What I really like about this challenge is sense of community, daily encouragement and the fantastic resources provided to assist folks with the different types of fast, how to begin and end one’s fast, and what fasting experts teach. And this was all for free! I encouraged all of my clients to partake even if they are fasting aficionado’s or first-time fasters. Some answered the call and had great results!

As part of the 5-day fasting challenge, Kion provided a ton of great information for beginners and experts alike. I’m going to highlight a few of those key points here.

A few of the many benefits of fasting outlined in Kion’s Fasting Decoded include:

  • Longevity and disease prevention

  • Autophagy is a repair process in which cells cleanse and repair themselves by removing old and damaged proteins and replacing them with new ones. This process has been associated with anti-aging, longevity, and improved metabolic health, and becomes accelerated during periods of fasting. Autophagy has major implications for longevity and anti-aging because it keeps cells young, healthy, and functioning optimally.

  • Improved body composition

  • Fasting for periods of 12 hours or more has been shown to improve fat oxidation and fat-burning. Fasting has also been shown to increase the body’s secretion of human growth hormone, which aids in preserving muscle and burning body fat.

  • More energy

  • Energy levels tend to increase during extended fasts, due to a rise in the hormone adrenaline.

  • Immune system health

  • Mouse models have shown promising results for autoimmune conditions, specifically Multiple Sclerosis and Type 1 Diabetes. It’s hypothesized that fasting prompts the body to remove and replace damaged cells, as well as stimulate regeneration of damaged tissue.

  • Heart health

  • Fasting has been shown to improve a number of blood lipid markers indicative of heart health including blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, insulin sensitivity and triglycerides.

Sure, those all look wonderful but maybe you are still a bit leery of going for an extended period without calories. Here are a couple of fasting myths that may help put you at ease.

Common misconceptions of fasting:

  • Myth #1 - I will starve, my body will go into starvation mode - WRONG!

  • “Quite the opposite occurs during a fast. 48 hours of fasting has actually been shown to produce a 3.6% increase in metabolic rate, and four days of fasting increases energy expenditure to 14%”

  • Myth #2 - I will loose muscle mass - WRONG!

  • "The increase in growth hormone during a fast keeps muscles intact, and upon re-feeding, muscles are actually primed to take up more fuel, potentially resulting in increased muscle mass post-fasting."

While fasting is a great tool to have in your health tool-kit, some people may want to use caution while others may want to avoid it all together. Fasting Decoded does a great job in identifying when to use caution or when to forego it all together. Maybe you are a diabetic and are concerned with fasting. A great resource to check-out (regardless if you are a diabetic or not) is one of the world’s leading experts on fasting, Dr. Jason Fung. You can check him out here or check out one of his books.

Now back to my 5-day intermittent fast. My goal for intermittent fasting was longevity and cellular health so I chose to do intermittent fasting of 16+ hours every day. That timeframe allowed my body to shift into a repair process, autophagy, that helps to clean up cells. Due to timing and food availability, on some days my fast lasted as long as 20 hours. It did not however go less than 16 hours.

I did want to track things that I could i.e. weight, body fat, sleep, and readiness. Sleep and readiness were tracked with my Oura Ring which I’ve written about here.

Here are my results:

  • Weight - down one pound

  • Body fat % - down a fraction of a percent

  • Sleep - stayed relatively the same though did seem slight decrease in overall score; REM (rapid eye movement decreased) and Deep Sleep increased

  • Readiness (how recovered you are) - though my score decreased over the week, my HRV (heart rate variability) increased (a good thing)

Again, I was fasting for longevity so just going down a pound and a fraction of body fat was a good outcome. There are so many factors that can impact our sleep and readiness that it would be difficult to say if the fasting caused my numbers to go down (though this has been shown to happen with prolonged periods of fasting). My energy felt great and it always feels good to give your gut a break and your body time to repair.

If you have been thinking of doing some type of intermittent fasting, I strongly encourage you to take the next step and begin it. If you already do intermittent fasting, I would encourage you to ensure that you getting good quality food when you do eat and that you try changing the timing of your fast; maybe you go a little longer one day, a little shorter another day and start and finish at different times of day.

Intermittent fasting is part of my lifestyle. I am hopeful that it can be part of yours.

To our reflection,

Lisa Schaffer

GreenNote Fitness

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