Controlled fasting is something I have really enjoyed myself in recent years as a means of augmenting gut health, autophagy, and fat loss. It is a highly convenient eating system to utilize because of the low meal frequency pattern, making it perfect for times where I am traveling or extremely busy. The word “controlled” is relevant here because there is a multitude of fasting protocols, some prohibit the consumption of water or amino acids during the fast. My variation allows you to consume water and specific amino acids during the fasting window to preserve health, cognition, boost recovery, performance, and manage hunger simultaneously. To further aid hydration and mitochondria efficiency I will also add electrolytes to my water during the fast.
In this article, I will give you 4 ways to utilize controlled fasting to maximize the impact – but first, let me explain what the real benefits are.
Controlled fasting gives the body more time to repair cells because insulin levels drop down and the glucagon hormone goes up (insulin and glucagon have an inverse relationship). It is glucagon that helps trigger autophagy which explains why controlled fasting is so effective at facilitating this process to occur at a higher level. Furthermore, another by-product of keeping insulin levels low is a drastic improvement in insulin sensitivity. When you are fighting with insulin resistance it means that fat loss, muscle growth, energy levels, and even recovery are all going to be compromised. Gut health can also benefit from controlled fasting because the GI tract spends long periods of time without having to process food, therefore you are able to control inflammation in this area more successfully. From a general health standpoint, please consider that 75% of your immune system lives in the gut – if there is chronic inflammation here on a regular basis, it can also potentially translate into health problems away from the gut. The mindset can benefit from controlled fasting because it engrains discipline and self-control into your thought process which is extremely empowering!
Obviously, fat loss is made easier with controlled fasting for one clear reason – you have less opportunity to overeat. However, you must ensure you have the discipline to avoid eating junk food and sugary things during the eating window if you have cravings.
The benefits are very clear, now we need to address the utilization of this dieting strategy that I have many of my online coaching clients use.
#1 Raw Veggies: Break Your Fast The Right Way
My approach to fasting is strategic, it goes way beyond limiting food within certain windows of the day. When breaking my fast I will have a plate of raw vegetables, this provides the richest source of micronutrients that are absorbed efficiently in this state. After this, I will then consume cooked vegetables, then move on to a protein and healthy fat source.
I have seen many people use fasting as a means of controlling calorie intake, to then justify binging on junk food the moment they break their fast. Not only is this counter-intuitive for general health, it completely undermines the point in adopting an easting system that is there to help you progress physically.
#2 Utilize Healthy Fats
Healthy fats are a very important part of my controlled fasting protocol because by spending a long time in the pre-prandial phase (fasted state), your body will naturally resort to using stored fat as fuel. Consuming healthy, Omega 3 rich fats will also help the body become more efficient in using fat for fuel. In case you are wondering why I emphasize Omega 3 fatty acids (specifically DHA and EPA), there are a plethora of reasons why these are superior to Omega 6s.
The most important point is the topic of inflammation – from experience, I have learned that when you gear your fats more towards Omega 3s, you notice a reduction in inflammation (especially in the gut). Be mindful that by consuming large quantities of animal protein your Omega 6 intake will already be high, therefore it is even more important to address the overall Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio in your diet.
#3 Save Your Carbs
My preference is to save the majority of carbohydrates for the post-workout window when using controlled fasting – doing this helps the body remain hypersensitive to carbohydrates, therefore they are used far more efficiently! Ensure that you keep the quality of your carbohydrate sources at the forefront of your mind, meaning you resort to things like sweet potato, potato, wild rice, and things alike. When I see people use their carbohydrate target to justify things like processed candy and other junk, riddled with high fructose corn syrup and other harmful ingredients I cringe! Calories and macronutrients are one part of nutrition, nutrient density, and their inflammatory response is another far too many people overlook.
#4 Use Homemade Smoothies
Consuming enough protein during your window isn’t easy, given you will be aiming for at least 1g per pound of lean bodyweight if muscle retention, growth, and recovery are your priority. Therefore, I strongly recommend using a blender to make healthy smoothies which enable you to consume large quantities of protein with ease, while adding extra nutrition as well.
For example, adding 50g of whey isolate, spinach, blueberries, raspberries, unsweetened almond milk, and flaxseeds gives you a great deal of micronutrition as well as protein in one hit. As a coping mechanism for cravings, these smoothies are also delicious!
Learning how to use controlled fasting the right way requires a specific plan regarding macro quantities, along with the overall structure of the diet. If you are completely new to it, I recommend starting with a 16 hour fast and an 8-hour eating window – then build up to 18 hours and a 6-hour eating window. Once you have established a strong understanding of how you feel when fasting, you can try 24-hour fasts to really force these benefits upon yourself.