Is Fasting a Good Idea... and Why You've Never Heard of an ESSENTIAL Carbohydrate
The source of todays email is two fold – firstly I want to talk about something that keeps coming up in my consultations around Fasting and/or the 5:2 diet.
BUT I’ve “cleverly” intertwined a little nutritional fact in there as well that you’ve probably never thought about -- in terms of what is “essential” in our diets.
FASTING 101 – To Fast or NOT to Fast?
Fasting seems to be the flavour of the month in terms of trends I’m seeing with new clients.
Fasting as a concept is fairly straight fwd with the basis being that you’re allowing for a couple of days each week for fasting or not eating (drinking water etc is ok).
The 5:2 Diet which seems to be the most popular I’m encountering is 5 days of food and 2 days of fasting (no food).
The 2 days don’t have to be back-to-back they can be on any day of the week.
The main reason it’s advocated is there is a significant amount of research around the fact that fasting is actually beneficial for our health.
It gives our digestive system a rest from having to breakdown food all the time.
It also is said to potentiate insulin health – which if you’ve been reading (any of) my emails you’ll know I’m a MASSIVE advocate for improving insulin health.
It’s also heavily touted to be beneficial to your immune system – which really if you think about it YOU ARE your immune system in terms of your health.
So, what’s the problem you say? Sounds pretty “beneficial” doesn’t it?!
There’s a number of red flags for me on fasting in general but they are more so caveats that you must consider in the context of why you would want to be implementing strategic fasting to begin with.
Although there is some early science backing it up it’s still in that ‘early adoption’ zone where all new dieting concepts begin.
Fasting or “Five Two” is one of those things where you often hear people say “Oh so and so just SWEARS by it…” ha ha
Well, as for me I’m less interested in who “swears by it” and more interested in what it actually does and whether it’s beneficial or relevant.
Why do people want to Fast?
Most people (I feel) go on the 5:2 Diet because they want to lose weight AND I actually believe for the most part that it appeals because of the simple fact that you are going without food.
It’s the same reason that people will go on calorie restriction “mini meal” plans – because intuitively it makes sense to them.
AKA: the less food I consume the more fat I will lose and the less I will weigh.
Unfortunately – and I do mean that literally because it is (rather) unfortunate… the body doesn’t always work in alignment with our intuition.
For most folks Not Eating or going without food is the safe zone. When they are not eating they can at least feel some level of control over the fact that they are not getting any fatter.
Because intuitively this just makes sense – it’s easy to grasp and sounds like it should work…. correct.
This is very similar in intuitive rational as to why people go on Juice Cleanses or Chinese Herbal Tea diets.
Strict, liquid only Juice detoxes are appealing to people searching for weight loss/detox solutions because ‘visually’ they make sense.
When you think about Juice Detoxing it creates almost this visual image or your insides being washed clean with this nutrient rich cocktail – which for someone that knows little/nothing about how the body works, let alone how it detoxes… sounds about right.
Well Fasting (I feel) might just be in a similar bracket.
I’d imagine the rationale is kinda like – “Yeh I reckon I could do a couple of days a week on no food”.
Particularly if it meant (in theory) that “I” didn’t have to worry so much about what “I” eat on the non fasting (food) days.
It’s around this point where I start to go cold on this concept.
It’s not the only reason I’m not a huge advocate but you can start to see how 2 days of fasting might be backed up by a mini food feast-ival on the remaining 5 days…
So there’s definitely psychological aspects that will REALLY appeal to certain mentalities people have around food.
What Do I REALLY think of Fasting…?
I’m no expert on fasting but I have read a decent amount about it – so this is more of a high level analysis more than an ABC Four Corners deep dive but here goes.
Issue 1: Just because we can do it does it mean that it is optimal?
There is no doubt the human body can handle fasting for periods of time.
In fact, the ability to go without food is at the very core of how we’ve survived as a species on this planet.
We can (if needed) go for VERY long periods of time without food and still be able to function.
HOWEVER -- just because your body can do it – does it mean it’s optimal?
Knowing what I DO know about the fact “most people” massively under eat as it is – not just in terms of calories but in terms of NUTRIENTS….
How then can we be confident that further confounding this by eating less – serves anything more than making an already sh#tty situation worse?
The way I look at it – you would have to know how healthy you were in terms a full blood mapping analysis to have any idea whether fasting is something you’re body is equipped to thrive on.
Issue 2: Are YOU fasting to Lose Weight…?
If the goal is weight loss orientated – in that you’re main interest in fasting is indexed against the weight you hope to lose on the scales…. eating less and less over time just down regulates your metabolism.
A down-regulated (sluggish) metabolism makes it harder to lose weight long term.
This is a fact.
So my fear with this pattern of eating (and that’s all it is – call it whatever you like) is that it will “work” for weight loss only until your body adjusts to it.
Basically until your body has enough time to down regulate everything within your body to become efficient at the pattern (fasting).
This is where I worry for people fasting for weight loss who suddenly stop losing weight on the 5:2 – you can only assume they would turn the 5:2 into a 4:3 and then a 3:4… you get the picture.
Issue 3: (STU’S Nutritional Golden Nugget) No Food = No ESSENTIAL Nutrients
This now leads to the second little part of this (now lengthy) email… sorry – I don’t set out to write so much but can’t help myself ;)
Once you understand this YOU WILL change the way you look at your food GUARANTEED…. it’s just that powerful!
We all require nutrients through our food daily in order to stay alive and healthy.
The more high quality nutrients we consume – generally the better our overall health will be.
At a high (Macro) level we can look at our food in terms of 3 macro nutrients categories:
Protein (Amino Acids)
Fats (Fatty Acids)
Carbohydrates (Complex, Simple)
You may have heard the term Essential Amino Acids (EAA’s) and/or Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s)?
Have you ever wondered why or what Essential means? Other than the obvious ha ha
Yes… they are essential (who would have thought?!) – but the context of what essential means is that you/your body requires that specific nutrient from an external source.
So it means “essentially” that the body does not produce the nutrient itself internally so we MUST have it from our food or what we eat…. through our mouths.
If you’ve heard of EAA’s and EFA’s how come you’ve never heard of Essential Carbohydrates?
Well… the reason is because Carbohydrates (glucose) are non-essential.
What that means is your body doesn’t require carbs to function.
That’s because your liver has the ability to produce glucose itself. Not huge amounts but enough for us to survive without the ‘need’ for carbohydrates from our food.
So most people who have a carb heavy diet are eating a “non-essential diet” – technically and by definition!
Cool yeh…? :)
I don’t know why this is not more widely explained but anyway now YOU know and can explain it to folks who might be interested.
Segwaying now back to Fasting…
My 3rd issue is that during those fasting days you are not in taking in (eating) any nutrients…. ESSENTIAL NUTRIENTS.
If we require Essential Nutrients daily from our food – how can going without be considered optimal?
I can see in the carbohydrate dept. – fasting from carbs would be beneficial for sure!
Most people eat way too many carbs anyway.
The bottom line is though we need adequate protein and fats from our diet to sustain our health. There is just no getting around this!
So… I don’t advocate fasting on that basis.
Going without nutrients for most people is not a luxury they have – as they are already nutrient deficient as it is.
Anyhooo… it’s an interesting topic – but hopefully that gives you something to think about anyway..
If you’re thinking you might need some more EAAs of EFAs in your diet then look no further than our menu… in abundance! :)