No prep, no mess, no stress.
Bredesen Protocol Approved
Plant Paradox Approved
1 c Coffee or Tea (nothing added)
2-3 Distracting Chores
1 Open Mind
1. Calculate your optimal fasting window:
Subtract 3 hours from the time you go to bed. This time is your fasting window start time.
If you're new to intermittent fasting, add 12 hours to your start time; if you're an intermittent fasting pro (and/or have an ApoE4 allele, a risk factor for Alzheimer's), add 16 hours. This time is your fasting window end time.
2. Refrain from eating during your fasting window. Upon waking, distract yourself with activities, chores, and tea or coffee. Your intellectual performance and memory is enhanced when you are in a fasting state, so take advantage of that morning mental acuity!
3. About half an hour prior to your fasting window end time, begin to plan and prepare a healthy meal to break your fast (see: Recipes).
4. Pat yourself on the back, then dig in.
5. Repeat steps 1-4 every 24 hours.
I'll admit I may have taken it one step too far…But you get the idea.
Fasting is an ancestral tradition practiced throughout the centuries, with advocates claiming that it brings physical and spiritual renewal. The Renaissance doctor Paracelsus even dubbed it "the physician within.”
Glucose is your body's primary source of fuel; fat is it's secondary source. When glucose is no longer available, your metabolism flips the switch from burning glucose to burning fat, just as it does when you are eating a ketogenic diet. Turns out, this fat-burning state activates a number of processes that optimize brain health and longevity: ketone production, increased insulin sensitivity, reduced appetite, reduced fat mass, enhanced aerobic endurance, increased lean muscle mass, reduced inflammation, improved lipid panels, increased mitochondrial efficiency, improved repair processes, and increased BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) - a protein that stimulates production of new brain cells and strengthens existing ones. Simply consuming the same number of calories, from the same foods, within a shorter time frame, has been shown to result in these benefits.
Of the various methods of intermittent fasting (time restricted eating, prolonged fasting, fast mimicking, alternate day fasting, etc.) my preferred method is time restricted eating (TRE). Why? Because it makes “circadian sense!” Your eating window is aligned with your circadian rhythm (your internal clock), so it makes sense to start both your circadian cycle and your eating window simultaneously. Since circadians are affected by food intake, it also makes sense to stop eating a few hours before bedtime. Plus, the bulk of your fasting window is spent sleeping, so you're effectively distracted from that delicious coconut ice cream in your freezer.
For all the TRE veterans out there, this is no new information. For the intermittent fasting or time restricted eating beginners, bear with me… the devil’s in the details! While one of the many benefits of intermittent fasting is its simplicity, a few areas of confusion remain.
The question I receive most often: "Does break a fast?" The answer (generally) is: yes. Most foods and beverages are going to break a fast.
And then, there's the enigmatic coffee. Does coffee break a fast? Here’s where the research gets murky. Many researchers contend that black coffee does not break a fast, and may even enhance the health benefits of time restricted eating with further glucose regulation and autophagy (literally,"self eating" - your body's way of removing damaged cells and replacing them with new ones); others argue that, since coffee contains caffeine, it activates your “internal clock,” disrupting your circadian rhythm, and is therefore breaking your fast. Since the jury’s still out on this one, I say coffee is innocent until peer-reviewed-proven guilty.
And then there's the question of the optimal amount of time in your fasting window. This matter is more nuanced, dependent on a few variables such as your current diet (how carb-reliant you are), your circadian rhythm (are you a morning or a night person) and your ApoE status (a gene that affects your risk for Alzheimer's):
For someone who has been eating the standard American diet, it may be more challenging initially to flip that metabolic switch from burning glucose to fat, since the "lever" isn't as accustomed to turning on and off. The same philosophy applies to those with little to no fasting experience. In both cases, start with a small fasting window, and work your way up.
For the early risers, it may be easier to initiate your fasting window earlier in the evening, and break your fast earlier the next day; in contrast, night owls may find it easier to eat later in the evening (while still allowing for a 2-3 hour fast between dinner and bedtime) and continue their fast well into the next day.
For those who have tested their ApoE status, and know you have one or two copies of ApoE4 (an allele associated with a greater risk for Alzheimer's), it's recommended that you work your way up to 16 hours (or more). Otherwise, your sweet spot may be anywhere between 12-16+ hours.
I'll be the first to admit that the idea of fasting sounds absolutely miserable. The image evoked is one of Olympian self-discipline and seductive bacon-scent temptations. In both my practice and my personal experience, I daresay - fasting is fun. You're quicker on your feet and lighter in your step. Your brain, fueled by ketones (a more efficient energy source), is in a state of enhanced performance and clarity. It's the closest thing to feeling Superhuman you'll experience (in the absence of illicit drugs). What's more, as your body adapts to this fat-burning, ketone-producing state, cravings begin to dissipate, making it easier to achieve a longer fast.
While this recipe is for breakfast (or lack thereof), you can reap the same benefits of time restricted eating by beginning your fasting window earlier in the evening, and enjoying breakfast upon waking, instead. Ultimately, it’s up to you, your lifestyle, and your preferences.