Intermittent Fasting — Benefits, 168 Fasting, 3- & 5-Day Fasts, Our Plans, & a Short Guide to IF The Hart of Health Podcast S1 E2

Intermittent Fasting — Benefits, 16/8 Fasting, 3- & 5-Day Fasts, Our Plans, & a Short Guide to IF | The Hart of Health Podcast

Here is the transcript for our podcast episode about intermittent fasting:

Jonathan & Joané: (00:02)
Hi, I’m Joané Hart and I’m Jonathan Hart. This is the Heart of Health; a show where we focus mainly on health and self-optimization. Here, we like to talk about our experiences and knowledge when it comes to health and bio-hacking. We hope you enjoy the show.

Joané: (00:34)
Hi everyone. So today’s show is about intermittent fasting.

Jonathan: (00:39)
Which you didn’t believe in the beginning.

Joané: (00:41)
Yeah. You have to start with that, right?

Jonathan: (00:46)
Yeah. So, for all those who think that we’ve always sort of believed in intermittent fasting and that it’s something we sort of automatically went to, I think there was quite a bit of resistance even from my side, where I thought “Hmm, how does like not eating actually help slow down your metabolism?” All those things that I used to believe.

Joané: (01:13)
Yeah. Well, I started doing research about health and dieting when I was 10 years old and until the last few years ago, all I heard always was you have to eat within like 30 minutes of waking up and you have to eat five to six small meals a day. And all these things, and breakfast is the most important meal of the day. All those things we used to believe in. I’m gonna say those actually got quite ingrained into me. Like the first time Jonathan brought up the idea of intermittent fasting, we actually got into a fight because I was so set against it. I was that person, I would wake up and have to eat within the first half an hour because I was trained that way. And the idea of even waiting like two or three hours for breakfast was unbearable at times. I always thought I would never be the kind of person to do intermittent fasting. And then I started doing that and then I had to like say, sorry. You know.

Jonathan: (02:28)
That’s the thing, I was listening to a doctor Rhonda Patrick podcast since she was just going on about all the benefits. And so, I brought that to your attention and you were like, no, I can never. [I would] never be able to restrict my eating window like that. And now things have changed.

Joané: (02:49)
Well, yeah, just a few days ago, I finished a three-day fast and I’ve been fasting for 16 hours every day this year so far, although we didn’t only start doing intermittent fasting now. I’d say it’s been about two years that we’ve been doing it, but the average time that we usually fasted was like 14 hours. Although you, on a lot of days, you do 16 hours.

Jonathan: (03:15)
Yeah, well I aim for a minimum of 14. For a person who’s like never done fasting before or has like no idea if they should do this or not, I don’t say that you have to go over 14 hours, just because you do it as a minimum. I actually say that the bare minimum is 12 hours for general health. For the average population, if you can just at least get to 12, so if you have your first calories, like your coffee or whatever, coffee with milk, if it’s black coffee, then it doesn’t count. But if you have your first coffee with milk at like seven o’clock in the morning, try and make sure you don’t eat anything past seven o’clock at night. So, quite an easy one to measure because it’s 12 hours. So it’s always going to be, if you start at seven, you end at seven. If you start at eight, you stop at eight, you know, so easy to track that way. And that’s a good first step to getting into intermittent fasting.

Joané: (04:17)
Yeah, that’s definitely the minimum amount of time that I think people should do it. And then, if you’re used to that, you can go to 14 hours. So, if you stop eating at eight o’clock at night and then start at 10 o’clock the next morning. In the beginning, it was hard, but once we adapted, it was easy.

Jonathan: (04:39)
You’ll be surprised how quickly your body adapts. Like I’d say it’s within a week. Your body really starts saying, “okay, this is how we’re doing things”. Because hunger is not necessarily about if your stomach is empty or not. It’s a hormonal response. So, if your body is used to eating when you wake up, it is actually spiking your ghrelin, which is your hunger hormone, at that time because it’s used to you eating at that time of the day. If you don’t do that for a couple of days, your body really starts responding and it produces less ghrelin when you wake up. So your body adapts quite quickly and the hunger pains go away relatively quickly.

Joané: (05:20)
Yeah, it takes time. It takes time to train your body to become hungry at pretty much set times during the day. Now I usually start getting hungry about an hour before the time that I usually start eating, which is about 11 in the morning or at noon. But I’ve really been enjoying it. Why should people fast? Like what are these benefits that we were talking about?

Jonathan: (05:51)
Autophagy! Probably one of the ones that have demonstrated on my body the most effectively.

Joané: (06:00)
Yeah. But what is autophagy? Autophagy is your body’s natural cell recycling process. So, when you are fasting, you go for certain periods of time without eating, then your body gets a chance to go clear out a lot of the damaged cells. You know, if you’re not giving your body fuel, it’s going to go and find it somewhere. And there are really a lot of benefits to it. Well I like that it, is great for your skin.

Jonathan: (06:33)
Well, it’s obvious if you’ve got what some people call zombie cells in your body. It’s a good thing to get rid of them because they actually should have died. But because you never really stressed your body with a fast or anything, they sort of just hang in there for the ride and they’re not really doing their job well and they just take up space in your body. Where if you now have that period where you don’t have anything, your body actually starts getting almost strict and says: “Hey, no more freeloaders. You’re out now.” And it takes away a lot of the cells that aren’t actually functioning properly; especially your mitochondria, which are like one of the most important things in your cells. They often tend to linger around for longer than they should. And fasting is definitely one of the best ways to renew your mitochondria. And if you’re interested in athletic performance, mitochondria are super important because they provide all your ATP, which is the energy for your cells.

Joané: (07:38)
Yeah. Your mitochondria are responsible for converting energy in your body. With fasting, I think you can actually get even more mitochondria and your body replaces old and damaged ones, so you will be able to produce energy a lot better.

Jonathan: (07:59)
Yeah. I definitely noticed an increase in like fitness levels without having to increase my workout level. So it’s almost like you just feel young again in energy levels. For me, the thing that was quite interesting that I think also sort of demonstrates the whole autophagy thing, is I had a mole on my stomach, but as soon as I started intermittent fasting, it slowly disappeared. So that was a good external demonstration of sort of what’s going on. I’m not saying that all your moles will disappear, but…

Joané: (08:41)
That’s what happened to you when you started fasting?

Jonathan: (08:43)
Yeah. And so, obviously, my body was like: “well these cells are useless”, and kicked them out. And now I don’t have a mole there anymore. Which is quite interesting.

Joané: (08:54)
Well for me, I’m fascinated by the idea of the whole rest and digest thing. You’re not supposed to be digesting food the whole time. Your body needs time to rest. Your digestive system needs a break. You need time for your body to go through all of its repair processes. To go through, its natural cleanup processes. And if you’re always eating, then your body doesn’t get a chance to do that. And another thing is every time you eat, your insulin levels go up. So, if you want to lose weight or if you want to lose fat or if you want to manage your insulin levels and you’re always eating, (I think it takes like six hours for your body to be in a normal state after eating), then your body is never in a state where your insulin levels are low and will make it much harder for you to lose fat. So, intermittent fasting, it’s very good for managing insulin levels, which is important for me because I do have a problem with that.

Jonathan: (10:13)
Yeah. In general, it seems that becoming insulin resistant is linked to a lot of other problems. I know a lot of people who will have that late-night snack at 10:30 just before they go to bed, they’ll have the snack and then, first thing in the morning, they’re having their coffee. So, like you said, it takes us six hours to actually get past that point. So, their body maybe has an hour or two to try and sort of recover from all the digesting it did that day and that’s really not enough time. And I think that’s probably one of the main reasons why intermittent fasting is showing so many benefits because a lot of inflammation comes from your digestive system and your gut. So, if you’re not resting it properly, it can cause problems in your entire body.

Joané: (11:09)
You know, what is a great benefit of intermittent fasting? Cooking less often. Recently, I’ve only been eating pretty much lunch and dinner, and have not been having to prepare breakfast really helps. The kitchen is cleaner and I haven’t had to buy as much food.

Jonathan: (11:34)
Yeah. So, you will also naturally be able to eat less calories in general. I suppose there are people out there that would be able to do quite a bit of damage in the eating window.

Joané: (11:50)
Yes. Like if you binged, you could eat a lot of calories in a very short amount of time.

Jonathan: (11:56)
But, for the people who don’t binge, it will naturally decrease your calorie intake, and that will help with fat loss. And it’s not always your goal, but even if you’re not interested in fat loss, intermittant fasting has benefits, like we talked about with mitochondria, so you will be able to do more work. And it’s also better for your hormones.

Joané: (12:22)
Yeah, and it’s good for longevity reasons, and intermittent fasting can help protect your muscles.

Jonathan: (12:31)
Yeah, exactly. The body sort of knows that you’re okay, you’re not getting anything right now, a lot of people would normally believe that “Oh, if I’m not eating, it means my body is going to use my muscles as the energy source”, where the opposite occurs. Your body is actually like “Oh, we’re not getting anything. We’ve got to preserve our muscles.” If you’re always feeding your body all the time, then it’s more likely for your muscles to be used as an energy source when you are sort of just calorie restricting and eating at regular intervals throughout the day.

Joané: (13:04)
Well, I find it much easier not to eat than to restrict my calories because I also think that intermittent fasting can be good for people who are binge eaters. I’m a binge eater, and as soon as I start eating, that’s when the food frenzy starts. Like that’s when my brain just keeps saying more and more and more. I want more food. But when I’m not eating, that never happens. Like, yes, I’m hungry. Like yes, I get tempted, but I never feel like, okay, I’ve lost control. But sometimes, when I start eating, that’s when I feel like I’m losing control. And the fewer times that I eat in a day, the fewer times that happens. So yeah, I just don’t get into the binge mode as often if I do intermittent fasting. And it’s actually quite freeing.

Jonathan: (14:04)
Yeah. Plus you do have a tendency to want to eat a bit larger meals. So this gives you the opportunity to have more satisfying meals and fewer in a day, than having these tiny little snacks that actually kind of keep you hungry the entire day where you’re not really ever satisfied and you just want to eat everything, even though you’ve been snacking throughout the entire day.

Joané: (14:29)
Yeah. Snaccidents! A snaccident is when you eat something accidentally.

Jonathan: (14:40)
Yeah. Normally something small and snacking size that you didn’t actually intend in eating,

Joané: (14:46)
It often happens while cooking.

Jonathan: (14:49)
That’s when most of it happens. Then the other thing we can look at with intermittent fasting, one of the things that convinced me at least, was that it’s more ancestrally appropriate. Because everyone knows that back then we were hunter-gatherers, we had a lot less of these problems that we have today, health-wise. And that’s not only because of what they ate but also because of the intervals they ate at. Like when it got dark, you had to go to bed. Like, you could have a fire going for a bit, but then it was basically “okay, lights out” and you sleep and then you wake up when the sun rises. And so, your body had this natural circadian rhythm that it could get into. We didn’t come from a background of eating all the time. Normally, we’d get something and then have an abundance of food, have to eat that in abundance and then last for a long time without anything. So, I think our ancestors fasted a lot, and obviously, our bodies had to adapt to not having food constantly like we have today. I think having food always ready whenever you want it, basically, you can just drive around, probably within a couple of kilometers within your house, there’s a place where you can get fast food 24 hours a day.

Joané: (16:20)
You don’t have to drive anywhere. You can just order food online.

Jonathan: (16:24)
Yeah. Even easier just order food online and you’ve got it. So, there’s this constant access that I think is causing a lot of issues that we see today.

Joané: (16:35)
Definitely causing problems. Like I never knew staying away from a website could be so hard. If you’re sitting at work and it’s been a long day and you’re like “Ugh, I’m craving something.” You don’t even have to go anywhere. You can just go online, go onto Uber eats or whatever website or platform is available and there’s like a list of restaurants you could choose from with an endless choice of options, and you get decision fatigue scrolling through them. It’s just so easy to order food online. I think someone told me that they read an article that was about where people waste the most money and ordering food online was quite high on the list. So it’s also a waste of money.

Jonathan: (17:28)
Oh, you can, you can definitely save a lot of money by not snacking as much and having fewer meals in a day to worry about. It’s obviously going to save you money and if you’re not going out to buy that late-night McDonald’s or whatever, that’s going to be money saved and much better for your health. So, also if your health improves, you end up saving that way. Another benefit I’ve noticed is that my immune system has been a lot stronger.

Joané: (17:59)
Oh yeah. You used to get sick a lot when we first started dating.

Jonathan: (18:05)
And now I don’t get sick at all. So, I save all that money on not having to buy medicine or go to the doctor. And it’s definitely down to my dietary decisions I’ve made in the past few years. That’s the only thing that’s changed.

Joané: (18:23)
Okay. So the longest fast that I’ve done was three days, which was recently, and before that, it was 24 hours. I’ve done a few 24-hour fasts. You’ve done a five-day.

Jonathan: (18:35)
Yeah, I did a five day fast. So it was just water and salt and lemon juice. But yeah, the lemon juice didn’t help much. The salt is really good. So if you are going to be doing a longer fast, I definitely recommend salt. If you can get ketone salts like beta-hydroxybutyrate and potassium and magnesium, that also makes it a lot easier.

Joané: (19:04)
That’s what I took during my three-day fast.

Jonathan: (19:06)
Yeah. Often what happens when you fast is that you end up excreting a lot more liquid and you lose a lot more of your essential minerals. So, it’s always good to replace those. But for the five-day fast, the thing is, the first three days are tough. It’s funny that you just did the first three days, but as long as after three days your body is like, “okay, so I guess we’re not eating for a while” and then it stops making ghrelin and you stop getting as hungry. But, I think I went into the fast with too low body fat. So my body was almost like, “okay, we’re running really low on reserves here.”

Joané: (19:49)
How do we get you to gain more fat before another fast? Because you are quite lean.

Jonathan: (19:54)
I’m thinking I’m just going to only fast for that long again if I gained fat.

Joané: (20:00)
Yeah. Only if you gain fat, would you? Yes.

Jonathan: (20:04)
I’ll just do one-day fasts, like a 24-hour fast.

Joané: (20:08)
You know how we get you to gain weight? We give you a lot of fructose for a month.

Jonathan: (20:14)
That doesn’t sound like a good idea. It’s going to come with insulin resistance.

Joané: (20:19)
You do that… “What’s that banana diet?” Oh, I’d feel sorry for you if you did that, but I was just thinking “how would you gain fat?” Because your body is already quite lean.

Jonathan: (20:31)
The doughnut diet.

Joané: (20:33)
The doughnut diet. Krispy Kreme!

Jonathan: (20:35)
I think that is the best way to gain fat if that’s your goal.

Joané: (20:37)
Yes. If you want to gain fat, combine a lot of carbs. If you want to gain a lot of fat, eating a lot of carbs and fat together will help you gain because your body would burn the carbs first and then store the fat, so it’s a very good strategy. If you want to gain fat. Would you survive the doughnut diet even?

Jonathan: (21:01)
Yeah, I think you’ll survive. You will probably feel pretty crappy.

Joané: (21:06)
How many doughnuts do you think you would have to eat? If it’s like average 300 calories a doughnut?

Jonathan: (21:11)
Then I would have to have 10 doughnuts.

Joané: (21:14)
But you’re eating 3000 calories a day now though. To gain weight, maybe you’d maintain then, but you just feel crappy. I think you would probably gain some.

Jonathan: (21:24)
I think I’ve gained because I think my basal metabolic rate is around 2200, so if I’m on the doughnut diet, and I am not too active, I could probably get a calorie excess.

Joané: (21:38)
Yeah, but getting you to not be active and just sit down might be for really long and might suck.

Jonathan: (21:49)
It doesn’t sound that much more difficult.

Joané: (21:52)
I don’t know. After day 20 it might get challenging, although I’m jealous. I would love to do a doughnut diet, as I’m sitting here talking about doughnuts.

Jonathan: (22:03)
Yeah. You’d love to kill your health.

Joané: (22:07)
No, I wouldn’t buy it, but I want it.

Jonathan: (22:10)
Yeah, well the only reason I considered doing a doughnut diet was because some people say that it’s only about calories in, calories out, and so, I was like “okay well I eat 3000 calories now, so then just eat 3000 calories in doughnuts and see what happens. because if it’s just calories in, calories out, it shouldn’t matter if it’s a doughnut.

Joané: (22:30)
See what happens to your health.

Jonathan: (22:33)
But yeah, I don’t think anyone’s really got strong evidence to support the calories in, calories out thing. So, unless there was like a documentary that said it’s all about calories, and I felt I might need to take one for the team and do the doughnut diet to really say like: look guys: “calories in, calories out.” It’s not the be all and end all of dieting.

Joané: (22:59)
You definitely have to do a blood test before that.

Jonathan: (23:02)
Obviously, there’s no point without any kind of empirical data.

Joané: (23:07)
I’m just wondering, if you got sick of eating doughnuts, at the end, well… You are going to be counting doughnuts, but if someone was going to say “I’m just going to eat doughnuts for 30 days,” but they didn’t calorie count, in the end, they might be so sick of eating doughnuts that they would only eat like once a day.

Jonathan: (23:27)
They would probably automatically reduce their intake because they’d be so sick of it. And it’s probably going to be triggering weight gain, which will trigger a response to say like “Woah, we are gaining too much weight here” And their set point will want to reduce their weight.

Joané: (23:47)
So yeah, when you’re fasting and you get cravings, what do you do? Maybe someone’s listening to this now and they’re fasting and now they want doughnuts. What do you say? What do you do?

Jonathan: (24:03)

Salt really helps. I find that putting a bit of salt (I use Himalayan salt under my tongue really helped). And then I would just drink water. I had black coffee. A lot of people say you shouldn’t have black coffee while fasting, but I was like: “dude, I’m not eating for three days.” I’m going to have some black coffee. And I suppose it depends on what your goals are when it comes to fasting. But I still had black coffee, which is kind of like my treat. I did make a black coffee sorbet, which is really nice. I just put that in my ice cream maker and ate it like ice cream. And I felt like I was eating something even though I was fasting. It was still just black coffee. Pretty much.

Jonathan: (24:47)
Yeah, ice and coffee. But yeah, you just don’t want to be putting milk or anything with the greater value in your coffee because then that’s definitely breaking a fast and going to make it 10 times harder to stick to.

Joané: (25:05)
I am actually very grateful for the fact that I am doing 16-hour fasts every day because if I do eat something that is not ideal, I’d have 16 hours afterwards to recover. Not that I’ve eaten something that I shouldn’t or didn’t want to, but it just gives me comfort knowing that if I do mess up, it is fine because intermittent fasting gives you so much more freedom. Because even if you ate like a, you know, fast food meal, like a burger and chips and a milkshake and then you didn’t eat for 16 hours afterwards or more, your body has more time to get rid of that. Well I think you might feel pretty crappy on that fast. Because if you eat a lot of carbs and junk before a fast, you’re probably going to be hungry. Especially if you don’t get enough sleep, getting enough sleep is also crucial because if you don’t get enough sleep, then your body also produces more of the hunger hormone, ghrelin, the next day.

Jonathan: (26:16)
Yeah, it definitely is good advice to get better sleep when you’re trying to fast because, obviously, you are already having to deal with ghrelin. Where you are you now: “Okay, I’m hungry but I can’t eat.” So now if you’re tired on top of that, you’re just making it harder. Plus, you’re going to be more likely to be like mentally fatigued and have less willpower to stick through it. So, like we’ve said many times, sleep is actually the most important thing for health. And this is a very good example of linking into why you should actually get more sleep. I think a lot of people’s health probably originates from bad sleep. A lot of health problems originate from bad sleep. So, even if it was: Oh you ate a lot of crappy foods that has caused insulin resistance or you are overweight; it’s probably linking back to your bad sleeping patterns that is feeding your bad eating patterns. So a lot of people recommend that sleep is the number one thing to achieving better health. It is the most effective when you get it right. I guess that’s what they’re saying. Yeah. But this is obviously about intermittent fasting and…

Joané: (27:35)
Well, if you’re intermittent fasting, sleeping, like taking naps, I feel will help if you do struggle with it. Sleeping for longer in the morning, if you can. If it’s on a weekend and you sleep until nine and then you start eating at 11, that is only two hours. But if you wake up at like seven, that’s four hours. So you get the benefit of more sleep and the benefit of less time awake that you have to wait before you can eat if it is something new. One thing that’s cool is intermittent fasting increases the production of human growth hormone and sleep also increases the production of human growth hormone. So, if you’re doing intermittent fasting and you’re sleeping enough or sleeping more if you weren’t sleeping enough before, that could be extra beneficial, especially if you want to build muscle and slow ageing.

Jonathan: (28:35)
Yeah. How many people are spending tons of money on buying human growth hormone to inject endogenously when they could actually just do a few life hacks to increase their human growth hormone. And one of them is fasting.

Joané: (28:52)
Yeah. And doing an aerobic workout while fasting really revs up your human growth hormone levels. And it also really increases autophagy. So, it’s always a good idea unless you have like no energy, but it’s always a good idea to do a fasted workout where you get your heart rate up. I think they said you should do at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity. If you do want that benefit, you don’t have to do it every day. You don’t have to do it at all if you don’t want to, but it is a good idea.

Jonathan: (29:27)
Yeah. And I mean, even if you just go for a walk for half an hour at a brisk pace, boom, it’s done. You know, it’s not the most challenging thing that you could do and it gets a lot of benefits. So, I think it’s definitely worth it. And, the other thing I think about intermittent fasting that is quite eye-opening for people is that it lets you know that if you don’t eat, you’re going to be okay. A lot of people have this attitude where they are like, “if I don’t eat now, I’m going to die of starvation.” And it’s like, after you’ve done five days without food and you’re like “well, I’m still alive and it’s been five days”, you know, it’s kind of this almost like reality check where it’s like: “If I didn’t have food right now, it’s not going to be the end of the world I’m going to feel a bit hungry.” But that hunger will fade. Like it always does. I mean, your ghrelin hormone can’t just stay at full blast the whole time. It eventually subsides. I think a lot of people know this one where you were hungry, you got distracted, you started working, and then the next thing you know, you’re not even hungry anymore. And so, it just shows you that it’s a hormone making you hungry and not the fact that your stomach is empty. Just by doing a longer fast, it gives you that confidence to say like, “Oh, I don’t have to eat right now”, which is good in certain situations, especially if you’re travelling and stuff like that. Where, you think, “okay, I don’t want to eat this shitty food or whatever”. You know that you’ll be fine to just not eat.

Joané: (31:12)
That is definitely something that I learned. I’m enjoying intermittent fasting. I think you are too. It also frees up time in the morning not having to worry about breakfast. Yeah. That was another episode of our show. Well done.

Jonathan: (31:32)
Yeah, so if you guys want to know anything more about intermittent fasting, you can always give us some feedback and ask any questions. If you’re looking to start intermittent fasting this year, I think you will be surprised about all the benefits you can gain on something that is actually quite simple and good luck on your fasting journeys.

Joané: (31:59)
Yes. Or non-fasting journeys, whatever you decide to do.

Jonathan: (32:03)
Yeah, no pressure.

Joané: (32:05)
Everything is optional.

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