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Intermittent Fasting, Ketosis and Biohacking for Optimal Health

Intermittent Fasting, Ketosis and Biohacking for Optimal Health

 

You have heard it many times, eat many small meals throughout the day, make sure you eat from sunup to sundown, and don’t skip meals. BUT what if there is a better way for your body to function? I had the pleasure of talking with Siim Land about intermittent fasting and how it can improve our health. Read on to learn 5 biohacking tips, why ketosis is great for your mind, and how fasting can help you overcome health ailments.

Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting And How Autophagy Plays A Role.

Fasting is where you consume all of your calories for the day within a certain time frame. Some examples of fasting are:

-Warrior Diet

-16/8 hour fasting

-Extended fasting

People may be interested in doing this to eat fewer calories, lose fat, and improve body compositions. There are also many unique metabolic benefits for health. Such as:

-Reduction of triglycerides

-Reduction in insulin

-Lower blood sugar

-Improve insulin sensitivity

Fasting is linked to the process of autophagy. This is a process of cell turnover. Your cells are recycling all the old and worn out parts that are causing damage and inflammation inside of the body. With fasting, you are eliminating those things. This has an impact on a person's longevity and general life span. 

Some studies found that if you restrict the calories in mice and there is no autophagy, in time you are mutating the genes that will block autophagy. Those mice aren't going to live as long as mice with a normal autophagy process despite eating fewer calories. 

Part of the reason why it is seen that calorie restriction helps promote longevity in virtually all species has to do with the activation of autophagy (at least in some part.) That combines together most of the health aspects of fasting. Autophagy is like taking out the trash and preventing your healthy cells from becoming dysfunctional. The problem in the modern world is that we don’t activate autophagy as much as we did in the past. This is because we now have frequent availability of food, we can eat from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed. AND the foods that we do eat block the process of autophagy. Autophagy is activated under nutrient deprivation. 

Fasting would be the best option for autophagy but even just the reduction of amino acids, carbohydrates, and other nutrients can also promote this process. It is just a matter of overabundance that we experience in our modern environment. With intermittent fasting, we can bridge this chasm of what our body needs in the current conditions that we live in.

Fasting is one aspect that I have implemented very regimentally in my life. I am now fasting for 16 hours every day. I am eating within a short window each day, 8 hours. I have my breakfast early and I have my dinner very early as well.-Kriben Govender

Your body is always detecting the nutrient homeostasis as a way of making sure it is very efficient with its energy production and making sure that it is surviving. The main two fuel sensors are:

mTOR- The growth pathway that works under energy excess i.e. when you are bringing in excess amino acids, carbohydrates, and glucose.

AMPK- This is the opposite. It is the catabolic breakdown pathway that supports burning fat and autophagy as well. When you're fasting or exercising you are activating this pathway and that leads to autophagy. 

Your body is always balancing between these two sides of the coin. It dictates where your body is heading towards. When you are eating, you stop AMPK and you trigger mTOR.

There is sheer overconsumption all over the Western Cultures. If you look at the Australian way of life, we have breakfast, then tea, then lunch, then afternoon tea, then dinner, and then some supper, and then imagine all the snacking that happens as well. Australia is founded on the British Ideologies. And where I am from in South Africa is the same type of culture because of the British Influence. It is culturally ingrained in us to overeat. It almost becomes habitual. -Kriben Govender

meal timing and health

Why Is Meal Timing So Important?

We are conditioned to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This is foreign to the primal way that hunter-gatherers live under such as:

-They don't have regular meal times

-Their eating patterns are random and inconsistent

-They may eat something from one day then fast for 3 or they eat three meals a day depending on the situation

A study in the United States found that In the modern world,  people tend to eat for a span of 15 hours. From the moment they wake up to the moment they go to bed. It keeps their body in this continuously fed state. Even though you don't eat at night, 8 hours is not a significant amount of time to go into a real fasted state. The post-absorptive state of digestion lasts up to 4-6 hours after you finish a meal! If you only sleep 8 hours then you will only be fasting for 4-6 hours. That is not a significant amount of time to reap the benefits from it. 

This may be part of the reason why there are so many metabolic diseases in the world. You may activate autophagy but you need efficient autophagy. A lot of research has linked deficient autophagy causing things like:

-IBD

-Heart disease

-And other ailments related to overnutrition

You don’t have to reduce the number of calories you eat, you have to confine the time where you do eat them. This has such a profound effect on metabolism and our general health. It is crazy to think that we are taught the opposite. Over the past few decades, the main trend has been to:

-Avoid hunger

-Constantly snack

-Think that Fasting is bad

-Think that Skipping meals is bad because it will promote overeating. 

-Eat high carbohydrate foods to keep your blood sugar up. 

In some aspects, this marketing trend influences people's decisions. It made people addicted to certain foods and to have frequent meals. On the other hand, it is the lack of struggle in the modern world in terms of food. You can go to the fridge and eat something and you don't have to experience hunger if you don't like it. 

People want to avoid discomfort as much as possible. Fasting is uncomfortable to some extent but at the same time, the immense health benefits are so empowering. If you acknowledge to yourself that it is a good thing, then fasting becomes joyful and something you yearn for after you start practicing.

We are like this massive tube. The outer part is the skin, and the inner tube is the gut. When we are eating, the gut is actually sitting outside of the body. The food has to be absorbed inwardly. Then the whole process is extremely energy taxing to the body. If we are continuously eating and not allowing the body to go through digestion, the resting phase, and then autophagy, it puts a huge amount of strain on the body. One of the best ways to heal the gut is fasting. You are allowing your body to rest and repair. The gut lining and the mucosal layers are what protects negative elements from outside getting in. Allowing the nutrients to go into the body but keeping all the negative aspects out. For the whole process to work efficiently, the body needs to have some sort of rest for healing to happen. The fact of eating alone actually raises stress hormone (cortisol) levels in the body as well. Imagine if we are continuously eating we are putting this stress on the body and we are not allowing the healing process to happen. And no wonder why many have IBD, leaky gut, obesity, all of these things may be factors of overeating.-Kriben Govender

exercise and biohacking

How Can People Get Started With Fasting?

**Disclaimer: If you are going to embark on this, be cautious and seek guidance from a trained practitioner before diving in.

Fasting should be consistent! If I were to compare fasting hard for 1 month out of the year VS a daily consistent practice, I would say that the one month fast may be good in the short term but not in the long term. A good starting point would be a 16/8 hour fast (fast for 16 hours eat in an 8 hour window) and that should be the minimum for every person. It fits a lot with the circadian rhythm as well. 

You may be skipping out on breakfast or dinner every day and you are confining the period of which you are eating for 8 hours or less. That is what most people can do and it should be the “gold standard” There is no reason to be eating more frequently unless you are hospitalized, pregnant, elderly, or a child. Most people don’t need to eat that often.

If you want to extend it a bit further, there is the warrior diet where you fast for 20 hours and eat your food within 4 hours. The only difference may be that you burn more calories in the fasting period and you must eat fewer calories in the eating window but it is a way of increasing fat loss. You eat 1 meal a day within 1-2 hours, which is a fat loss or a convenience tool. 

When it comes to an extended fast (one that lasts over 24hrs up to 3-4 days) it is a good idea to have them every once in a while. It is better to have them than nothing at all. They shouldn’t be thought of as something that you do all of the time because your body will adapt to them and you would see diminishing returns from the longer fasts. I aim for at least 4-5 3 day fasts per year. This helps to reset the system, the immune system, boost more autophagy and burn more fat.

Most people should do time-restricted eating daily in some type of form and then have a longer fast every once in a while. The frequency depends on the conditions and your goals. If you are trying to lose fat then fasting is an amazing way of doing that fast. It is a rapid and healthy way of losing weight compared to a prolonged period of calorie restriction. If you have a medical condition (such as high blood pressure or diabetes) then fasting for that has shown to be effective as well. Those tend to be healed fast with extended fasts. 

For healthy people that are doing everything right like:

-Sleeping well

-Eating well

-Exercising

Then they don't need to push the envelope with the extended fast because their autophagy is already more flexible and they will get into autophagy faster!

If we are healthy, normal, and functioning properly, then time-restricted eating is a safe practice to be following. There are good results and good health benefits from that.-Kriben Govender

What Is The Warrior Diet?

The Warrior Diet was created by Ori Hofmekler and is one of the first intermittent fasting diets. He has been doing it for decades (he is in his 60’s and is lean and ripped.) The idea is to mimic ancient Rome where royalty would have large feasts at night. The reason they got away with this and were still strong and lean is because they were fasting most of the day and they were time restricting their eating window. This promotes fat metabolism, puts you into ketosis, and makes you more metabolically flexible.

When You Do An Extended Fast What Are You Consuming?

It depends on the goal of the fast, for example: 

General Extended Fast: You can have black coffee or tea because they don't break a fast. They actually promote some form of autophagy and cell recycling. Coffee may help you suppress your appetite.

Gut Reset Extended Fast: Just water, or water and salt for electrolytes to not stimulate the liver in any shape or form. 

What Are Your Thoughts On Fasting And Circadian Rhythm? 

Many hormones fluctuate based on circadian rhythms and time of the day. A lot of the repair hormones as well as autophagy activation, and growth hormone, melatonin are all elevated during the night. Most of the autophagy benefits occur in conjunction with the release of melatonin as well as growth hormone which happens in deep sleep. That happens in the earlier parts of the night. If you are eating a large dinner then you are interfering with the process a little bit because your body would have to digest food  vs repairing itself. Going to bed in a semi fasted state would lead to increased autophagy and increased growth hormone. This is because you’re fasting and your body would be primed to repair itself. 

When it comes to actual research that compares early time-restricted eating with late time-restricted eating, there is not a significant difference as long as you are still fasting and eating the food within a certain time frame. The main benefits come from the aspect of the fasting window. There should be some sort of fasting in your day to get these benefits. BUT eating right before bed isn’t a good idea because it is going to decrease your sleep quality and make you feel uncomfortable.

Optimally you want to stop eating 4-5 hours before bed to fully digest this food you ate and go into rest mode. In the morning, wait to eat breakfast. You have elevated cortisol and you are more prone to storing the food as fat if you eat in a high cortisol environment. Cortisol drops after 9am, so waiting a few hours after waking up is a good rule of thumb to keep in mind. 

If I eat late, I notice a substantial difference in my sleep quality. For example: If I have a social event and I eat at 7:30 and I am in bed by 10 or 10:30 I feel horrible. I am tossing and turning, my gut feels like something is in it, I can’t get to sleep, and then I wake up feeling very crappy because I haven't had good sleep. This is normal for most people because of their baseline. But since I have been doing this time-restricted eating for a while now I can feel the difference. There is something euphoric about fasting. It is putting your body under this hormetic stress and there may also be a release of other hormones such as endorphins.-Kriben Govender

A lot of neurotrophic factors like BDNF (Brain-derived neurotrophic factor) increase with fasting as well. It helps to grow new brain cells and creates new connections, it is like fertilizer for your brain. With this increase you are:

-More motivated to learn new things

-You are more excited and more enthusiastic because your body is starving and your brain is trying to motivate you to find food. 

Ketosis also helps increase BDNF. Ketosis is where you burn your own body fat. Ketones are very anti-inflammatory and they have neuroprotective effects that increase BDNF. You are fasting, you are reducing inflammation, and at the same time you are giving your body and brain high-quality fuel (BDNF) so it can feel more energized.

The only way for hunter-gatherers to stop starving is to find food.

What Is Ketosis And How Can We Benefit From It?

Ketosis is a metabolic state with elevated ketone bodies in your bloodstream. Ketone bodies are molecules that are derived from fat oxidation. If you are fasting then you will start to burn body fat. Most of the tissues in the body can use fatty acids but the brain can't. For the brain to benefit from burning fat, the body has to convert the fatty acids into ketone bodies. This happens when liver glycogen is low. It tends to be low either when you are exercising or when you are eating a ketogenic diet. 

The ketogenic diet is a low carbohydrate, high-fat diet that mimics all of the psychology of fasting, primarily because of keeping your carbohydrate and glycogen levels low. This way your body can just start converting the fat that it needs from the food, and the fat that it has in its adipose tissue into energy and ketone bodies. The ketone bodies start to substitute carbohydrates and glucose as a main form of energy.

The benefits of Ketosis are very much similar to fasting in some aspects:

-Reducing inflammation

-Improving insulin sensitivity

-Improving glucose intolerance

-Neuroprotective effects

Ketogenic diets were first used for children with Epilepsy and Navy seal divers who need to survive periods of low oxygen when they are diving. Ketosis helps to stay in these harsh environments for longer. For most people who are doing keto, they describe it as an easy way to diet because:

-It suppresses your appetite

-Helps to burn fat

-Lose weight

-Feel mentally clear

This is one of the reasons why keto is becoming popular. It is an easier way to lose weight compared to a high carb diet that enforces snacking.

What Are Your Thoughts On Ketosis And Fibre?

A lot of people may fear that since you are reducing your carbohydrate intake and your plant consumption that you may suffer with negative effects on the gut. There are many ways you can supplement to help with this. Collagen protein is animal fibre and it does function in a similar manner in the gut as fibre. It produces short-chain fatty acids and heals the gut lining. As long as you have these collagen parts, then you can still reap a lot of the gut health benefits. You can even get butyrate (one of the main short-chain fatty acids which gets created from the digestion of fibre) from animal fats, butter, ghee, and meat as well. You are never really deprived in your gut health. As long as you have the animal proteins and fats.

Cycling Ketosis is better for metabolic health and gut health. If you still incorporate days where you are eating non-keto carbs like potatoes and tubers, it will be better for overall health. Chronic ketosis isn’t something that you would want to have, especially in the modern world. Ketosis isn’t going to harm your gut health but chronic ketosis isn’t needed. 

Ketosis should be viewed as a therapeutic tool to address dysfunction in the body. -Kriben Govender

What Is The Macronutrient Count For Ketosis And How Can Someone Implement It?

The standard keto diet is having 5%-10% of calories coming from carbohydrates. In total, this is around 20g-30g of carbs per day. You would have to be eating:

-Leafy Greens

-Cruciferous Vegetables

-Vegetables that don’t have many carbohydrates

Avoid potatoes, rice grains, pastries, chips, and fruit. This will enable the person to maintain a lower level of liver glycogen and start producing ketone bodies. The other nutrient ratios are 20-25% protein and 70-80% fat depending on the individual and their goals. For someone who has epilepsy or cancer then maintaining strict ketosis is very important. As opposed to someone who is doing keto for fat loss and can be more lax with their macronutrient percentages because they don't need to be in ketosis all of the time they can still reap the benefits. These people can eat 50g of carbs and they don't have to be worried about protein either.

The main idea is that you are very low carbohydrate and you get your calories from proteins that have fat added to them like meat, fish, and eggs. 

What Does A Typical Meal Plan Look Like?

My main source of protein comes from eggs. I think they are very nutritious and they have a good macronutrient profile as well. You can eat eggs in every meal on a ketogenic diet. Other foods I like are:

Steak

Beef

Wild game

Local fish

Those are my main sources of food. I have 4 eggs, some meat, and vegetables. A good solid simple meal

sleep and biohacking

What Are Your Top 5 Biohacking Tips?

The way I think about biohacking is health optimization. And almost creating this realignment between your primal physiology and the modern world. Drinking coffee can be considered a biohack if you use it for something that will improve your performance or health VS in reality it is just drinking coffee...Here are my top 5 biohacks:

  1. The most important biohack would be sleep optimization. Sleep is the foundation of health. You can't get away with poor sleep for too long because it will catch up with you and cause you negative health problems. The easiest fix would be some sort of time restrictive eating and have a consolidated period in which you eat your food. This will help with aligning yourself with circadian rhythms. Blocking blue light at night also helps! Using blue blocker glasses (you can get yours HERE) will be beneficial in making sure that you still produce melatonin in the evening. This is because blue light inhibits the production of sleep hormones. 
  1. Sauna practice is awesome for mitochondrial function, reducing inflammation, and feeling great while doing it. I recommend using a sauna every day. 
  1. Cold immersion will help compliment the sauna as well. I like to go back and forth between the cold and hot. It is a unique effect because you are draining the lymph because of the alterations in the heat. Here is a tip on how to go back and forth between hot and cold:

Spend 5 to 10 minutes in a sauna and then cold immersion for a minute or two. Do this for 2-3 rounds. This would be a minimum effective dose. If you are doing it every day then you would probably adapt to the stimulus fast and you may have to do it for longer or give yourself a break. It is good to push yourself to get stronger but if you constantly push the envelope it will be harder to see more results. 

  1. Meditation and Mindfulness: This will help you develop mental awareness about yourself. The biggest computer or screen is your own mind. Most people are very disconnected from themselves and they don't know how to interpret the signals their body is sending to them. If you learn to do this, and you become more aware of these signals, then you can see a lot of results just by paying attention to yourself. Mediation is a way of sharpening your mind.
  1. Red Light Therapy: This is a REAL biohack. The red wavelengths have very good beneficial effects on energy production as well as reducing inflammation. I use my red light therapy device for 10-15 minutes every day. It is good for boosting testosterone as well.

Those are the main fundamentals of biohacking!  

The body is so adaptive. If we are over supplementing, if we are applying these biohacking principles the body will just adjust and it's almost a normal thing for it. It is good to trick it in certain regards. -Kriben Govender

What Is Peaking Your Interest At The Moment?

I have been researching sleep, circadian rhythms, and autophagy activators. Certain compounds can activate autophagy faster. They mimic fasting and calorie restriction by lowering your insulin and activating AMPK. For example:

Rapamycin 

Metformin

Are two popular anti-aging drugs because of activating autophagy. There are even milder versions of it that can be taken and have the same effects. Even coffee, turmeric, and ginger have these effects as well! 

Tips For Improving Gut Health?

Stop eating when you are 80% full. Calorie restriction will be better for overall health and longevity. You will allow your body to absorb all of the nutrients and you will feel more satiated from fewer calories. Remember that if you eat too fast then it takes time for your body to receive the message that it has enough food. Stop beforehand is a good way to make sure that you get the message at the right time. Keep this in mind to help improve digestion! These are also great for gut health:

Colostrum: Great for healing the gut lining

You are on a ketogenic diet and you aren't putting a lot of net carbs in prebiotic supplements will be great for your gut health. 

You can try:

Acacia Fibre (doesn’t create a lot of bloating!)

Partially Hydrolyzed Guar Gum

These will help maintain your gut integrity during ketosis. It will help your gut cells and make sure that you are producing enough butyrate in the gut to fuel these cells. And also making sure that they create that protective layer over the gut lining.

Intermittent fasting is helpful in many areas of life!  Everyone that is healthy should be implementing a 16/8 hour time restricted eating window. This will help your body and brain for years to come. Implement the supplements listed above as well if you are on a Ketogenic diet to make sure your gut health isn’t suffering. Share this with a friend that could benefit from this information!

One thought on “Intermittent Fasting, Ketosis and Biohacking for Optimal Health

  1. avatar Jane Hope says:

    Great article thanks. I’ve been a kombucha brewer for past 5 years and recently with change of life symptoms felt to stop this ferment intake. I make my own sauerkraut and kimchi, but notice that my body does actually want a morning starter like kefir or kombucha. So I’ve ordered some coconut water kefit grains from you guys and I’m waiting on their imminent arrival. So in the meantime… I’m curious to know your thoughts about intermittent fasting whilst peri-menopausal.
    Backstory: Leading up to my menstrual cycle I crave sweet carbs. I’ve stopped doing this, and am off any gluten and dairy. To supplement my way out of a sweet carb fix at this time, I’m doing the keto diet using Pete Evans recipes. He has a few nice coconut, carob, 70-100% cacao treats to blend up, that all align with keto… but when hormones go a bit full on and I feel really sluggish and heavy headed… my gut struggles to digest comfortably. So I tend to do a few days of intermittent fasting. But a naturopath i see from time to time said this was not advisable for peri-menopausal women. Yet it makes my gut feel sooo much better. Would appreciate your thoughts (not advice) on this topic .

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