Extended Benefits of Extended Fasts

As I noted in an update the day after my Stepping Off the Wagon post, I was shocked that after eating a whole pizza and more than one gluten-free beer, I was still able to stay in therapeutic ketosis.

Since Lisa and I concluded our #3DayCancerPreventionFast on January 27, in addition to January 31 we have stepped off the wagon two more times: February 11 and last night.

While Lisa has stopped the daily glucose and ketone measurements between our monthly extended fasts, I have kept them up since then. My readings for the 24 hours after the first excursion are above, and below are those for the period after the February 11:

I technically was out of GKI ketosis on the morning of the 12th, but by fasting as I stepped back on the wagon I was back to moderate ketosis by dinner time.

So because we’ve handled our off-wagon ventures with few negative effects, and because Lisa was away most of the day yesterday, we decide to exchange Valentine’s Day presents a day late. Here was hers to me:

Some in the low-carb/ketogenic community believe it’s essential to always rigorously limit carbs to avoid undoing all of the good of ketosis, and that one step off the wagon will undo weeks of effort.

They say it puts you right back to square one.

I cautiously disagree, at least for myself and for Lisa.

One way it could derail us would be if it became a gateway to ravenous, uncontrolled carbohydrate indulgence.

I’m confident that won’t be the case for us today, because it hasn’t led to this in the past.

We will enjoy our black coffee this morning, and fast until dinner.

The other way it theoretically could cause a problem would be if it reversed the fat-adaptation we had achieved. I think the ketone readings above in my post-pizza periods – all of them 0.5 mmol/L or higher – show that the ketone production is continuing.

That’s a secondary benefit of extended fasting, on top of a generally low-carb eating pattern.

In addition to activating autophagy and apoptosis, an extended fast flips the fat-burning switch to high gear.

The fundamental idea behind ketogenic eating and fasting is to restore metabolic flexibility the ability to use both sugar and fat for fuel.

Unfortunately, the typical American diet has so much sugar and starch in their various forms that it destroys fat-burning capability.

As I finish this post before starting work, and having just taken my morning readings, I’ve seen my ketones dip to 0.4 mmol/L, the first time I’ve been below 0.5 in a month.

So it suggests I probably should wait until after the next #3DayCancerPreventionFast for another pizza night.

Update: I tracked my “day after” glucose and ketones three times today, and here were the readings:

With plenty of carbs in my system from a whole pizza and a couple of gluten-free beers, and with the normal morning rise in glucose levels, I wasn’t too surprised that ketones dipped a bit further even at noon. But with only black coffee in the morning and coffee with cream at noon, I’m now solidly back into GKI ketosis.

Time for some scrambled eggs for dinner!

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Weight Loss Side Effects of the #3DayCancerPreventionFast

In a comment on LinkedIn this morning, Janet Kennedy asked:

I’m glad she asked, because it highlights an important positive side effect of the #3DayCancerPreventionFast.

You may have noticed that I haven’t said anything about weight loss in my previous posts about this experiment, because that wasn’t the main goal.

The goal of our fast was getting to a high enough level of therapeutic ketosis that it would stimulate autophagy (recycling of damaged or inefficient cell organelles, especially mitochondria) and put any cancer or precancerous cells under enough stress that they would trigger apoptosis, or programmed cell death.

Another major benefit of extended fasting is a recharged and rejuvenated immune system, so if apoptosis doesn’t cause the cancer cells to commit suicide, maybe they’ll be weakened enough for our natural immune defenses to kill them.

And there’s this virus going around, perhaps you’ve heard of it, that seems to generally cause more severe consequences in older people than it does in children and young adults.

A rejuvenated (literally “made young again”) immune system would seem to come in handy for that, too.

Although weight loss wasn’t the main goal of our #3DayCancerPreventionFast, it was a beneficial side effect. A nice bonus.

As Dr. Jason Fung says, the basic logic of fasting is simple: “If you don’t eat, you will lose weight.”

Here’s what we found:

  • Lisa and I each lost six pounds from our Sunday morning weigh-in, before starting the fast, to our low point post-fast on Thursday morning, after we had concluded the fast on Wednesday.
  • My weight went up a little on Monday morning because I had two meals on Sunday, beginning my fast at 4:30 p.m., so the loss from my high point was 8.8 pounds.
  • The high point of our weights early in the month correspond to the visit of my daughter Ruthie and her husband and daughter. They’re missionaries in Bulgaria, and were back in the country around the holidays, staying with us from Jan. 3-8. That was a feasting time, and we could revel in it without fear or guilt because we balance it with fasting.

I call that a balanced diet – balancing feasting and fasting – not seeking some kind of equal partitioning of carbohydrates, protein and fat.

We enjoyed having Trevin, Ruthie and Noa Hoot home with us to start the New Year with a feast.

To answer Janet’s second question, as you can see in the graphs above we’ve reached our weight goals, and had been there before the holidays. Now as we head into February with no major feasts on the schedule, we will settle into a more normal rhythm, gradually eating a little more toward the end of the month, so that after our next fast we’ll be again about at this level.

In future posts I’ll do a deeper exploration of how our fast affected blood sugar and ketone levels, workout capacity and sleep, as well as some overall reflections and our plans for February and March fasts.

And if you, like Janet, have other questions about, please ask them in the comments and I will be happy to answer them.

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Check out My Health Journey for the full story of our health improvements, and my #BodyBabySteps for an approach to how I would do it if I were starting today, based on what I’ve learned.

#3DayCancerPreventionFast: Day 2

Some thoughts at the end of the second full day of our three-day water-only fast, which we began on Sunday, Jan. 24, as Lisa and I have 15 and 18.5 hours remaining to hit our 72-hour goal.

So far we have been able to stick to the water-only regimen, with a mix of filtered water and mineral water.

We are big coffee drinkers, and were both pleasantly surprised that we didn’t have caffeine-withdrawal symptoms Monday morning. Unfortunately that surprise didn’t last, as the withdrawal symptoms came a little later, as Lisa felt really low in energy and I got a headache in the afternoon and early evening.

Taking a tip from Dr. Peter Attia, I did an early morning workout on Monday, both bench press and high-intensity rowing. The idea is to burn out the stored glycogen to accelerate the move to fat-burning.

Interestingly, my blood glucose and ketone readings from before and after my Monday morning workout (at right) showed an increase in blood sugar from 88 mg/dL before my workout to 104 after I had showered and settled in to work.

That’s totally normal, and is the result of my liver releasing glycogen for use by my muscles.

I took readings again at the 24-hour mark of my fast and then at bedtime, which showed that my glucose levels were stabilized due to gluconeogenesis (my liver creating new glucose from amino acids and other circulating substrates), and ketones had begun to climb, reaching 1.1 mmol/L.

With a Glucose Ketone Index (GKI) of 3.6 at bedtime, I was nearing the high level of therapeutic ketosis, but getting there would need to wait until Tuesday morning.

My early morning glucose Tuesday was again 73, but ketones had climbed to 2.2, and by early afternoon those readings were 67 and 4.2, respectively, giving me a GKI of 0.8.

The caffeine withdrawal symptoms were gone, too. We’re supplementing magnesium and salt to maintain electrolyte balances, and mineral water also helps.

In keeping with Dr. Attia’s advice to do lower-intensity cardio on the second and subsequent days of extended fasts, I waited until after work today to do a 45-minute rowing session. Here were my readings before and after the workout, and at bedtime:

Even though I hadn’t eaten for more than 48 hours, because of gluconeogenesis I maintained adequate blood sugar. And with climbing ketones I have had a GKI under 1.0 for the last nine hours.

I got a Keto-Mojo meter for Lisa, too, and as of this evening she also had reached the 1.0 GKI threshold. Our target is to be below 3.0 for a couple of days, and ideally below 1.0 for a day, for maximum therapeutic benefit.

We’re glad to be in the last several hours of our #3DayCancerPreventionFast. Neither of us would say it has been easy, although we really haven’t felt hungry. Empty is different from hungry. Lisa really misses her coffee, and in future fasts we will likely experiment with allowing coffee, and maybe even coffee with a little cream, and see how our glucose and ketone levels are affected.

I think it’s really helpful having a glucose/ketone meter when doing an extended fast like this. It gives us hard data that what we’re doing is having the desired effect, and when we take readings every few hours we can see the progress.

You may not be able to imagine doing an extended fast for cancer prevention, and if you haven’t done some preparation and adaptation I wouldn’t recommend just diving into it.

Check out My Health Journey for the full story of our health improvements, and my #BodyBabySteps for an approach to how I would do it if I were starting today, based on what I’ve learned.

For us it seems like a worthwhile investment in our long-term health, and I’ll share tomorrow’s experience including breaking our fasts in my next post.

Starting a #3DayCancerPreventionFast

Lisa and I have become convinced that a monthly three-day water-only fast is a prudent health maintenance strategy, based on the metabolic theory of cancer.

We know there are no guarantees it will prevent cancer, but the risk of doing any harm is essentially zero.

That doesn’t mean we necessarily look forward to it.

We had designated today as the start for our next #3DayCancerPreventionFast, and as we were getting ready to drive to church in Rochester, Lisa asked if we might listen to something on the way that would help with motivation.

This video from Prof. Thomas Seyfried from just a few months ago was a nearly perfect fit for our 45-minute commute, and it reminded us of the “Why?” behind our decision:

Once we arrived in Rochester, this morning’s service was a special blessing for us, as two of our grandchildren were baptized.

That illustrated the real “Why?” of our monthly 3-day fasts.

What you see above are half of our grandchildren: we have 13 on the outside, with another grandson due in March.

Lisa and I have decided we want to take what a friend calls, “The path of least regret.” We want to do whatever is reasonably in our power to stay healthy so we can be involved in the lives of our sons and daughters, their children and hopefully even their grandchildren.

We want to be there for as many more of these events as we can.

That makes the short-term sacrifice of an extended fast totally worth it if there’s a reasonable basis to think it might prevent cancer.

So on the way home, for just a little extra nudge, we listened to most of another video featuring Prof. Seyfried:

When we got back to Austin, we enjoyed a delightful celebration dinner with the baptized boy’s family, after which Lisa started her 72-hour timer at 1 p.m.

I decided to add one more highly ketogenic meal in the late afternoon, and started my timer at 4:30 p.m.

An hour after that meal my blood glucose was 85 mg/dL and ketones were 0.6 mmol/L, which put me just barely out of GKI ketosis with an index of 9.4.

But as I write this with just under 68 hours left in my fast, here are my latest glucose and ketone measures:

It’s good to be already in GKI ketosis, and I’m heading to bed so I can get up early tomorrow for a workout to jump start autophagy and hopefully accelerate progress toward the 1.0 GKI target.

As we continue our #3DayCancerPreventionFast I hope you’ll follow along as I share observations on FacebookTwitter  and LinkedIn.

I’ll also write a daily recap post here that you can receive if you subscribe by email.

Check out My Health Journey for the full story of our health improvements, and my #BodyBabySteps for an approach to how I would do it if I were starting today, based on what I’ve learned.