Recent medical research has shown intermittent fasting to be a highly effective technique to promote overall health. However, fasting can be tricky, and if it’s not done correctly, you may feel like you’re starving yourself and not getting any benefits. In this episode of the podcast, Tana Amen is joined by “the father of bio-hacking” Dave Asprey for a discussion on how to fast the right way, touching on some of the practical tips from Dave’s new book “Fast This Way”.
For more info on Dave Asprey’s new book “Fast This Way”, visit https://www.amazon.com/Fast-This-Way-Inflammation-High-Performing/dp/0062882864
Dr. Daniel Amen:
Welcome to The Brain Warrior’s Way podcast, I’m Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen, BSN RN:
And I’m Tana Amen. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
The Brain Warrior’s Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we have been transforming lives for 30 years using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit amenclinics.com.
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I’m still here with our friend, Dave Asprey, we are talking about his new book, Fast This Way. And one thing I can always count on Dave to do is know what is current in science. So I’m really excited to hear what’s going on. What has he learned and how… I know Dave, you said in the last episode, this is not just a book about science. So I want to know what you’ve put in this book to make it practical and easy for people. What are the surprising things about fasting that you’re going to teach us?
Well, I’m going to teach you three different things you can actually do during a fast that involves putting calories in the body that allow you to stay in a fasted state, so that you do not experience hunger or a drop in energy. Because it’s really easy to be like, “Oh, I don’t have kids, there’s now the pandemic, and I have all the money in the world. So I just sit here and I wake up every morning and I drink my green tea and I meditate for two hours, then my trainer comes over.” And I’d like that life, I’m busy, that doesn’t work for me. And when I weighed 300 pounds, it really didn’t work for me because I would get hypoglybitchy. You’re yelling at everyone and you’re tired and you can’t pay attention and-
Say that term again.
That’s what I am, now that you just labeled it.
And it’s unkind to tell someone, “Oh, you’re fat, you just need to exercise more and eat less.” And I did that for years, and it’s torture, and it does not work, which is why I did the whole Bulletproof Diet. And people have lost a million pounds on the Bulletproof Diet now without suffering. And with fasting, you tell someone who’s overweight, “Oh, just don’t eat for a while.” And they’re like, “I think I can do it, but I’m spending all my time thinking about muffins.”
In fact, I found a study that I published in the book that shows that 15% or more of the average person’s thoughts during the day are about what’s for their next meal. And this is a form of anxiety. And if you think about this, fear gets the most attention, it’s like 10 times more, but hunger, famine has killed every species, it’s wired into even bacteria gets stressed when they’re hungry like we get stressed.
So if that’s five times more energy than it really deserves, no wonder it’s hard to fast. Your brain is thinking about scary stuff and it’s thinking about food all the time, and you have this much left to think about what you want to do, and who you are, and how to parent and all the things that we all do. So I thought, all right, what if instead of forcing our way through fasting, we actually hacked our way through fasting so that when you want to feel the feelings, feel the hunger and really push through it, you’re doing it in a spiritual context when you’ve set aside time and energy to do that. But when you want the metabolic benefits, when you want to lose weight, you want your brain to work, you want the focus of fasting, you can do that without the pain.
And there were three hacks that emerge. But to do all this, even before I published my first blog posts on fasting 10 years ago on intermittent fasting, and using Bulletproof coffee, and all that, I realized that I was afraid of being hungry. Because we’re told if you don’t eat six meals a day, you’ll go into starvation mode, which is death. And it is a lie, but we still believe it, and your cells certainly want to eat all the time. They’re wired to do that because they’re just dumb little cells, they don’t have your brain backing them. So what did I do? And I’m afraid of being alone, and I hadn’t really picked that up until I started doing some personal growth work.
So I hired a shaman to drop me in a cave in the desert for four days with no food and no people so I could face my fear of being hungry and I could face my fear of humans, and there was nothing I could do about it. And I’m like, if I lose my… Well, then no one is going to see me and I can yell inside the cave and it’ll echo, but I’m just going to have to deal with this because that’s what I want to do. And I tell that story throughout the arc of the book. So it’s a very readable book and it’s pretty personal, my guess of what actually happened, and this is the dumb fears that ran through my head, that when my amygdala gets activated, when I got this burst of energy, I didn’t expect.
And knowing those fasting hacks though, it means you don’t have to go through the suffering. It is unnecessary, it’s mean. And the people that say you can only have water during a fast, they’re doing that because that’s what the mice did in studies because mice don’t have espresso machines. They never looked for what works best, they’re just like, “Well, we’ll give them water and see what happens.” But there’s no reason to be, I call them hair shirt fasters. You know what a hair shirt is?
So there’s these weird sex of monks and they make shirts out of human hair because they’re super itchy and scratchy, and then they whip themselves on their back because they’re such bad people, they self-flagellate and wear hair shirts so they can suffer more. You don’t have to approach fasting that way, and it’s not okay to do that, it’s unnecessary. Why suffer? Get the results without suffering and have enough energy to be you. I fundamentally believe that and that’s what’s in the book.
I actually tend to agree with you. If things are supposed to be really good for our biology, if they are really good for our physiology, and our psychology, and all of these other things, they shouldn’t be that painful, they shouldn’t be that hard. So when you’re talking about fasting, we know fasting is good for you, Daniel and I are huge fans of intermittent fasting because your brain cleans itself when you test your [inaudible [00:06:05] for your brain, it’s really, really good for your brain. But are you talking about intermittent fasting or are you talking about longterm fasting? What kind of fasting are you talking about?
I talk about both. And there’s a really good argument for not always fasting the same way every day, and there’s even better argument for not always fasting. And I read about something called The Fasting Trap, which is suspiciously similar to The Keto Trap, which is suspiciously similar to The Vegan Trap. And here’s how these traps work, they’re based on human behavior. I was a raw vegan for a long time and it broke me and I had to create the Bulletproof Diet to get better. So it doesn’t seem to work for people’s brains, sorry, you can get away with it when you’re really young, you’ll just pay for it when you’re old.
And the thing that’s happening within our bodies when we do any of these practices, let’s say you go vegan. Well, for about four to six weeks, you’re going to feel really, really good, and that’s because you’re changing the type of fat in your cell membranes for bad fats and then your body freaks out and it gives you more energy as your thyroid goes up. And then you feel great, and by the time six weeks happens, I’ve lost some weight, I felt really good, I know the vegan diet works. And then you start feeling like crap, but it can’t be the vegan diet because it works and you’re in the habit of it. So you’re like, “Maybe I should be more vegan. I guess I won’t have that honey because it was touched by a bee.” And you become militant, meanwhile your health is declining, and eventually you’re like, “Okay, I’m done, I’m just getting a burger.” And then the lights come back on.
And then you’re like, “I’m going to go keto.” And you become a keto bro, same thing, “I feel so good on keto. If you have one more gram of carbs, you’re a bad person. How dare you touch the honey?” And then you’re convinced in six weeks, “Oh my God, keto, it’s going to be great.” And then if you’re a woman, you actually hit the wall before a man, and the same wall that you hit in fasting, you’re like, “Oh wait, I felt really good. It can’t be that I lost some weight, but now I’m plateaued. It’s because I’m having 15 grams of carbs, I’ll have only 12.” And you start becoming infectious and you’re stuck, and then your health starts to go down, and your hair starts to fall out, and you can’t sleep anymore, just like you did when you were a vegan. And you’re like, “Okay, that’s it, I’ll just eat some crap for a while.” And then you feel better, and then you say, “Oh, let me start fasting.”
And then you just say anything. “If intermittent fasting is good, I’ll go to one meal a day fasting. I’ll just not even eat that.” And then, “Oh, I’ll just fast like three days a week.” And eventually you hit the fasting wall, which is because some of it’s good, doesn’t mean more of it’s better. And I’ve seen this twice now in my life with vegan and keto where people go all in. And part of the problem here is, especially for women, you don’t need to fast every morning, it probably won’t work for you, but it might. And for men, you probably don’t need to fast every morning, it might work for you. In fact, it probably will work for you, but it might not.
And one of the biggest messages in the book is don’t fast the same way every day, don’t overfast, and every now and then just have the pancakes for breakfast, but make sure they’re gluten-free. And if you do that, it’s going to work really well. And if you become militant, I’m telling you, step one for men and women is, “Oh, I don’t sleep very well, wonder what just happened? Huh, it can’t be this new fasting thing because it’s so good for me.” And then for men, they wake up without a kickstand. And women, before that, they’re like, “Weird, my cycle’s all messed up.” And then both men and women are like, “Oh weird, my hair is getting thin, I wonder what’s going on here.” And it’s predictable and it’s like Goldilocks was just right, not too much, not too little, that’s the goal. And that’s what’s missing from a lot of the fasting literature. Just because it’s good for you, it doesn’t mean you should stop eating.
Could not agree with you more. You literally described my life for 20 years.
[crosstalk [00:09:37] all those extremes, just if something’s good, more has to be better and I’d hit that wall and it never worked. So I couldn’t agree with you more. So when you talk about fasting different ways, before we end this episode, what is a way someone can get started? Should they start with intermittent fasting? Should they start with a three-day fast? What should they do?
You should start with an intermittent fast and you should start with one of the three fasting hacks that I want to go through in the next episode, because those are going to make it a very gentle entry into fasting and you won’t lose your ability to function like a lot of people do, especially if they have some weight to lose. So this is how to gently go in.
I love that, that is so perfect. So I can’t wait to hear your hacks because I love when you said that my stomach had espresso machine. So I have a feeling-
There might be some coffee involved.
[inaudible [00:10:30] my whole day, it’s all I can say with that. So for everybody listening, go to brainwarriorswaypodcast.com, we’d love to hear your thoughts on these episodes. Leave us a review, if you would, and please take a screenshot, tag both Dave and I and tell us what you’ve learned. I’m actually learning a lot, I love this. I love that you’re validating my thoughts on when I was a vegan. My numbers were not good. They started out [inaudible [00:10:54] they crashed. But I agree with you. I agree that when you do too much of anything and you don’t balance it out, you’re asking [inaudible [00:11:01]. So I’m looking forward to the next episode and hearing your hacks on that say. Stay with us.
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