In Holiday Biohacks Part 1, we uncovered the crucial role that detoxification plays during the holiday period since these times are high in calories and toxins. So today, we’re taking it back to the food and exploring how feasting is not only alright but beneficial to a lean, healthy body.
This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD
Holiday Biohacks: Choose Better Ingredients
Before getting into the importance of feasting and how to do it, let me highlight that you should still try to be mindful of the ingredients being used and make better choices. Of course, there will be sugar and lots of it- but avoiding GMOs and nasty refined vegetable oils is always something you should aim for. I love my pumpkin pie, gelato, and spaghetti… but when I’m making pasta, I choose organic flour. When I’m eating ice cream, I avoid artificial coloring. These small steps towards eliminating unnecessary exposure to things like hybridized grains or glyphosate-sprayed foods will give your health a serious jump start. (This won’t always be possible, and for that, you’ve got detox).
After addressing the quality of your food comes the fun part because you’ll be able to enjoy these meals, and you might even come out of the holidays healthier and leaner than when they began!
Holiday Biohacks Tip: Fasting
There are infinite ways to fast. Partial fasting is a caloric restriction (500-1000 calories per day), and block water fasting is an extended fast on only water (5, 10, 30 days). Essentially, fasting is the art of not eating, and today we’re going to highlight intermittent fasting, paired with partial fasting and feasting: a concept I like to call diet variation.
Holiday Biohacks: Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting (IF) is simply eating within a restricted time window. If you’re new to IF, you can start at 12 hours of eating (/12 hours of fasting), and as you progress and become more efficient at burning fat, this fasting window will get wider and wider.
- Eat within a restricted time window (start at 12 hours, and shorten the feeding window with time)
- Start with three meals a day (no snacking!)
- Work your way to 2 meals a day, and optionally one (very large) meal a day
- The key is not eating less; it’s eating less often; when you do eat, ensure you are eating until full.
I typically eat in a four-hour window, meaning that I don’t eat breakfast, my first meal is around 2:00 or 3:00 PM, and my last meal is maybe 6:00 or 7:00 at night. So you can eat as many meals as you want in the window, but once the window is over: that’s it for the day. You can skip dinner or skip breakfast, find what works for you, so long as this ever-increasing emphasis is on widening the fasting window.
This might seem simple enough, but the average American eats 17-21 times daily! We unknowingly grab a handful of nuts or drink a kombucha between meals, and every time we consume anything, this spikes our blood sugar, decreases hormone sensitivity, and keeps us stuck in a sugar-burning mode.
How Intermittent Fasting Works
Your cells can only use two things for energy: glucose (derived from sugar) or ketones (derived from fat). When we get stuck in sugar-burning mode, we become a slave to malfunctioning hormones that incessantly crave sugar for energy. Despite having fat stores (body fat), a body constantly being fed never learns to tap into these stores. Even worse, if we calorie restrict and consume these many meals a day, the body goes into starvation mode, holds onto your body fat for dear life, and even puts on body fat.
So the three main mechanisms by which fasting works are:
- Autophagy(cellular recycling): a process in which the body burns the damaged, broken, or malfunctioning cells in the body
- Hormone optimization: In fasting, the body’s hormone signals become clearer, which continues in times of feasting. Better working hormones are the key to a thriving body.
- Fat adaptation: cycling through periods of food and no food reminds the body that there is ample food within reach, so during fasting, it can burn away at fat stores (instead of clinging onto them in fear of never-ending famine). This is the biggest problem when it comes to extended caloric restriction.
So these fasting periods (whether intermittent or partial fasting) will increase your body’s ability to tap into these fat stores IF you pair the fasting with occasional feasting.
Holiday Biohacks: The Importance of Feasting
This is the good part because, yes: fasting is not only suggested, it’s a necessary part of losing body fat and living long, healthily. This is because so many people will embark on a dieting journey (generally caloric restriction) and ask themselves how they put on belly or thigh fat. As I’ve alluded, if you don’t include feast days, your body will not burn fat.
The feast days are as important as the short days.
Holiday Biohacks: Burn Your Firewood, Burn Your Body Fat
A great example of this concept is thinking of firewood and a burning fire. If you’re out in the snowy mountains, totally snowed in, fire if your only heat source and your woodpile are running low: you’re going to burn a smaller fire to try and preserve your heat for as long as possible. Your body does the same by conserving its fat stores.
Now if your friend calls you and says, “I’ve got a truck full of wood for you,” you can be sure that you will start burning more wood, making bigger fires. When you know you’re no longer running out of wood (or food), you can start increasing the fire (or rev your metabolism). Unfortunately, simply knowing food is abundant within reach is not enough. The body’s hormonal system learns by experience, so if you starve it, it will burn slower.
So your holiday feast parties will work for you and remind your body that it’s not starving, keep your hormones in check, and keep you burning body fat.
Don’t eat less; eat less often. The critical component is to eat until you are FULL during your eating window.
Holiday Biohacks: Feast/ Famine Cycles
Let’s put this plan into action! The key here is finding what works for you. There are many ways to incorporate diet variation into your life, and you can switch it up from week to week or month to month.
- The 5/1/1: 5 days of keto, one day of fasting, one day of feasting
- The 4/2/1: 4 days of keto, two days of fasting, one day of feasting
- The 3/2/2: 3 days of keto, two days of fasting, two days of feasting
- The 3/3/1: 3 days of keto, three days of fasting, two days of feasting
These weekly diet variation examples range from easiest to hardest, hardest meaning you should only embark on a 311 if you are already familiar with this lifestyle and are “fat adapted.” No matter which day you are on, all these feast/ famine cycle days are intermittent fasting days, meaning you eat all your meals (except for feast day) within a time-restricted window.
Holiday Biohacks: Feast Days
Feast days can go down any number of ways:
- Increase the number of meals per day. By now, you should be eating 1-2 meals per day (with no snacks), and on a feast day, you could have all three meals or even three and a snack.
- Increase the number of calories. Of course, you should always be eating until completely satiated, but on a feast day, you can really up the ante… and without guilt!
- Increase carbohydrate and protein intake. A regular keto day is generally high fat, moderate protein, and low carb, but you can increase them significantly on a feast day.
- Or all of the above.
Holiday Biohacks: Boost Your Benefits – Ketosis
Ketosis is the severe restriction of carbohydrates and moderate protein restriction so that the body burns ketones (fat) instead of glucose (sugar) for energy. This taps into all the benefits of fasting: mild autophagy, hormone optimization, and fat adaptation.
As you saw in the diet variation cycles above, you should use keto-friendly meals (within that time-restricted eating window) on days you are not feasting or fasting to maximize the benefits of diet variation.
But we are going to take it one step further…
We invite you to go keto for the next two weeks.
Going keto for the next two weeks will fast-track your body into this fat-burning mode. If you can commit to two weeks on a ketogenic diet, your body will be much more metabolically flexible in the New Year, and you can indulge in that feast with no guilt. In addition, it takes about two weeks for the body to get fat-adapted (efficiently use fat instead of sugar for energy), so you will also have fewer cravings and more power in time for the holidays!
Getting into nutritional ketosis is pretty simple; you only need to drop your net carbs (sugar content minus the fiber) below 50 grams per day. The protein ratio should hover at about ½ your body weight in grams so that a 150-pound person would consume about 75 grams of protein. A simple blood ketone testing strip will confirm ketosis when your blood ketone reading is above 0.5 mmol/L. The test strips let you dial in your diet because some people can tolerate more/fewer carbs/protein.
If you’re eating low carb and in ketosis by the New Year, you are paving the way for a successful fest/famine experience throughout 2019. So remember: try and avoid any unnecessary toxins, eat within that restricted eating window, ditch the snacks, and reap all the amazing benefits of fasting for your health and longevity!