Found My Fitness – A Fasting Q&A with Dr. Rhonda Patrick and Mike Maser

Key Takeaways

  • With time-restricted eating, you’re taking advantage of the body’s natural circadian clock, and eating only when your metabolism is most optimal
  • Prolonged fasts activate autophagy pathways and allows for the clearing away of damaged cells
    • Stem cells are activated, which eventually grow to healthy/normal cells, which replace the damaged cells that were cleared away
  • “There’s evidence in the scientific literature that if you consume black coffee within the fasting window, there’s still positive effects happening
    • But the question remains – “If you were not to consume it, would you have a more robust effect? We don’t know.”
  • When you fast, you deactivate growth pathways (like IGF-1, and mTOR) – both of which are activated by amino acids
    • So you definitely want to avoid any amino acids while fasting 
  • Electrolyte supplements do not appear to disrupt the fasted state
  • Training in the fasted state seems to be beneficial (unless you’re doing intense anaerobic exercise)
  • If you don’t train in the fasted state….It’s a myth – you really don’t need to down a protein shake immediately after your workout
    • HOWEVER – if you’re training fasted, know that you aren’t storing protein, so you may want to consume protein within an hour after lifting
  • Exercise is KEY for making sure IGF-1 is going to the right places
  • The best way to break a fast:
    • Eat some protein to raise your IGF-1 levels, as well as some carbs (carbs allow for IGF-1 to be more bioavailable)

Intro

Are coffee and amino acid supplements okay to consume while fasting?

  • Many people wonder if they’re allowed to have coffee, while following a time-restricted eating based diet
    • People who time-restrict their eating, typically only eat within a 4-12 hour time window, depending on the person
    • What’s the idea behind following this diet?
      • Our body has a circadian rhythm
        • In the morning we produce a hormone called cortisol to wake us up
        • As the day goes on, our cortisol levels drop, and at night our melatonin levels rise (this makes us sleepy)
      • Every cell in our body has a circadian rhythm, as well as various metabolic pathways
        • It’s important to make sure you’re consuming your food, when the metabolic pathways are most active 
      • So you shouldn’t really be eating outside the window of 6am-7pm ish
      • Eating outside this window, activates metabolic pathways when they’re really not supposed to be activated
  • Other tidbits
    • Humans are more insulin sensitive in the morning compared to the evening
    • Fatty acid metabolism is less active in the evening
  • So coffee….
    • Coffee with cream is obviously considered food and will break the fast
    • But black coffee (or espresso)…
      • Caffeine can shift the circadian clock – giving someone coffee later in the day will shift their circadian rhythm up by about 40 minutes
      • Caffeine is metabolized by the gut and liver, and the question is – Does this activation, by caffeine of the metabolic pathways in the liver/gut “start the circadian clock” – we don’t know
        • There are multiple studies which had people follow a time-restricted eating based diet, and allowed them to consume caffeine (black coffee or tea) during the fasting period – the benefits thought to result from fasting were still observed
        • “So clearly there’s evidence in the scientific literature that if you consume black coffee within that fasting window, there’s still positive effects happening”
        • But the question remains – “If you were not to consume it, would you have a more robust effect? We don’t know.”
  • What about amino acids?
    • When you fast, you deactivate growth pathways (like IGF-1, and mTOR) – both of which are activated by amino acids
      • The deactivation of these pathways is important for things like autophagy to occur
        • Autophagy is essentially this process by which the damaged components of cells are recycled for newer, healthier components
        • For example – damaged mitochondria can be cleared away
        • It’s like spring cleaning for the body
    • So you definitely want to avoid any amino acids while fasting 

What about electrolytes when fasting? 

  • As far as Rhonda knows, things like sodium, potassium, and magnesium are not disrupting the fasted state
    • So something like salt, would be fine
  • When doing a prolonged fast (3-10 days), things like sodium and potassium are depleted very quickly, and then the levels taper off

Has there been any evidence to suggest one type of fasting is more beneficial than others?

  • The different types of fasting:
    • Intermittent fasting – fasting for up to 24 hours
    • Prolonged fasting – when you start fasting for 2 days or longer
    • Time-restricted eating – involves eating when your metabolism is optimal, and when you’re not eating, you’re fasting
      • So this might mean fasting for 16 hours, and eating all your food within an 8 hour window
      • “You’re eating within your circadian biology, in terms of when your metabolism is most optimal”
        • Your body’s metabolism isn’t that good at 8-9pm (and further on throughout the night)
        • If you eat at 10pm –
          • Your not going to be as insulin sensitive, so your blood glucose levels will be higher
          • Your fasting blood glucose levels will be higher
          • Your fatty acid metabolism isn’t as good (so you’re going to start to store fatty acids in adipose tissue rather than using them as energy – so you’ll gain more fat mass)
        • Eating late into the night, might also somehow be resetting your body’s clock
          • So your body thinks it’s the start time of metabolism (aka the morning), so the whole time you’re sleeping, your metabolism is at it’s best, and when you wake up in the morning, everything is misaligned in terms of your metabolism
  • What are the benefits of each?
    • With both time-restricted eating and intermittent fasting:
      • Some repair processes are activated (whether it’s to repair DNA or mitochondria)
    • With intermittent fasting and prolonged fasts:
      • Your body shifts from glucose/carbohydrate metabolism, to metabolizing fatty acids, and ketone bodies are produces
        • Ketone bodies have been shown to act as signaling molecules which activate genetic pathways which are known to delay age-related diseases
        • So ketones = anti-aging
        • Ketones also reduce damage generated by mitochondria 
    • With time-restricted eating:
      • You’re taking advantage of the body’s natural circadian clock, and eating only when your metabolism is most optimal
      • This improves your insulin sensitivity and fasting blood glucose levels
    • With prolonged fasting:
      • Prolonged fasts activate autophagy pathways and allows for the clearing away of damaged cells
      • Stem cells are activated, which eventually grow to healthy/normal cells, which replace the damaged cells that were cleared away
      • Organs actually shrink, and during the refeeding period, they regrow
      • (This doesn’t all happen during shorter fasts, IGF-1 levels don’t drop low enough)
  • What about the fasting mimicking diet (FMD)?
    • This is a protocol developed by Dr. Valter Longo
    • It’s a 5 day regimen, eating very low calorie (between 700 and 1000) – this mimics some of the benefits achieved with long term fasts
      • Organs can shrink and regrow with new/healthy cells
      • Insulin sensitivity and glucose levels also seem improve
    • For more on a FMD, check out these Podcast Notes
    • It’s essentially much easier to “do” than a long term fast
  • In summary..
    • Each type of fasting has it’s own benefits
    • It’s probably wise to combine them and do them all periodically 
      • So time-restrict your eating, and do period long term fasts

Will the consumption of exogenous ketones disrupt a fasting state?

  • “Exogenous” just means it’s not produced in the body, it’s a supplement
  • Rhonda has tried this exogenous BHB ketone ester from HVMN
    • Ketone esters are very potent – they can raise your blood ketone levels significantly in a very short time span
    • But the effect doesn’t last for all that long – the more active you are, the quicker you’ll use up the ketone bodies
  • Rhonda recalls about 5 clinical studies which show that consuming exogenous BHB (BHB is just a type of ketone) esters, increases blood BHB levels (aka blood ketone levels), but it also decreases circulating free fatty acids
    • This suggests that you’re not taking fatty acids from your fat cells, and using them to make your own BHB (or ketones)
    • This means you’re not really getting the benefit of “fat loss”
    • When your blood ketone levels get high enough, essentially your body says, “Oh, great, we won’t need to make any more ketones”
  • So in short – think twice about consuming exogenous ketones on a fast, unless you’re an athlete who needs the extra fuel

Are there any downsides to training in the fasted state?

  • Firstly, are there any benefits to eating prior to training?
    • Studies show that eating prior to exercise improves long duration aerobic exercise (aerobic = normal cardio, duration longer than 60 minutes – so it’d be great for long distance running) 
      • But eating prior to aerobic exercise less than 60 minutes in length, doesn’t seem to provide any benefits
    • Eating prior to anaerobic exercise (like running as hard as you possibly can until exhaustion) has been shown to improve performance 
  • What about the benefits of training in a fasted state?
    • Training in the fasted state allows for robust increases in glucose sensitivity, and enhancements in mitochondrial adaptations to using fatty acids (so your mitochondria become really primed for fatty acid use)
      • There’s also an increase in activity in genes that regulate fatty acid  metabolism 
      • When you feed before you train, those adaptations are blunted
  • In summary
    • If you’re just weight lifting with cardio – it’s probably beneficial to train fasted
  • On a related note…
    • It’s commonly thought there’s a short anabolic window after your workout that you HAVE to consume amino acids and protein 
    • Studies seem to show that this time window is longer than we thought – protein intake even hours after a workout is beneficial 
      • So you don’t need a protein shake immediately after you lift
      • HOWEVER – if you’re training fasted, know that you aren’t storing protein, so you may want to consume protein within an hour after lifting

Exploring the Growth Lonegevity Trade-Off

  • What does this mean?
    • By fasting, you down regulate multiple aging pathways – IGF-1 and mTOR
    • But in order to build muscle through resistance training, you need to eat protein (which activates those same pathways)
  • Can you get the best of both worlds? Is the trade-off overstated?
    • The bad of IGF-1:
      • Multiple aging studies show that higher IGF-1 levels, over time, lead to higher incidences of cancer (the opposite is also true – people who have gene mutations which allow for lower IGF-1 have lower incidences of cancer)
        • People with gene mutations that raise their IGF-1 levels, have a great risk of developing cancer
        • Why? 
          • IGF-1 is a grow signal
          • When you have accumulated damage in your cells, there are signaling pathways which are activated, which essentially say – “This cell is too damaged to repair, it needs to be killed off”
            • The body kills the cell, through a process known as apoptosis (aka programmed cell death)
          • IGF-1 expressed at a high level, sort of negates this apoptosis mechanism, and encourages damaged cells to grow
      • IGF-1 also deactivates an important longevity pathway – FOXO
        • This pathway regulates all sorts of genes involves in repair, stem cell production, and autophagy
  • BUT – You actually need IGF-1 for some things
    • IGF-1 is necessary for growing and repairing muscle, which is important itself for longevity
      • Multiple studies have shown that muscle mass is really important for lowering all cause mortality, and preventing frailty 
    • IGF-1 also gets into the brain and serves as an important factor for growing new neurons, and helps prevent neurons from dying
    • Exercise helps bring IGF-1 into the brain, as well as the muscle (as opposed to having it float around the blood stream where it can go to other tissues)
      • So exercise is KEY for making sure IGF-1 is going to the right places
  • IGF-1 and Fasting
    • During prolonged fasts, IGF-1 drops significantly (resulting in autophagy, the activation of stem cells, and apoptosis)
    • When you refeed – you want IGF-1 levels to rise
      • This allows the stem cells to grow, and replenish the cells which were cleared away
  • To sum up…
    • As long as you’re exercising, don’t worry

What’s the ideal way to break a fast?

  • Specifically after a prolonged fast:
    • You want to reactivate IGF-1 
    • What activates IGF-1 – amino acids
      • So eat some protein
    • Carbohydrates regulate IGF-1 bioavailability (they allow IGF-1 to be more bioavailable)
      • So include some carbs in your post fast meal
    • BUT – be careful
      • Your gut is much more sensitive after not eating for several days – so eat a small meal
      • Maybe eat some fruit, with some protein power

One Point to Add From Rhonda

  • Research shows that the polyphenols in coffee (even decaf coffee) activate autophagy
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