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Beyond Fasting: How to Biohack Your Fast to Accelerate Fat Loss, Stave Off Carbohydrate Cravings & Enhance Cellular Autophagy | Dr. Dan Pompa on Ben Greenfield Fitness

Key Takeaways

  • You shouldn’t just jump into fasting, just like you wouldn’t race a marathon without training
  • Preparing for a fast allows you to achieve better results  
  • Hormetic principle: variation in approach is key to maximum autophagy, adaptation, and hormone optimization
  • The feast is just as important as the fast
  • Listen to innate intelligence –  your body knows what it needs and what it is


Dr. Daniel Pompa (@DrDanPompa) is an expert in alternative health and wellness with a particular focus on cellular detox and fasting. He currently spends most of his time speaking and training physicians on how to implement various diet strategies and fasting to achieve optimal health outcomes in patients.

Host: Ben Greenfield (@bengreenfieldfitness)

More ways to keep up with Dr. Pompa

Book: Beyond Fasting by Dr. Daniel Pompa

Podcast: Dr. Pompa & Cellular Healing TV Podcast

Additional Ben Greenfield appearances:

The Purpose of Fasting

  • Fasting is a strategy to enhance longevity by healing the microbiome, gut, immune functions, and thyroid conditions
  • Fasting creates energy diversion – the body takes the energy otherwise used for digestion for healing
  • Fasting, particularly extended fasts get rid of senescent cells (cells that contribute to aging and age-related disease) through autophagy
    • Senescent cells drive inflammatory states and act as immunosuppressants by stimulating cytokine reaction
  • If you approach fasting correctly you can get new tissues and new cells, but the key is what you do before and after fast
  • Results improve if you prepare the body for fasting  

Types of Fasts and How to Start

  • Fasting is not as simple as not eating
  • Cells don’t automatically switch over to fat-adaptation and high autophagy upon commencing fasting
  • Dr. Pompa does four, 5-day fasts per year: 2 partial fasts and 2 water fasts
  • Assuming most listeners are low-carb, paleo, keto – start compressing eating window and randomly throwing in 1-2 days of eating one meal or fasting altogether

Partial fast  

  • A partial fast is often a good starting point for people new to fasting
    • Depending on body size: (1) reduce calories to less than 1000; (2) reduce protein to under 20g
      • If you have too many calories you won’t enter autophagy
      • Too much protein takes you out of autophagy
  • Benefits: not as psychologically challenging and you can still achieve still gets autophagy

Pure water fast

  • A water fast is best done with no supplements, no coffee – nothing but water and maybe sea salt to maintain electrolytes
    • In studies, a water fast shows the best results in terms of autophagy

Supplements to Support Fasting

  • The process of autophagy releases a lot of toxins into the body
  • The more health challenges, the more toxins appear during fasting until the body adjusts
    • Toxins manifest as headaches, brain fog, dizziness occurs
  • “Fasting trio” of supplements mitigate symptoms
    • Bind: grabs toxins that get dumped into bile
      • Be choosy with Binder because a lot are contaminated
      • You want multiple Binders to be effective

Importance of a Varied Approach: Mitochondrial Fitness, Hormetic Principle, and Feast-Famine Cycling

  • Variation is key!
  • “If we employ diet variation strategies before fast, you will experience max autophagy” – Dr. Dan Pompa
  • Metabolic mitochondrial fitness: a fast is a stress so if we “stress” the body before the fast, results are better because of the adaptation occurring  
  • Hormetic principle: shift diet seasonally, monthly, weekly because body must change to adapt
    • Body adapts to changing microbiome and hormone optimization
    • Fat adapt going before going into fast to optimize results

Feast-Famine Cycling

  • “Feasts are as important as fasts!” – Dr. Dan Pompa
  • Adding in “feast days” is also important – 1-3 days of high carb (150-200g), high protein, high calorie can stimulate mTor pathway
    • In short bursts, mTor stimulates anabolic pathway, fat burning, and autophagy
    • Over long periods, mTor can cause premature aging over sustained periods
  • Weekly diet variation
    • 1:1 – switch off between feast and fast every other day
    • 4:1 – 4 fast days 1 feast day
    • 2:2 – 2 fast days, 2 feast days
  • Monthly variation
    • Add 5 days per month of high feast day then five partial fast days (low-calorie, low-carb, low-protein)
  • Seasonal variation
    • The more we can eat locally, the more we’re going to select naturally available seasonal foods
    • When you change seasonally, adaptation occurs in part because of diversity in the microbiome
    • E.g: try ketogenic for a few months then break with high-carb from healthy vegetables

Best Practices: How to Break Your Fast  

  • Breaking fast is important to reap the benefits of fasting
  • Everyone’s body is different but in general, you want to avoid breaking the fast with a huge feast since the gut has been in a rested state
    • Generally, the healthier you are the faster you can ramp up caloric intake
    • People with health challenges will want to take a slower approach
  • During a fast, you’re starving good and bad bacteria and digestive enzymes are sluggish and slower  
  • Ease in with avocado, berries, softer foods, blended vegetables, stream vegetables
  • It is critical to have low calorie, somewhere between 500-800 depending on body size but under 1000, for the two days following five fast (day 6 and 7)
    • Day 6: 500-800
    • Day 7: 800-1000
  • Wait a few days to add dense protein-dense protein from meat
  • Adding raw vegetables too soon can cause gastric distress

Biohacks to Optimize Fasting

  • Other biohacks to use to enhance fasting protocol, should only be used for healthy individuals and those accustomed to fasting
  • Sauna and exercise are great for people who are healthy and have the energy store
  • Red light therapy upregulates detox path therapies and is less stressful than a sauna
  • During longer fasts, consider withholding exercise so all excess energy goes to healing
  • Things that upregulate mitochondrial biogenesis like infrared light therapy, long walks in the sun, grounding, etc.

Special Considerations for Women and Fasting

  • Longevity benefits differ whether premenopausal (detrimental) vs postmenopausal (advantageous)   
  • Excess fasting in women can affect fertility hormones  
  • Lean, active females tend to develop low bone density and amenorrhea in excess fasting
  • In general, women and people who are hormonally challenged tend to do better with more variation in diet
  • Theory for women is to stick to a 10-12 hours intermittent fasting window

Monthly Cycle and Fasting

  • Five high carb days before cycle transition may optimize hormones the rest of the month
  • The body is saying to eat carbs because you need insulin since you’re making so many hormone conversions
  • Weeks after cycle hormones get better and fat-burning fires up

Can You Exercise While Fasting?

  • Don’t want to deplete yourself from an adrenal or immune standpoint
  • Liver and muscle glycogen reserves are going to be affected by a fast so during lengthier fasts, lean towards sauna, walks, yoga, short cold soaks
  • Stick to exercise that relies more on phosphogenic (bursts of less than 30 seconds) than glycolytic system (kicks on around 30 seconds after exercise starts)
    • Weightlifting: make it 3 sets of 5 reps each – quick, explosive, heavy
    • Interval training: 10 seconds hard, 4 minutes active recovery x 3-4 rounds – quick bursts of exercise with recovery between

Can Kids Fast?

  • Fasting longer than one day is probably unnecessary in healthy kids unless there are health challenges
  • You can train a child to get some of the mental and spiritual benefits of fasting with technology fasts, TV fasts, etc. instead of food fasts

Fasting and Immunity

  • Immunity starts in the gut
  • The difference between a healthy gut and unhealthy is diversity on gut bacteria
  • When you fast, you’re recreating the immune system by upregulating stem cell and creating new stem cell
  • We fix microbiome by stressing it with fasting
  • The more diverse your bacteria in your microbiome –> the healthier you are –> the healthier you are –> the better your immunity

Fasting and illness

  • Viruses rapidly deplete nutrients
    • Body’s response may depend on whether it’s virus vs bacteria
    • Listen to innate intelligence, the body knows what it’s doing and what it needs

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