Fasting: An Ancestral Perspective

“To Feast or Famine”

Before we take a deep dive into fasting, I want to first say that you should seek advice from a medical professional before applying the content you are about to read. Medical conditions can vary from person to person and you should make sure that fasting is safe and appropriate for you.

Now let's start from the beginning to where fasting all began. This would be about 200,000 years ago when our ancestors were hunters and gatherers. Back before farming became revolutionized, we had to search for our food. It was not unusual to be in a fasted state for up to 48 hours until food became available. Because of these extreme conditions, our ancestors developed an adaptation allowing them to survive…and most importantly thrive.

So what the hell is fasting?
Fasting is a term that refers to the elimination of calories for a specified period of time to achieve a physical and/or mental outcome.

Sounds crazy! Why would I do this?
As there are many different types of fasting, we are going to focus on the main benefits of putting your body in a fasted state. For starters there has been evidence to show that fasting for a minimum period of 12 hours can improve body composition by not only burning fat, but also increasing the body’s natural secretion of growth hormone (GH).

Contrary to popular belief, you will actually feel more energized. This is because your body will naturally produce more adrenaline as if we needed a boost to go hunt for food.

Your gut will thank you for fasting as you are now creating more microbial diversity. Immune system and the digestion of your food significantly improves. Research has actually shown that fasting can prompt the body to remove damaged cells as well as stimulate the regeneration of the damaged cells.

Not only will your gut be happy, but brain function can also improve. Your head will be more clear and we can better prevent neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s or Alzheimers.

I thought I was supposed to eat 3 meals/day! Where did the eating 3 meals/day come from?

Is there a reason for this?
The quick answer is NO. There is no biological reason for eating 3 meals/day. In fact this 3 meal model became more consistent as the farming industry revolutionized. What is even more crazy is that back in the 1920’s and 1930’s when the US government began promoting breakfast as the most important meal of the day. This was put in place to break our overnight fast, hence the name “BreakFast”.

But…is breakfast really the most important meal of the day?
Believe it or not there has been research to show that prolonged periods of fasting (Skipping Breakfast) can in fact improve blood sugar control and control insulin sensitivity.

So if skipping breakfast could potentially be good for you…does that mean that breakfast is bad for you?
This is still a topic of debate, but we do know that eating earlier in the day can cause our cortisol levels to increase. This can lead to insulin resistance and maybe even contribute to type II diabetes.

Either way, we know that the most common pattern for eating in today’s society is 3 meals/day with snacks in between. This is abnormal from an ancestral and evolutionary perspective. Based on history, our bodies were designed for periodic cycles of feast and famine. When you think of it, this is how humans and animals have survived and thrived since the beginning of time.

Now I ask you the question…with today’s prevalent diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease; would it be better if we just went back to the way things were and live like our ancestors?

Although very debatable and great arguments from both sides…it makes you wonder.