3 Fasting Mistakes To Avoid & What To Do Instead, From Dave Asprey
If you're familiar with professional biohacker Dave Asprey, founder of Bulletproof and author of Fast This Way, you likely regard him as a fasting legend—finessing a 100-pound weight loss (and keeping it off) through carefully selecting what and when he eats. But Asprey's success story wasn't all sunshine and roses—as he explains on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast, he experienced a few pitfalls along the way. Plus, he's noticed some common mistakes as he helps others on their own fasting journeys. Fasting faux pas, if you will.
Below, Asprey uncovers three of the most common fasting mistakes he sees and what to do instead:
1. Thinking more is better.
He dubs this the "fasting trap." According to Asprey, "If something feels good to you for more than four or six weeks, you have accepted it as a fact." So if it stops working (say, your weight loss goals start to plateau), you might think you have to double down to see results. "You're like, 'I just need to work out more and I'll feel better. I just need to fast more and I'll feel better. I need to eat fewer carbs. I was at 50 carbs a day—I'll go down to 40 carbs a day, and maybe then I'll finally lose the other 50 pounds." (He experienced this thought spiral firsthand, he shares).
You start to believe that more is better, when really you might have needed less rigidity to see results. "The reality is that Goldilocks was right—it needs to be just right." It may take some guess-and-test to find the exact window that works for you (and you might even need to edit said window along the way), but don't be afraid to take hours away from your fast rather than adding on more and more time between meals. "You've got to understand the biology of fasting, which says just because it's good to do it, that doesn't mean it's good to do it all the time," Asprey adds. (Find our full beginner's guide to fasting here.)
2. Ignoring what you eat before a fast.
"The No. 1 way to make it through a fast is largely set by what you ate before you started fasting," says Asprey.
In true Bulletproof fashion, Asprey's a fan of healthy fats to keep you satisfied throughout the fast (you can even add a little MCT oil to your coffee if you're feeling particularly peckish during the day). Many other experts also recommend protein and fiber—you know, satiating nutrients that won't have your stomach gnarled with hunger midday. "I will tell you if you eat kale before a fast, the fast will be harder," Asprey says. (A few expert-approved fasting meal plans here.)
3. Overlooking the signs of too much stress.
In case you didn't know, fasting puts stress on the body. This is generally a good thing—acute stress shocks the body into autophagy, which is what much of the appeal of fasting is all about. "When you first start fasting and you're overdoing it, your stress levels go up, but it feels good because adrenaline feels good—until you run out," notes Asprey. It's when you experience chronic levels of stress (i.e., overdoing a fast) when people, especially women, may start to see less than favorable effects. Namely, that elevated cortisol can potentially affect your sleep, hormones, and energy levels.
That's not to say women shouldn't fast at all—many see amazing results!—but it's important to notice the signs your body is trying to tell you so you know when to scale back. "Skipping breakfast, having a late lunch, just three times a week. Maybe it's all you need," offers Asprey. "Maybe you just do it Monday through Friday, and on the weekends you have the gluten-free waffles with your kids at brunch." Be kind to your body and its needs.
There's so much wiggle room with fasting—not everyone's fast will look exactly the same, and it takes some experimenting to find what works for you. That said, there are some general mistakes you can make on the fasting front—more about the process itself than the timing specifics—that are important to avoid.
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