There is two ways to go about integrating fasting into your life, by doing it intermittently for short periods of time, or by occasionally doing really long and challenging fasts. Or you can do a combination of both!
Intermittent fasting consists of shorter fasting periods (16-22 hours in length) whereas prolonged or extended fasting involves not eating for 24 hours or more, sometimes lasting for days.
I find if you’re able to fuse them together into a beautiful hybrid fasting combo, you’re going to get absolutely crazy results and will reach your goals way quicker.
So Which Is Better For Beginners?
It doesn’t really matter what your level of experience is, both IF and prolonged fasting are fine for people who have never fasted a day in their lives!
So which should you start with? Well, IF is definitely easier as something like a 16:8 protocol isn’t too different from what you’re probably already doing.
Prolonged fasting is a little more challenging.
For beginners I tend to second Cole Robinson’s recommendation that you start with a prolonged fast, maybe a 72 hour water fast and after you break that fast, go into an intermittent fasting protocol such as 16:8 or 20:4.
That initial extended fast will heal your body, help you beat any food or dopamine addictions you may have, and put you in a good position to make intermittent fasting your default approach to diet.
Which Is Better For Weight Loss?
You will unquestionably lose more weight far more quickly by doing a prolonged fast.
The longer you fast for, usually the better weight loss results you’ll see, whether on a prolonged fast or doing intermittent fasting. That means a 20 hour fasting window followed by a 4 hour eating window will usually get you burning more fat than doing a 16:8 protocol, if your diet is in check. Similarly, fasting for 3 days straight will get you even further.
Dry fasting is the most potent form of prolonged fasting which involves not eating food and not drinking water for the duration of the fast. This forces your body to break down fat extremely quickly so it can use the water in those cells to hydrate your body.
At the end of the day, you probably want to use both IF and prolonged fasting to come up with an approach that will lead you to sustainable long term weight loss.
Which Is Harder?
The obvious answer would be prolonged fasting, but I’m not quite sure that’s completely true. There is plenty of ways to make each fasting protocol easier or harder.
A 5 day water fast is nowhere near as difficult as doing one meal a day for 30+ days. At the same time, a 7 day hard dry fast is clearly going to be far more challenging than following an 18:6 intermittent fasting protocol for any length of time.
I’ve got a ton of fasting experiments lined up for next year. You might think the 7 day hard dry fast coming up next month is the one I’m going to be most worried about…
But actually I’m far more nervous about the OMAD protocol I’ll be running for 30 days where I’ll be eating only 500 calories a day for a month while still working out.
So intermittent fasting can definitely become hard when you’re massively restricting the calories.
There’s plenty of ways to make any fasting protocol more easy or more difficult. How hard your fast will be ultimately will be decided by how big you want the results to be.
Why I Prefer Prolonged Fasting
The reason I like doing really long fasts is because you get to engage metabolic processes within the body that just won’t come online if you’re intermittent fasting (i.e. eating at least once a day).
You don’t start to reap the true benefits of autophagy until about the 48 hour mark. If you’re following a 20:4 IF diet, you’re never going to quite push things far enough to where your body is able to do the most healing.
The main reason I fast is to challenge myself. I don’t do it for weight loss or for healing but rather to see what the human body is capable of and what transformations are possible if you really commit to it.
The other reason I like prolonged fasting is because I quite like the idea of never having to think about eating or cooking or cleaning dishes! The other day I was thinking about what supplies I needed to get for my upcoming 7 day fast. And then I realised that fasting is literally just ‘going without’ – you don’t need anything!
How To Combine Them Both!
As I mentioned earlier on, a great place to start will be completing a 72 hour water fast just to help conquer your fear of fasting, if you’ve never done it before.
After reaching the 72 hour mark, see how you feel. If you feel fine, push it another 12, 24, 36 hours. You’ll find the first 72 hours is the toughest and after that, it’s really quite easy. When it starts getting quite uncomfortable, you can break your fast.
But don’t just go back to your old ways of eating several meals throughout the day! Begin an intermittent fasting protocol immediately!
If you have tons of weight to lose, go right into 20:4 and do that for a month. Fast for 20 hours a day and eat a big meal, maybe a meal and a half within your 4 hour eating window.
Don’t go crazy and eat a bunch of junk and make sure you’re still in a caloric deficit – this shouldn’t be too hard because it’s tough to eat a surplus in a single meal.
You’re going to get crazy results in your first month and this will help motivate you to keep going long-term.
If you want, you can take it to the next level by upping it to alternate day fasting. Try doing one meal every other day. Drink salt water when you’re fasting to keep energy high.
There’s no limit to how quickly you can lose weight doing this. You can string 72 hour fasts back to back with only small refeeds in between and you will be at your target weight in a very short amount of time.
It’s safe, too. If you have excess fat, you have everything you need to do very long fasts. The human body is incredibly resilient – you’re simply not going to fall over and die from doing this. It will only do wonders for your health.
The experiments I perform on myself, as well as the countless other testimonials you can read about online, are proof enough that this is in almost all cases harmless and the benefits cannot be understated!
Once you come to the understanding that you don’t need food to survive, that your fat contains all the nutrition your body needs to live off for very long periods of time, the sky’s the limit.
Be brave. Fast for days on end.
Challenge yourself. The most beautiful thing about fasting is that it’s uncomfortably personal. It’s you vs the voice in your head. At all times.
By pushing the boundaries you’ll learn a lot about yourself.
My hope is to display, through my experimentation over the coming 14 months, that the only limitations when it comes to fasting are the ones you impose on yourself!