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Dave Asprey is a professional biohacker, technology entrepreneur, founder of Bulletproof Coffee and A New York Times best selling writer of the Bulletproof Diet and Headstrong. His new book is called: Fast This Way.

I've been fasting for 10 years now. I started out with intermittent fasting when I was learning about Bulletproof Butter Coffee. I noticed that when I have it for breakfast, i'm strangely not hungry, but I didn't know all the reasons for it. Then I started trying just intermittent fasting with no Bulletproof coffee and learned that a lot people have lost a million pounds on the Bulletproof diet. So the question is: 


What can make fasting not painful? And what makes it really painful?


In other words, do you want to suffer or not when you fast? And sometimes you actually want to suffer but if you're fasting for a metabolism and you have a job, a family and things to do there are a ton of hacks for it that aren't really out there and i'm going to share some here.

Read more: Intermittent Fasting Tips to Suppress Appetite and Make Fasting Not Painful

The Bulletproof diet helped to make keto a thing and it really helped to get intermittent fasting going. Between the continuous glucose monitoring and years of saying “If I do this, I get this”, I put together some things that haven't been written about fasting in my brand new book called “Fast This Way”. 

Fast This Way by Dave Asprey

Personal Experience with Fasting

Before I'd even experienced Bulletproof coffee or yak butter tea, I went to a cave in the desert in Sedona. I wanted to go on a vision quest to figure out what's going on. This was quite a while back. I'd been through a bad relationship, I'd made and lost six million dollars and had some rough times in life.

Dave Asprey

After starting on a personal development journey, I realised that I have an issue with being alone. I used to be really afraid of being alone but I didn't understand why. I just knew that I didn't want to be alone. I also weighed 300 pounds, and have been told that if you don't eat six meals a day and have food always available then your body will go into starvation mode and you'll get fat. 

I thought that this is how it works and that I wasn’t exercising enough. So I went down this incredible path of burning myself out physically, eating the wrong foods, manipulating my cell membranes in the wrong way and being hungry and hypoglycemic all the time.

You might ask “What does it all have to do with fasting?”. I decided to go up to a cave where I can be all by myself completely, no one around me for miles and have no food with me. This was a way to push all of my buttons at the same time: fear of starving and fear of being alone. 

I narrate that journey and what happened on each day of that in “Fast This Way”. This is unlike the other books of mine as I share the emotional side of my journey. 

Fasting is not only about skipping breakfast or going 72 hours without eating. Just like keto is not about not eating carbs again. Unending keto is actually bad for you, as well as unending zero protein. You call it protein fasting or near zero protein, which would be the vegan diet and it doesn't work as well. I was a raw vegan for quite a while and it made me sick, likewise when I went into full ketosis without any breaks it also made me sick.

The idea is that you cycle things and the steeper the curve of the cycle the better. Studies have shown that two 20-second high-intensity intervals in seven minutes give you more benefits than 45 minutes of straight cardio. It's because how fast can you turn it on, how fast can you turn it off.

Spiritual Fasting

When we talk about hunger, what all it really comes to is “Can you deal with it?”. Most of fasting is not biological. But the benefits are. 


The benefits and the hard parts are almost all psychological, emotional and spiritual.


I'm introducing the concept of something called “spiritual fasting”. Let’s remember where fasting comes from. In India or Tibet they practice long-term fasting in meditation, because in four days of fasting your body will go into ketosis. When you go into ketosis you get more ketones in the brain. The neurons will eat ketones even if they is sugar present. Neurons love ketones because ketones have more electrons in them and the neurons are just hungry for energy. As a result, neurons can fire better, you can think better, you can be better, you can feel better. 

So one path is to fast for spiritual reasons. In fact, every spiritual and organised religion I can think of either currently has fasting involved or had it in their history because it does help you reach spiritual states.

Learn to Distinguish the Real Signal

I had a shaman drop me off at a cave and left me for four days. Of course, I wondered what was going to happen here. I even almost packed a protein bar, but in the end left it on the kitchen table, because I really wanted to push my limits.


What you learn about yourself from doing your first long fast is these five really important words:

“I'm not going to die”.  


The body sends you a very strong signal that says “You're going to die” and here's why:

A lot of what you think is you isn’t you. It's your meat, it's your sleeve. You're inside your body, your conscious thoughts are the part of you that you think is you. 

Then there's this amazing elegant beautiful automated system inside your body that's there to keep your meat alive. Your meat is run by something that's not you. It's run by mitochondria, these ancient bacteria that are paired with some cells that became us. Those bacteria actually measure the environment around you and inside of you and then they make decisions long before you have a chance to think about them.

The best example you'll ever hear is if you lean on a hot stove and you move your hand away. You didn't do it, something moved your hand before you could think about it and then you took credit for that.

What happens when you take credit for something like that is you are thinking with a story and that the story you’ve created is true. The story is “I’m not safe, I’m going to die”. But while those little bacteria don’t know that, they create quadrillions of little signals that roll up throughout your body, so you can believe that you’re feeling unsafe.

The same mechanism applies to hunger, giving you a general anxiety and a feeling that you are going to die. However, if you decide to track your blood sugar, you’ll find that there is plenty of fuel in your body. In fact, it would probably take two or three months of not eating to starve to death. 

physical hunger vs emotional hunger
Image Source: https://shockingfit.com/hunger-intermittent-fasting-leangains/


But why is the signal so strong? Why do we believe that signal? Because these little bacteria billions of years ago starved to death enough times that they built it into the very DNA. And now your job as a human being is to figure out when the “I'm going to die” signal is real and when it is not.

The first thing you want to do when you're learning how to fast is just sit with that feeling and acknowledge that you are uncomfortable, but it’s ok to be. You’ve not going to die just by skipping breakfast.

Use Fasting to Let Go of Fear

I remember this meeting with a company called Exodus Communications. I’m in this meeting at 11:45 and I just have this feeling that if I don't eat something now I just can't think. I had to stop the meeting and go to the cafeteria to have lunch. Now, when I’m 20 years older, I understand that it is not how it’s supposed to be. Now I can skip breakfast, skip dinner if I have to and keep going just being mildly uncomfortable or it wouldn't even be uncomfortable at all. 

There are dozens of books on fasting and they all say the same things that books on keto say, the same things you could read in the Bulletproof Diet, which is when you fast it makes you younger. 


But when you step back you know what fasting really is just learning to go without something for an appropriate period of time. 

You know what else is fasting? It is also a breathing exercise. When you do Wim Hof style breathing, do a bunch of breaths in and out and then hold your breath empty, the first feeling you might have is the overwhelming “I’m going to die”. But after a while you realise that signal was wrong. What you're doing is you're attenuating your ability to know which signals from the body are true and which ones are ancient survival techniques that are not that useful.

What else is fasting? Fasting from sleep. It turns out, water is probably more important than sleep. Most people die from a lack of water before they die from a lack of sleep. You can go only 3-4 days without water. For most people more than seven, ten, fourteen days of no sleep and they die.

But if you are in the military or you're doing one of those races across America, you actually train in an exhausted state called sleep conditioning. What happens is when you wake up having only one hour of sleep, you are still convinced that you’ve got this. 

Read more: Top 7 Ways to Improve Sleep Quality


That is the essence of fasting - simply to know that you’ve got this and have enough energy to be resilient today no matter what.


What is really driving people is fear of hunger, fear of being tired, fear of being alone, fear of being {insert whatever}.

You can use intermittent fasting to deal with your fear.

Ask yourself how much of hunger is actually biological and how much of it is you're afraid of feeling that way.

Studies show that somewhere around 15 to 30 of the thoughts you have during the day are about food. You could be thinking about how to take care of your family, how to be of better service to your community or how to make a buck, but do you really want to be thinking about bagels, noodles or sugar?

I’m not suggesting you go out and starve yourself to sleep for a while, as that will wreck your metabolism but you should learn to not be afraid of being tired.

So fasting is just going without. You can go without carbs, you can go without protein, you can go without fat and go without eating, go without air, go without heat, go without sleep, go without stimulation, go without hate and that is what fasting is really all about.

Guest Author
Guest Author

This article was contributed by a guest author with expert knowledge in their field.

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