Holiday Biohacks to Prevent (or Reverse)
Weight Gain: Part 2
This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD
In Holiday Biohacks part 1, we uncovered the crucial role that detoxification plays during the holiday period since these times are not only high in calories, but also in toxins. Today, we’re taking it back to the food, and exploring how feasting is not only alright but actually beneficial to a lean, healthy body.
Holiday Biohacks: Choose Better Ingredients
Before getting into the importance of feasting and how to do it, let me highlight that you should still try to be mindful of the ingredients being used, and try to make better choices. There’s going to be sugar, and lots of it- but avoiding GMOs and nasty refined vegetable oils is always something you should aim for. I love my pumpkin pie…and gelato… and I love my spaghetti… but when I’m making pasta, I choose the organic flour. When I’m eating ice cream, I avoid artificial coloring. Taking these small steps towards eliminating any unnecessary exposure to things like hybridized grains or glyphosate sprayed foods will give your health a serious jump start. (This won’t always be possible, and for that, you’ve got detox).
After addressing the quality of your food comes the fun part, because not only you’ll be able to enjoy these meals, but you might even come out of the holidays healthier and leaner than when they began!
Holiday Biohacks Tip: Fasting
There are infinite ways to fast. Partial fasting is a caloric restriction (between 500-1000 calories per day), and block water fasting is an extended fast on only water (5, 10, 30 days). Essentially, fasting is the art of not eating, and today we’re going to highlight intermittent fasting, paired with partial fasting, as well as feasting: a concept I like to call diet variation.
Holiday Biohacks: Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting (IF) is simply the act of eating within a restricted time window. If you’re new to IF, you can start at 12 hours of eating (/12 hours of fasting), and as you progress and become more efficient at burning fat, this fasting window will get wider and wider.
- Eat within a restricted time window (start at 12 hours, and shorten the feeding window with time)
- Start with 3 meals a day (no snacking!)
- Work your way to 2 meals a day, and optionally one (very large) meal a day
- The key is not eating less, it’s eating less often; when you do eat, make sure you are eating until completely full.
I typically eat in a four-hour window, meaning that I don’t eat breakfast, my first meal is around 2:00 or 3:00 PM and my last meal is maybe 6:00 or 7:00 at night. So you can eat as many meals as you want in the window, but once the window is over: that’s it for the day. You can skip dinner or skip breakfast, find what works for you, so long as there is this ever-increasing emphasis on widening the fasting window.
This might seem simple enough, but the average American eats 17-21 times a day! We unknowingly grab a handful of nuts or drink a kombucha between meals, and every time we consume anything, this spikes our blood sugar, decreases hormone sensitivity, and keeps us stuck in a sugar-burning mode.
How Intermittent Fasting Works
Your cells can only use two things for energy: glucose (derived from sugar) or ketones (derived from fat). When we get stuck in sugar-burning mode, we become a slave to malfunctioning hormones that are incessantly craving sugar for energy. Despite having fat stores (body fat), a body that is constantly being fed never learns to tap into these stores. Even worse, if we calorie restrict and consume these many meals a day, the body goes into starvation mode, holds onto your body fat for dear life, and even puts on body fat.
So the three main mechanisms by which fasting works are:
- Autophagy(cellular recycle): a process in which the body will burn the damaged, broken, or malfunctioning cells in the body
- Hormone optimization: in times of fasting, the body’s hormone signals become more clear, and this continues on in times of feasting. Better working hormones are the key to a thriving body.
- Fat adaptation: cycling through periods of food and no food reminds the body that there is ample food within reach, and so during times of fasting, it can burn away at fat stores (instead of clinging onto them in fear of never-ending famine). This is the biggest problem when it comes to extended caloric restriction.
So these periods of fasting (whether it be intermittent, or partial fasting) will increase your body’s ability to tap into these fat stores IF you pair the fasting with occasional feasting.
Holiday Biohacks: The Importance of Feasting
This is the good part because, yes: fasting is not only suggested, it’s a necessary part of losing body fat, and living long, healthily. So many people will embark on a dieting journey (generally caloric restriction) and ask themselves how they are putting on belly or thigh fat, and as I’ve alluded to: if you don’t include feast days, your body will not burn fat.
The feast days are as important as the fast days.
Holiday Biohacks: Burn Your Firewood, Burn Your Body Fat
A great example to understand this concept is thinking of firewood, and a burning fire. If you’re out in the snowy mountains, totally snowed in, fire if your only heat source and your woodpile is running low: you’re going to burn a smaller fire to try and preserve your heat for as long as possible. Your body does the same with conserving its fat stores.
Now if your friend calls you and says “I’ve got a truck full of wood for you,” you can be sure that you will start burning more wood, making bigger fires. When you know you’re no longer running out of wood (or food), you can start increasing the fire (or rev your metabolism). Unfortunately, simply knowing there’s an abundance of food within reach is not enough. The body’s hormonal system learns by experience, and so if you starve it, it will burn at a slower rate.
So your feast parties for the holidays are going to work for you and remind your body that it’s not starving, keep your hormones in check, and keep you burning body fat.
Don’t eat less, eat less often. The critical component is to eat until you are FULL during your eating window.
Holiday Biohacks: Feast/ Famine Cycles
Let’s put this plan into action! The key here is finding what works for you. There are so many ways to incorporate diet variation into your life, and you can switch it up from week to week, or month to month.
- The 5/1/1: 5 days of keto, 1 day of fasting, 1 day of feasting
- The 4/2/1: 4 days of keto, 2 days of fasting, 1 day of feasting
- The 3/2/2: 3 days of keto, 2 days of fasting, 2 days of feasting
- The 3/3/1: 3 days of keto, 3 days of fasting, 2 days of feasting
These weekly diet variation examples range from easiest to hardest, hardest meaning you should only embark on a 311 if you are already familiar with this lifestyle and are “fat adapted”. No matter which day you are on, all of these feast/ famine cycle days are also intermittent fasting days, meaning you eat all your meals (except for feast day) within a time restricted window.
Holiday Biohacks: Feast Days
Feast days can go down any number of ways:
- Increase the number of meals per day. By now you should be eating 1-2 meals per day (with no snacks), and on a feast day, you could have all 3 meals, or even 3 and a snack.
- Increase the number of calories. You should always be eating until completely satiated, but on a feast day, you can really up the ante… and without guilt!
- Increase carbohydrate and protein intake. A regular keto day is generally high fat, moderate protein, and low carb, but on a feast day can you can increase them significantly.
- Or, all of the above.
Holiday Biohacks: Boost Your Benefits – Ketosis
I’ve talked a lot about the benefits of ketosis in the past, you can read in depth on DrPompa.com, but in a nutshell: ketosis is the severe restriction of carbohydrates and moderate restriction of protein so that the body starts burning ketones (fat) instead of glucose (sugar) for energy. This taps into all the benefits of fasting: mild autophagy, hormone optimization, and fat adaptation.
As you saw in the diet variation cycles above, you should use keto-friendly meals (within that time restricted eating window) on days you are not feasting or fasting, to really maximize the benefits of diet variation.
But we are going to take it one step further…
I invite you to go keto for the next two weeks
Going keto for the next two weeks will really fast track your body into this fat-burning mode. If you can commit to two weeks on a ketogenic diet, your body will be much more metabolically flexible in the New Year, and you will really be able to indulge in that feast with no guilt. It takes about two weeks for the body to get fat-adapted (efficiently use fat instead of sugar for energy), so you will also have fewer cravings and more energy in time for the holidays!
Getting into nutritional ketosis is pretty simple, all you need to do is drop your net carbs (this is sugar content minus the fiber) below 50 grams per day. The protein ratio should hover at about ½ your body weight in grams, so a 150-pound person would consume about 75 grams of protein. Using a simple blood ketone testing strip will confirm ketosis when your blood ketone reading is above 0.5 mmol/L. Using the test strips enables you to really dial in your diet because some people can tolerate more/fewer carbs/protein.
If you’re eating low carb and in ketosis by the New Year, you are really paving the way for a successful fest/famine experience throughout 2019. Remember: try and avoid any unnecessary toxins, eat within that restricted time eating window, ditch the snacks, and reap all the amazing benefits that fasting and feasting can have for your health and longevity!
Holiday Biohacks to Prevent (or Reverse) Weight Gain: Part 2 This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD Learn more About Holiday Biohacks on Health…
Holiday Biohacking to Prevent (or Reverse) Weight Gain: Part 1 This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD Learn More about Holiday Biohacking on Health…
Medical Disclaimer: This article is based upon the opinions of Dr. Daniel Pompa. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of Dr. Pompa and his associates. This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD for accuracy of the information provided, but Dr. Pompa encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional.