Fasting – Don’t be scared!

The common belief exists that fasting will lead to serious bodily harm and starvation. This view is now changing as new fasting research and books are being presented to the public. Consider giving your body a break and allowing it to focus on enhancing & building up other organ systems instead of constantly being in digestion mode. This is especially true for YOU as an athlete!

First off, let me clear the air by making sure you understand that I am definitely not suggesting you perform or train in a fasted state, as this can potentially be dangerous, especially if you’ve never really experimented with fasting. This would be a great shock to your system.

What I am suggesting you do is consider the information presented here for your non-training days and/or in the off-season where your body is not subject to as much stress.

As always, consult with your physician before beginning any type of “unconventional” dietary/nutritional protocol (trust me, people will give you weird looks when you mention that you fast regularly).

However, beware that the concept of fasting is not part of the “norm” in the medical community and thus you may have to seek opinions from a variety of physicians before finding one who is comfortable talking to you about fasting.

A great place to start is with Dr. Alan Goldhamer, a chiropractic physician based out of California who specializes in fasting and treats patients from all around the country with incredible results. Visit his website at http://www.healthpromoting.com.

why eating so much

Intermittent Fasting

Let’s start here since there has been a major increase in the popularity of intermittent fasting over the past several years up to the present day.

Why all the hype? What is it? A friend of mine joked that it sounds sort of like one of those up and coming heavy metal/punk bands.

Intermittent fasting is not a new concept but it is “new” in the face of the general public. Many religious practices incorporate this form of fasting, the most popular of which is the Islamic holiday of Ramadan, where Muslims refrain from the consumption of any food or drink from sunrise to sunset.

The main idea behind intermittent fasting is to reduce caloric intake, but to do so by eating and drinking within an 8-hour (most common) time frame and therefore abstaining from food and drink for 16 hours.

Reducing caloric intake has been shown across a wide range of species to decrease the rate of aging. This includes the slowing of physical degeneration, increasing longevity (i.e. lifespan)1, and preventing diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, which are very common in the elderly.2

It seems that not eating, or significantly reducing your caloric intake, may be one of your best weapons against cancer. Fasting protects against tumor growth (and thus cancer).3

An important and noteworthy observation is the impact of fasting on preserving, and even enhancing, brain function and losing fat.

When fasting, your body makes the switch from using glucose as its primary energy source to using ketones, which have been shown to provide more energy than glucose4 and are more efficiently used by the brain.5

Ketones require fat to be created and when you are fasting there is no dietary source of fat coming in. Therefore, the body relies on your fat stores to produce the ketones. This is one of the simplest ways to lose fat because you are now burning that fat and using it as energy.

man-not-allowed-to-eat-bell-pepper

Evolution

What does this all mean to you as a basketball player?

You are exposing your body to repeated stress, not only from training and competing, but also from constantly eating food every day. Do you really think that your body is able to constantly digest food, recover your muscles, tendons, and ligaments, focus on competition, and perform at a high level during practice day in and day out for most of the year without breaking down?

Think again.

This is not how we evolved as humans. You assume that if you refrain from eating for one day, or even simply reducing the amount that you eat, that you will experience serious health issues. Do not underestimate the ability of our bodies to adapt.

Our brain is actually incredibly efficient at dealing with situations where less food is coming in, hence the switch to ketones for fuel. We did not evolve by eating 3-4 meals a day, every single day, for our whole life. In fact, this may very well be causing more harm than benefit.

Your performance

Based on the research presented in this article, it becomes clear to see that your game can potentially be elevated by engaging in something as simple as not eating. Again, as alluded to in the introduction, do not do this on days where you are using an incredible amount of energy.

If this article is combined with the article on overtraining (http://wp.me/p7vTCX-n), you may be well on your way to creating a situation where you regularly take FULL days off from training (yes, every week, at least one day, zero training) and on those days off you incorporate your favorite style of fasting (my personal favorite being a full water fast).

This combination may bring about a situation where you are experiencing optimal recovery, fat loss and muscle preservation (the ideal for basketball), and improved brain function (better decision maker on and off the court).

Of course, the ultimate mission here at HealthyBasketball is to not only enhance your performance, but to also enhance your longevity as an athlete. And, according to the studies above, you have available to you the most important factor (that we are actually able to freely influence) when it comes to anti-aging, which is fasting.

The goal is to be able to play this amazing sport for as long as possible, at the highest level possible, with as little injury as possible. However, it is up to you to snap out of that routine of eating all the time and get out of your comfort zone to try something that is now being heavily researched and supported.

Try fasting today!

For questions/comments: dej@healthybasketball.com or twitter.com/hoopshealth

ADDITIONAL READINGS

REFERENCES

  1. Masoro, EJ. Calorie restriction and aging: an update. Experimental Gerontology. 2000 May; 35(3):299-305.
  2. Bruce-Keller AJ, Umberger G, McFall R, Mattson MP. Food restriction reduces brain damage and improves behavioral outcome following excitotoxic and metabolic insults. Annals of Neurology. 1999 Jan; 45(1):8-15.
  3. Kritchevsky D. Influence of Caloric Restriction and Exercise on Tumorigenesis in Rats. Experimental Biology and Medicine. 1990 Jan; 193(1):35-38.
  4. Cahill GF & Veech RL. Ketoacids? Good medicine? Trans Am Clin Climatol Assoc. 2003; 114: 149–163.
  5. Pierre K & Pellerin L. Transporters in the central nervous system: distribution, regulation and function. Journal of Neurochemisry. 2005 Jul; 94(1):1-14.

 

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