A revolutionary approach to eating is increasingly promoted as a great way to lose weight, improve skin, boost focus and more. But does it work?

We look to the marines who give us our answer.

As a marine corps trooper, Wittman was no stranger to pushing his body to the limits to get results. But, in 2010 when he was deployed, he made a rash decision: “It was my 45th birthday, I wanted to see my abs,” he said.

Though he was in peak fighting fitness and functioning at peak capacity, he was not as lean as he would have liked and was looking for a specific aesthetic.

And this diet hack gives you more than you bargain for; a peak functioning brain, lightning energy and uncanny strength.  You sleep deeper and don’t seem to get sick. Just ask shredded 9% body fat, 45 year old Wittman.

And just what is his secret?  What is this mysterious food pattern that allowed 45 year old Wittman to feel like superman on the frontline.  

The secret, Doctor Jason Fung says is an approach to food that triggers one of the most powerful cell – renewing, and healing processes inside your body.  In fact, this cellular process, called autophagy, can reverse cancer, skyrocket energy, increase longevity, and of course reveal those chiseled abs.

The 45 US Marine Corps Veteran from South Carolina hasn’t stopped.  In addition to owning a fortune 500 company, Wittman is a fitness fanatic.

“Its the best way to eat your food”, says Wittman, who ate only 800 calories and restricted them in the narrow window between the hours of 4:00PM and 8:00PM.

What for? Initially, to achieve peak fitness, after hearing rave reviews from other soldiers. But Wittman also gets its added benefits. Namely: more energy and focus, a boosted metabolism, increased immunity, faster-growing hair, younger-looking skin, pain relief and sounder sleep – even though he never had a problem snoozing to begin with. You will not believe the crazy energy it gives you.

What is autophagy?  The secret behind this strange eating pattern?

Autophagy derives from greek auto (self) and phagein (to eat). So the word literally means to eat oneself.  It’s the body’s mechanism of getting rid of all the broken down, old cell machinery (organelles, proteins and cell membranes) when there’s no longer enough energy to sustain it. It is a regulated, orderly process to degrade and recycle cellular components.  

Its been practiced in the marine corps for decades primarily as a way to enhance mental sharpness, maximize strength and prevent sickness among soldiers.  Fast forward decades later to now when it is being promoted by diet gurus and health experts as a way to lose weight, improve skin, boost mood and eliminate inflammation.

Autophagy is well-established for food plan for elite athletes wanting to improve performance to the sick going through chemotherapy,” says Dr.Michael Mosley, “To practice it into weight loss and other benefits is now mainstream.”

Does this mean you have to go to drastic measures like 48 hours without eating – or doing one meal a day?  By no means. In fact, clinical studies show elite athletes who ate 3 meals a day, eating the same calories (2000) as they did prior to the study, reaped significant benefits of autophagy, namely, decreased body fat and inflammation.  The only difference, they crammed those 3 meals in an 8 hour window.  

And people like Wittman swear by it.  While it is hard at first, going through hours without food – and it might seem contradictory to muscle growth.  Wittman claims: “you could go 3 weeks on 800 calories and you don’t lose any muscle mass as long as you’re working out.”  Because your not starving yourself. A fast should be followed by a good feasting.  

But before shoving your face with plates of quinoa, tofu and greens in one sitting, here’s what the experts and research say about some of the benefits of intermittent fasting:

Autophagy improves fat loss and energy

The main benefit from fasting is that it makes your metabolism work a lot more efficiently. During the longer fasting period, when there is no food sources around, the body turns to fat reserves as a source of energy, burning these. Sounds awesome right? Who really wants excess body fat?!

Expert Naomi Whittel says “It’s like a metabolic confusion, so your metabolism is almost forced to do a better job. It recognizes there is a need for fuel, so it breaks down fat storages tapping into those fuel sources.   

And the clinical studies agree, in one study at the end of a 4 week period of intermittent fasting, elite athletes dropped 2 body fat percentage points compared to the normal diet control group.  They also reported no loss in strength and better energy.  

Autophagy protects against joint pain

Other than popping NSAIDS, eating a vegan or paleo diet – experts have said going without food can also improve symptoms of joint pain.  Lynne McTaggart, author of Arthritis – Drug free alternatives to prevent and reverse arthritis, said the power of fasting should not be underestimated.

How?  Fasting kills older and damaged immune cells and genertates new ones.  In fact: “Fasting for just two days is enough to decrease chronic inflammation – and might reverse autoimmune conditions such as arthritis.” Says Dr. Beri, in a research study in which she observed 71% of 14 severely diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis patients significantly reduce their arthritis after 10 months of following a diet that incorporated weekly fasting.

Autophagy Stops Aging

For Wittman, going 16 hours without food, makes him feel decades younger.  After all, at 45 years old he felt like was in the peak condition of his life.  And studies suggest fasting more than just makes you feel young. It makes you young.

Research shows autophagy and aging seem to be intimately connected. 

When pharmacological intervention was used to stop autophagy, there was in increase in cellular degeneration.  The same type of degeneration observed in aging. But when we stimulate autophagy, we seem to mitigate aging. 

Autophagy May Help Reverse Cancer

Autophagy can prevent the onset of cancer and stop the growth of early-stage cancers. It does this by slowing down inflammation, preventing DNA damage, promoting the death of deformed cells and strengthening your immune system.

In one study it was found that fasted mice that had breast cancer, at the end of a 180 day period a survival rate of 42%.  On the other hand, all mice on the normal diet, were dead before day 180. More impressive, one quarter of mice with both chemotherapy and fasting lived beyond day 300 at which point they were cancer free.

The Bottom Line: Fasting Rules

Check with your doctor (and maybe financial advisor) before diving in.  And don’t just jump into a 48 day fast. Start with 12 hours 3 days per week.  Until you can do it everyday. Cycle with weeks where you don’t fast. A 16-18 hour fasting period gets maximal benefits.  And make sure to eat your same caloric intake. Dropping caloric intake can actually induce starvation, and decrease longevity, energy, focus and increase fat stores.  The key is balance. Fast then feast.

As for Wittman, he will not be stopping anytime soon.  This nifty diet hack allowed him to sport 6 pack abs at the age of 45.

Works Cited

Yates, E. (2017, November 23). A Marine explains how intermittent fasting helped him ‘see his abs’. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/marine-explains-how-intermittent-fasting-shape-abs-2017-6

This ex-marine found a set of ripped abs after fasting. (2017, December 08). Retrieved from http://www.menshealth.co.uk/building-muscle/this-ex-marine-found-his-abs-after-fasting

Andrew Wittman. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://andrew-wittman.com/author/andrew/

Gander, K. (2017, January 23). The biohackers who fast and only drink water for up to 7 days to keep focused. Retrieved from https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/biohackers-silicon-valley-fast-only-drink-water-at-least-36-hours-7-days-keep-focusses-healthy-a7532236.html

Weingus, L. (2017, July 20). Want to get the best night’s sleep of your life? Try this eating trick. Retrieved from https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/how-intermittent-fasting-changed-my-life

How to Renew Your Body: Fasting and Autophagy – Diet Doctor. (2018, March 20). Retrieved from https://www.dietdoctor.com/renew-body-fasting-autophagy

Dr. Mosley on Intermittent Fasting and High-Intensity Exercise. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/08/17/intermittent-fasting-high-intensity-exercise.aspx

Moro, T., Tinsley, G., Bianco, A., Marcolin, G., Pacelli, Q. F., Battaglia, G., … Paoli, A. (2016). Effects of eight weeks of time-restricted feeding (16/8) on basal metabolism, maximal strength, body composition, inflammation, and cardiovascular risk factors in resistance-trained males. Journal of Translational Medicine, 14, 290. http://doi.org/10.1186/s12967-016-1044-0

Nutrition Expert Naomi Whittel Says Intermittent Fasting Can ‘Help Us Live More Youthfully’. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://people.com/health/nutrition-expert-naomi-whittel-says-intermittent-fasting-can-help-us-live-more-youthfully/

Lerche, O. (2016, November 21). Arthritis cure? Painful symptoms of condition could be eased by following THIS diet. Retrieved from https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/732999/rheumatoid-arthritis-osteoarthritis-pain-treatment-symptoms-diet-food

Beri, D., Malaviya, A. N., Shandilya, R., & Singh, R. R. (1988). Effect of dietary restrictions on disease activity in rheumatoid arthritis. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, 47(1), 69–72.

Autophagy and How it Aids Longevity |. (2018, January 21). Retrieved from https://www.leafscience.org/autophagy/

Igbene, S. (2018, February 04). WHOLE-FOODS PLANT-BASED! Retrieved from https://veganbysomi.com/plant-based-intermittent-fasting-health-longevity/

Harmon, K. (2012, February 08). Fasting Might Boost Chemo’s Cancer-Busting Properties. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fasting-might-boost-chemo/

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