How to start fasting

Vincent Gudenus

Practical, science-backed tips for starting intermittent fasting.

Our bodies have evolved to fast [1]. When we fast, our bodies burn fat, repair cellular damage, and activate our health defenses [2]. All these benefits make fasting a no-brainer to improve our health and promote healthy aging. Yet if you’ve tried fasting before, you’ll agree that it doesn’t come without its challenges, including low energy levels and hunger (duh!). This is no surprise and nothing to be ashamed of. The average American eats over 5 times a day and so our bodies are simply not efficient at burning our naturally stored fat for fuel [3]. Here’s the good news: there are practical, science-backed tools to make fasting enjoyable and effective. So if you’ve tried fasting before but thought it wasn’t for you, or if you’re just curious about how to get started, then read on because this article is for you.

1. Activate your fasting pathways with the right nutrients.

When we fuel our fasts with the right nutrients, we can amplify the benefits of fasting while reducing the drawbacks. Among the best nutrients to take while fasting are MCTs, short for medium-chain triglycerides [4]. MCTs are a type of healthy saturated fat that naturally occurs in coconut oil and other foods. MCTs have a thermogenic effect, meaning that they generate heat in the body and thereby increase the rate at which we burn calories. Simply put, MCTs boost your metabolism and kickstart fat-burning. What’s more, MCTs are rapidly metabolized in the liver where they are turned into ketones [5]. This allows your cells to switch from glucose to ketones for fuel, which improves energy levels, increases mental focus, and boosts physical performance [6]. That way you'll be more satiated, energized, and clear-minded all while burning more fat. Better yet: MCTs bypass your digestive tract and do not affect blood sugar levels or mTOR [7]. Taking MCTs when fasting is as easy as adding a small (and delicious) scoop to your coffee.

Speaking of coffee: studies suggest that coffee elevates our AMPK activity [8]. AMPK signaling acts as a cellular energy regulator and is closely linked to mitochondrial health and autophagy. AMPK activity is one of the main targets in longevity research because it has been shown to play a major role in keeping our cells healthy and young [9]. In fact, one of the reasons fasting is so promising as a health intervention is that it upregulates AMPK activity [10]. Coffee, in turn, may further upregulate AMPK activity, making your morning cup of Joe a great fasting ally.

Prebiotic fiber is another nutrient that comes in handy when fasting. Your good gut bacteria love feeding on prebiotic fiber such as inulin, making you feel full and improving regularity [11]. In the process of feeding on prebiotic fiber, your good gut bacteria will produce butyric acid, which in turn increases ketones in the body.

2. Increase your willpower with nootropics & adaptogens.

Fasting isn’t about feeling deprived. There’s no point in adopting a new lifestyle if it makes you less productive and more tired, plus you’re unlikely to stick with it anyway. Fortunately, there are powerful but little-known tools to keep you energized all day long – fasting or not. These tools include nootropics and adaptogens, which are compounds clinically shown to have benefits such as improving executive function, motivation, and mood [12].

Our willpower is limited, and not eating that delicious leftover cake in your fridge while you are fasting requires a lot of it. Nootropics and adaptogens can increase your willpower budget, allowing you to stick to your goals and be more in control of your actions [13]. Our favorites for fasting include Panax Ginseng, Rhodiola Rosea, and Tyrosine. These compounds improve our mental sharpness, exercise performance, and wakefulness [14]. Staying productive and motivated is key in order to integrate fasting into a demanding schedule. Our Lifestacks MCT contains the most advanced blend of nootropics and adaptogens to help you achieve just that. 

3. Fast slow.

There are many ways to implement IF and it can be fun to find your preferred method. The easiest way to start fasting is to delay your first meal by an hour or two. It takes time for your body to get fat-adapted, so be patient as you’re working your way up to skipping a meal altogether [15]. Remember that building good habits takes time, and fasting is no different. The goal shouldn’t be to will yourself to starvation, but to make sustainable changes that you can stick to over time.

Fasting is a hormetic stressor, meaning that it is a healthy, mild dose of stress that allows your body to grow stronger in response [16]. Exercise, cold exposure, and heat exposure are all examples of hormetic stress. While fasting is healthy, it is a stressor nonetheless and therefore has to be integrated into your life carefully. Take stock of what other stress factors weigh on you right now. If you’re just coming off a long run, a hard workout, or a poor night’s sleep, adding an extra stressor in the form of fasting may be too much. And too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, so be responsive to what your body tells you and what your circumstances are.



[1] Mattson, Mark P et al. “Intermittent metabolic switching, neuroplasticity and brain health.” Nature reviews. Neuroscience vol. 19,2 (2018): 63-80.

[2] Anton, Stephen D et al. “Flipping the Metabolic Switch: Understanding and Applying the Health Benefits of Fasting.” Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.) vol. 26,2 (2018): 254-268.

[3] Bailey, Regan L et al. "Frequency of Eating in the US Population: A Narrative Review of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report." Current Developments in Nutrition. Volume 6, Issue 9, 29 Aug. 2022.

[4] Vandenberghe, Camille et al. “Medium Chain Triglycerides Modulate the Ketogenic Effect of a Metabolic Switch.” Frontiers in nutrition vol. 7, 31 Jan. 2020.

[5] Nimbkar, Shubham et al. “Medium chain triglycerides (MCT): State-of-the-art on chemistry, synthesis, health benefits and applications in food industry.” Comprehensive reviews in food science and food safety vol. 21, 2 (2022): 843-867.

[6] Page, Kathleen A et al. “Medium-chain fatty acids improve cognitive function in intensively treated type 1 diabetic patients and support in vitro synaptic transmission during acute hypoglycemia.” Diabetes vol. 58, 5 (2009): 1237-44.

[7] Wang, Ying et al. “Medium Chain Triglycerides enhances exercise endurance through the increased mitochondrial biogenesis and metabolism.” PloS one vol. 13, 8 Feb. 2018.

[8] Tsuda, Satoshi et al. “Caffeine and contraction synergistically stimulate 5'-AMP-activated protein kinase and insulin-independent glucose transport in rat skeletal muscle.” Physiological reports vol. 3, 2015.

[9] Burkewitz, Kristopher et al. “AMPK as a Pro-longevity Target.” Experientia supplementum (2012) vol. 107 (2016): 227-256.

[10] Lewis, S. "Feast or famine." Nature Review, Neuroscience, 17, 2016.

[11] Carlson, Justin L et al. “Health Effects and Sources of Prebiotic Dietary Fiber.” Current developments in nutrition vol. 2, 2018.

[12] Suliman, Noor Azuin et al. “Establishing Natural Nootropics: Recent Molecular Enhancement Influenced by Natural Nootropic.” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine 2016.

[13] Young, Simon N. “L-tyrosine to alleviate the effects of stress?.” Journal of psychiatry & neuroscience : JPN vol. 32,3 (2007): 224.

[14] Li, Yonghong et al. “Rhodiola rosea L.: an herb with anti-stress, anti-aging, and immunostimulating properties for cancer chemoprevention.” Current pharmacology reports vol. 3,6 (2017): 384-395.

[15] Anton, Stephen D et al. “Flipping the Metabolic Switch: Understanding and Applying the Health Benefits of Fasting.” Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.) vol. 26,2 (2018): 254-268.

[16] Kouda, Katsuyasu, and Masayuki Iki. “Beneficial effects of mild stress (hormetic effects): dietary restriction and health.” Journal of physiological anthropology vol. 29,4 (2010): 127-32.

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