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KetoFast is a #1 Best Seller — Dr. Mercola Answers Your KetoFast Questions

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

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  • KetoFasting is a plan that includes both a cyclical ketogenic diet and partial fasting which, when properly combined, increases autophagy, improves mitochondrial health and triggers the regeneration of your stem cells — all of which are crucial for maintaining good health and preventing disease
  • My KetoFast protocol supports your detox pathways and minimizes risks associated with the release of toxins that occur during fasting. To support detoxification during your fast, consider using a near-infrared sauna, which will help eliminate toxins through your sweat
  • KetoFasting can provide greater benefits than multiday, water-only fasting because you’re able to do it more frequently
  • A summary of how the KetoFast protocol is included, as well as general guidance on how to calculate your KetoFast nutrient ratios, is included
  • Some supplements will inhibit autophagy and therefore need to be avoided during the fasting phase. Others activate autophagy and can be a useful adjunct
  • Research has confirmed fasting can effectively reverse Type 2 diabetes; it has even been shown to trigger the regeneration of the pancreas in both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics

In the video above I answer more of your questions about my latest book, "KetoFast: A Step-By-Step Guide to Timing Your Ketogenic Meals." I've published two other Q&A sessions so far — there have just been so many fantastic questions about "KetoFast" and I want to try to answer as many of them as I can.

In "KetoFast," I lay out a nutritional lifestyle plan that can help you lose unwanted weight, rejuvenate your health and help you prevent and even reverse disease. Written in straight-forward language, I've removed the guesswork so you'll know exactly what to do and when.

Why KetoFast?

In recent years, popularity of the ketogenic diet has skyrocketed, and for good reason. It works, and it works for many different things, be it weight loss or disease prevention. The importance of fasting has also become more clearly evident. I used to believe that multiday, water-only fasting was one of the most effective health-boosting strategies I'd ever come across.

Research1,2,3 published in 2017 confirmed fasting can effectively reverse Type 2 diabetes in a relatively short amount of time. In this trial, Type 2 diabetics were placed on a severely restricted calorie diet where they ate just 600 calories a day for eight weeks.

By the end of their fast, all were disease-free and three months later, having returned to their regular diet, seven of the 11 participants were still disease-free. Fasting has also been shown to trigger the regeneration of the pancreas in both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics4,5 — a testament to the regenerative power unleashed in your body when fasting.

I discovered a problem, though. While people have fasted safely for centuries, modern man is deluged with pervasive exposure to tens of thousands of chemicals. They're in our food, air, water, household products, furnishings and personal care products.

Most of these toxins are fat-soluble, which means they accumulate in your fat stores, and when you start to lose fat, these toxins are liberated. If, like most people, you have impaired Phase II detoxification pathways, these toxins will not be properly metabolized and eliminated from your body.

The take-home message is that while fasting is an excellent strategy to improve your health, it could be risky if you're severely toxic — and many of us are. The KetoFast plan was developed to provide a solution to this widespread problem to allow as many people as possible to benefit. The KetoFasting protocol is also easier to adhere to than, say, a five-day, water-only fast.

As the name "KetoFast" implies, this plan includes both a cyclical ketogenic diet and partial fasting which, when properly combined, accelerate autophagy, improve mitochondrial health and trigger the regeneration of stem cells — all of which are crucial for maintaining good health and preventing disease.

Where KetoFasting is different from other fasting plans is in its focus on supporting your body's ability to detoxify the toxic chemicals that are liberated in the process.

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Why Accelerating Your Self-Repair Mechanism Is so Important

Autophagy is a natural process in which dysfunctional and damaged cellular components are digested and cleared out, and their constituent elements are used to rebuild new parts for your cells. Otherwise these damaged structures would compromise your health by clogging your system and increasing silent inflammation.

The other part of the equation, however, is the regeneration part, which occurs when you break your fast and start eating again. This is really where the metabolic magic of fasting occurs. The key is to cycle through the autophagy and rebuilding phases on a regular basis, and one of the best ways to do that is to alternate between feast and famine cycles once you are metabolically flexible.

Improving Your Mitochondrial Function Is Foundational for Health and Disease Prevention

As mentioned, KetoFasting will help optimize your mitochondrial health, and this is another crucial factor for disease prevention and longevity. If your mitochondria are not functioning well, nothing else will either.

In the simplest terms, mitochondria are the powerhouses of your cells, producing about 90 percent of the energy being generated in your body. Everything that happens in your body — every muscle contraction, biochemical cascade, cellular regeneration, detoxification and so on — requires energy.

If all your mitochondria were to fail at the same time, you'd die instantly. Conversely, the more mitochondria you have and the more efficient they are, the better your health will be and the more resilient you'll be against disease.

Mitochondria also have other important functions. For example, they act as the coordinator for apoptosis, a process that ensures the death of malfunctioning cells that might turn into tumors lest they be cleaned out.

As previously discussed in many articles, cancer really should be viewed as a mitochondrial disease, as mitochondrial dysfunction is what triggers the cancer process. Genetic mutations, long thought to be the culprit in cancer, are actually a secondary, downstream effect of dysfunctional cell respiration.

Thomas Seyfried, Ph.D., a professor of biology at Boston College, is a leading expert and researcher in the field of cancer metabolism and I've previously interviewed him on the application of nutritional ketosis for cancer.

Mitochondrial dysfunction is also at the heart of most other serious ailments, including Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases, which is why a cyclical ketogenic diet is such a powerful health-promoting strategy.

Being an Efficient Fat Burner Minimizes Mitochondrial Damage

One of the reasons why a cyclical ketogenic diet is so beneficial for health is because it allows your body to efficiently burn fat for fuel again. High-carb, processed food diets prevent your body from efficiently burning fat as its primary fuel, and burning fats and ketones is far more efficient, inducing far less oxidative stress, than burning carbs.

And, while the DNA in your cells' nuclei have elaborate and highly efficient repair mechanisms, mitochondrial DNA do not have very good repair mechanisms. So, to protect your mitochondrial DNA, it's important to minimize the generation of free radicals in the first place.

A foundational dietary strategy to optimize your mitochondrial health then is to consume the best fuel — healthy fats, not carbs. Once you become an efficient fat burner, you minimize the oxidative stress placed on your mitochondria, which is key.

Why Stem Cell Regeneration Is so Important for Your Health

Another major benefit of KetoFasting (as well as other types of fasting) is the activation of new stem cells. Stem cells are "blank" cells that can be used to heal and regenerate any tissue or organ. By increasing and accelerating the production of stem cells, your body is better able to repair any damage you may have incurred.

In summary, damaged cells and cellular parts are cleared out (autophagy) during fasting, and then when you start eating again, stem cells are activated to move in and repair damaged tissue.

One of the benefits of KetoFasting, compared to other multiday fasting protocols, is that you can do it far more often, and by cycling through these autophagy and regeneration phases more frequently, your body is given more opportunities to heal.

If you were to do five-day water fasts, it's unlikely you'd do them any more than once a month, which means you'd complete about 12 in a year. Using the KetoFast protocol, on the other hand, allows you to go through this regenerative process anywhere from 52 to 104 times, depending on whether you're fasting once or twice a week.

While you may not get as much detoxification and autophagy benefits during any given fast, since you're doing it more frequently, you'll reap greater gains in the long run.

KetoFasting 101

The following is a three-step summary of my KetoFast protocol. While I believe it can help most people, you should not do KetoFasting if you're underweight, pregnant, breastfeeding or have an eating disorder.

1. The first step is to compress your daily eating window to six to eight hours for at least four weeks, meaning you eat all of your calories for the day during those six to eight hours, and for the remaining 16 to 18 hours, you're fasting. This is your base. Remember you sleep for eight hours; eat for eight hours; and have no food in your gut for at least 16 hours.

Most people will become metabolically flexible after this protocol, but you can test your ketones and confirm that you are, especially if you are heavy to start with, or diabetic, as it might take you longer to shift. Ketocoachx.com is the best blood meter out there and only costs 70 cents per strip to test your ketones.

2. Once you've followed this intermittent fasting schedule for a month — or when you have restored your metabolic flexibility to burn fat for fuel — you can move into the second phase, which involves having a single reduced-calorie meal, ideally breakfast, followed by a 24-hour, water-only fast, either once or twice a week.

This meal will typically be somewhere between 300 and 500 calories. To determine how many calories you should have at this meal, first calculate your lean body mass by subtracting your percent body fat from 100. (So, if you have 20% body fat, you have 80% lean body mass.)

Multiply that percentage (in this case, 0.8) by your current total body weight to get your lean body mass in pounds (or kilos). Next, multiply your lean body mass in pounds/kilos by 3.5. This is the number of calories you'll want to eat for that meal.

Contrary to other partial fasting programs, KetoFasting emphasizes the use of healthy foods at all times. This meal should not consist of junk food of any kind! The following is a general guide for the nutrient ratios you're looking for in this meal:

Carbs — Less than 10 grams of net carbohydrates (total carbs minus fiber) so as not to replete your glycogen stores. Primarily, your carbs would then be nonstarchy vegetables, seeds or nuts.

Protein — Half of your personalized daily protein requirement. If you're younger than 60, a general recommendation for your daily protein requirement would be 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of lean body mass, or 0.5 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass. Let's say your daily protein requirement is 80 grams. For this meal, you'd cut that in half to 40 grams.

The key here is not just lowering your overall protein intake but, rather, restricting your intake of branched-chain amino acids such as leucine, found primarily in meat and dairy products.

The reason you want to restrict branched-chain amino acids at this meal is because they inhibit autophagy — essentially blocking the very cleanout process you're trying to activate through fasting. An ideal form of protein to include in this meal is collagen (and/or bone broth), which provides great support for your connective tissue. Chlorella is another excellent protein you can include.

Fat — The remainder of your calories comes from healthy fats such as coconut oil, avocado, MCT oil, butter, olive oil and raw nuts.

By eating just that one 300- to 500-calorie meal and then fasting for 24 hours, you essentially end up having eaten once in 42 hours. This will effectively allow your body to deplete the glycogen stores in your liver, which sends autophagy soaring.

3. The day after you've completed your 42-hour KetoFast, you feast. This is also the perfect time to do hardcore strength training and load up on animal protein such as grass fed organic steak and/or whey protein, as now you're in rebuilding mode, which includes muscle building.

Certain Nutrients Can Inhibit or Activate Autophagy

In my book, I also explain when to avoid certain nutrients and supplements. While it's typically recommended to continue taking vitamins and minerals during fasting, some supplements will inhibit autophagy and therefore need to be avoided during the fasting phase. Others activate autophagy and can be a useful adjunct.

I've created an autophagy-activating tea that I only take on partial fasting days. I blend Pau D'arco bark tea, hydroxycitric powder, garcinia powder, quercetin powder, glycine and organic chamomile tea in a blender and drink it cold. For a bit of sweetness, I sometimes add a little monkfruit sweetener, also known as Lo Han. Following is a summary breakdown of some common supplements that either activate or inhibit autophagy.

Supplements that activate autophagy and can be taken during fasting Supplements that inhibit autophagy and should be avoided during fasting

Berberine

Colostrum

ECGC from green tea or wildcrafted apples

Glutamine

Pomegranate peel extract or pomegranate peel powder

Methylfolate

Organic chamomile tea

Vitamin B12

Branched-chain amino acids such as leucine

Exogenous ketones (they break down to butyrate, which increases coenzyme A, which inhibits autophagy)

Support Your Fasting Protocol With Near-Infrared Sauna

To further support detoxification during your fast, I recommend using a near-infrared sauna, which will help eliminate toxins through your sweat and also give you an important photobiomodulation treatment. An entire chapter of KetoFast is dedicated to the use of sauna, with specific do's and don'ts.

Most people don't realize that 30% of your proteins are misfolded once they are made and it is heat shock proteins that help either refold them or target the damaged peptides for destruction and recycling. There are a number of ways to activate heat shock proteins but sauna is one of the best.

For more details on the science of near-infrared saunas, see "How to Achieve Superior Detoxification and Health Benefits With Near-Infrared Light," which features my interview with Brian Richards, founder of SaunaSpace. A near-infrared sauna with low electromagnetic fields (EMFs) can cost several thousand dollars. However, you can make one inexpensively yourself.

Aside from the fact that near-infrared bulbs heat you up more effectively than far-infrared saunas do, near-infrared light (660 and 850 nanometers) also stimulates nitric oxide release and ATP production. I do a 30-minute sauna just about every day that I'm home, followed by cold thermogenesis — essentially, I just jump directly into my unheated pool. An alternative would simply to rinse off in a cold shower.