As part of the “Dom D’Agostino” chapter in Tools of Titans, Tim Ferriss discusses his foray into fasting.

He discusses fasting in the context of a “purge fast”. To quote Dom:

“If you don’t have cancer and you do a therapeutic fast 1 to 3 times per year, you could help your body to purge any precancerous cells that may be living in your body.”

There is evidence to suggest that fasts of 3 days or longer can effectively “reboot” the immune system via stem cell-based regeneration (Tim skips over the scientific detail here, but read the paper linked below for details1).

Tim Ferriss on the left, and Dom D’Agostino on the right. Dom helped create this fasting process discussed below.

Tim came into fasting as method to tackle his long-standing Lyme disease. He began with a 7 day fast at a fasting clinic – and whilst he didn’t like their style and rules; he found his long standing skin issues cleared up, as well as chronic joint pain.

Over time Tim optimised his fasting methodology. The longest fast he has done was a 10 day fast, during which he managed to maintain all his muscle, compared with his first fast where he lost 12 pounds.

He had two “tricks” to prevent muscle loss whilst fasting:

  1. Consume trace amounts of BCAAs and 300 to 500 calories of pure fat each day. These provide the body small amounts of protein that can help with muscle sparing. Specifically Tim consumed roughly 1.5 g of BCAAs upon waking and roughly 3g of BCAAs during a workout.
    (BCAAs are “branch chain amino acids”, namely leucine, isoleucine, proline, and valine. In Tools of Titans Tim doesn’t name the BCAA brand he uses, but on his blog Tim mentions that Dom D’agostino uses Scivation Xtend BCAAs, which is a flavoured powder version. That being said, any reputable brand of BCAAs will work)
  2. Get into ketosis as quickly as possible, because ketosis itself is a muscle preserving state. Below we go into detail about how to get into ketosis ASAP.

Tim explains that the more you get into fasting, the faster the transition to ketosis is. Due to a biological muscle memory related to monocarboxylate transporters and other things “above his pay grade”.

Currently Tim aims to do a 3-day fast once per month and a 5 to 7 day fast once per quarter.

3-Day Fast Summary:

  • Have your last meal by 6pm Thursday night
  • Friday morning, take a long walk (ideally 3-4 hours) to accelerate your transition into ketosis
  • Friday, Saturday & Sunday consume moderate amounts of exogenous ketones to “fill the gap” of food, while you’re moving into ketosis
  • Sunday evening break the fast

3-Day Fast in Detail:

Thursday Evening

  • Eat a low-carb dinner around 6pm, once that meal is finish, the fast begins.

Friday Morning

  • Upon waking, consume exogenous ketones and (optionally) caffeine.  Then WALK. Your goal is to walk for 3-4 hours so that you use up your liver and muscle glycogen stores. This hastens the switch from burning glucose to burning ketones for energy.
  • Tim suggests you bring water with you and add a little salt to it. You want to stay well hydrated throughout the walk, and the salt is to prevent the misery of headaches/cramping.
  • To keep you busy during the walk (and avoid boredom), Tim recommends scheduling in phone calls during the few days prior. Alternatively, podcasts are a good time fill.

Saturday Morning

  • After your long walk on Friday, you should expect to be in ketosis. Using a ketone meter like the Precision Xtra, test your blood ketones to verify. You’re aiming to be at 0.7mmol or greater by this point. Urine testing strips are inaccurate, and should not be used for this. You may think that testing your blood ketones is unncessary, but don’t underestimate the value of having a measurable parameter, that shows you are heading in the right direction.
  • Exogenous ketones…
    Throughout the fast you will be using exogenous ketones as a tool to plug a gap during the fast that carbohydrates would usually fill. Once you get into deep ketosis the fats can be omitted, because your body will be effectively using its own stores.
  • What is “deep ketosis” you might ask? One way to measure it is when your blood glucose and blood ketones are at a 1:1 ratio, or greater. Greater means your blood ketones are higher than your blood glucose. When comparing these, ensure both measurements are in mmol/L or mg/dL – such that you’re comparing apples with apples.
  • Specifically you’ll be taking exogenous ketones upon waking and 2 more times throughout the day at 3-4 hour intervals. Tim primarily uses KetoCaNa and caprylic acid (C8), found in Brain Octane.

Friday, Saturday & Sunday

  • Friday, Saturday & Sunday sleep as late as possible. Letting the sleep do some of the work for you
  • You only need to do the long walk on your first day of fasting (Friday), with the goal being to kick you into ketosis faster. Saturday and Sunday you will be proceeding with your regular affairs – assisted by some exogenous ketones as necessary.
  • Each day of fasting, feel free to consume exogenous ketones or fat (e.g., coconut oil in tea or coffee) as you like, up to 4 tablespoons. Tim often rewards himself at the end of each fasting afternoon with an iced coffee with a bit of coconut cream in it. Sometimes he even allows himself a SeaSnax packet of nori sheets as a treat.

Sunday Night

  • Break your fast Sunday night and enjoy it. For longer fasts, you need to think carefully about how you refeed, but for a 3 day fast, you don’t need to be so careful.

Staying in Ketosis Post Fast

After Tim’s 3 day fast you will be deep into ketosis. For most people, this will be enough fasting, and you’ll want to start eating again. One possibility is to stay in ketosis for a while, before transitioning back to “normal” meals. This could certainly help if weight loss is your goal.

How to stay in ketosis:

  • Your goal will be to eat lots of fat (~1.5 to 2.5g  per kg of bodyweight), little to no carbs and moderate protein (1 to 1.5g per kg of bodyweight) each day.
  • High protein and low fat is no good – the excess protein gets converted by the liver into glucose, which kicks you out of ketosis. You need to be consuming 70 to 85% of calories in the form of fat.
  • For example, a chicken breast could kick you out of ketosis, but a chicken breast cut up into a leafy green salad with a lot of olive oil, feta cheese and some bulletproof coffee (for example) can keep you in ketosis.

Closing Words

Hopefully the above has helped you on your fasting journey. If you’d like to discuss Tim Ferriss’ 3 day fasting method, or indeed longer fasts (water only?), then you’ll find like-minded people on this Facebook group.

Sources

  1. Prolonged Fasting Reduces IGF-1/PKA to Promote Hematopoietic-Stem-Cell-Based Regeneration and Reverse Immunosuppression (full PDF) – https://ac.els-cdn.com/S1934590914001519/1-s2.0-S1934590914001519-main.pdf?_tid=4732cb22-3298-4c25-a3eb-3202414a6c06&acdnat=1533652615_20fb955f3ead8527be9d4a7f89da7166
Alex

Posted by Alex

Hi, I’m Alex, a writer with a broad interest in nutrition, hormones, cancer prevention and gerontology (study of ageing). I write this blog to answer questions I myself have had at one stage or another. With the hope that others find it useful.

6 Comments

  1. I am hoping to start the 3 day fast tonight… I have been on a strict Keto diet for a week now, but want to use this to ensure that I am in ketosis. My biggest concern is that I will be completing this fast with nothing but water. No bulletproof coffee, no BCAAs, no mixes/vitamins whatsoever. Is this an issue, or does it just make my fasting more difficult?

    Reply

    1. Alex

      Hi Luke. Actually, going from keto into a water only fast should be a big advantage. You’re already keto adapted, and thus the uncomfortable period that people usually face (~3 days) where they are switching from burning primarily glucose to primarily ketones should be skipped. Wish you luck on your fast 🙂

      Reply

  2. Thanks for this, very helpful. Im currently traveling so it is difficult for me to get a hold of some of these more complex supplements (or a ketosis measurement device for that matter). I’d love to know if you have alternatives for some natural, easy to come-by items I might consume in small doses that could help. Also, is it all that much better or worse to simply eat nothing for the 3 days, and only drink water/occassional coffee?

    Reply

    1. Alex

      Hi Jordan. Definitely recommend a ketone meter when you’re finished travelling. It’s great psychologically to see the transition in and out of ketosis, and to be able to correlate that with your state of wellbeing.

      The whole aim with Tim’s method is to ease the transition into ketosis, and get there ASAP. If you can manage it with just water, then will totally work also.

      As an easy to come by alternative to C8 oil or ketone salts, you can use coconut oil, which contains MCTs. This will give your body some ready to burn substrates for ketone production.

      Reply

  3. What does BCAA stand for please. And what is bulletproof coffee

    Reply

    1. Alex

      Hi Katherine, thanks for the comment. BCAA stands for branch chain amino acids, specifically called leucine, isoleucine, proline, and valine. When we consume complex protein sources such as meat, fish and eggs – we get lots of amino acids (including the aforementioned branch chain amino acids) – which make up what we call “protein”.

      The value in the BCAAs for a fast, is that we get some of the protein, without the accompanying calories that would come with eating something like meat. It’s almost a “cheat” for fasting.

      Bulletproof coffee was popularized by a guy called Dave Asprey. It’s where you consume coffee accompanied by a fat source. Typically this is grass fed butter, but can also be coconut oil, caprylic acid (C8 oil) such as brain octane, or some combination of the three.

      Reply

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