Former soccer player, bodybuilding champion and nutritionist, Endika Montiel discovered in fasting a natural way to gain health and live in greater connection with himself. He has recently published “Conscious fasting. A practice of self-knowledge 4.0”
Endika Montiel was born in Llodio (Álava) 31 years ago and has been dedicated to sports since she was a child, as a result of the detection of a growth problem at the age of 15. He has been a professional footballer, champion of bodybuilding in the European Mr. Olympia competition and currently works as a senior nutrition technician. During this interview, carried out on the occasion of the publication of his book Conscious Fasting (Planeta publishing house), Endika tells me that he reached fasting when he realized that his diet, “perfect” according to the current model of nutrition, which meant eating each two hours, not eating any sugar and eating a “varied and balanced” diet was making him sick.
– How can one have a “good” diet and get sick?
–I always say that today I am who I am thanks to the mistakes I have been making in my life. The fact that I live off my body and that food has such a direct impact on aesthetics has led me most of my life to follow those nutritional models that I learned during my career and that are currently being disclosed as the correct paradigm of health. Food, but I got sick and that made me look for answers that I couldn’t find, until I found a fast. This ancient practice helped me to wake up, to see food as it should be, no longer to be a slave to this act, because now we are slaves to food. All the time we are thinking about what to eat, when to eat … and we say that we enjoy it, but it is not true, because immediately after eating we are throwing our hands to our heads saying “I have passed.”
–What happens in our body when we decide not to eat anything from 6 pm until noon the next day, for example?
-Really fasting is not “not eating”, but “stop eating.” That must be qualified, because people do not understand it very well. It is “stop eating” and then eat again. There are two windows that open. When we are fasting, our body begins to recycle itself through metabolic enzymes that are activated and this process is called autophagy, a word that comes from the Greek, auto (proper) and phagein (act of eating). It is fully described by the scientific literature and literally means “to eat oneself”, although it sounds strange. In 2016, the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine was awarded to the Japanese researcher Yoshinori Ohsuni for his findings on the mechanisms of autophagy, a process that implies that the body “eats” the organic waste that we have been generating by poor diet which is also usually loaded with toxins. In reality it is a recycling of proteins, organelles and aberrant membranes that are generating an aging of the cells, leading to inflammatory diseases such as intestinal dysbiosis, cardiovascular problems, diabetes, hypertension, cancer.
–Can fasting reduce these problems?
-Yes. Fasting is the mechanism we have to avoid activating these problems. The approach that we currently take to eat every two hours, makes, as we said before, that we have more and more problems of diabetes, obesity and that there are more and more cases in younger people. Logically fasting helps us mitigate overexposure to processed products, which we have very accessible, and a deep-rooted dependence on food. Many times we tend to blame sugar, the food industry and it is partly to blame, it is true but we are the ones who must decide what to eat and when.
–You point out in your book that fasting helps to heal the intestinal microbiota. As it does?
–The microbiota is the ecosystem formed by microorganisms, by bacteria, and conditions the functioning of the immune system. We now know that our immune system is shattered. Everyone has a microbiota problem, but it is not known. It is very common to have gas, belching, heartburn, constipation, diarrhea symptoms that we have normalized, but they are signs that our microbiota is not in good condition, therefore, our immune system is not either. These microorganisms are the soldiers who must protect us, but we have them increasingly lazy and we have even lost diversity. So when a pathogen comes to attack us, our soldiers cannot cope and the pathogen invades us. Now a whole investigation has been developed on the occasion of COVID and it has been seen how the micro biome,
–Why do we have such a bad microbiota?
–Especially because of the stress that we have been giving to the digestive tract. All the time we are eating, biting and there comes a time when the body cannot cope. And that causes our immune system to be negatively affected. Why does fasting help us? Because we give our digestive system a break to be able to repair, regenerate and activate again. We only give it a break at night and there are people who don’t even get up to eat, then it happens that our immune motor never has a rest.
-Fasting also strengthens our brain
–Of course, there is a direct connection between the intestine and the brain. Our intestine was demonized the second brain, but now we know that it is the first. When they give you bad news, your head doesn’t suddenly hurt, your stomach hurts, your stomach opens or closes; you feel in the stomach. If you have not gone to the bathroom for a few days and you become inflamed, your mood is inflamed, you lose joy. We are increasingly unhappy and it is mainly because our digestive tract is inflamed. When you lower the intestinal inflammation, a person feels happier, more joyful and enters another level, at the level of mental clarity, and it is very nice, because people do not know what mental clarity is. All the energy goes to the digestive tract and food or to alleviate intestinal inflammation. When that digestive tract is deflated, energy flows through your neurons and you enter a state of mental clarity, a state of creativity, of joy. There are people who tell you: “you are unrecognizable” and it is true.
– Why has fasting become fashionable? There is continuous talk of intermittent fasting, conscious fasting
– Fasting is nothing new. Note that religions never agree except in fasting. They all include it for debugging. The problem today is that fasting is done more as a way to lose weight than as a practice of good health and self-knowledge and this is a mistake. When the person comes to fasting just to lose fat, it is easy for them to do it wrong, not understanding that the purpose is not their physique, it is not their aesthetics, but their health. There are many people who do it and lose weight, but the approach must be oriented towards sustainability, enjoyment, balance and health. On the other hand, fasting helps you reconcile with real hunger and differentiate it from psychological or emotional hunger.
– When is it more effective, in the morning or at night? When do you recommend it?
-The fast has to adapt to one, conform to the schedules and requirements of the person. The most common is to do it by removing breakfast. We can wake up and go to work without having breakfast and at 1:00 or 2:00 p.m. we can have the first meal. It is the most common, but in reality, if we take into account circadian rhythms and good hormonal and biorhythm synchronization, it would be best to do it in the afternoon. We are designed to eat when it is light. In the dark, our body prepares to rest, but it is more difficult for people to fast in the evening, because many people make dinner their most peaceful meal after the workday and enjoy it more.
– What type of fast do you recommend to start with?
–The proposal to have dinner around 8:00 pm and have breakfast at 8:00 am to 9:00 am is very positive. There we have opened a window of 12-13 hours, and we are already fasting. People are surprised when they are told that this is fasting already. The fact of moving dinner, separating it a little more from the hours of going to sleep, will help us to repair our immune system, since when we are resting, the energy should go to the immune system. In this society, energy goes to the liver, kidney, digestive tract because we eat dinner and go to bed. This causes us to have a bad immune system, destroyed, with a bad response.
– How often is it good to do it?
–You can introduce it two days a week and start generating that connection, start to get to know yourself and then your body will ask you for it. Usually, then you will possibly extend it to the whole week.
–Can a vegan or vegetarian person suffer a deficit when fasting?
–A vegan or vegetarian person already does a more controlled diet, even so, I recommend that before starting this practice on their own, in these cases they ask for advice so that essential micronutrients are not lacking. More than anything because a fast, even if it is something healthy, badly done can also generate deficiencies.
–I suppose there are cases in which this practice is discouraged or in which you have to be careful…
–Yes, of course, in the case of pregnancy, for example, because the hormonal system of women at that time is different, already It depends on glucose, although a 12-hour fast can be done by any pregnant woman because at the end of the day it is to respect the night hours and nothing else. It is also not recommended in people with diabetes or eating disorders. On the other hand, fasting is also a tool to help women and men who have hypothyroidism, although as a sustained practice over time it can be counterproductive for the thyroid gland, because it can be stressed and the metabolism can tend to stop again.
– Does fasting help you to know yourself better?
-Yes. It helps you interpret signals that you did not know how to describe internally before; it helps you understand and realize if a food makes you feel bad, to know that if you are inflamed you don’t have to eat it helps you to be more aware and when we are more aware we do things much better. This practice helps you to wake up, to say: “nothing happens because you do not eat every two hours, nothing has happened because you do not eat breakfast” and you start to feel better and you begin to see that you are possibly more designed to get up and go out to do exercise than to eat some cookies, some cereals or some croissants right from the start…
– During the fast, do you have to eat everything?
–Fasting is to stop eating and learn to eat. During the fast there is the fasting window and the eating window. Eating is just as important as the other and here you have to take the amount of food and the nutritional density that you need, that amount of energy and substrates, both macro and micronutrients, which will help you have vitality and energy and you find that in “food”, not in “edible products”. Eat fruit, vegetables, legumes and avoid ultra-processed ones.