Just as a precursor, anything written here is just something that I did based on my own research. please use professional advice and common sense before trying anything written below.
Warning: This post is a bit deep and gives very specific guidelines, prepare for a bit of a technical discussion.
For over a decade, I have studied and experimented with different practices and techniques to become more efficient, productive, creative, and a goal achieving machine. Some practices proved to be much more beneficial across the board than others and I try to keep those in my daily routine.
A few years ago, I did an 8 part YouTube series called S.O.W. & R.E.A.P. in which I outlined 7 practices that will exponentially better your life. One thing that I did not speak about much there was fasting, a practice not studied in humans extensively until relatively recently.
I have been doing intermittent fasting for half of a decade for weight maintenance and loss. After learning of the myriad benefits of alternate day and longer periods of fasting, I was intrigued to challenge myself and taking it on. The benefits were profound and far-reaching!
Fasting is not only one of the most misunderstood multi-beneficial practices, but is one as old as mankind itself! Before you stop reading at this point, thinking that I am trying to convince you to starve yourself, let us consider our cave-dwelling ancestors whom we share the same biology with...
For the majority of human existence, people have been nomadic, traveling great distances and at times going for days without food, until an animal was hunted down which we then feasted upon. Let us consider why we store fat at all. Fat is simply stored energy for times of famine and hunger. When you fully get that, you'll realize it isn't more evil than simple leftovers from last night's meal in your fridge.
When we forgo eating for a period of over about 12 or 14 hours, the body does some amazing stuff... It part takes in a process called autophagy, metabolizing old broken cells, that if left cause aging and disease. Another thing that occurs is the blood that is constantly around your digestive system finally is freed up for whole body use and is directed elsewhere for healing and repair. The result is improved skin, hair, nails, and internal organs. It is one of the only confirmed life-extension interventions that we know of! Did I mention you can lose 1/2 a pound a day of fat while doing it?
So how does all this let you improve your focus and help you get better as a musician? After you eat, your body's main priority becomes digestion, at the expense of alertness, since you caught the big kill after all, and you won't be needing your keen focusing hunting brain... at least for now. The brain, when in the fasted state, becomes more alert and focused because it is gearing you to survive! (what it does best)
Suddenly, you get an increased sense of awareness that translates into more focus, wherever you apply it. Not only does it improve focus and help you get stuff done, but you can develop a momentous practice session without worrying about being distracted to eat. A few health complications might limit your ability to do this, such as diabetes, but most people should be fine to practice fasting in some capacity. Do your homework!
Won't I be hungry if I fast?
The feeling experienced after a few hours of not eating is a reflex, not hunger. It comes and goes, and you learn to ignore it, or better yet, associate the feelings with healing and weight loss. Real hunger ensues after days of not eating food.
How long should I fast?
Fasting can be split into 3 general categories: Intermittent (up to about 22 hours), alternate day (skipping a day), and extended (Usually 3+ days). I would experiment first with Intermittent fasting by eating 1-2 meals in a span of less than 8 hours of your day. Most people find it easier to forgo eating until lunchtime and subsist on a morning coffee, (black or with stevia) followed up with a smaller dinner a few hours later and not eating until lunch the next day. I would start with this kind of protocol, and eventually experiment with a whole day without eating. (such as taking Monday off for example) Many of the top bio-hackers out there and health conscious people do a 5-7 day fast once a year, which is said to prevent cancer!
But if I don't eat, won't I be tired?
During short periods of fasting, unless you are pretty physically active and have a fast metabolism, you will be able to run purely on the stored glycogen in your liver until you eat 16-22 hours later. When fasting for a day or two, there will come a point where your body may run out of blood sugar levels and you will feel a bit of a crash. Don't fret though, evolution to the rescue! At this point your body will undergo a series of chemical adjustments and miraculously enter into a state called ketosis! In ketosis, your body will take stored fat and convert it to energy for general bodily processes and all other needs. Yes, that means you will burn fat just by being alive! :D
What can I consume during the fast?
The idea is to take a full break from digestion and having your body process any foods or calories. Besides water, coffee and tea, sweetened only by stevia, (technically you can use other non-nutritive sweeteners but I found this one to be best and not harmful), and diet drinks. (best if they are stevia based, MAYBE monk fruit) Some weirdos chew ice... It has also been commonplace to have broths/stocks or even oils/other pure fats, as they promote the ketogenic state and apparently don't break your fast. I sometimes have bulletproof coffee (coffee blended with butter and mct oil) for this purpose, and because its delicious and awesome. (look it up)
What if I exercise?
If you plan to work out, if possible, do it right before breaking your fast, or between meals. Fasted training is pretty beneficial hormonally and otherwise, just don't go too hard without at least supplementing with some BCAA's. When I have a big strength workout and I fasted leading up to it, I'll make sure to have a protein or green shake or simply a banana before I get into it.
So I have been recording guitar for Infinite Spectrum's upcoming album and have been fasting a good amount doing so. Having years of experience with diet experimentation, I can get pretty intense at times with my protocols.
Bonus Superdiet: Back in January, after coming back from my month-long asian voyage, I had a few pounds which I had put on from indulging in the myriad awesome street foods. This is how I ate: (DON'T DO THIS UNLESS YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING)
Training: M, T, TH, F - powerlifting/dynamic workouts.
Diet: M, T, TH, F - only eating one big meal after each workout. W, SU - full day fasts. Saturday - be a normal person.
I did not eat super clean or count calories or restrict much at all. I didn't eat like a total pig either and made sure I got in adequate nutritious foods in those limited meals.
Results: I lost the weight accumulated during my trip and put on more muscle. Lost about 6-8 lbs in 2 weeks. Big claims, I know... Is this a perfect protocol? No. I'm just experimenting and actually enjoy this kind of stuff!