What Is Intermittent Fasting? Is It Right For You?
HOW COULD STARVATION BE GOOD FOR ME?
Starvation, right? That's what intermittent fasting is...right? NO! Let's just get that out of the way right now. Fasting does NOT mean starving yourself. Fasting, as defined in the dictionary, is the voluntary abstention from eating for spiritual/religious, health or other reasons. Starvation is death caused by hunger. Two very different things.
"Ok, so how can fasting improve my health?" You may ask. I will try to make this answer as simple as possible. When you eat carbs or protein, insulin is secreted from your pancreas for the purpose of either immediate energy use (transporting glucose into the cell) or storage. Either storing sugar in the liver in the form of glycogen or producing fat also in the liver. When you fast, stop taking in food, your insulin levels drop and your body burns stored sugar (glycogen) & also burns body fat for fuel. You Become a "fat burner".
SUGAR BURNER VS FAT BURNER
Most of us these days are "sugar burners" meaning our body seeks out sugar as it's primary fuel source. Being a sugar burner means your body needs more & more insulin and your body holds on to fat; in turn, higher body fat makes you more and more insulin resistant.(2) That insulin resistance is what leads to developing type 2 diabetes, and other inflammatory diseases.(3,4) But what are the real signs you're a sugar burner?
- you rarely feel satisfied after a meal. Stuffed, bloated and uncomfortable, maybe, but not satisfied.
- you snack throughout the day. even if you’ve resolved to "stop eating so much". If you try to go 4-6 hours without eating, you feel lethargic and moody
- you get "hangry". irritable when hungry
- you crave carbs, specifically empty sugar. pasta, bread, dessert, candy etc. And when you try to eat less sugar, you are cranky, moody, headachy, etc.
- you have the "stubborn belly fat". Meaning when you lose weight in other areas, the extra weight around the middle doesn't budge.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is the fat burner. When you have a fat adapted metabolism you still burn carbs as fuel first, but because your carbs sources are "slow-carb" like veggies, quinoa, or legumes, your body quickly starts to burn fat for energy.
Because fat burns more slowly and steadily, fat burners can easily go 4-6 hours without eating and don’t suffer from sugar or carb cravings.They also lose fat easier and have more steady energy throughout the day.
MORE BENEFITS OF LOWER INSULIN
Ok, so we've covered the difference between starvation & fasting, & fat burners vs sugar burners. So now let's dig a little deeper into the benefits beyond being a fat burner. If you are not a diabetic, even though your insulin levels fall your blood glucose remains in a safe range while fasting due to break down of glycogen (your glucose stores).
Regularly lowering your insulin helps your body resensitize to insulin, staving off the development of diabetes, and a multitude of other inflammatory diseases.
Another effect of lower insulin is the release of excess salt and water. Much of the weight loss people experience in the early stages of fasting is water weight from diuresis. This loss of excess salt and water could also help lower your blood pressure if you tend to run high.
Most people expect to feel tired, sluggish and crappy while fasting. But actually, just the opposite happens. Once the initial sugar detox hangover passes, most people feel alert, energized & revitalized. This is because energy coming from burning fat, instead of just burning food. But, if I can get a little geeky here, in order to release stored glycogen your body also has to release adrenaline. This adrenaline release increases our metabolism and makes us feel stimulated.
So so far we have fat burning, releasing water weight, increased metabolism, and stable blood sugar. All great benefits!
SO, HOW DO I ACTUALLY DO THIS FASTING THING?
Most traditional fasting allows for calorie-free liquids. This includes coffee, tea, & water with no honey, sugar, milk etc. I like to follow the "Intensive Dietary Management Fasting", which allows for all of the aforementioned liquids, but also bone broth. For our purposes today we are going to cover intermittent fasting, which just means fasting periods happen regularly around normal eating periods.
Be sure to stay well hydrated. Drink at least 2 liters of water and other fluids daily. It's good overall practice to start every day with a glass of lemon water. It helps the body flush it's self out 1st thing in the morning. You can also add (~1-2oz) apple cider vinegar to your morning water. DO NOT use any artificial sweeteners.
Throughout the day green tea is a great choice. It also has some caffeine in it, which will help prevent any caffeine withdrawal headaches. Green tea also helps suppress your appetite, which of course is helpful when fasting. Herbal teas are also ok to have. Cinnamon, which helps regulate blood sugar, along with ginger & mint teas are also known for the anti-inflammatory & digestive properties. Adding a small amount of non-dairy milk is ok, but again, DO NOT use extra sugar or artificial sweeteners. If you find your progress slow while fasting, then eliminating this would be your 1st go-to.
Coffee, black or with a small amount of non-dairy milk is also permitted. I especially like "bulletproof" coffee. Follow the link to learn how to make it. Essentially, the MCT fats you add to the coffee provides a sugar-free fuel for your body and jumps you into ketosis.
And finally, bone broth is the other liquid allowed while fasting in this fashion. Homemade is best. But if making bone broth is not within your time budget then there are some great products out there on Amazon. Make sure you are consuming a real bone product, not just bullion. Bone broth contains micronutrients, a small amount of protein, collagen, all of which are excellent for you and make a fast more bearable. You should also add a high-quality sea salt or Himalayan salt to provide essential electrolytes and prevent dehydration, hunger pangs etc.
As for everything else in the wellness world, there is no "best" way that works for everyone. So, I encourage you to experiment to see what works best for you as it pertains to your work schedule, family dynamic, etc. Fasts can range from 12 hours to 3 months. (I do not support prolonged fasting without MD supervision.) You can fast once a week or every other day, or once a month. Whatever suits your needs and result goals. During the fasting I am talking about you will still be eating daily. Awesome! Right?
Fasting Time Frames
12-Hour Fast: Eat 3 meals from 7 AM to 7 PM, then fast from 7 PM from 7 AM. 12-Hour fasts are great for preventing insulin resistance, but may not be enough to produce weight loss (if that is your goal).
16-Hour Fast: 8-hour eating window, eat 2-3 times, then fast the remaining 16 hours. Use your sleep time to your advantage! In this model, you skip either breakfast or dinner and include your sleep time into your fasting block of time. I like to have bulletproof coffee for my "breakfast", then eat food for lunch and dinner. But if you wake up ravenous, then, by all means, eat breakfast and skip dinner. Again, if weight loss is your goal, then when you eat, make sure it is low-carb, mid-protein, high good fat design to keep your body using fat stores for fuel.
20-Hour Fast: 4-hour eating window, all meals eaten within this time. Similar to above, just shorter eating window.
One more little tid-bit...due to circadian rhythms, our hunger is normally lowest around 8 AM and highest around 8 PM.
WHO SHOULD NOT FAST?
Fasting is not for everyone & it's not one size fits all. Children, pregnant & breastfeeding women should not fast. Underweight & malnourished individuals should also not fast. If you fall under the following parameters then you should seek medical advice prior to starting a fast: if you have gout, are taking medications, diabetes, or have GERD.
I hope this cleared up some questions you may have had surrounding fasting. I personally have found that 16-20 hour fasts are the more productive for me. If I have stirred more questions than answers, please comment below with your questions or comments. I would love to hear from you about your experiences, questions, etc. If you want to hear more about a specific aspect, then again, let me know. You can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a question you don't want to be public. I think fasting is a great compliment to the holiday season indulgences. It can really help keep your insulin in check, it can help stave off brainfog from carb-overload etc.
If you would like to try intermittent fasting but would like a guide to help you along the way, I am here for you. We can design a coaching program from as little as 2 weeks to help you get the most out of your efforts. Brighten your skin, drop some pounds, think clearer, have more energy! Sign-up for a "Results In 15" call with me. It's free and we can discuss your goals and a custom coaching program.
JJ Virgin: Sugar vs Fat Burner
Dr. Jason Fong: Complete Guide To Fasting