I'm a little late on the bandwagon with this post. I haven't seen much rumbling about IF or Keto recently for that matter. These things seem to have peaks in popularity (I see more stuff about Carnivore diet, which again, with any style of eating will work for some, not for all).
You see, it's a neat thing. You'll hear it from me again and again. You're an individual. So what works for one person, won't necessarily work for you.
There are many ways to live the intermittent fasting, aka time restricted feeding, lifestyle: alternate day fasting, 16:8, one meal a day, 5:2…and many more.
There are many potential benefits, and hopefully this will shed some light on the practice of restricting your eating to a certain timeframe.
Fasting has the potential to delay aging and help prevent and treat diseases while minimizing the side effects caused by chronic dietary interventions. In humans, it has been shown to reduce obesity, hypertension, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.
When insulin is available, your body stores body fat. When not available, fat is broken down for energy and can actually increase metabolism – it can increase cortisol and norepinephrine (but not to excess). Fasting also improves your insulin sensitivity. When it improves the use of insulin, we need less of it when we consume food, and therefore we have less fat storage and inflammation. Stabilizing your insulin can also stabilize your hormones. An insulin spike = an estrogen spike.
It can cause nutrient deficiencies, but only if you’re eating processed food. You need to be able to digest and absorb your food, and digestion requires a lot of nutrients. If we’re always digesting, we’re not gaining much. Fasting creates an efficiency in using those nutrients; and the more the energy the body uses on digestion, the less energy we have to heal and repair. Fasting also promotes cell autophagy (the body’s way of clearing out damaged cells in order to regenerate newer, healthier cells), which also releases nutrients back into your system. Fasting and liquid nutrition are key strategies to heal leaky gut!
There have been positive results in those with type two diabetes who practice intermittent fasting (monitored by their doctor)
You may think fasting encourages overeating, but you are generally eating less calories and your body becomes more efficient
When you start exercising in a fasted state, you may not feel good – it will take time or your body to recover and adapt. However, fasted exercise benefits include improvement in burning fat and muscle growth and development. Make sure you are well hydrated, stick to short, high intensity workouts (less than 30 minutes), and consume a high-quality protein after your workout.
You don’t have to follow a ketogenic diet when fasting, you can still get outstanding benefits.
Fasting can improve energy levels – when the body uses ketones for fuel and increases norepinephrine in response to your fast, you will notice more energy and mental clarity. You may also experience improved mental health and improved spiritual health and intuition.
Eating is pro-inflammatory – food is a foreign material in our bodies! Fasting has been shown to reduce the activity of inflammatory inducing gene pathways and the number of inflammatory cytokines produced in the body therefore reducing your inflammation.
When you’re constantly eating, the immune system can get overworked as the immune system is activated EVERY TIME YOU EAT!
Research has shown that cells have a greater lifespan during times of famine and food scarcity. Fasting can enhance your cellular rejuvenation by acting on genetic repair mechanisms. We use less energy to repair a cell than to divide and create new ones. The main hormone responsible for this improved repair mechanism is human growth hormone, which goes up significantly as the length of the fast increases.
Fasting has shown to increase stem cell activity, giving our body very useful cells that can provide a wide variety of benefits.
Most of us have struggled with mindless eating, sugar, carb, dairy and other cravings. Fasting can help improve your relationship with food by helping us realize these cravings are mental and emotional and can be overcome. Fasting also helps us be more grateful and present with the food we do consume.
It’s unnatural to have access to food 24/7, and we have unnatural sleep/wake cycles – and this is playing havoc with our gut microbiome. Your microbiome also has a circadian rhythm and it is healthiest with patterns in eating/fasting and sleep/wake. When we’re feeding our bacteria outside a proper feeding window, we’re going to have different populations thrive or starve. When we eat too late or stay up too late interrupts our melatonin (which is needed for good blood sugar health as well as sleep). Regardless of when you eat, you should always give a minimum of 3 hours between the last time you eat and when you go to sleep. Note that your peak digestion occurs between 4-5 pm!
When not to fast:
If you have or had disordered eating
If you have type one diabetes
If you are pregnant, or a newborn
If you are a young child (although children often go 12 hours overnight when they sleep!)
High level athletes
Individuals with pathological cachexia
Challenges and tips
When you begin your fast, it is important to make sure your blood sugar is stable, and you want to focus on hydration during your non-eating window. Start your day with 8-16oz of water within 15 minutes of waking.
Over time, you will have a natural craving for water in the morning and can easily get 32-48oz of water within the first few hours of waking. Some people can handle black coffee, and some respond with an insulin spike, cortisol spike or they get jittery. If this is you, best to stay away during your fasting period.
Filtered, re-mineralized water is your base, and you can add lemon or apple cider vinegar or have herbal tea. Drinking lots of these fluids will help minimize hunger as well has help to get the bowels moving!
When you start fasting, it will be harder – just like with exercise. You will adapt and adjust and adapt to burning fat for fuel (when you aim for ketosis). Fasting is like exercise in the fact that it can be built, just like a muscle – but the important thing is to listen to your body!
If you find you’re struggling with fasting and feel fatigues and inflamed as you fast, you may be experiencing adrenal fatigue (you are not able to produce enough stress hormone due to a hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysfunction). Focus on hydration and electrolytes (and some high-quality mineral salts to your water). Get into the practice of deep breathing, grounding your body with bare feet on the Earth, and keeping overall stress levels down. You may want to stick with a 12-hour simple fast.
If you are suffering from constipation and your bowels aren’t moving, it will create a toxic build-up that will drive an increased stress response in the body. This itself can lead to an HPA Axis dysfunction or be a by-product of it. You need to focus on lots of magnesium and hydration. If you’re suffering from constipation, drink more than one ounce of water per pound of body weight and add about ½ tsp of Himalayan salts per gallon of water and look at adding more magnesium foods or a supplement.
Super Hydration – drink as much clean water, herbal teas, etc as possible. The hydration will help reduce stress hormones and stimulate bowel motility. It will also help reduce hunger and stabilize your adrenals! Consider a water goal that you must achieve before you have any solid food!
Minerals – we need minerals in order to produce electrochemical energy and to produce adrenal hormones. When fasting or on a low-carb diet, we actually excrete sodium, so it is vital to replace this! It is recommended to add some Himalayan sea salt to your water.
Magnesium – magnesium is needed for over 300 vital functions! It is also very key for calming the adrenals and improving bowel motility. Using a good citrate, glycinate, malate or threonate supplement can help you function much better during a fast.
Probiotics – can help improve bowel tone and reduce gut induced inflammation that would trigger the adrenals!
Any type of stimulation will increase your cortisol. So, if you’re being stimulated at night by the computer, TV or the news, you’re experiencing a cortisol spike, which will impact your blood sugar which causes THE MUNCHIES! Dial in your good sleep habits to set yourself up for success!
So, ask yourself – How long do you think you can fast? And start from there. Then begin to think how you can change your diet to support a fasting lifestyle? The biggest thing to remember is to Listen To Your Body!
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