November 23, 2021
In the last blog post, we talked about insulin resistance and mentioned intermittent fasting as a helpful protocol to reverse insulin resistance. This article will share all you need to know about intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a trend in weight loss and health.
Should you try it? Who should and who should not?
Here are some things everyone needs to know before intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern where you cycle between periods of eating and not eating. There are many different IF programs, which all have varying guidelines about when to eat and when to abstain from food. Some IF plans involve daily 16-hour fasts with an 8-hour window for eating, while other IF plans revolve involve longer fasting periods of 24 hours or more.
Intermittent fasting has gained popularity over the last several years, however, the practice has been around for all of human history. Centuries ago, fasting wasn’t a voluntary practice, but was based on availability of foods (hunting and foraging). And for more than 100 years, fasting has been implemented for spiritual, political and health reasons.
Throughout most of human history, humans didn’t consume food all day long – with multiple meals and snacks. Eating every few hours or all day long is a very recent activity. Much of our eating habits today are driven by food manufacturing and advertising telling us that we need snacks and consistent caloric intake to maintain metabolism and optimal functioning. This isn’t really based on true metabolic science.
Let’s dive a little deeper into what intermittent fasting is all about.
What is intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting is the practice of abstaining from food for a pre-determined period. There are various fasting protocols that can be followed within one day or over several days. Generally, IF addresses both when you eat and how often you eat. It doesn’t automatically also specify what you eat. A truly healthy diet will incorporate all three considerations – what, when and how much.
One common approach that has been extensively studied and seems to be relatively easy for most people to implement is a 16:8 schedule. This involves 16 hours of fasting and 8 hours of feeding (all food consumed within the 8-hour period). The fasting window generally covers the hours you’re sleeping and then either extends into the morning and/or starts in the hours before going to be. One example would be eating breakfast at 10am and dinner at 6pm (8 hours) with no food, calories or flavors consumed before 10am or after 6pm. There are several benefits to following a time-restricted feeding (TRF) schedule like this.
The benefits of intermittent fasting
Reduce risk of heart disease and diabetes
Intermittent fasting and time-restricted feeding can improve cardiovascular health and blood sugar regulation by enhancing insulin sensitivity and reducing blood sugar. When combined with consuming healthy, whole foods IF and TRF can reduce inflammation in the body and promote repair of tissue damage.
Can promote weight loss
Weight loss can occur with intermittent fasting or time restricted feeding because people naturally tend to eat less when they aren’t snacking. However, this does generally require healthy, whole food consumption during the eating window. If refined, processed and high glycemic foods are consumed, overeating can occur because these foods are hyper-palatable and increase appetite. Blood sugar regulation also helps with weight loss by reducing insulin levels. And lastly, weight loss can occur by stimulating fat burning and ketone production when insulin and blood sugar levels are lower.
Improved mental clarity and energy
A powerful benefit of increasing fat burn and ketone production is the mental clarity and increased level of energy many people experience. For years it was believed that our brains could only function on glucose, but newer research is showing that our brains really love ketones and use them efficiently. In fact, many neurological disorders are being shown to be related to dysregulation in glucose utilization in the brain – and patients see improvement in cognitive function when they use ketones for energy.
Now you may be tempted to start downing exogenous ketone drinks to boost your ketone levels. I don’t recommend this. The research into the use of exogenous ketones is still lacking and they just haven’t been around long enough to know how safe they really are over the long term. Its far better to let your body produce them – and they’re made by breaking down fat! Why would you want to skip that part and drink them? When it comes to ketones, more isn’t necessarily better, so you don’t really need to supplement with them.
Does this mean you have to do a ketogenic diet to get the benefits?
No. Ketogenic diets can be very healthful and beneficial for some but are not necessary to produce and use ketones. Fasting is one great way to stimulate ketone production, especially when paired with a lower glycemic diet filled with whole foods (sensing a trend here?).
Who should not practice time restricted feeding?
Time restricted fasting is not for everyone – or even necessary every single day.
Technically everyone is fasting for some hours of every day (during sleep, for instance), so this would be referring to extending that fasting window during waking hours.
There are some groups who should not fast or should only do so under the care of a medical professional:
- Pregnant and nursing women
- People with diabetes, hypoglycemic or other diagnosed blood sugar dysregulation
- People who need to take medications that need routine timing or be taken with food
- People who have an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia): intermittent fasting plans can be triggering for eating disorders.
- People who take blood pressure or blood sugar lowering medications: fasting can naturally reduce both blood pressure and blood sugar, so the combination with medications can cause either or both to drop too much. It is therefore critical that you work with your prescribing physician if you take these medications before implementing fasting plans of any kind so adjustments can be made to dosing if needed.
If intermittent fasting sounds like something you want to try, it is important that you implement a healthy, sustainable plan.
This should include reviewing any medications you take and discussing plans for intermittent fasting under their supervision. If all of this seems intimidating, let us know!
We are here to help promote your health!
Naturopathic Doctor Denver
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