Updated: Apr 1, 2020
Simply put, intermittent fasting is a style of eating that juggles between eating and fasting. This can be done daily, i.e. eating between 1-7pm and fasting the rest of the time on a daily basis; or the 5:2 rule – eating 5 days a week and having 2 days of fasting.
There are many intermittent-fasting diet plans available that promote a beverage during the fasting periods, such as the Bullet-proof coffee (made with grass-fed butter and/or a medium-chain triglyceride (MTC) oil), or a protein powder shake. These help to reduce the sensation of hunger and provide a boost of energy to get you through until the next meal time.
The aim of intermittent fasting is to reduce the dietary intake of glucose from carbohydrates and promote the production of energy from other sources within the body – such as fat.
Benefits can include:
• Quick weight loss
• Reduced risk of insulin resistance and diabetes
• Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
• Increased brain function
• Improved mood
• Improved sleep
Although intermittent fasting has been shown to be beneficial for many people, it may not be for everyone. Long-term intermittent fasting is not recommended and can lead to serious complications.
Side effects can include:
• Bad ‘fruity’ breath
“Long-term intermittent fasting is not recommended and can lead to serious complications.”
The science behind it… Muscle, fat, the brain and the liver:
Glucose is used by the brain and muscle for energy – they do not have the capacity to store glucose. The liver on the other hand does. When the liver’s storage of glucose has reached capacity, excess glucose converts to fatty acids to get stored in adipose cells (fat), to be utilised as energy during fasting states. This step only occurs when energy INTAKE is higher than energy EXPENDITURE.. in other words: eating more and exercising less.
“..excess glucose converts to fatty acids to get stored in adipose cells (fat), to be utilised as energy during fasting states.”
The Early Fasting State
2-3 hours after eating is the post-absorptive or Early Fasting State. Dietary glucose has been depleted and the muscles begin to depend on other sources of fuel. The liver is then triggered to release stored glucose (glycogen).
The rate of glucose used in the early fasting state is greater than the rate of glucose produced from other sources within the body (lactate from muscles and glycerol from fat). Therefore the stores of glycogen begin to diminish rapidly. An overnight fast will deplete nearly all reserves of the liver’s glycogen.
“An overnight fast will deplete nearly all reserves of the liver’s glycogen.”
The Fasting State
18-48 hours of no food intake is the fasting state. The muscle begins to break down to provide precursors for glucose production. Amino acids from protein are converted to ketones. As a result, the brain, heart and muscles adapt to use these ketones as storage.
Another diet often promoted for fast weight-loss is the ketogenic diet. This is reducing total dietary glucose (carbohydrates) and utilising these ketones as energy in a high fat/high protein diet… Although very effective in some cases it is not recommended for everyone and can be harmful over the long term.
“Although very effective in some cases it is not recommended for everyone and can be harmful over the long term.”
So.. What does that all mean?
Basically, if quick weight-loss is your goal here, you need to allow a chance for your body to start utilising fat cells as its energy source.
Reduce dietary intake of energy (food – especially carbohydrates, sugar, alcohol, soft-drinks and energy drinks)Fast for 10+ hours daily. This is after the liver’s storage of glucose is depleted and fat cells are triggered as fuel.Increase energy expenditure to speed up the process: EXERCISE.
The Down Side to Dieting
A potential down-side to intermittent fasting is the unhealthy relationship around food that can develop. During times of eating, it is crucial to be conscience about theTYPE of food that is being consumed, as well as the emotional state that you are in.
If you feel that your thoughts around eating become obsessive, depressive or start making you feel anxious, seek help. You are not alone. There are some great services available for support, for example The Butterfly Foundation. For more information click here.
“If you feel that your thoughts around eating become obsessive, depressive or start making you feel anxious, seek help.You are not alone.”
The brain uses 20% of available energy, even though its only about 2% of the body’s weight! Without the right type of ‘fuel’ you may become irritated, forgetful, loose concentration or not quite feel yourself. Mental health can be associated with nutrition – More importantly, the lack of! So be sure that you are fuelling yourself towards good health, and not the other way around.
During the eating periods reach for food that is of good QUALITY, not QUANTITY!
What to Look for:
Choose organic where possible – especially if you are following a ketogenic diet. Toxic chemicals that are unable to be broken down and excreted in the body get stored in fat cells.. this applies for all living creatures. Therefore think about that butter you’re adding to your coffee, or that grass-fed beef you’re reaching for. As a result, these toxic chemicals end up inside you.
Choose hormone free – Hormones added to livestock are used to make the animals BIGGER. Bigger in size = more $$$. You are what you eat.
Avoid processed and packaged foods – These are always laden with refined salt, sugar and trans-fatty acids. These are inflammation-promoting ingredients. And chronic Inflammation is the beginning of many diseases.
Cook your own meals – And I’m not just talking about ready-made pasta sauce, or curry-in-a-hurry. Make it from scratch! Not only will you know exactly what goes in, but you’ll develop a healthy emotional connection with your food.
As mentioned previously about toxic chemicals being stored in fat cells, detoxification is just as important as loosing the weight. When triggering these fat cells to become fuel for energy, you need to support your body’s detoxification pathways to clear them out.
When toxic metabolites are released from adipose (fat) cells into the blood stream and are unable to be excreted, you may experience the following symptoms as a result:
Headache | Nausea | Fatigue | Rash | Acne | Eczema | Psoriasis | Muscle aches | Sinus congestion | Bloating | Constipation | Bad breath | Insomnia…
The liver is known as the detoxication organ, but there are many other channels of elimination that are just as important. Important steps to support detoxification include:
Support liver function through foods such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels and turmeric.Increase lymphatic circulation by dry brushing dailyPromote excretion through sweat – Exercise dailyEncourage elimination through the urinary and digestive tractDrink plenty of filtered water (add lemon or Apple Cider Vinegar for added detox power)Eat plenty of fibre from vegetables to encourage bowel movements.Avoid smokingReduce alcohol consumption
“…there are many other channels of elimination that are just as important.”
One last thing..
Forget about the scales! Fat weighs less than muscle and fluid. Therefore that number staring up at you is misleading and can be dangerous. This is where unrealistic fantasies are born and unhealthy food-relationships begin. More importantly, focus on how you feel, and check in with your local Naturopath or Nutritionist for guidance and support.
Home-services are now available to guide you through your pantry shopping habits and help kick-start the year on the right track!
The Matakana Naturopath