Intermittent Fasting: Surprising Update
- By Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributor
Theres a ton of incredibly promising intermittent fasting research done on fat rats. They lose weight, their blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugars improve but theyre rats. Studies in humans, almost across the board, have shown that IF is safe and effective, but really no more effective than any other diet. In addition, many people find it difficult to fast.
But a growing body of research suggests that the timing of the fast is key, and can make IF a more realistic, sustainable, and effective approach for weight loss, as well as for diabetes prevention.
Foods You Can Eat While Fasting
Some experts say as long as you keep your carbohydrate intake below 50 grams per day during a fast, you can maintain ketosis .
Below are some foods and beverages you can consume while fasting.
- Water. Plain or carbonated water contains no calories and will keep you hydrated during a fast.
- Coffee and tea. These should mostly be consumed without added sugar, milk, or cream. However, some people find that adding small amounts of milk or fat can curb hunger.
- Diluted apple cider vinegar. Some people find that drinking 12 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar mixed into water can help them stay hydrated and prevent cravings during a fast.
- Healthy fats. Some people drink coffee containing MCT oil, ghee, coconut oil, or butter during their fast. Oil breaks a fast, but it wont break ketosis and can tide you over between meals.
- Bone broth. This rich source of nutrients can help replenish electrolytes lost during long periods of only drinking water.
Remember that foods and drinks containing any calories like bone broth and the healthy fats listed above will technically break your fast.
However, small amounts of these low-carb, high-fat, moderate-protein foods wont throw your body out of ketosis .
Some people choose to consume small amounts of certain foods and beverages while fasting, such as bone broth or healthy fats. Others consume calorie-free beverages.
What Can You Eat
When youre not fasting, you can eat the food you normally would. Of course, you shouldnt load up on lots of french fries and doughnuts. But studies seem to show that your health changes for the better when you fast, even if your diet does not. You should still add more fruits, veggies, and whole grains, too, if you dont already eat enough of them.
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Fasting May Improve Blood Sugar Control
Some studies have found that intermittent fasting can improve blood sugar control in those with type 2 diabetes.
A study in 10 people with type 2 diabetes found that a fasting goal of 1820 hours a day lead to a considerable decrease in body weight and significantly improved fasting and post-meal blood sugar control .
However, another recent study showed that intermittent fasting increased the chances of hypoglycemia , even when taking lower doses of blood-sugar-reducing medications .
Though lowering blood sugar levels in a safe way is beneficial, hypoglycemia can be dangerous and lead to serious complications .
For this reason, people with diabetes who are interested in trying out intermittent fasting should consult with their doctor first.
Methods of intermittent fasting like the Warrior Diet may help reduce weight, improve brain health, lower blood sugar and reduce inflammation.
Despite potential health benefits of the Warrior Diet, there are some downfalls to this way of eating.
Questions About Exercise And Intermittent Fasting
A lot of people have questions about how to exercise and train while fasting. Here are some good questions that should push you in the right direction with your training.
I wanted to thank you both for writing such a fantastic, motivating blog and for introducing me to intermittent fasting. I am enjoying watching my weight go down by basically doing something that involves no effort skipping breakfast! I was hoping you could elaborate more on your exercise routine. I have waded through the Leangains site and the other links you mentioned in the beginner’s guide, and while very interesting, they are WAY too complex for me at this stage.Paul S.
Readers like Paul are what make our community great. He read about an idea that interested him and even though some of the details were overwhelming, he didn’t let that prevent him from taking action. In other words, he started before he felt ready.
I try to make my writing as easy as possible to use, but it’s always up to you to experiment and see if it makes sense for your circumstances. Keep up the good work, Paul!
Back to the question
Intermittent fasting works great with most strength training programs.
I believe in strength training and compound movements. I think 99% of the population could get in the best shape of their life with only eight exercises: snatch, clean and jerk, squat, bench press, deadlift, pushups, pullups, and sprints. If you did those exercises and did them well, then that’s all you would ever need.
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Intermittent Fasting Can Be Hard But Maybe It Doesnt Have To Be
Initial human studies that compared fasting every other day to eating less every day showed that both worked about equally for weight loss, though people struggled with the fasting days. So, its very reasonable to choose a reduced calorie plant-based, Mediterranean-style diet. But research suggests that not all IF approaches are the same, and some IF diets are indeed effective and sustainable, especially when combined with a nutritious plant-based diet.
We have evolved to be in sync with the day/night cycle, i.e., a circadian rhythm. Our metabolism has adapted to daytime food, nighttime sleep. Nighttime eating is well associated with a higher risk of obesity, as well as diabetes.
Based on this, researchers from the University of Alabama conducted a study with a small group of obese men with prediabetes. They compared a form of intermittent fasting called “early time-restricted feeding,” where all meals were fit into an early eight-hour period of the day , or spread out over 12 hours . Both groups maintained their weight but after five weeks, the eight-hours group had dramatically lower insulin levels and significantly improved insulin sensitivity, as well as significantly lower blood pressure. The best part? The eight-hours group also had significantly decreased appetite. They werent starving.
Just changing the timing of meals, by eating earlier in the day and extending the overnight fast, significantly benefited metabolism even in people who didnt lose a single pound.
Choosing A Time Window
To get started, begin by picking an 8-hour window and limiting your food intake to that time span.
Popular 16/8 time windows include:
- 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.
- 2 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Many people prefer to eat between noon and 8 p.m., since you need to fast only overnight and skip breakfast but can still eat a balanced lunch and dinner, along with a few snacks throughout the day.
Others opt to eat between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., which allows plenty of time for a healthy breakfast around 9 a.m., a standard lunch around noon, and a light, early dinner or large snack around 4:30 p.m. before starting your fast.
However, you can experiment and pick the time frame that best fits your schedule.
It may help to set timers at both the beginning and the end of your eating window to remind you when to start and stop eating.
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It Could Lead To Negative Side Effects
The Warrior Diet may lead to side effects, some of which could be severe.
Potential side effects include (
- Hormonal imbalance
- Weight gain
In addition, many health professionals argue that dieters will not get enough nutrients when following an intermittent fasting plan like the Warrior Diet.
However, as long as healthy, nutrient-dense foods are chosen and calorie needs are met, nutrient needs can be covered by carefully planning your food choices when following the Warrior Diet.
The Warrior Diet is inappropriate for many people, can be hard to stick to and may lead to negative side effects such as fatigue, insomnia and hormonal imbalance.
Hofmekler suggests that anyone starting the Warrior Diet should follow an initial three-week, three-phase plan to improve the bodys ability to utilize fat for energy.
Why Do Intermittent Fasting Then
So if fasting per se isnt what results in weight loss and health improvements, why then do intermittent fasting in the first place?
Well, although fasting doesnt seem to have any magical properties in and of itself, there are a number of good reasons why you should consider doing intermittent fasting! This is, after all, why we often use this approach with many of our online fitness coaching clients!
So here are a few reasons why you should consider doing intermittent fasting :
1. More structured eating
How often have you found yourself mindlessly snacking between meals? A couple of cookies with your coffee, a small piece of cake that Suzy brought for her birthday at work, a few nuts and dried fruits before dinner, some popcorn with a movie at night. When you think about it, little snacks here and there can add up to quite a few calories. Well, the more structured eating that is a result of intermittent fasting can eliminate this problem and can help people better control their diet.
2. Bigger, more satisfying meals
Eating every 2-3 hours sucks. For one, its impractical and makes you think of food all day. It also means that you never really get to eat big meals, especially if you are a smaller, physically inactive person. On the other hand, more infrequent meals that are larger in volume and provide more calories are usually much more satisfying and may help you feel fuller for longer.
3. Sustainability and adherence
4. Social Flexibility
5. Improved hunger awareness
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The If Diet I Followed
I chose to go with the 8:16 diet, because there was no way I wanted to go two whole days without eating. Smith agreed, noting that “for most people the 12-14 hour overnight fast is feasible.” When I asked her advice, Smith recommended that I actually work my way up to the 8:16 method: start by doing 12 hours on, 12 hours off until I could work my way up to 8 on, 16 off. Every day ended up looking different for me, but on an average day my schedule looked like this:
7:30 a.m. Wake up8:30 a.m. Walk 30 minutes to work, Grab a coffee10:30 a.m. Snack 12 p.m. Snack 2 p.m. Lunch6:30 p.m. 1 Hour of Exercise7:45 p.m. Dinner11 p.m. Sleep
This routine is fairly welcoming to the IF diet, but my weeks contain a lot of random things from babysitting to dinner with friends, so I was worried that my slightly chaotic lifestyle would inhibit my success. All that said, I still thought it was worth a try.
What To Eat During Intermittent Fasting: A Full Guide
Intermittent fasting is all about when to eat and not what to eat. But does that mean you can binge on ice cream, chocolates, and chips? Certainly not If, during intermittent fasting, what to eat is your biggest concern, you are at the right place. This article will discuss intermittent fasting and how the right food choice can help you reap more benefits from this diet regime.
While practicing intermittent fasting, planning a balanced meal is essential to maintain optimal health. During your periods of fasting, making healthy food choices to meet your daily nutritional requirements is vital. You need to focus more on eating protein-rich foods, low-carb food from whole grains, and healthy fats.
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How Intermittent Fasting Works
Fasting for at least 12 hours changes how your metabolic system works. Your metabolic system is how your body changes the foods and beverages you consume into energy. Most of the time, your body gets its energy from a sugar called glucose. Glucose is found in the foods you eat and beverages you drink. When you eat three meals during a day, your body maintains a steady glucose level because youre eating and drinking frequently.
However, when you fast for more than 12 hours, your bodys glucose levels start to dip because youre not eating as frequently. When your body doesnt have the glucose it needs for energy, it taps into your bodys fat for energy. When this happens, the fatty acids in your body are absorbed into your blood. They produce a chemical called ketones. Your body then uses the ketones as its energy source. This is called a metabolic switch. Your body is switching from glucose to ketones.
When your body uses ketones instead of fat, you may lose weight. But, behind the scenes, the ketones also may be having a positive effect on your bodys organs and cells.
To get the benefits of intermittent fasting, you need to fast for at least 12 hours. Thats how long it takes your body to switch from using glucose for energy to using fat for energy. Additionally, it will take your body a while to get used to this new eating schedule. So dont expect results right away. You may need to wait between 2 and 4 weeks to see or feel any results.
The Morning Hunger Was Real
I’m not huge on breakfast, but I start desk snacking at 10:30 a.m. every day almost religiously. For the first three days this wasn’t a huge issue because I was only fasting for 12 hours. I stopped eating most nights at 9 p.m. and had the green light again at the same time the next morning. But when I upped that no-go window to 16 hours on day four, my rumbling stomach was hard to ignore until noon. Smith had warned me that the hunger often leads to binging, so I was careful not to start shoveling handfuls of chips into my mouth when the clock struck 12. Instead, I ate either an apple or banana with peanut butter to keep my snacks portioned until I ate a bigger meal around 2.
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Concerns And Adjustments With Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is becoming popular, but it’s still not the normal thing to do. As a result, you may have some concerns about it or you may want to make some adjustments to your intermittent fasting schedule. Here are some common questions I’ve seen that should help point you in the right direction.
What if I ate my first meal at breakfast, skipped lunch, and then ate my second meal at dinner time?
This idea would work well for one reason, but not well for another reason. Let’s talk about both.
First, if your goal is to lose weight, then skipping lunch should help because it decreases the number of calories that you’re eating throughout the day. As I said in my article on lessons learned from 1 year of intermittent fasting, even if you try to eat two large meals instead of three regular meals, it’s hard to get the same number of calories. Even if you want to eat more, you often end up eating less.
So the end result of skipping lunch is that you would probably reduce your overall caloric intake and end up losing weight.
However, one of the primary benefits of intermittent fasting is that it puts you in a fat burning state. In other words, fasting makes it more likely that you’ll burn fat and not muscle.
In other words, you need to have at least 8 to 12 hours off from eating before your body enters the fasted, fatburning state. This is why you want to squish your meals into a smaller time frame rather than spreading them throughout the day.
Youre Not Changing What You Eat
One of the benefits of IF is that a greater focus on timing can include a pivot away from unhealthy foods you may have fallen into eating mindlessly as a late-night snack, for example. But if youre simply moving those not-so-healthy choices to earlier in the day, its likely that IF wont be much of a health booster.
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Improve Your Mood With Intermittent Fasting:
Intermittent fasting can help improve your mood by increasing the production of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for feelings of happiness and well-being. When you fast, your body produces more serotonin. This can help to improve your mood and make you feel happier.
Intermittent fasting can also help to reduce the symptoms of depression by making you less stressed and more relaxed. Intermittent fasting can also support your social life because it gives you more energy, so it is easier to go out with your friends for a meal or a drink without worrying about counting calories or looking at menus. Intermittent fasting can help you to have a better mood and a more enjoyable social life.
Should I Try Intermittent Fasting
Now that were through a lot of the science stuff, lets get into the reality of the situation: why should you consider Intermittent Fasting?
When you fast, you are also making it easier to restrict your total caloric intake over the course of the week, which can lead to consistent weight loss and maintenance.
#2) Because it simplifies your day. Rather than having to prepare, pack, eat, and time your meals every 2-3 hours, you simply skip a meal or two and only worry about eating food in your eating window.
Its one less decision you have to make every day.
It could allow you to enjoy bigger portioned meals and STILL eat fewer calories on average.
Its a point that Coach Matt makes in this video on intermittent fasting:
#3) It requires less time . Rather than having to prepare or purchase three to six meals a day, you only need to prepare two meals.
Instead of stopping what youre doing six times a day to eat, you simply only have to stop to eat twice. Rather than having to do the dishes six times, you only have to do them twice.
Rather than having to purchase six meals a day, you only need to purchase two.
#5) It can level up your brain, including positively counteracting conditions like Parkinsons, Alzheimers, and dementia.
#6) Plus, Wolverine does it:
#7) Boy George is a fasting fan :
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