Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent Fasting- Intro (Part 1 of 3)

In this 3 part blog, I introduce the concept and rationale for intermittent fasting (Part 1), the reasons why intermittent fasting is so beneficial (Part 2), and a template for accomplishing intermittent fasting (Part 3).

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There is nothing fancy about Intermittent Fasting and that is one of the reasons why it is so great! The best solutions are always the simplest ones, and I have seen Intermittent Fasting solve a variety of difficult problems in my patients, such as weight gain, gut issues (bloating, SIBO, candida, pain, reflux), chronic fatigue, anxiety, sleep problems, joint aches, and inflammation. Anything that can potentially achieve so much must be producing benefits on a fundamental level. This is the case with intermittent fasting.

Before elaborating on why and how it works so well, let’s discuss what exactly it is. First off, intermittent fasting simply means a cycle between fasting and eating. This can be personalized based on your schedule and needs, but generally, think simply about skipping breakfast and having just a lunch and a dinner. Most people find this very easy to do.

For example, if you eat lunch at 12 noon, and dinner around 6 pm, you will achieve 18 hours of fasting each day. In other words, you would be on a 18/6 cycle. If you ate as early as 11 am and then as late as 7 pm, that would be a 16/8 cycle. Less than 16 hours of fasting can still be beneficial, but the best benefits come with at least 16 hours of fasting. It is also possible to start with a shorter number of hours of fasting and work your way up as your body adjusts. This can be helpful in certain conditions, but more on that later. Once adjusted, many people will even fit in a 24 or even 36 hour period of fasting every week or two.

There is another point about intermittent fasting that I would like to clear up. Many descriptions of intermittent fasting allow you to continuously eat or snack during the 6 or 8 hour “eating” cycle, but I would NOT recommend that. While there is no technical right or wrong to this system, I think it is best to just simply have two good, satisfying meals and no other snacking. There are many advantages to this. First of all, it’s a lot of work for your gut to digest a meal. Every time you eat, the digestive system needs to determine the composition of the meal, release appropriate enzymes to break down the meal, figure out how to move the meal through the gut at the appropriate rate and absorb the nutrients from the food, all the while being vigilant to any potential toxins or invaders which it needs to keep out. Twice a day is enough!

Not only that but two meals a day is plenty to worry about for you too. And it allows you to really plan and look forward to a couple healthy meals, and be ready with a good appetite to enjoy them with. It also takes out of the equation the temptation for reaching for unhealthy, or at the very least, unnecessary snacks. If you know you’ve got two meals for the day that is giving you everything you need, you won’t reach for those candies placed around your work place, or the chips in your cupboard. If a coworker or friend brings something homemade, delicious, and healthy around, take one and save it for your lunch or dinner.

Furthermore, and this may be one of the biggest advantages of intermittent fasting, intermittent fasting is not a diet prescription per se, it is just a schedule. Of course, you can’t just eat anything you want when you eat (see next paragraph), but remember that there is something about the 16-18 hours of fasting is what gives you the amazing benefits. Even that schedule of fasting itself can be flexible, and fit with your social calendar when needed.

The two meals you do eat should of course be as healthy as possible. Avoid processed carbs and sugars. Make sure you have plenty of fat, a reasonable amount of protein, and some carbs. Note that some people, specifically with particular metabolic or weight loss goals, may still use a Paleo or Keto diet with intermittent fasting, and restrict carbs. But for most, that is not usually necessary, as long as you are conscious of which carbs, and how many, you are including in each meal.

The goal, whether you are doing a keto diet or not, is to get your body to learn how to burn fat in order to fuel your body during the period of fasting. So the key is to make sure you are planning in enough healthy fats into your meals to keep you satisfied and send the message to your fat cells that it is OK to burn. Paradoxically, the less fat you eat, the more your body wants to hold onto it’s own fat.

Finally, keep in mind that although processed food companies (i.e Kellog’s) succeeded in the 20th century in brainwashing us into thinking that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, or that we need to eat frequent, small meals, the human body is built to be able to handle long periods of fasting. So this diet is not a fad. It is the way the human body is meant to eat.

As such, this brings us back to why intermittent fasting has so many benefits. If we are NOT eating the way we evolved to eat, that is not going to work with our system, and we are going to get sick. Think of the blue whale, one of the most amazing animals on the planet, which feasts on up to 8,000 pounds a day of krill during the summer season but then fasts for the rest of the year. If you tried to feed a blue whale all year round, it would get sick. This is what happens to humans when we never allow ourselves a chance to fast and our guts to rest!

There is one more thing to address which I am sure many of you who have read to this point are thinking. “What about my coffee?” You don’t need to give that up. Certainly you can have the coffee just black, but even that is not necessary. If you do want to put something in your coffee (or tea), I recommend the “bulletproof” style, which involves blending any combination you want of coconut oil, MCT oil, butter, or ghee into your coffee.

While this is not technically fasting, it still allows your digestive system not to have to do much work, and for the most part, passively absorb the fats which go straight into your system and fuel your brain and muscles- not to mention encourage a metabolic shift to burning fat for fuel instead of sugar and carbs. It is also helpful for those who have a hard time not having any calories for breakfast. If the bulletproof coffee is not for you, you could consider heavy cream in the coffee. It is also essentially just fat. What you want to avoid are carbs or protein first thing in the morning. So don’t use half and half, almond milk, etc.

Finally, another option for not giving up caffeine (since there are many benefits to caffeine, so why give up something you don’t have to?), would be simply to consume a supplement with about 100 mg of caffeine, along with water in the morning period. This amount of caffeine would be equivalent to around a medium cup of coffee. For water, I recommend using filtered water in a glass container, and adding a few shakes of sea salt, to help with adding trace minerals, and helping with taste and your ability to absorb it.

OK, so now that we understand what intermittent fasting is and the general framework for how it could fit into your lifestyle, let’s move on to Part 2, which covers the benefits of intermittent fasting in more detail. Then in Part 3, we’ll cover a basic template and food suggestions to help with practically accomplishing this plan.

Part 2

Posted by Dr. Rob

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