Fasting helps you build a better brain, too. Intermittent fasting increases a protein in your brain called BDNF that researchers have nicknamed “Miracle-Gro for your brain.” BDNF improves learning and memory and can help you forge stronger neural pathways, making your brain run faster and more efficiently, which is especially important as you age.
In addition, the refined sugar found in most beverages digests quickly, spiking both your blood sugar and your insulin levels. It's also highly addictive. Your body doesn't just want more, it needs more. In fact, according to a review published in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care in 2013, sugar and sweetened beverages and foods induce reward and craving responses in the brain that are comparable to the responses triggered by addictive drugs, which continue the cycle.
Intermittent fasting is a technique that involves restricting your food intake to a certain time window each day and then fasting for a specific period. There are several different fasting methods, with many variations that can fit nearly any personal preference or routine. A few of the most common types of intermittent fasting include alternate day fasting, 16/8 fasting and the 5:2 diet, each of which varies based on the amount of time you spend fasting during the week.
I don’t recommend that you go straight for a 1-2 day fast, but begin by restricting yourself to certain eating windows. Typically people restrict themselves to the hours of 5pm – 11pm. People often refer to their fasting windows by numbers: 19/5 or 21/3, for example, means 19 hours of fasting and 5 hours eating or 21 hours fasting and 3 hours eating, respectively.
So if both musicians and adamantium-clawed superheroes do Intermittent Fasting, it can probably work for you too, if you can make it work for your particular lifestyle and situation! If you’ve tried implementing something like this in the past and not had success, or you’re just looking for guidance from a coach to help you implement it into your lifestyle, I hear ya!
Cons: Even though it’s nice to eat a few snacks rather than go without any food for 20-plus hours, the guidelines for what you need to eat (and when) can be hard to follow long-term. The strict schedule and meal plan may also interfere with social gatherings. Additionally, eating one main meal at night — while following strict guidelines of what to eat, and in what order — can be tough. It’s especially hard for those who prefer not to eat large meals late in the day.
Whichever option you choose, there's enough evidence to show that intermittent fasting has many health benefits. Dr. Palanisamy sums it up best by saying, "The final caveat is that some fasting is better than none. So if having a regular or even bulletproof coffee is the only way that you can stick with the practice of intermittent fasting, then it's probably worth it."
I’ll share some of my experiences, now doing heavy strength training for 3 years in a fasted state: For my first “fasted” workout or two after starting an IF protocol, it was very weird to not eat before training. However, after a few sessions, I learned that my body could certainly function (and even thrive) during my training sessions despite not eating a pre-workout meal.
In so far as insulin promotes de novo lipogenesis and suppresses lipolysis in adipocytes it DOES help keep the fat inside. But in Hyperinsulinemia / Insulin Resistance with Impaired Glucose Tolerance lipolysis may not be sufficiently reduced and fatty acids and glycerin can be spilled at the same time that Triglycerides are being formed & stored. In the liver the glycerin gets converted to glucose producing hyperglycemia.
How It Works: Fast for 14 (women) to 16 (men) hours each day, and then “feed” for the remaining eight to 10 hours. During the fasting period, you consume no calories. However, black coffee, calorie-free sweeteners, diet soda and sugar-free gum are permitted. (A splash of milk in your coffee won’t hurt, either.) Most practitioners will find it easiest to fast through the night and into the morning. They usually break the fast roughly six hours after waking up. This schedule is adaptable to any person’s lifestyle, but maintaining a consistent feeding window time is important. Otherwise, hormones in the body can get thrown out of whack and make sticking to the program harder, Berkhan says.
For example, in the graphic below you would eat dinner on Monday night and then not eat again until Tuesday evening. On Wednesday, however, you would eat all day and then start the 24–hour fasting cycle again after dinner on Wednesday evening. This allows you to get long fast periods on a consistent basis while also eating at least one meal every day of the week.
So does that mean you should abstain from your caffeine fix when fasting? According to Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., founder of DrAxe.com, bestselling author of Eat Dirt, and cofounder of Ancient Nutrition, tea and coffee are fine to consume as long as you don't add any milk or sweeteners. He explains on his blog, "If you're on a time-restricted fast and you're in no-eating hours, it's best to stick to no- or low-calorie drinks like water, coffee, (with no milk) and tea. If you're on an alternate day diet or something similar, even during low calorie hours, you can technically drink whatever you'd like — but remember, this will count against your calories." Dr. Palanisamy also agrees that during fasting, the "appetite-suppressing effects of coffee are probably beneficial."
For this plan, eat clean for five days of the week (you can pick whatever days you want). On the other two days, restrict your calories to no more than 700 each day. Calorie restriction unlocks a lot of the same benefits as fasting for an entire day. On your non-fasting days, you’ll need to make sure you're getting in healthy fats, clean meats, vegetables, and some fruits, and you can structure your meals however best works for you. On restricted days you can have smaller meals or snacks throughout the day or have a moderate-size lunch and dinner and fast in the morning and after dinner. Again, focus on healthy fats, clean meats, and produce. An app like MyFitnessPal can help you log your food and keep track of your calorie intake so you don’t go over 700.
The five most common methods of intermittent fasting try to take advantage of each of these benefits. But different methods will yield better results for different people. “If you’re going to force yourself to follow a certain method, it’s not going to work,” says trainer and fitness expert Nia Shanks. “Choose a method that makes your life easier,” she says. Otherwise, it’s not sustainable and the benefits of your fasting may be short-lived.
The problem is that we tend to spend so much time in the fed state, fueling our bodies exclusively with glucose, that we become addicted. Once the flow of glucose stops and our insulin levels drop, we start getting hunger pains. This is one of the reasons that overweight individuals — people with more than adequate energy stores in their fat cells — often have such a difficult time cutting back on food intake. They’re not starving, but they’re not getting the glucose their bodies are used to.
You’ll run out of energy. When you don’t have anything in your system for several hours, your blood sugar will eventually drop below baseline. If you’ve ever had a blood sugar crash, you know how this state feels. Sleepiness, trouble focusing, lightheadedness, intense cravings, and the occasional mood swing typically accompany low blood sugar. Your cells run low on fuel and they start demanding that you give them more carbs.
The 5:2 diet, also known as the “Fast Diet,” involves restricting calories two days a week to 500 calories per day (with two 250 calorie meals), while eating normally for the other five days. For example, you might eat all of your regular meals Saturday through Wednesday, and eat 500 calories per day on Thursdays and Fridays.There isn’t a ton of research to back up this diet, although it was publicized by Michael Mosley, a British journalist and doctor. Since it doesn’t completely restrict food on the fasting days, it may also be an effective way to ease into fasting without shocking your system. The Fast Diet is considered safe for men and women.
Even though this plan is advanced, it's very simple. Don't eat anything every other day. This is the most intense form of fasting but can produce amazing results. Every other day, eat healthy fats, clean meat sources, vegetables, and some fruit, and then on your fasting days, you can consume water, herbal tea, and moderate amounts of black coffee or tea.
This is probably a good time to mention that while I have practiced intermittent fasting consistently for the last year, I'm not fanatical about my diet. I work on building healthy habits that guide my behavior 90% of the time, so that I can do whatever I feel like during the other 10%. If I come over to your house to watch the football game and we order pizza at 11pm, guess what? I don't care that it's outside my feeding period, I'm eating it.
You’ll spike your blood sugar when you eat. If you’re fasting on a high-carb diet and you’ve powered through the cravings and lack of energy from low blood sugar, there’s a good chance you’ll eat a ton of carbs when you feast. You want to eat big meals when you fast to make sure you’re getting enough calories, but all those excess carbs in one go will spike your blood sugar in the opposite direction, from low to high. High blood sugar causes fatigue and lack of focus. That raging hunger will also cause you to binge unnecessarily, and whatever carbs you don’t use will get stored as fat.