No cravings. Fat doesn’t spike your blood sugar levels. In fact, a keto diet is so effective at stabilizing blood sugar that it got type II diabetics off their medication entirely, according to a recent study. If you pair a keto diet with fasting, your blood sugar will stay stable and low (but not too low) all day. Say goodbye to the cravings, fatigue, and mood swings that make high-carb fasting so difficult.
I was very curious about this, so I asked the opinion of metabolic expert Dr. Deborah Wexler, Director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Diabetes Center and associate professor at Harvard Medical School. Here is what she told me. “There is evidence to suggest that the circadian rhythm fasting approach, where meals are restricted to an eight to 10-hour period of the daytime, is effective,” she confirmed, though generally she recommends that people “use an eating approach that works for them and is sustainable to them.”
IF as a weight loss approach has been around in various forms for ages, but was highly popularized in 2012 by BBC broadcast journalist Dr. Michael Mosley’s TV documentary Eat Fast, Live Longer and book The Fast Diet, followed by journalist Kate Harrison’s book The 5:2 Diet based on her own experience, and subsequently by Dr. Jason Fung’s 2016 bestseller The Obesity Code. IF generated a steady positive buzz as anecdotes of its effectiveness proliferated.
Intermittent fasting, commonly referred to as IF, has become all the rage lately, and it doesn't look like the trend is going away anytime soon. The practice of intermittent fasting, or time-restricted feeding, is when a person limits the period of time in which they consume calories down to a limited number of hours. So for example, I practice IF with an eight-hour eating window, which means that I will only eat between the hours of 12 p.m. and 8 p.m.
While the idea of fasting can be overwhelming, especially if you haven’t done it before, intermittent fasting can actually be a lot easier than many other types of eating plans. Since you are fasting for time restricted chunks of the day, you’ll be eating less food, which eliminates a lot of the stress around having to meal prep. During the periods of time in which you're eating, you’ll still want to focus mainly on healthy fats, clean protein, and carbohydrates from whole food sources—but this isn’t an excuse to hit the drive-thru and load up on sugar the rest of the time! Here are some of the effects of intermittent fasting:
Of course, fasting — regardless of the method — isn’t for everyone. If you have any medical conditions or special dietary requirements, it’s smart to consult a doctor before giving intermittent fasting a shot. Anyone who tries it should also plan to be highly self-aware while fasting. If it’s not agreeing with you, or if you need to eat a little something to hold you over, that’s just fine. It takes our bodies time to adjust, and some require more than others. Keep in mind that hormones can make it harder for women to follow a fasting plan than for men. “Be cautious at first, and start slowly [with a shorter fast],” Shanks recommends. If it doesn’t make you feel better, try something different, or accept the fact that maybe fasting isn’t for you.
Hunger suppression. A ketogenic diet suppresses hunger, too. On a keto diet, your liver turns fat into little bundles of energy called ketones, which it then sends through your bloodstream for your cells to use as fuel. Ketones suppress ghrelin, your body’s main hunger hormone. High ghrelin makes you hungry. On keto, your ghrelin stays low, even when you don’t have food in your system. In other words, you can go longer without eating and you won’t get hungry. Fasting becomes significantly easier on keto so you can fast for longer windows to reap all the benefits.
There are MUCH bigger fish to fry with regards to getting healthy than a few calories here and there during a fast. 80% adherence that you stick with for a year is better than 100% adherence that you abandon after a month because it was too restrictive. If you’re trying to get to a minimum bodyfat percentage, you’ll need to be more strict – until then, however, do what allows you to stay compliant!
Crescendo fasting only requires you to fast a few days a week instead of every day. My experience is that women get a lot more benefit from doing it this way without accidentally throwing their hormones into frenzy. This is a more gentle approach that helps the body more easily adapt to fasting. And if women do it right, it can be an amazing way to shave off body fat, improve inflammatory markers and gain energy. (7)
While it’s not technically fasting, some doctors have reported intermittent fasting benefits by allowing such easy-to-digest food as whole fruit during the fasting window. Modifications like these can still give your digestive and metabolic system a needed rest. For example, “Fit for Life” was a popular weight loss book that suggested eating only fruit after supper and before lunch.
Every study seems to support cognitive and health benefits for IF. Studies are coming out showing it may help stave off heart disease and it’s even been shown to halt or possibly reverse brain-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s. If in doubt, check out Jason Fung’s youtube videos along with a couple of youtube researchers who do wonderful analytics, an American who lives in Japan who goes by, “Things I’ve Learned” and Thomas DeLauer’s IF material. I’ve been doing IF myself for a few months now and I feel better, more energy, better sleep, and controlled weight.
Zero-calorie beverages are okay. I drink green tea in the morning for my caffeine kick while writing. If you want to drink water, black coffee, or tea during your fasted period, that’s okay. Remember, don’t overthink it – keep things simple! Dr. Rhonda Patrick over at FoundMyFitness believes that a fast should stop at the first consumption of anything other than water, so experiment yourself and see how your body responds.
Two ground-breaking studies have recently been published on the effects of intermittent fasting on males. One group of researchers studied the effects that 16 hours of intermittent fasting had on males that lift weights. They found that muscle mass stayed the same, fat mass decreased significantly, and the males who fasted for 16 hours a day burned more fat for fuel compared to the control group that only fasted for 12 hours.
Although there's no specific dietary recommendation when intermittent fasting, many people choose to combine it with a low-carb, ketogenic diet. When it's time to eat, include foods that are high in good fats and low in carbohydrates. That means eating nuts, seeds, vegetables, avocado, olives, meat and fish, while avoiding whole grains, fruits, starchy vegetables, sugary drinks and anything processed.
If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your healthcare provider or 911 immediately. Any mention of products or services is not meant as a guarantee, endorsement, or recommendation of the products, services, or companies. Reliance on any information provided is solely at your own risk. Please discuss any options with your healthcare provider.
While these five methods are the most well-known in terms of integrating periods of fasting into your eating schedule, there are many other similar philosophies based on meal timing. For those who prefer a more fluid, less rigid method, there’s also the concept of eating intuitively. Primal Diet proponent Mark Sisson is a supporter of the Eat WHEN (When Hunger Ensues Naturally) method, where dieters simply eat whenever their bodies ask them to. However, some believe this can also lead to overeating or overconsumption of calories, since our bodies’ hunger-induced choices may be more caloric than otherwise.
In this example, lunch on Monday is your last meal of the day. You then fast until lunch on Tuesday. This schedule has the advantage of allowing you to eat everyday of the week while still reaping the benefits of fasting for 24 hours. It's also less likely that you'll lose weight because you are only cutting out two meals per week. So, if you're looking to bulk up or keep weight on, then this is a great option.
Also, be aware that when you exercise, your body directly burns away glycogen (a form of glucose stored in the muscles). Fasting depletes these stores, which can mean less available energy for the muscles to use when they need it. This can lead to extreme fatigue and decreased performance. The best fasting tips for athletes are to precede each workout with a low-calorie protein shake designed to deliver creatine, BCAAs, beta-alanine, and other amino acids directly to the muscles as they work them, and then to follow each workout with a whey-protein supplement to replenish depleted nutrient stores in order to speed up the recovery process. These workout supplements won’t add much to your overall calorie count, and will help ensure that your intermittent fasting schedule and your workout regimen aren’t getting in each other’s way.
So, if your goal is ketosis, intermittent fasting can help you get into ketosis even faster. Simultaneously, the keto diet makes intermittent fasting more doable because your body is already adapted to fasting with ketones. In addition, most people naturally eat less frequently on keto because of the high satiety level, so you’re likely already used to bigger windows without food.
Most people make an IF schedule that requires them to fast for 12 to 16 hours a day. During the rest of the time, they eat normal meals and snacks. Sticking to this eating window isn’t as hard at it sounds because most people sleep for about eight of their fasting hours. In addition you’re encouraged to enjoy zero-calorie drinks, like water, tea, and coffee.
It can level up your brain, including positively counteracting conditions like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and dementia. As explained here in this TEDx talk by Mark Mattson, Professor at Johns Hopkins University and Chief of the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging fasting is grounded in serious research and more studies are coming out showing the benefits: