IF (Intermittent Fasting)
OHHHHHH welcome to one of the hottest nutrition trends out there, IF (Intermittent Fasting).
Let's open this discussion by saying that with nutrition there isn't GOOD and BAD. I want us to just let that mindset go! I always ask my clients, "what's your personal goal"? We work from there.
By now I'm positive that you've heard of some of the benefits of IF. IF (Intermittent Fasting) might help you lose weight, lower your risk or even symptoms of chronic diseases, it can even help your brain be more productive.
IF (Intermittent Fasting) is used to describe several different approaches to short term periods of food abstinence daily in order to improve health. The main factor of IF (Intermittent Fasting) is that it is "short-term" and doesn't involve long periods of fasting.
Typically, the way that IF (Intermittent Fasting) is approached is the duration of the overnight fast is extended for additional hours. Normally this is done by skipping either breakfast or dinner. You can still consume the same amount of meals and calories, just compressed within a smaller time block.
I'm going to talk mostly about the 16:8 diet plan because as a female nutritionist with years of working with women and balancing hormones, this protocol is something that I can support for various reasons of balance that's most beneficial for a female's hormones. I think it is safe to say this is the most popular version of IF (Intermittent Fasting) is the 16:8 diet plan. This involves a fasting window of 16 hours and an eating window of eight hours.
The rules work like this; over the eight hours, you can eat as many meals as you like. You should eat healthy foods and watch your macronutrient ratios. If your purpose of IF is weight loss/fat loss then adhere to a 10-30% deficit and no greater. In your 16 fasting hours, you may have water, black coffee, and other zero-calorie drinks while fasting to curb hunger. This type of fasting helps to lose weight and lower systolic blood pressure. (1)
Eating window example: 12 noon - 8 pm OR 10 am - 6 pm are most common
*if on a ketogenic diet or doing other protocols then you can consider bulletproof coffee. However, the only way to know if that breaks your (individual) fast is to use a blood glucose meter.
IF (Intermittent Fasting) should be viewed as a lifestyle variation vs. a diet. You will know within the first few days of IF (Intermittent Fasting) if this is something that you can consider employing as a daily factor in your lifestyle.
Before diving into the benefits, let's discuss the top 7 reasons you may wanna pass on IF for the time being.
- If you're pregnant or trying to maximize fertility to get pregnant.
- If you suffer any type of eating disorder, please consult a physician before trying IF
- If you're under large amounts of stress
- If you're suffering chronic fatigue or trying to regain HPA axis regulation
- If you're working with a physician on balancing hormones with HRT or if you're experiencing hormone dysregulation.
- If you experience episodes of hypoglycemia
- Going thru a bulking/muscle building phase
If you fall under any category on this list, shelf the thought of IF for the time being.
If you're allowed to pass GO, then let's talk about just how beneficial IF can be:
Benefits Of IF #1
- Intermittent Fasting Burns Fat, Not Sugar!
Our bodies use (food) fuel sources to function and survive. When your body goes into fasting mode your body burns fat instead of sugar for energy.
Here is how it works, when we eat the body breaks down carbohydrates into sugar that our cells can grab and use for energy. If our cells don't use all of that sugar (glucose), then our body stores it away for another time as fat.
Therefore, during a fast, our bodies switch from using glucose (since there isn't any readily available) to using stored fat, mainly triglycerides. This is why IF leads to weight loss, as well as the improved risk profile of the cardiovascular disease. Experts believe that that shift of burning fat and triglycerides happens most effectively in the fasting window between 10-16 hours after not eating. It is believed that the breakdown of protein for fuel wouldn't happen until being into the third day of fasting. There is evidence that supports that IF can help you lose weight while maintaining muscle. However, the amount of exercise would play a significant role in the accuracy of that statistic.
When the body shifts to burning fat for energy fatty acids called ketones are released into the bloodstream. Research shows that ketones not only play a role in weight loss but also serve as a neurological protector preserving brain function. Ketones offer to shield to epileptic seizures, neurodegenerative disorders as well as Alzheimer's disease.
I love this and think it's mind-blowing. Studies show that IF (Intermittent Fasting) can promote the brain to grow new nerve cell connections. One study proves that adults with mild cognitive impairment found that a boost in ketones improved their memory in only six weeks' time. (2) The presence of ketones triggers the release of (BDNF) brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which strengthens neural connections, particularly those involved with memory and learning. (3)(4)
Benefits Of IF #2
- IF (Intermittent Fasting) Lowers Insulin & Improves Insulin Sensitivity
Our pancreas is busy busy busy throughout the day. When we eat, our body gets the burst of insulin to regulate and sort extra glucose from digestion and what gets stored as fat.
As discussed above, when you go through a period of not eating, sugar/glucose is lowered and in this example, it gives the pancreas a break and in turn makes the insulin receptors more sensitive. This is a great thing for preventing and reversing diabetes. (5)
Benefits Of IF #3
- Intermittent can increase overall Health with a positive effect on your gut microbiome
My Momma always told me, "Feed a FEVER, starve a COLD". IF gives the body time to 'clean house'. A normal biological process called autophagy ramps up during IF. Autophagy is a fancy word that describes 'eating' of damaged or dysfunctional cells. This leaves room for new stronger cells to replaces the one eliminated. (6) Fasting also is a slight stressor on the cells this process allows the poor cells to die off and the resilient cells to adapt to strengthen their ability to fight disease and cope with stressors more effectively.
Benefits Of IF #4
- IF (Intermittent Fasting) Can Raise Levels of HGH (Human Growth Hormone)
Growth Hormone is our fountain of youth hormone. As we age it naturally declines. Research shows that IF (Intermittent Fasting) releases HGH. Healthy levels of HGH promote positive change in body composition, protecting muscle tissue and burning body fat, especially around our midsections.
My practical application of IF with myself and clients:
I suggest the 16:8 window. I will have my clients start with a 14:10 for a few days then move to 15: 11, then 16:8 after a few days.
Mostly working with females I feel like this application is most beneficial for protecting positive hormone balance.
I also feel like if you're lifting weights you need to employ a window large enough that it allows for enough protein consumption to support your goals of gaining or at least maintaining muscle mass. You might be able to consume 75-150 grams of protein in 3-4 hours, but the doesn't mean that your body can assimilate and employ those amino acids to proper function within that small window.
Be willing to shift the timing of your window. For example, if your goal of IF is to lower insulin and improve insulin sensitivity then you may find greater success with an 8 am-4 pm or 10 am-6 pm window versus the 12noon - 8 pm. Being awake longer in the day past your last meal gives your body a chance to burn the glucose in your bloodstream before turning it into body fat, whereas eating at 8 pm and going to bed shortly after can promote some fat-storing of glucose. In short, I've had clients that logged little success on a 12noon-8pm plan, and then have massive success on an 8 am-4 pm plan.
Questions about IF (Intermittent Fasting)? Or stories you want to share your experience, I'd love to hear them.