Intermittent Fasting is coming into vogue with a growing popularity on social media platforms, talk shows, and popular websites. Intermittent Fasting, or IF, has been practiced for years. As a matter of fact, humans generally fast 7-9 hours in a 24-hour period during sleep. There are religious practices that include fasting at different times of the year. The practice of fasting has been implemented for millennia as a healing tradition. There are religious practices that include fasting at different times of the year. There are a growing number of human studies that are substantiating the benefits of caloric restriction, or more specifically Intermittent Fasting for chronic disease preventation and therapeutic strategies to extend health span. In the works of one of our nations founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin,
The Best Medicine of all is Resting and Fasting
Caloric Restriction and Intermittent Fasting are two different approaches to modification of eating patterns with the goal of influencing disease onset and metabolic behavior.
Caloric Restriction is limiting the number of calories consumed in a day.
Intermittent Fasting is limiting the window of time that food is consumed.
This is the difference between the two:
Caloric Reduction as Primary:
- less weight loss (bad)
- more lean mass loss (bad)
- less visceral fat loss (bad)
- harder to keep weight off (bad)
- hungrier (bad)
- higher insulin (bad)
- more insulin resistance (bad)
- perfect track record over 50 years unblemished by success (bad)
- more weight loss
- more lean mass gain
- more visceral fat loss
- less hunger
- been used throughout human history
- lower insulin
- less insulin resistance
The importance of Intermittent fasting is the impact of making a simple correction in when one eats, and not how much one eats. With Intermittent Fasting, you can restrict the duration of your “feeding window”, practice your IF plan a few times per week, or introduce a more regimented approach with your fasting duration, and change the intensity of exercise plan.
Fasting triggers numerous hormonal adaptations that do NOT happen with simple caloric reduction. Insulin drops precipitously, helping prevent insulin resistance. Noradrenalin rises, keeping metabolism high. Growth hormone rises, maintaining lean mass. Dr. Jason Fung
To begin with, establish your goals by identifying what you are committing to, and willing to stick with, for 90 days. This will give you sufficient time to adjust to your intermittent fasting plan, accommodate to an exercise schedule, and assess the response.
It is strongly recommended that you consult with your physician to let them know that you are interested in Intermittent Fasting. If you do not have a recent blood lab you may request to have one prescribed by your physician. An updated blood panel will provide excellent baseline information(Pre-Intermittent Fasting). After 90 days you can have a follow-up Blood Lab(Post-90 Day Intermittent Fasting).
If you have any pre-existing medical conditions, prescribed medicines, or are questionable as to how this may affect your present health status, it is strongly recommended that you consult with your family physician or medical specialist prior to engaging in any dietary change.
What is Intermittent Fasting
Watch this 5:21 Video by Dr. Jason Fung for a brief definition of Intermittent Fasting
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
- Blood Pressure
- Blood Lipids
- Inflammation Biomarkers
- Oxidative Stress(lipids, mitochondria, DNA)
- Risk of Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, and Type 2 Diabetes
- Fat Burning- Fatty acid oxidation
- Cellular turnover and repair(Autophagy)
- Growth Hormones
- Metabolic Rate
Autophagy, a cellular cleaning process, gets activated in response to certain types of metabolic stress, including nutrient deprivation, growth factor depletion, and hypoxia.
Autophagy is a topic that I will return to in future articles. You may also read more on Autophagy and Influence on Osteoarthritis. A major take home is that Autophagy is suppressed in the presence of insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia. This is a major contributor to obesity and diabetes.
- Appetite – Physical vs. Brain(Mind)
- Blood Sugar Control- lowering blood glucose and increasing insulin sensitivity
- Neurogenesis – Brain’s ability to generate new neurons or connections between neurons
- Effectiveness of Chemotherapy
- Increases Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor(BDNF)
- Increases Mild Stress
- Increases Neurogenesis
*mild stress acts as a hormetic effect that turns on cellular pathways of neurogenesis and mitochondrial biogenesis
The key to successful long-term weight loss is not reducing calories. It’s reducing insulin, because insulin is the switch that decides whether your body is burning food energy or stored food energy (body fat). If you are burning food, then you are not burning fat. It’s as simple as that. The key to accessing your body fat stores is to reduce insulin. You must let your body go into the ‘fasted’ state. The key to weight loss (for most people) is not to reduce calories. The key is to reduce insulin — to switch tracks. Dr. Jason Fung
Variations of Intermittent Fasting
Mostly the variations revolve around the feeding window.
Consider with approximately 8-hours of sleep may consume a significant duration of the “fasting window”.
Alternate Day Fasting
36-hour fast/12-hour feeding window.
Skip a few meals per week.
This may be 3 days of skipping breakfast or dinner.
24-hour fast, 1-2 days/week/
Popular with Paleo Diet practice.
16-hour Fast with 8-hour feeding window.
Exercise at end of fasting window.
The exercise intensity must be of increased intensity((aka, HIIT).
20-hour fast followed by 4-hour feeding window.
These are a few of the intermittent fasting protocols one can follow. It is important to find a Protocol that fits your lifestyle.
It may be difficult to perform a HIIT exercise program that is performed at mid-day based on your work schedule.
Instead, you may engage in a sustained low-intensity activity, such as a long walk at lunch break, or before work.
2-3 days you would then perform a HIIT program. This may be performed after work hours and at end of feeding window.
Exercise Considerations with Intermittent Fasting
Exercise must be included as an important component of healthy lifestyle management.
Exercise alone will not be effective as part of a weight loss program. There are detriments to over emphasizing exercise as essential to weight loss. This includes the risk of repetitive stress injury and increased stress hormones(cortisol).
In the beginning or Induction Phase, of Intermittent Fasting emphasize leisurely walks or activity for 30-60-mins.
As you progress to the maintenance Phase include daily walks if you have a fairly minimal physical output of activity at work.
Weight or resistive, Training can then be introduced 2-3 times per week.
Resistive training aides in preserving muscle mass, balancing blood glucose levels, and increasing growth hormones.
What’s Next: Introducing Intermittent Fasting for 90-Days?
Begin with identifying your Primary Goal.
Is this weight loss, or control of your present weight?
Introducing Intermittent Fasting Safely for Weight Loss and Healthspan can be Achieved in this 90-day window.
Do You connect with any of these health issues?
- Metabolic Syndrome
- Non-Fatty Liver Disease
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Excess Body Weight
- Joint Pain or Arthritis
- Cardiovascular Disease
You may just be interested in establishing healthy, clean eating habits that give you renewed energy and vitality.
Liu, Hui-Yu, et al. “Hepatic autophagy is suppressed in the presence of insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia inhibition of FoxO1-dependent expression of key autophagy genes by insulin.” Journal of Biological Chemistry 284.45 (2009): 31484-31492.
Aly SM. Role of Intermittent Fasting on Improving Health and Reducing Diseases. International Journal of Health Sciences. 2014;8(3):V-VI.
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Also published on Medium.