Have you heard of, or maybe even tried, intermittent fasting? Intermittent fasting is where you don’t eat for 12 – 24 hours for anywhere from 3 – 7 days per week.
I bet right now you’re thinking, “Oh, my God. I could never do that… I’d starve!” I would have thought the same thing before I started eating a low carb high fat diet. But stick with me, I guarantee that you can do it too.
You see, when you’re on low carb high fat diet and become keto adapted (your body burns fat as energy), skipping meals is super easy. You just do it naturally because most of the time your body would be burning stored fat for energy and you’re not hungry.
My Life has Evolved into Daily Intermittent Fasting Naturally
One time I was giving a coaching session to a mother and her 15 year old overweight and pre-diabetic son to improve his blood glucose level and lose weight.
As I explained how the body could tap into stored body fat for energy, and eventually we do not need to eat as frequently as we used to…
The boy eyes lit up and he said, “Do you mean I can skip eating breakfast if I’m not hungry?”
Just as I said: “Yes.” At the same time his mother said: “No, you can’t skip breakfast.”
She looked at me puzzled.
I said: “He can skip his breakfast early in the morning before going to school if he is not feeling hungry. Let the body continue the overnight fasting state as long as it likes. And eat during school breaks when you are hungry.”
The boy had a grin on his face. I guessed that was an every morning battle between mother and son.
We don’t have to eat when we are not hungry.
In my book ‘The Asian Low Carb Secret’ I shared about how I struggled with eating and keeping my weight down.
I tried many slimming plan, diet and exercise a lot. Nothing works. I learned that the only way to lose weight was to stop eating.
I had a body that was almost constantly searching for glucose as an energy source. It was very hard to skip a meal. I was hungry all the time. When I ate, it was usually a high carb low fat meal.
Avoiding fat and eating grains healthy right? Wrong!
My meal was always a bowl of noodle or rice with small amount of protein and no fat. That puts a high dose of glucose in the body, raises insulin, which then plummets. And soon I feel hungry again. I was constantly hypoglycemic.
The cycle went on for almost 20 years of my adult life.
After I started eating low carb high fat for a period of time my body learned to burn fat as energy. I begin to lose weight while eating well. My blood glucose stabilized. I don’t feel hungry frequently and eat less.
I have been living the Low Carb High Fat lifestyle for almost 9 years. The first 5 years of my journey, I usually eat two or three meals a day, a breakfast/brunch and dinner, with no snacks in between meals.
As my body adapted longer period into a fat burning mode, I have been eating only one small meal in the afternoon and one main meal at dinner, for the last three years. The best thing is, I lose more body fat and maintain muscle mass.
When I break fast around 3-4pm I’ll have a glass of water stirred in with a tablespoon of psyllium husk powder for additional fiber, and drink it with the daily supplement. And at dinner time I’ll make sure to eat around 47g of protein (6.5 oz/180g meat or seafood) for my daily amount of protein needs (1g protein x 1 kg body weight), a portion of leafy vegetable, together with generous amount of good fat in the food.
Once or twice a week I do weight training around noon during my fasting hours with just drinking water before, during and after the training. There is no lack of energy and no hunger.
An hour or two after exercise. I’ll break my fast with fat and protein, which are usually 2 eggs cooked in 1 tablespoon of butter. Or a few slices of cheese.
On my workout day I might increase my protein intake to 1.5g protein x 1kg body weight, depending on how I feel.
My life evolved into intermittent fasting naturally without hunger because my body is burning fat for energy, I need less food, and feel healthier.
Fasting is easy when your body is burning fat for energy.
In fact, fasting is one of the quickest ways to reduce your hunger and turn on the fat burning switch in your body. And not only does it help you lose weight, it offers many more benefits as well.
Here Are Some of the Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Safe & Effective Weight Loss
Intermittent fasting helps you lose weight fast, especially that hard to burn belly fat. And it allows you to do this without starving yourself or needing to count calories.
Drastically Lowers Inflammation
Studies show that intermittent fasting drastically reduces inflammation, an underlying factor in every disease. This is great news for people who suffer from chronic inflammatory conditions.
Lowers Blood Glucose
Intermittent fasting lowers your blood sugar safely and effectively, that is, if you don’t have a health condition that makes fasting difficult for you.
For example, some people with hypoglycemia find that their blood sugar falls too low when they fast. These people might benefit from easing into fasting very slowly. And some of them might never be able to fast at all.
Reduces or Reverses Insulin Resistance
In one study, intermittent fasting reduced fasting insulin levels by 20 – 31%. Indicating that intermittent fasting could be a great therapeutic intervention for diabetics.
You see, when you are eating 3 meals per day and snacking in between, your blood sugar and insulin levels stay elevated.
And on top of that, your digestive system and many other parts of your body are busy doing things that take up or store energy because you are eating so much.
But when you fast, your blood sugar and insulin levels decrease, and so do inflammation levels.
And your body has more time and energy to do other things in your body, (example: healing or repairing) because it’s not digesting all that food.
One example of this is Autophagy, which is when your cells eat up the old or bad proteins that build up in them.
Improves Heart Health
Intermittent fasting reduces LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood sugar, and insulin, which are all risk factors for heart disease.
Increases Human Growth Hormone (HGH)
Study after study shows that HGH, or human growth hormone, drastically increases when you fast. And increased levels of HGH mean more fat loss, muscle gain, more youthful and a longer life.
I know, it sounds counter intuitive, you think you’d lose muscle when you don’t eat, but because fasting changes the way hormones work in your body, you actually gain muscle couple with eating the right amount of protein when you break fast.
Reduces Risk of Cancer
Because of all of the benefits of fasting, like the reduction in inflammation, weight loss, and improvements in heart health, your body functions better, and you’re less likely to get cancer.
The Different Types of Intermittent Fasting
There is no strict method for intermittent fasting. Try out the different methods below and record the results in your health journal to see what works best for you.
Fast for 14 – 16 hours every day, and then eat low carb high fat for the rest of the 8 – 10 hours. Typically you just drink water, tea or coffee in the morning, eat your first meal at noon and stop eating by 8pm.
Fast for 18 – 20 hours every day, and then eat low carb high fat for the rest of the 4 – 6 hours. Typically you just drink water, tea or coffee until about 4 pm and have a light snack, have dinner at 7pm and stop eating by 8pm.
Fast for 24 hours once or twice a week while you eat within 12 hours in the other days.
Typically you eat your first meal at 7am and stop eating at 7pm for 5 days a week. Some people prefer to just have couple days in a week not eat because of lifestyle.
Fast for 22-23 hours, and you eat one meal per day at dinner time. The rationale behind this method is, when you don’t eat for long periods of time, your hormones work differently. And because of this, your instincts are sharper, and you’re more driven to get things done.
This is definitely a bit harder to do at first, but the more you fast, the better you’ll feel doing it, and the longer you can go.
If you have a really busy, stressful life, fasting might not be for you. Undergoing intense emotional or physical stress while fasting for this long could put too much stress on your hormonal system.
First, relax and sleep well to keep your stress hormone – Cortisol low.
photo credit: marlofurnitureblog.com
Frequently Asked Questions
I could never skip a meal, I’d feel like crap! How do you do it?
Have you tried a low carb high fat diet successfully until you are keto adapted? When your body is used to burning fat for fuel instead of glucose, skipping meals is easy. In fact, you’ll just do it naturally most times.
If you haven’t, you can check out this guide on ketosis. You can learn everything you need to know about low carb high fat diets through my site and the resources I link to.
If you’re trying to intermittent fast without first fat adapting your body, it’s not going to feel very good.
You could suffer through skipping meals every so often to get your body into fat burning mode faster. But I would recommend doing the low carb high fat diet for 6 months before you start intermittent fasting, so that your body is ready for it.
I thought you needed to eat every 3 hours?
This just isn’t true. This advice is for people who are dependent on carbohydrates for fuel.
People who are addicted to carbs don’t have a stable blood sugar for very long, so they end up getting hunger pangs every 2 hours or even more.
When we eat, our blood glucose raises and so does insulin. The higher carb you eat, the higher your blood glucose will spike, followed by insulin raise and plummet.
When the blood glucose plummets, you’ll feel hungry again. And you’ll crave for carb, and the cycle goes on and on.
Blood glucose swing wildly up and down with eating high carb, so as insulin.
Ideal, slow and steady blood glucose and insulin level with eating low carb
Image credit: LifeHacker.com
So often I hear many people claim that because they have a high metabolism that their body process the food they ate so fast and they need to eat soon after a meal.
That is wrong.
It is because of the blood glucose spike and falls. Next time if you feel hungry again after 2-3 hours of eating, you probably had eaten high carb food.
The danger is, over time the body cells lose the sensitivity of insulin presence and you could become insulin resistant and lead to diabetes.
The food that does not spike blood glucose is fat. Eating fat does not spike blood glucose and insulin. A low carb high fat ketogenic way of eating maintains a more stable blood glucose and thus it could keep you feel full longer.
After your body adapted to this way of eating, it will switch to burning fat as energy. You will feel less hungry and fasting become a natural thing.
And like I said in the last question, if you’re fat adapted, then going for long periods of time without food is not a problem at all.
Can I drink liquids during the fast?
Yes. Water, tea, and coffee are all allowed. Just be careful not to drink too much caffeine when you’re fasting. Some people feel light-headed if they do this.
Can I take supplements while fasting?
Definitely. Just be aware that some supplements absorb best with food, like fat-soluble vitamins.
Can I work out while fasted?
Yes. In fact, most elite athletes prefer to train their bodies to work out in fasted states because they can get the biggest gains and perform the best this way.
But remember, they understand how their bodies work and make sure not to overdo fasting. Be sure you understand what you’re doing, or are working with someone who does if you’re going to combine exercise and fasting.
Check out this interview with Triathlete, Ben Greenfield and Ultra-Runner, Barry Murray, The Ultimate Guide To Combining Fasting and Exercise: Everything You Need To Know, for an in-depth look at fasting and exercise.
Will fasting slow down my metabolism?
Yes, only when your body is not keto adapted.
When your body is used to depend on glucose as energy, fasting could slow down your metabolism. It is because your body gets the signal of there is not enough glucose in the environment.
While it hasn’t learned to adapt to burning stored body fat as energy, even when you have a lot of fat energy stored. In a survival mode your body will slow down your metabolism to hold onto fat.
No, when your body is already keto adapted, burning fat as energy.
As you get keto adapted with a low carb high fat ketogenic eating lifestyle, your body constantly are burning fat (both dietary fat and body fat) for energy, your metabolism does not slow down during fasting.
To avoid this, make sure you are eating a low carb high fat diet for at least 6 months before trying intermittent fasting.
When you break your fast, just be sure to eat plenty of fat in your meal in between your intermittent fasting sessions.
Can kids fast?
Children are growing at a rapid rate and need lots of calories and nutrients to build their bodies.
If your young kid is overweight, I would suggest first is to cut out all sugar and starch. Eat more protein and fat, together with vegetables. If your teenager is overweight, they should also eat more protein, fat and vegetables when they are hungry. And don’t eat when they are not.
photo credit: ’10 ways to make your kids fat’ – blog.zisboombah.com
If you have a medical condition, consult with your doctor before intermittent fasting. Especially if you:
- Have diabetes.
- Are underweight.
- Are trying to conceive.
- Have low blood pressure.
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Have or have had an eating disorder.
- Have problems with blood sugar regulation.
- Have another serious health condition that may be affected by fasting.
Obesity- Solving the Two Compartment Problem, Dr. Jason Fung
Role of Intermittent Fasting on Improving Health and Reducing Diseases
Practicality of intermittent fasting in humans and its effect on oxidative stress and genes related to aging and metabolism
Effects of intermittent fasting on metabolism in men
Health effects of intermittent fasting: hormesis or harm?
Beneficial effects of intermittent fasting and caloric restriction on the cardiovascular and cerebrovascular systems
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