By LAURA LEONARD
Doctor of Chiropractic
Intermittent fasting has become popular in the last few years for good reason. It has all the appearances of a fad diet … eat nothing for 14-16 hours followed by bingeing on whatever you want during the eating window.
Not exactly, it’s a little less chaotic than that. It is a way of eating more than a diet per se. Done correctly, intermittent fasting is backed up by an emerging body of science.
Mark Mattson with The National Institute on Ageing says that research shows promising findings. Biomarkers of disease like weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, inflammation and blood sugar are reduced. So far, the majority of the research has been conducted in mice. Preliminary studies in humans are underway and recent publications show inconsistent results. So … is this something you should do?
Intermittent fasting is thought to be beneficial because the early fasting state, 4-16 hours after your last meal, has physiological benefits. This is what happens to your body as you enter the early fasting or catabolic/breakdown state: glycogen is released from storage to be used for energy and as glycogen runs out the body begins to use stored fat as fuel.
What you eat in your eating window affects how much glycogen is available in your body and how quickly you move to fat burning. The more carbohydrates you eat, the longer it takes to get into fat burning.
A lower carbohydrate intake during the eating window turbocharges the benefits of this phase. I recommend sticking to 100g or less of net carb intake. Net carbs equal your total carbs for the day minus the amount of fiber you had for the day. You can also try a keto diet, less than 50 grams of carbs during the eating window however, most people find this way of eating very restrictive and hard to maintain.
An easier way to accelerate fat burning during this phase is to keep net carb intake within 100g and add exercise. This accelerates the depletion of glycogen and facilitates entry into the fat burning state.
The most important part of the early fasting state is not just burning off extra fat storage, it is what happens to your cells during this time. The anti-aging benefits of an 8-hour eating window lie in maximizing the process of autophagy. Autophagy is housekeeping for our cells. It allows our body to get rid of dead and damaged cellular debris.
The longer we go into the 4-16 fasting window without food, the more energy our body has to clean itself up. This translates to lower inflammation and better cellular repair. Both critical to better health and longevity.
Thus far, the scientists looking at this eating method have determined that the most effective eating window is from breakfast to early afternoon when our metabolism is highest. A later eating window works as well. It is slightly less effective but is much easier to do for most of us. The food consumed is not calorie counted but it is important to consume adequate protein and make healthy choices. Intermittent fasting can be combined with a low carb diet to hit a home run.
Surveys of people following this method show that we consume 300-500 less calories per day and are more mindful of our choices when we have an 8-10 hour eating window. You can also be variable with this method by adding in days where you eat without a window and some where you fast for 24 hours. The beauty of eating this way is that it requires no calorie counting and can be tailored to work with your schedule.
Tips for Optimal Intermittent Fasting
- Determine what your fasting window will be. 16 fasting: 8 eating is the most common format however, 14 fasting:10 eating may be necessary in the beginning depending on your particular situation.
- During the fast window, do some easy cardio first thing in the morning like taking a walk. High intensity workouts are best done later in the day during your eating window.
- Only have black coffee, tea or water while fasting. Coffee blended with MCT coconut oil and ghee/clarified butter is an option if you are trying to extend your fast window or you are planning on doing a more intense workout during the fast period. This is also popularly known as bulletproof or keto coffee. It helps with energy and focus and has limited impact on fasting. It contains half a gram of protein and no carbohydrates. Grass fed heavy cream can also work with only 1g of carbohydrate and 1g of protein.
- Green tea is also a great choice during the fast because it is known to increase autophagy.
- Eat a healthy balanced diet high in protein, fresh produce, fiber and healthy fats during your eating window. Eliminate or significantly reduce empty calories from juice, pop, candy, alcohol, refined sugar and white flour.
- Read nutrition labels and ingredient lists. Avoid food with high fructose corn syrup or sugar as the first ingredient as well as foods that have long lists of artificial ingredients, preservatives, flavors and food coloring.
- Limit artificial zero calorie sugar substitutes. Stevia and monk fruit are excellent natural zero calorie sweetener alternatives.
The information in this column is provided for educational purposes only. Please consult with your healthcare provider about the suitability of intermittent fasting for your specific health situation.
About Dr. Leonard:
Dr. Leonard’s practice focuses on posture and performance using a combination of soft tissue release, adjustments and exercise recommendations. She also coaches patients on nutrition, self-care and body awareness so they can manage themselves in between visits. Los Alamos Chiropractic Center is in the Mary Deal Building on Trinity Drive.