TO EAT OR NOT TO EAT: AN INTERMITTENT FASTING PRIMER

Dr. Blake Middleton Article Leave a Comment

 

With the holidays upon us, and by request from Coach Jaleen, what a great time to talk about the benefits of fasting and more specifically intermittent fasting. It’s okay, you can finish off that sugar cookie and hot chocolate. You are likely with family and friends obtaining the tremendous health benefits from developing relationships while slurping on that warm mug. So by request and may be not so perfect timing, I have updated the following post I  originally did a couple years ago in order for you to understand the concepts and benefits of fasting.

I’m sure you all have heard the back and forth on whether breakfast is that important. Most say it is a must to achieve weight loss by slowly releasing energy throughout the day and others proclaim skipping this meal will likely lower your total daily calories therefore helping with weight loss. Well, I’ll spoil it now and let you know that like most health questions the answer is….. IT DEPENDS

It’s not about time, it’s about choices. 

How are you spending your choices? -Beverly Adamo

For me, nearly everyday of the week I consume breakfast. It usually consists of one of two meals. On mornings I am not in a rush, I’ll have a few eggs, bacon, avocado, coffee, and water. Most morning though consist of a calorie packed green smoothie consisting of coconut milk, mixed greens, almond butter, avocado, protein, amino acids, and a few frozen berries. This meal usually follows a 60-90 minute morning aerobic workout.

But I have to confess that some mornings I actually skip this “Most Important Meal” to gain even more benefits. The days that I skip are usually ones where I am taking the day off from working out.

On the days I skip breakfast I will go up to 16-18 hours without food before eating normally the rest of the day. I did find this somewhat difficult at first, but realized it becomes much easier after trying a few times. It is okay to start out with shorter periods and building up with time.

I recommend starting at 12 hours of fasting as a minimum. Anyone can easily obtain a 12 hour fast by eating an early dinner and then not having that bedtime snack before crawling into bed. Then in the morning, wait an hour or so before eating and those 12+ hours quickly add up. An example of easily obtaining this is done by having dinner at 5 or 6 pm and then avoid eating until 6 am at the earliest. You see how easy this is. The tough thing is the mindless eating most people do every evening while watching TV, catching up on social media, or reading emails. I combat this urge by drinking a herbal tea or water with added electrolytes. Workouts done later in the evening make this more difficult as fueling afterwards is crucial when training for a race. Maybe eating even later in the morning or incorporating these fasts less often is key for this situation.

This process of delaying or skipping breakfast is one of the most powerful ways to loose weight, especially those last few pounds. Keep reading even if you are happy with your weight because there are way more effects beyond weight loss one can achieve through this process of “Intermittent Fasting”.

Intermittent Fasting

  • Fasting has a number of awesome benefits
    • Improved cardiovascular health, reduced cancer risk, gene repair, and longevity
  • When you are constantly eating or eating to frequently your body is unable to go into repair mode as efficiently
    • Inflammation molecules stay high as processing food is actually a stress on your body
  • Restricting calories overall can enhance weight loss and may increase live span
    • However, lowering our overall calorie intake is not an easy diet to sale and intermittent fasting may be easier to and nearly as beneficial to incorporate
  • Intermittent fasting is just as beneficial and easier to follow
    • This allows restriction of calories on some days/hours and eating normally the other times

Health Benefits

Society is always taken by surprise 

at any new example of common sense- Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • Improves and prevents insulin resistance
    • Body stores glucose/sugar in the liver and muscles with about 8 hours worth of energy
    • The body constantly uses a percentage of glucose and fat to provide energy
      • As time passes with no new food the body begins using more and more fat
      • I could really GEEK out on this process (Let me know if you are interested)
    • Insulin resistance is likely part of the cause of most chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer
    • Fasting allows the body to reset and use stored fat as energy
    • Helps with sugar cravings as the body learns to use stored fat as fuel
  • Increases mitochondrial efficiency (these are where your cells make energy!)
    • Allows cells to generate and use energy (ATP) more efficiently
    • Will allow one to perform longer bouts of exercise/races with less sports drinks/gels
  • Prevents spikes in ghrelin (hormone that triggers hunger) and develops leptin sensitivity (hormone that triggers fullness)
  • Increases production of human growth hormone (HGH) naturally
    • No supplementation needed when one can get a burst by simply fasting
    • Human Growth Hormone is a fat burning hormone and important in health, fitness, and slowing down aging. It was a big fad recently in the supplement industry
  • Improves Cholesterol/lipid profile by decreasing triglycerides
  • Lowers inflammation in the body
    • Decreases free radicals which prevents damage to cells and decreases the need for excessive antioxidant supplements
  •  May also inhibit a pathway that is main cause of the aging process
    • This pathway is know as mtor
  • May even play a role in prevention of dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
    • Some people call these diseases Type 3 Diabetes.

The “How To” on Fasting

  • There are several ways to go about adding fasting into your health regimen
    • In general it involves calorie restriction from every day, every other day, weekly, or even monthly

  • It’s important to calculate your daily calorie needs first
    • This can easily be done by having someone perform a resting metabolic rate. I believe Dave does these.
  • Then one must pick a variation that works with their schedule
    • Intermittent fasting is preferred for people working out most days
    • This is actually the best approach but most difficult
    • Allows energy systems and metabolism to reset periodically
    • Could be fasting 10-16 hours a day and then eating the full amount of daily calories during the other 8-14 hours
    • Another way is to eat normal 5 days a week and then pick 2 days (low activity days) to restrict total calories to about 25% of the normal daily total
    • Every other day fasting is preformed by eating as much as you want every other day and then just 25% of daily needs the other days in one meal (Too tough for me!)
    • A complete zero calorie fast 1-3 days a month (spaced out throughout the month) where one consumes only water
  • Compliance to any of these programs is tough, but as your body learns to use body fat as fuel it becomes much easier

Not For Everyone

  • Certain groups should work closely with a nutritionist/physician if wanting to incorporate.
    • Prone to low blood sugars or hypoglycemia
    • Diabetes (can still preform shorter duration fasts)
    • Chronic stress or adrenal fatigue
    • Pregnant or nursing mothers
    • Women below their ideal weight or with menstruation issues.
  • These groups should be careful due to increased risk of hypoglycemic episodes and altered hormone levels (Thyroid, cortisol, vitamin D synthesis, sex hormones)
  • Focus instead on selecting the best foods for you and increasing overall nutrition

One Step Further

If you want to take your workouts and intermittent fasting to the next level here is similar to what I do. While performing the shorter duration fast (12-16 hours), wake up in the morning and have some water and a little bit of caffeine. The caffeine will facilitate the recruitment of any sugar still being stored in your muscles for use. Simply a small cup of black coffee is sufficient.

Following this, go out and at a aerobic pace and preform anywhere from a 20-90 minute exercise session. This could be a light jog around the neighborhood or an easy spin on your bike trainer. This activity further depletes carbohydrate stores, enhancing the ability to use stored fat as energy. Do not preform any high intensity exercise in this stage as it could cause increased inflammation and more importantly alter hormone levels creating more harm than good.

So Try It Out

If you think you could benefit from taking up this concept of fasting then start incorporating it into your overall training and wellness schedule. Feel free to post any tips, ideas, or alternatives you have come up with as well.

 

To Our Health,

Blake

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