Intermittent fasting is anything but a new concept. Whether it be for religious reasons, or because of food scarcity humans have fasted for most of history. What is new, is the clinical research on the health and longevity benefits of intermittent fasting.
Articles published out of the Salt Institute in San Diego California state that, ancient hunter-gatherers often ate only intermittently. This suggests that the ability to function at a high level both physically and mentally during extended periods without food may have been crucial in human evolution. The human body may have adapted to perform at its best with intermittent fasting. Animal research suggests that intermittent fasting can fend off or even reverse such illnesses as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and neurodegenerative disorders. Studies suggest that intermittent fasting provides these benefits by allowing the body to better respond to stress that might otherwise damage it. Intermittent fasting helps the body to rejuvenate and repair, thereby promoting overall health.
When we look at the players in chronic disease; inflammation, oxidative stress and insulin resistance are at the top of the list. Not only do these conditions contribute to chronic disease, but also to fatigue, weight gain, pain and lethargy…the top reasons why people come into my office.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Benefit the Brain
Mark Mattson is a neuroscientist at the National Institute of Aging and in 2012 published an essay in the Natures Review of Neuroscience which states that intermittent fasting protects the brain by increasing BDNF. He states that “fasting is a challenge to the nervous system. From an evolutionary standpoint we often had to go extended period of time without food. When your mind is in this state it becomes more active to figure out how to find you food.” His essay goes on to state that while “intermittent fasting increases BDNF, a daily reduction in calories has very little effect.”
What are Human Trials Showing with Respect to Intermittent Fasting?
Human trials on intermittent fasting are beginning to emerge. Michelle Harvie, an obesity researcher from the University of Manchester conducted a study on intermittent fasting and found that the fasting group lost more weight and improved insulin sensitivity over the average diet group or the group on a 15% restricted diet. She has since written a book called the 2 day diet that can be found on Amazon.
Improving insulin sensitivity is another added bonus of intermittent fasting as insulin is the hormone that contributes to belly fat. We know that belly fat is its own endocrine organ that sends out hormonal signals. These hormones make it more difficult for the person to lose weight and also increase their level of inflammation.
Intermittent fasting can kill 2 birds with one stone by reducing insulin and increasing BDNF. Hence why it is a part of the Vibrant Living Brain and Belly Cleanse
AMPK (Adenosine Monophosphate Actiated Protein Kinase)
AMPK is a cell signaling molecule. After a meal your AMPK levels are low and your energy fuel levels are high. AMPK increases as you use that energy, and cells get a mesage to make more mitochondria (energy burning units in the cell). This enhances your ability to burn fat instead of sugar as fuel.
What are 2 factors that have been shown to increase AMPK?
You guessed it exercise and intermittent fasting.
What Does All Of This Mean to Me?
As many of you know, I am all about moderation and lifestyle management. I am not one to encourage FADS, quick fixes or rapid weight loss. I cannot tell you how many times I have the conversation with my patients that they should not lose more than 1lb of fat per week or they are not going to be able to maintain their loss. I am about finding habits and eating plans that people feel they could do forever. When I can help people find that plan, only then do I feel like I have done my job.
At the same time, I recognize that weight loss and FAD diets are a billion dollar industry for a reason. It is only human nature to want to feel like you are making progress, and succeeding.
It has been found that 25% caloric restriction is needed to increase AMPK levels leading to increased mitochondrial function and increased fat burn. For most people, this approach is restrictive and challenging to do for prolonged periods of time. Instead, combined with a balanced, nutrient rich whole food diet and moderate exercise plan, 24 hours of fasting per week will accomplish the same goal.
Over the course of my nutrition journey I can tell you that I have tried many different plans and dietary regimes. I have done the grapefruit fast, soup diet and the master cleanse. While I think that there are benefits to all of these, they are definitely not for everyone. More than that, I don’t feel that for the average person they are beneficial. At this point in our evolutionary journey voluntarily placing your body in starvation mode for prolonged periods of time is not great for maintaining lean muscle mass, thyroid function…or lets face it, in many cases… the relationships with those around you.
Intermittent fasting however is something that people can handle, and see and feel benefits from. In most cases, Intermittent fasting is a great tool that can be used to accelerate weight loss, help manage hunger, helps to regulate hormones like inflammatory hormones and insulin that plague weight loss and upregulate AMPK to enhance fat burn For me it is a win win. Patients get results, and I can provide them with another tool that they can use to manage their health long term.
What Intermittent Fasting Isn’t
Intermittent fasting is not a quick fix that should be used as a compensation for poor lifestyle choices. Good health is not without effort, and there is no pill or magic solution that is going to take the place of consistent healthy habits.
So…I am not telling you that you can go out and eat and drink whatever you want all weekend and then fast and life will be great. What I am saying is that on top of a balanced whole food eating and moderate exercise plan, intermittent fasting is a great way to enhance your hormonal signalling, burn fat and improve your brain function.
How to Do It?
I will never ask any of you to do something that I am not prepared to do myself. While I see the benefits, I personally find it challenging to function on just water alone. I find it hard to think, and have the energy to run after my 3 kids all day. Therefore, I always advocate for doing a pea protein based fast. This type of fast provides the protein to help with maintaining muscle tissue as well as supporting liver detox.
On the cleanse, you are welcome to use a pea protein shake that you have at home, or if you would like to enhance your detox experience you can use your Xymogen OptiGHI shake. Pea protein is very filling, and tastes great so it will keep you nice and fueled for your fast day.
- 1 fast day per week – 24 hours
- Pea Protein – 2 scoops mixed with water for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
- As much water or herbal tea as you would like to drink
- Light Exercise – such as the yoga video that you will be sent for your cleanse
- 1 fast day per week – 24 hours with Vegetables
- If you are new to cleansing – this is a great option to ease your way into the process
- Pea Protein – 2 scoops mixed with water for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
- as many above ground veggies as you would like
- as much water and herbal tea as you would like
- Light Exercise – restorative yoga
- 1 fast day per week – 24 hours with Vegetables and Yogurt
If you are feeling that this is not enough use option 2 plus
- add ½ cup of coconut or almond and cashew yogurt to your breakfast, lunch and/or dinner shake
- OR add 1 Tbsp of coconut oil to your breakfast, lunch and/or dinner shake
- OR add ¼ avocado to your breakfast, lunch and/or shake
- OR add 1Tbsp of nut butter to your breakfast and lunch shake
The added fats will keep you more full, and your blood sugars more stable if you have a tendency towards hypoglycemia.
Note – if you choose this option and try the next time you have an intermittent fasting day that you try to reduce your calories. Maybe the next time you only use a fat for one of your meals instead of 2-3.
As your hormones regulate you should find that it is easier to sustain on less calories.
Ask us at your next appt if you are interested in incorporating this into your wellness plan.