Hormone Replacement Therapy: What You Need To Know
April 27, 2019
A Revolutionary Approach To Erectile Dysfunction
December 4, 2017
10 Signs of High Blood Sugar
June 4, 2019
February 26, 2014
By Dr. Maiko Ochi, N.D., L. Ac.
For a long time now, I’ve been interested in different diets and am constantly using myself as a human guinea pig to study their effects. I’ve tried almost every diet out there, from low carb to fresh juicing to food combining to Paleo. My current fascination is with intermittent fasting, or IF for those in the know, which upon first glance seems to be contrary to a lot of the medical advice we’ve been given over the years. We’ve been told that fasting is terrible for metabolism and weight loss, and that it can wreak havoc on blood sugar levels. However, the latest research is showing that this is not always the case.
Now, keeping in mind that we aren’t animals and findings from animal studies don’t necessarily translate to be true in humans, there has been some pretty fascinating information from mouse studies. In one experiment, one group of mice was allowed to eat a certain amount of calories within an 8 hour period. The other group of mice had access to the same amount of calories as the first group, but was able to eat throughout a 24 hour period. At the end of the experiment, the mice that could eat throughout the day and night were obese, had developed fatty livers, and had major metabolic issues such as high cholesterol and blood sugar levels. In comparison, the other group of mice who were only allowed an 8 hour feeding time had more lean body mass, better motor control on the exercise wheel, and didn’t develop high blood sugar or inflammation! Did I mention that both groups ate the same amount of calories?!?
So that’s great news for mice, but what about humans? Well, so far the data has been promising. In one study, non-obese people lost an average of 4% of total fat with alternate-day fasting for 22 days. Fasting insulin also decreased. In another study, obese people lost an average of 5.5 pounds and 3% body fat in 8 weeks of alternate-day fasting (they ate 25% of their daily caloric needs on fasting days). Total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and systolic blood pressure decreased. This gives us “food for thought,” pun intended, since for many years we’ve been told that for effective weight loss, we should eat six small meals throughout the day and never skip breakfast in order to keep our metabolism revved up. However, this new evidence suggests that those who followed this advice faithfully and didn’t drop a pound may benefit from IF. It takes 6-8 hours for our bodies to burn through our glycogen stores, after which we start to burn fat. However, if we graze throughout the day, we are constantly replenishing our glycogen stores and never burning body fat.
In addition to weight loss and improving metabolic issues like high cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels, IF can help improve fitness. For example, combining exercise with IF gives better results than either one alone. Both exercise and lack of food stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, which promotes fat burning. You could exercise in the morning on an empty stomach, and then break your fast with a protein-rich meal one half to one hour later. IF can also help increase longevity by increasing secretion of human growth hormone while reducing inflammation, oxidative stress, and expression of IGF-1.
What are some of the benefits of intermittent fasting?
Better mitochondrial function (which translates into better energy)
Increases capacity to resist stress by up-regulating certain genes
Promotes secretion of human growth hormone, which is associated with fat burning, muscle building, and better aging
Reduces expression of IGF-1, which slows down the aging process
Decreases inflammation and oxidative stress, which means less aging and chronic disease
So how do you do you do it? The beauty of IF is that there is no one way to do it. You can do a 16-, 20, or 24-hour fast 1 to 2 times per week, or you could fast every other day. You could restrict eating within a 6 to 8 hour window during the day. You could skip breakfast and exercise in the morning on an empty stomach, delay eating until lunchtime, and then finish off with an early dinner. If you’re aiming for weight loss, remember that it takes 6 to 8 hours of fasting for our bodies to burn through our glycogen stores, after which we start to burn fat. Also, it takes several weeks of IF for your body to switch over to a fat-burning state rather than a carbohydrate-burning one, so be patient.
Now, some caveats … If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or have blood sugar issues such as hypoglycemia or diabetes, IF may not be for you. It is also important to pay attention to the quality of the food you eat while you are fasting. Eating processed food or refined carbohydrates with artificial ingredients will counteract the benefits of IF. What I’ve been doing is eating an early dinner and then delaying breakfast. I do “cheat” a little by having coffee in the morning with 1 to 2 tablespoons of coconut oil or grass-fed butter to satiate hunger, yet still stay in a fat-burning state. Throughout the day, I try to avoid grains and concentrate on eating mostly vegetables with protein and healthy fats.
Ultimately, there is no one diet that is going to work for everyone. For example, although we think of a diet high in fiber as a good thing, it can actually be your enemy if you have certain gastrointestinal conditions. Likewise, IF is not going to be beneficial for everyone. However, if you are healthy overall and would like to lose a few pounds, improve fitness, or increase longevity, give it a try!