Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating that cycles between periods of fasting followed by periods of feasting. Intermittent fasting doesn’t change what you eat; it changes when you eat. That said, intermittent fasting is not a dietary technique— it’s actually a Paleolithic way of eating. Before the time of limitless access to food, our ancestors relied on fat stores and ketone production for fuel during months of famine. Fasting was, at one time, as natural a part of life as breathing.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- My Experience with Intermittent Fasting
- What is Intermittent Fasting?
- Getting Started
- 10 Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
- Risk Factors Associated with IF
- 5 Success Tips for Intermittent Fasting
I’ve always had to work at my weight. Growing up, I noticed my girlfriends could get away with eating all sorts of sugar-laden, processed junk food and not gain a pound while I was lifting all the things, eating all the greens, and still maintaining a wider waistline. WTF?
As I entered my 40s, I could have blamed genetics, hormones, or stress levels for my stubborn weight. But I knew all too well that dietary decisions influence ALL such factors. So instead of playing the blame game, I sacked up and committed to the ketogenic diet.
Keto was an absolute game-changer! My digestion improved, my tummy tightened, and my energy skyrocketed. But I was still battling a ravenous appetite. I tried all the tricks in the book— eating six small meals a day, upping my dietary fat, limiting my workouts— you name it— I just couldn’t wrangle my voracious appetite.
My Experience with Intermittent Fasting
As a woman with a ginormous appetite, you can imagine that when I stumbled upon intermittent fasting, I was like f-that!
Like most, I don’t respond well to calorie restriction or straight-up starvation. Beyond that, the concept contradicted entrenched nutritional beliefs that fasting disrupts metabolic function.
The truth is, I had intermittent fasting all wrong!
Intermittent fasting is not about dieting, calorie restricting, or starving the body of nutrients. In fact, intermittent fasting is not a dietary technique at all— it’s a Paleolithic way of eating. Before the time of limitless access to food, our ancestors relied on fat stores and ketone production for fuel during months of famine.1 Fasting was, at one time, as natural a part of life as breathing.
However, today, the concept of fasting as a primer for optimal health is a tough pill to swallow— and one that may require a bit of myth-busting (but we’ll get to that in a bit).
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a pattern of eating that cycles between periods of fasting followed by periods of feasting.2 Intermittent fasting doesn’t change what you eat— it changes when you eat. The goal of intermittent fasting is to promote autophagy by keeping insulin levels low.3 Therefore, water, coffee, and other calorie-free beverages are allowed during the fast, but no solid foods or calorie-containing drinks are permitted. IF is a broad term that encompasses a variety of expressions. Diet Doctor breaks down intermittent fasting into the following four categories.
4 Types of Intermittent Fasting
1. Time-restricted eating
Any time you go without food for 24 hours or less, you’re technically participating in time-restricted eating.
2. Short-term fasting
Short-term fasting involves going without food for 24-36 hours.
3. Alternate day fasting (ADF)
ADF rotates between a day of fasting followed by a day of eating.
4. Longer-term fasting
Any fast exceeding 36 hours is classified as longer-term fasting.
I’ll provide you with an example of each type within the following section.
The great thing about IF is that getting started is super simple. There are various methods available to you when intermittent fasting. The first thing you’ll want to do is to determine which method appeals most to you. Keep in mind that every strategy can be effective; success really depends on which one best fits your lifestyle.
5 Methods of Intermittent Fasting
1. 16/8 Method
The 16/8 (also known as the Leangains Protocol) is likely the most common method of intermittent fasting. This method is as simple as it reads. It involves a 16-hour window of fasting followed by an 8-hour window of feasting.
Now don’t get all bent out of shape just yet. 8 of those 16 hours are generally spent sleeping. By extending the fast a few hours before and after, you’ll easily hit your 16-hour fast.
16/8 is a great jumping-off point, as it tends to be more approachable (and sustainable) than other methods. Also, as you fine-tune your fasting skills, you may be able to effortlessly tighten that window from 8 to 6 (or even 4).
OMAD stands for “one meal a day.” Yup, that’s it! Breakfast, lunch, or dinner— your choice— but just one it is.
Honestly, in my experience, this method seems to work better for men than it does for women. The reason is that not many women are accustomed to eating massive meals. And to meet your daily nutritional needs with OMAD, you’ll need to seriously pile that plate!
3. Eat, Stop, Eat
This method can be highly effective but also quite challenging for some.
4. Alternate-Day Fasting
Alternate-Day Fasting consists of fasting every other day.
If this method appeals to you— have at it sister! It’s my opinion that this method is best for experienced fasters. Many beginners find this approach unrealistic and largely unsustainable.
5. 3-Day Water Fast
Water fasting has been historically practiced and maintains a lengthy list of documented health benefits.4 According to a study performed by USC scientists at the University of California, fasting for just three days can significantly improve your body’s health.5 Their research, amongst others, suggests that prolonged fasting could be the holy grail of immunity.6
Having completed numerous 3-day water fasts, I can attest to the challenges of giving up food for three whole days. However, I can also vouch for the incredible benefits that follow such a feat.
In my professional opinion, extended fasts are best for the experienced faster. I would suggest focusing on improving metabolic health before taking on an extended fast.
Once you determine which method is best for you, it’s important to discuss some best practices for the refeeding period.
Do I need to keep it keto?
Although you will still reap the benefits of intermittent fasting on a Standard American Diet, following a ketogenic approach will ramp up your results. For one thing, the ketogenic diet works to regulate your hunger hormones and improve your insulin response.7,8 Therefore, practicing keto while implementing intermittent fasting will ease the likelihood of relying on willpower to muscle your way through the fast. Beyond that, fasting is not ideal when you’re super stressed, constantly exhausted, or perpetually craving sugar and refined carbs. Therefore, I’d recommend getting a handle on your diet before experimenting with IF.
Best foods to break a fast
So you’ve made it 16 hours without eating— kudos, my friend— the hard part is over! The question is, what should you eat next?
Ideally, you want to consume nutrient-dense whole foods, such as consciously-sourced protein, healthy fats, and high-fiber vegetables.9
“Avoid carb-loaded meals and sugary drinks as they will cause a blood sugar roller coaster, raising your insulin levels and making you feel even more hungry,” says Amy Shah, M.D. “Additionally, having lots of sugar will make fasting for the next day even harder because your hunger hormones [like ghrelin] will be raised.”
Remember, fasting doesn’t (and shouldn’t) be overly restrictive. The focus of fasting should be on digestive rest. Therefore, when it’s time to eat—EAT! Don’t focus on counting calories. And above all else— don’t let denial and deprivation run the show.
10 Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Although the term intermittent fasting sounds somewhat intimidating. I assure you it’s not nearly as challenging as you’d think (especially once you become fully fat-adapted). Plus, there are some pretty incredible health benefits associated with intermittent fasting.10
1. Accelerates weight loss
Intermittent fasting is like the ultimate weight loss drug. Some would say, duh, if you’re consuming fewer calories throughout the day— you’re gonna lose weight. But the thing is IF doesn’t necessarily mean you’re reducing caloric intake. Regardless of calories consumed, intermittent fasting is so effective at slimming the waistline because it prompts the body into ketosis.
Ketosis is a natural metabolic state in which the body begins feasting on fat stores for fuel. And, if your body is feasting on its fat for fuel— you’re bound to lose weight.11
Here’s the kicker. Fat is an organ within the endocrine system. It functions to fuel and protect us. Therefore, it has become good at hanging onto itself— really good— even when in a state of ketosis.
When paired with the ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting helps prompt the body into ketosis and works to keep it there. In this sense, intermittent fasting is like keto’s secret weapon.
Once your body has shifted into full-on, fat-burning mode, it will be easier for you to fast for up to 18 hours and still feel satiated. And once you’re fasting with ease, your sugar cravings will dissipate, and managing your weight will be MUCH easier!
Keep in mind that weight loss can be slow with IF— especially if your body needs a lot of healing. Weight loss is not the body’s top priority— health is! Therefore, if you’re wondering when the weight loss will kick in, I encourage you to be patient. Your body is busy performing restorative work. The weight loss will come.
2. Promotes longevity
Although intermittent fasting is widely associated with weight loss, losing weight is more of a byproduct of IF rather than the main objective. Until recently, intermittent fasting largely fell under the “eat less, move more” motto. Thanks to Nobel Prize winner Yoshinori Ohsumi (amongst many others) “for his discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy,” we now understand that IF is so much more.
What is Autophagy?
Autophagy is the body’s built-in deep-cleaning system.
Priya Khorana, Ph.D. of Columbia University, explains it as “The body’s way of cleaning out damaged cells, in order to regenerate newer, healthier cells.” 12
This cellular housekeeping is responsible for cleaning, recycling, and upcycling the trillions of cells that make up our body.13 Autophagy is an ongoing process that kicks into high gear in the absence of food.
I’d equate it to trying to deep clean while your toddler is tearing down the house. C’mon mamas; you know what I’m talking about. If you’re constantly cleaning the house with little ones running around, you’re never really getting that deep clean. Fasted atrophy is like clearing out the kids so you can get all up in those grimy spots.
How is autophagy linked to longevity?
According to PubMed Central, “Recent genetic evidence indicates that autophagy has a crucial role in the regulation of animal lifespan. Basal level of autophagic activity is elevated in many longevity paradigms and the activity is required for lifespan extension.” 14
Essentially, autophagy is the body’s cleaning system. As we age, autophagy declines. Alternatively, intermittent fasting increases autophagy; therefore, IF promotes longevity.
3. Increases HGH
Human growth hormone, also known as HGH is a small protein produced by the pituitary gland. HGH is a natural testosterone booster that plays a vital role in cellular growth and regeneration, as well as tissue and organ repair.15
Human growth hormone peaks at puberty and naturally declines as you age. HGH affects proteins which then affect: skin, joints, muscle mass, and hair. This means it helps preserve proteins that make you look youthful. HGH is associated with many health benefits, such as anti-aging, fat burning, and muscle building.16
Health Benefits of HGH
- Fat burning— HGH is one of the main fat-burning hormones in the body.17
- Muscle preserving— Human growth hormone aids the body in building lean body mass.18
- Anti-aging— HGH is the body’s top anti-aging hormone.19
- Protein-sparing— Human growth hormone protects the body from protein loss.20
- Bone building— HGH assists in improving bone density.21
- Collagen boosting— Collagen plays a part in lubricating joints and maintaining healthy skin and hair.22
Best Ways of Producing More HGH
- Fasting— Fasting is perhaps the number one way of helping the body burn fat and retain protein.23
- High-intensity interval training— Performing intense exercise is a great way to spike HGH levels.24
- Sleep— HGH spikes while sleeping and is suppressed while eating (especially carbohydrates).25
- Vitamin D— Getting more sunshine promotes more Vitamin D, thereby producing more HGH.26
- Hypoglycemia— Maintaining low insulin levels (by eating a low-carb, low-sugar diet) stimulates HGH production.27
4. Supports digestion and gut health
You may have heard the gut referred to as the body’s second brain. The reason for this is that the enteric nervous system (relating to the gut) relies on the same type of neurons and neurotransmitters that are found in the central nervous system (relating to the brain).28 The gut is complex, and many factors determine its health. Your microbiome, genetics, environment, diet, and lifestyle all play an important role in digestion and immune support.29 There’s no question that the gut offers direct insight into overall health and vitality. The question is, how does fasting promote a healthier, happier gut?
How Does Fasting Support Gut Health?
- Increases diversity of microbes— High microbe diversity is considered an indicator of a healthy microbiome. Fasting helps to diversify the gut microbiome.30,31
- Increases tolerance to bad bacteria— Antibiotics, poor diet, and chronic stress are just a few factors associated with the production of harmful bacteria (and promotion of poor gut health). Fasting can boost gut health by increasing the body’s tolerance to bad bacteria.32
- Supercharges gut microbes— Fasting promotes microbe efficiency and diversity. 33
What Do Microbes Do for You?
- Aid in fat digestion— Fasting increases bile acids which help to digest fats. Efficient fat digestion promotes enhanced weight loss results.
- Help make butyrate— Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid that plays an important role in digestive system health.34
- Assist in ridding the body of toxins— Toxins are found in virtually everything— our soaps, detergents, candles, food— you name it. Our bodies need all the help they can get when purging toxins.35
5. May protect against cancer
Fasting is an ancient medicinal practice. Throughout history, many renowned physicians have recommended fasting as an integral method of healing and prevention.36 But cancer is super complicated, and there’s still a lot to learn about the mechanisms of apoptosis and cellular proliferation.
That said, a growing body of research supports the possibility of intermittent fasting assisting in cancer prevention and remission.37
How does IF combat cancer?
Believing in the benefits of fasting, I ramped up my practice while battling melanoma. Honestly, I don’t fully attribute my remission to IF alone. However, I believe it played an integral role in my recovery.
Okay, personal testimony is one thing, but what about the science?
First things first— not all cancer is created equal. Considering the human body is composed of trillions of cells, it’s no surprise that there are more than 100 distinct types of cancer.38,39 Cancer is complex— and there’s still a lot to learn. Regardless of its complexity, all forms of cancer share some basic characteristics. According to the National Cancer Institute, “Cancer is the name given to a collection of related diseases. In all types of cancer, some of the body’s cells begin to divide without stopping and spread into surrounding tissues.”
What do Cancer Cells Eat?
Although different forms of cancer vary in behavior and response to treatment, they all share one commonality— to proliferate; cancerous cells must feed. Healthy cells can feast on glucose (sugar and carbs) OR ketones (fat stores). Cancerous cells don’t have this luxury.40 Cancerous cells are dependent on glycolysis— meaning they’re glucose-dependent.41 Cancer cells have not yet evolved to utilize ketones for fuel.42
Dr. Jockers breaks down this process simply by stating, “Cancer cells need glucose to thrive. Carbs turn into glucose, feeding all cells, including cancer cells. Instead of the cells using glucose for energy, they absorb ketones. By cutting the carbohydrates out of your diet, the cancer cells starve.”
How does IF prevent cancer?
It’s widely accepted that a healthy diet intended to reduce weight may also reduce your risk of cancer. Obesity is a known risk factor linked to at least 13 cancers, including breast, colorectal, and pancreatic.43 We’ve already discussed how intermittent fasting directly contributes to weight loss.
Beyond the benefits of weight loss, autophagy negatively affects cancer.
According to the American Association for Cancer Research, “Deregulation of autophagy is linked to susceptibility to various disorders including degenerative diseases, metabolic syndrome, aging, infectious diseases, and cancer.” 44
6. Improves insulin resistance
Nurse Practitioner Cynthia Thurlow reports that the average person eats 17 times a day. 45 17 times! Now, that may seem like an exaggeration, but anytime your putting calories in your mouth (be it one bite or ten), you’re raising blood sugar and putting your body to work.
Eating throughout the day causes insulin to spike continuously. Our body secretes insulin to bring blood sugar down. When insulin is up, you’re not burning fat. That’s one reason why digestive rest is SO important. More importantly, consistently high insulin levels can develop into insulin resistance.
It’s no secret that many modern diseases are due to insulin resistance. Hyperinsulinemia (perpetually high insulin levels) is linked to metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and PCOS.46,47,48,49 And again, hyperinsulinemia makes it very difficult to enter fat-burning.50
7. Boosts immune system
The immune response is a highly complicated process that responds to a myriad of factors, such as thoughts, stress, lifestyle, and nutrition. It’s common knowledge that what we choose to eat impacts our health, but less known are the effects of quantity and timeliness of our consumption.51,52
Consistently over-eating calories can negatively impact immune function. This is because anytime we eat, an inflammatory response occurs. Eating, by nature, is inflammatory. Overeating too often can lead to chronic inflammation. And chronic inflammation suppresses immune function. Digestive rest diminishes inflammation and replenishes the immune system by producing fresh immune cells from bone marrow.53
8. Protects brain function
With Alzheimer’s on the rise, brain health is certainly gaining more attention. Intermittent fasting raises ketone production (specifically beta-hydroxybutyrate). Because of its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, beta-hydroxybutyrate is excellent for brain health.54
Leading Neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter explains, “When our bodies fast, we begin to mobilize glycogen from the liver and the muscles. When our glycogen stores are depleted, our metabolism shifts, and we start to mobilize fat and use it to create ketones, a source of energy that powers the brain differently, helping it to function more efficiently. Beta-HBA, the principal ketone, is a super-fuel that produces ATP energy more efficiently than glucose.
Not only does Beta-HBA protect neuronal cells from toxins associated with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, but it also improves antioxidant function, increases the number of mitochondria, and stimulates the growth of new brain cells.” 55
9. Increases metabolic rate
Although there’s not a substantial amount of research on the effects of intermittent fasting and metabolism. The research does support that short-term fasting can boost metabolism. One study found a 3-day water fast actually increased metabolism by 14%.56,57
This causality is likely linked to fastings ability to improve insulin sensitivity. Insulin is an essential regulator of glucose, lipid, and protein metabolism. Therefore, increased sensitivity to insulin results in a more effective metabolism.58
10. Simplifies life
This may seem obvious, but less eating means fewer trips to the grocery store and less time spent planning and preparing meals. I find eating once or twice a day simplifies my life. I’m spending less time cleaning the kitchen and more time enjoying my family.
Risk Factors Associated with Intermittent Fasting
Although IF has a laundry list of health benefits, there are also some risk factors associated with fasting. I would caution all diabetics and hypoglycemics to tread lightly. The better plan of action would be to avoid any period of calorie restriction until blood sugar and insulin levels are regulated.59
Intermittent fasting is also not advisable if you’re:
- Pregnant or breast-feeding
- Suffering from adrenal fatigue
- Battling Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia
- Malnourished or Underweight
- Under 18 years old
5 Success Tips for Intermittent Fasting
1. Fast Clean
Other than water fasting, clean fasting is the most rigid form of IF. New York Times Best Selling Author Gin Stephens outlines the practice of clean fasting within her book Fast. Feast. Repeat. The concept behind clean fasting is to enhance the effectiveness of IF by keeping insulin levels as low as possible during the fast. The following are three practices for maintaining a clean fast.
Fast Clean Practices
- Avoid food-like flavors— This means flavored teas, electrolytes, pre-workouts, diet soda, flavored water, gum, stevia, or any other calorie-free flavor enhancers are off the table. Even if said food-like flavor doesn’t spike insulin, it still stimulates hunger.
- Avoid external energy— Whether in the form of exogenous ketones, bulletproof coffee, or otherwise, external energy will slow autophagy and stunt the fasting process.
- Avoid protein— Similar to external energy, consuming protein in the form of shakes, bone broth (or otherwise) while fasting will effectively break the fast.
What about coffee or tea?
Black coffee is linked to increased autophagy. The reason for this is that caffeine actually boosts ketone production. And if you can get ketone production up, fasting is much easier.60 Beyond that, the polyphenols in coffee are good for gut bacteria.61
Historically, people often drank tea during fasts. As long as you’re sticking to unflavored varieties, tea is a go while intermittent fasting.
2. One Thing at a Time
If you’re anything like me, you’re the kind of person that invites a good challenge. And not just one challenge, but multiple challenges stacked on top of each other until you’re crouched in a corner ugly crying your face off. Okay, that’s a little dramatic, but you get it. I understand why you’re thinking about tackling keto, CrossFit, and intermittent fasting in one fail swoop. But here’s some seriously unsolicited advice— don’t do it!
Let me caution you in making multiple intense lifestyle changes all at once. For one thing, addressing the quality of your diet before venturing into fasting will make sticking to it much more doable. Additionally, mastering one thing at a time will set you up for long-term sustainability rather than short-term success.
3. Give Yourself a Break
If you feel like you failed your diet— you need to hear this!
- If you did better today than yesterday, congrats— you’re making progress!
- If you slipped up and ate that piece of pie (or the whole damn pie), don’t use it as an excuse to keep eating crap. Tomorrow is a fresh start.
- If you’ve been working hard and haven’t seen the weight fall off just yet— be patient— your body is still healing.
Real talk— sometimes you’re gonna f things up. That’s not a bad thing. Remember, we’re going for metabolic flexibility and increased autophagy. All good things add up. One bad day here and there will not undo all your hard work. Even fasting two times a week can be very beneficial!
4. Personalize your Fast
Some experts get a little orthorexic about fasting, while others promote fasting flexibility. While it’s suggested that a 4-6 hour eating window is the sweet spot for weight loss, light eaters may need 8 hours to meet their nutritional needs, and heavy eaters may feel better with 5. Ultimately, there’s no right or wrong way of fasting. It’s all about experimenting with your body’s needs— the most effective IF plan is the one that works for you.
- Does it fit your lifestyle?
- Does it feel good for you?
- Do you feel full and satisfied while fasting?
If you answered yes to any/all of these questions, you’re on the right track!
5. Take an Electrolyte Supplement
We’ve all heard of the keto flu, right? Many of us know firsthand just how uncomfortable the flu can be. But even if you’re not eating keto, intermittent fasting can cause similar discomforts, such as headaches, dizziness, and sleep disruptions. One of the main reasons for flu-like side effects is electrolyte imbalance.62
Electrolytes are essential minerals— like sodium, calcium, and potassium. These minerals serve to regulate adequate hydration throughout the body. Fasting causes excess excretion of minerals (such as salt) through the urine.63 Taking a high-quality electrolyte supplement such as Superieur (no, I am not an affiliate— I just love their products) can help restore minerals and minimize fasting discomforts.
Isn’t skipping breakfast bad for you?
We’ve all heard it. “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Beyond the suggested energizing effects breakfast has on the body, it’s also thought to set you up for dietary success throughout the day. Over the years, this sort of convoluted information had me forcing down steel-cut oats with sliced banana and fresh OJ to “jumpstart my metabolism.”
For the record, the phrase “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” was first coined in 1917 by the Kellogg brothers.64 What’s more, the “healthy” breakfast I mentioned is equivalent to eating four glazed Dunkin’ Donuts. Oh my!
Rather than setting you up for dietary success, eating breakfast may be setting you up to become hypo-gly-bitchy in the hours to come.
So what you’re saying is, DON’T eat breakfast?
Well, not necessarily.
Is fasting bad for women?
There’s a lot of talk about how women shouldn’t fast. Because of our hormonal complexity, it’s often suggested that women aren’t built for fasting.65
First, you should know that while a substantial amount of research has been conducted reporting the effects of fasting on the human body, few of those studies involved women. Actually, women weren’t even allowed to participate in clinical trials until 1993.66
The truth is, our menstrual cycles do complicate things. For one thing, insulin sensitivity shifts 5-7 days out from your period (during that glorious PMS time). This means your body may require more calories or crave more carbs within that time period. It’s important to pay attention to your body and use your cycle as a barometer. 67
Signs fasting might not be agreeable with you:
- Any significant ongoing change to your menstrual cycle is concerning (too heavy, absent). During the first 1-2 months, this is entirely normal. If things don’t iron out, you may want to take your foot off the gas.
- Diminished sleep quality
- Loss of energy
- Hair is falling out
- Frequently irritable and miserable
If you’re experiencing any of these signs or symptoms, try lightening up on the fasting restrictions. You could do this by adding in some bulletproof coffee during the fast, upping protein intake during the refeeding cycle, or reducing the frequency of fasting.
Although fasting may be a bit more complicated for women, it doesn’t mean fasting is bad for us. Most importantly, be mindful of hormonal fluctuations and over-restrictiveness (especially if you’re within child-bearing years). Make sure you’re eating nutrient-dense foods and have a feasting window long enough to take in sufficient calories (especially with attention to protein).68
Isn’t it better to eat many small meals throughout the day?
Optimal meal frequency is a widely debated topic in the fitness world. You’ve probably heard the advice that eating six small meals throughout the day may help promote weight loss, regulate blood sugar, and boost metabolism.69
The problem is that the research doesn’t fully support these claims. Studies suggest that eating many mini meals throughout the day has no bearing on metabolism.69 As for enhanced weight loss, some research suggests eating more frequently actually increases hunger rather than reduces it.70 Beyond that, eating consistently throughout the day increases insulin levels. Consistently high insulin levels make it difficult for the body to regulate blood sugar.71 According to Prof. Daniela Jakubowicz, “The ‘6M-diet,’ as this is called, has not been effective for sugar control, so diabetics require additional medication and insulin. And insulin injections lead to weight gain, which further increases blood sugar levels,” 72
Do you need to be keto to practice intermittent fasting?
Within my practice, intermittent fasting is regarded as an advanced ketogenic strategy. The reason is, the cleaner your diet, the easier it will be to implement and follow through with intermittent fasting. That’s not to say you can’t succeed with IF while practicing dirty keto or SAD— it just means following through may be more challenging.
Can I work out while fasting?
Sure can! Personally, I feel my workouts are strongest in a fasted state.
Many people are concerned that intermittent fasting causes muscle loss. That’s a valid concern. I work hard to put on lean muscle and would be turned off from fasting if that were the case. The thing is, fasting is anabolic by nature. This means fasting builds muscle tissue and protects proteins. Short-term fasting causes 4x better muscle preservation than being on a low-calorie diet.75,76
That said, I would caution against super lean bodies, especially when it comes to extended fasting. It takes approximately 24 hours of fasting before the body breaks down protein. This means, without fat to lose, you’ve got about one day without food before the body begins eating muscle.77
Should children practice intermittent fasting?
With good reason, research on the effects of fasting on children is quite limited. I can see how one might think— if fasting is good for me— it must be good for my kids. Unfortunately, this may not be the case. Most doctors discourage intermittent fasting for children (at least before puberty).78 Ultimately, your children are your business (unless you’re neglecting or abusing them— in which case, they’re everyone’s business).
Mostly, it’s up to you when, what, and how much your kids consume. If you decide to involve fasting within your child’s dietary regimen, just be sure they’re consuming adequate calories during the refeeding period.
Which hours are best for intermittent fasting?
This all depends on you, my friend. Your schedule. Your appetite. Your lifestyle. I would recommend selecting a time frame that works best for you. And here’s the thing— you don’t have to be militant about it. Occasionally I wake up with one hell of an appetite, so I break the fast early. Just keep in mind that if the feast starts early, so does the fast. Here’s a look at what my window looks like.
Remember, your schedule doesn’t need to mimic mine. What’s most important is that you design a schedule to fit your specific needs. Also— and this is the MOST important piece—sometimes you’re gonna blow it.
Occasionally I’m out late hu-rahing around town, having a glass of wine (or two) and a bite past 7. Who cares! Enjoy your occasional indulgence, and let it go. The worst thing you can do is beat yourself up over falling off schedule. Sleep off the wine and get back on track the following morning.
The Bottom Line
While many attribute its health benefits to “eating less and moving more,” intermittent fasting is SO much more than that. Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating that supports weight loss, cellular repair, and gut health— ultimately IF is a tool to shift focus from diet and deprivation to nourishment and optimal health.
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Helpful IF Resources
Fast, Feast, Repeat by Gin Stephens
Keto Fast by Dr. Joseph Mercola
Life in the Fasting Lane by Dr. Jason Fung
Wellness Mama Podcast Episode 555 on Biohacking Your Hormones and Sleep for Women
Wellness Mama Podcast Episode 455 on The Real Deal About Intermittent Fasting for Women
I’d love to hear all about your journey with intermittent fasting. Feel free to share your story in the comments below.
xo, Coach Katie
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