When you hear the word fasting, do you equate it with feeling like crap and starving yourself for a period of time? I’m going to hazard a guess that you fast every single day, and have done for the whole of your life. That time between your last meal and breakfast, is a fast. In case you didn’t break the word down, BREAK – FAST is called that because we break our overnight fast with the first meal of the day. So you are fasting every night, even if you have that nighttime snack attack or somehow manage to eat an all night buffet. The time of fasting and your digestive system and body doing without food is incredibly important, possibly more important than you realize. The term intermittent fasting is a buzzword that I started talking about on TV and radio well over 6 years ago, and now it has become a way of life for myself and many of my colleagues and clients. There are variations of fasting and if not eating for 16 hours isn’t right for you at the moment, don’t fret–there are other ways to allow your body the time to reset itself.
Used for type 2 diabetes, obesity, cancer, weight loss and in particular belly fat which can be a red flag, cognitive, hypothyroid or low thyroid and hormonal issues, and studies show and support so many diseases, this way of eating can really impact. Fasting needn’t be a slog. It’s totally achievable and could help you where a particular diet hasn’t worked for you. So today on EAT THIS with Lianne, Intermittent Fasting (IF) – it’s about when to eat, not what to eat. Although I’m going to walk you through that too.
The ability to fast is in our genes. Hundreds of genes to be exact. We were built to survive starvation. We were not designed to eat all day long really as hunter gatherers we would have periods of time of starvation or slim pickings until the next kill or harvest. Our bodies can do this. We can fast. And moving towards fasting for a period of time is actually not that hard to do. It takes some thought, yes, but not that much effort because if you’re not eating, there’s no food to prep! Right?
Who is this intermittent fasting for? Pretty much everyone except pregnant and breastfeeding women, those with a fast metabolism, if you are underweight, have an eating disorder, are under 18 without doctor approval. There are people who can’t get to a 16 hour fast, they just can’t, but can do a 12 hour fast. This is when I say to speak with your doctor first depending on where you are at.
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want to feel more clear-headed, more focused, and have more energy. Am I right? There are traditions of fasting in many religions and often they bring on a tremendous amount of mental clarity. This is when the body runs out of glucose as energy, and burns ketones. The brain LOVES and prefers ketones as energy, which is where the brain fog lifts and you feel clear headed.
Lots of people use IF for losing weight but if you’re happy with your weight, and would like a different fat to muscle ratio–as in leaning out, then Intermittent Fasting can activate your metabolism. Weight loss or not, IF can help you to feel less foggy, more alert and actually more even keeled all day long. Oh yes, and it can help you lose weight, without a doubt. That is likely the number one reason to try it, especially when all else has failed. Remember this is about when you eat, not what you eat.
IF is sometimes called time restricted eating within a time frame or window. Could be 12 hours or it could be more. Fasting can be a day or 36 or 48 hours or a restricted calorie fast that you do for a day, for instance. Like a 500 calorie day once a week. Some people skip meals before a big night or something so you have room for all the incredible food.
The point of fasting is to give the body a break to repair itself. To break down the cells that don’t work well, aren’t producing energy and need to go. It’s like taking out the trash, cleaning out your closet of clothes that don’t fit anymore and making room for new.
The pause or fast from eating food allows the body to clean itself out, your cells can clear out waste, repair, renew and reset.
No matter what the technique is – 12/12, 8/16 or 6/20 the effects are amazing. This time where your body can not work on digestion and is in what’s called the post-absorptive phase, helps stimulate your metabolism, help you lose belly fat, increase your antioxidant enzymes, increases your ability to fight inflammation like we’ve talked about with Julie Daniluk in episode 67, helps to increase bone density and muscle mass, improve cognitive function, helps turn on genes for longevity and anti aging – it is an incredible way of giving your body the space to heal itself and reset. Your body has that capability, no matter what you’re dealing with. As I said earlier, we were not really built to eat all the time. I heard Dr Mark Hyman confirm that we have hundreds of genes that keep us adapted for starvation, but almost no genes to deal with the abundance of food that we eat now which is over 500 calories more than were eaten in the 60s. Times are a changin, but not necessarily for the better.
Ok, so if you’re game, let’s talk about how you’re going to move into this. Even if you’re in fear. Don’t think it’s possible, let’s walk through a few things that you can do to prep and test it out.
First, keep track of when you generally finish eating and when you break your overnight fast. Might be 7, 8 or 9 hours. That’s typical if you get the evening munchies. Next, start to move towards an hour longer, no matter where you are. I often have my clients move to 12 hours over a week or so, and they amaze themselves that they can do it. That 12 hours needs to happen every day once you get there. Sure the odd weekend or whatever is fine, but the gold standard is 12 hours to let your liver finish what it needs to, to give your body to rest, repair and reset. Many of my clients feel great just doing that. Then to get to 16 hours, just move an hour every few days from there until you find your groove. If you finish dinner by 8pm, break the fast at noon.
Some people who don’t or can’t eat breakfast, do this anyway. But they start their day with coffee with milk and sugar. The milk and sugar breaks the fast, not the coffee. During the fasting period, you can have water, herb tea, black tea, water with lemon, but nothing of substance. No sugar or honey, or anything added to it. Giving that time of giving yourself a break.
Breaking the fast with food can happen with whatever you want, but best with real food. If you start eating at 10am, then have breakfast type foods if you want – and not Rice Krispies please. I break my fast with Kid Boost, Alka C and Liposome B Complex. That’s the first thing I have at about 10am. There is nothing in there that your body doesn’t need on a daily basis.
If you’re the hungry type and in fear about trying this, I know many who have doubts, first focus on ditching all the carbs and eat more protein and fat as you’re working through changing the time that you eat. If you’re a carb addict and don’t think you can fast without getting a headache for instance, first write a food diary and see what protein or fat you’re eating. Those evening snacks of popcorn or chocolate are going to make it more difficult to go longer than 7 to 8 hours without food, so start to manipulate your meals to help your blood sugar balance itself with ease.
If you work out in the morning, then your eight hour window of eating will need to start earlier in the morning so you refuel after your workout. Maybe you’ll have a 9-5 eating period and drink water all evening. You can fill yourself up with water during the evening. Everyone is different, so work with your lifestyle and what you have going on. And if one day you eat all the meals, ok! Get back to it the next day.
Have fat and protein when you eat breakfast – protein, good fat, and not having sugar at breakfast is key. As soon as you eat sugar, your whole day is off.
A side note: Fat does not take you out of the fasting state. That’s where the bulletproof craze started. You can sustain the metabolic process of fasting and have coffee with butter and/or MCT oil. Or as Dr B said in episode 53 all about coffee, when you drink black coffee, it’s actually hydrating.
The best thing about this is that you’re changing what you’re doing. Doing the same thing over and over again expecting something different is the definition of insanity, isn’t it?
I know that you’ve got questions – and there are many books out there that can walk you through all of this. Dr Jason Fung, a Canadian expert on this has a program with coaches too if you don’t feel you can do this alone and you’ve got some health issues that you want taken into account.