IF (Intermittent Fasting) is exactly what it sounds like – not eating. We’ve had it programmed into our minds for years that in order to be healthy and lose weight we need to be eating small meals often. This will keep your metabolism going and help you lose weight. BS
What controls weight gain? Insulin. What causes an insulin response in the body? Food (along with other things like cortisol but our focus today is food). How do you break that constant insulin response? Stop eating.
When we start our day with food, eat every 2-3 hours, and then end our day with food, all we are doing is giving our bodies a constant supply of insulin. You may think you are giving your body energy but all you’re really doing is making it store fat. Your body can store carbs in the form of glycogen in the liver and muscles. Once those energy sources are depleted your body will tap into your fat stores. Do you know when your body cannot tap into your fat stores? When there is insulin present. So if you spend your day eating every 2-3 hours your body cannot use your fat stores for energy.
We naturally fast over night (that’s where the term breakfast comes from – we are breaking a fast). Often times we will dip into ketosis over night without even trying! What happens when we extend that window of not eating? You most certainly won’t starve yourself. The slowing of the metabolism happens when you reduce calories. Let’s say your body is used to getting 1500 calories a day. You want to lose a few pounds so you drop to 1200. At first your body doesn’t mind so it carries on with its typical caloric output and you drop a few pounds. Soon your body will realize it cannot keep up with this pace and survival instincts kick in. It slows your metabolism so that you caloric output equals your input (1200 calories). You stop losing weight, you’re hungry all the time, you’re cold, and pretty miserable. Keep in mind your body doesn’t count calories – all it knows is you are giving it less food than normal and that is not ok!
This is a tough spot to be in. Perhaps you’ve added exercise as well which actually causes you to be hungrier!! We’ve all been there. You’re following the mainstream advice of eat less move more, and yet it’s not working so what’s the point? You give up and gain back what you lost, and perhaps more.
So why doesn’t IF slow your metabolism if you’re not giving it food? Because when there is no insulin response happening your body can tap into your fat stores. Our bodies are miracles and managed to survive some really harsh times. Would it make sense to our survival if we were able to store fat and then not use it when we needed it? Of course not! You just need the right circumstances to be able to do that. So Fasting is a normal process for humans we just haven’t needed to do it (which is great but it means we are in a fed state all the time which isn’t so great!). Not only can your body use your fat stores for energy but it actually revs up your metabolism so that you can go find some food. It also wouldn’t make sense if after a few hours or a day without food we became so sluggish and tired that we literally couldn’t find food – we would never have survived a single winter!
Autophagy! What the heck is that? It’s so big and important it’s going to get its own blog post. Beyond the weight loss benefits of IF there is autophagy. The word literally means self eating. It’s the process by which cells that aren’t functioning properly anymore are broken down and rebuilt as new cells! Pretty neat huh? Yeah, it deserves its own blog post – stay tuned!
I often hear people say ‘I don’t eat breakfast!’, this is great! But I urge you to look at what you’re putting in your tea or coffee. A bit of creamer is ok, but any sugar is going to break your fast. Steamed milk (in a latte) is going to break your fast.
You may have heard of Bulletproof coffee being something you can have during a fast. Kind of! It’s a mixture of coffee, mct oil, and butter. It’s a pure fat coffee. Fat is the macronutrient that gives the least, if any, insulin response. For a lot of people it can help them get into Fasting. I personally found that mct oil really didn’t make my gut feel good (pretty nauseated actually!) so I never regularly got into it. I have recently come across a butter broth drink that I love. It’s broth, butter, hot sauce, ACV, and salt. It tastes like a buffalo hot wing! The recipe is not mine but was shared by an Admin in the Keto Reset Facebook group. I like to blend it in my vitamix to heat it up. It’s perfect for those days when I’m hungry but don’t feel like a full meal. It’ll keep me full enough to get a longer fast in (like today I’ve hit 21 hours!!). These fatty beverages can be a great tool to help your body adjust to Fasting and experiment with longer fasts.
In my experience starting out with Fasting is best done in baby steps. Push back breakfast a couple of hours, then skip it entirely, and then you could skip breakfast and lunch. This is something that your body is very capable of but hasn’t done regularly so it takes time and patience. It also doesn’t need to be done every day. There are no rules around it – do what works for you and feels good in your body.
I love the freedom that comes from IF! My day doesn’t revolve around meals, I’m not getting hangry every 2-3 hours, I’m not planing 5-6 meals a day, my workouts feel a lot better fasted, and I enjoy simple food so much more when I do eat! Typically I fast 16-18 hours daily (after 9 months of fasting this is now very easy). Weekly I’m aiming for 3 days of a 24 hour fast (Sunday dinner until Monday dinner, Tuesday dinner until Wednesday dinner, and Friday dinner until Saturday dinner – so I don’t eat until dinner on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday). The best part? At any point I can choose to eat. Some days Fasting doesn’t feel good (this can be due to not eating enough previous days, hormones, stress, workout intensity, etc..) so I eat. Listening to your body is a huge part of Fasting. Yes, you will feel some waves of hunger, that’s normal. Headaches, nausea, brain fog, and fatigue can all be signs that something is off. It’s usually just electrolytes (this is where a supplement or salt water comes in handy), but if electrolytes don’t help then it’s time to eat something.
Something to remember with IF is when you do eat you want to eat healthy (I obviously recommend Keto!), and plenty of food. You want to avoid restricting calories because as we’ve learnt that won’t help. So eat big meals until you’re satisfied (and they enjoy a piece of 90% chocolate for dessert 😍) .
I like to think of IF like exercise. It’s a healthy short term stress for your body with long term benefits. We often forget that exercise is a stress for our bodies. It’s a short term stress that helps us be healthier in the long term – Fasting is the same!
Pictured below is the buffalo bone broth!