WHAT IS INTERMITTENT FASTING?
Fasting sounds like something you say as a kid when a friend asks why you’re on a skateboard facing down a huge hill, “I’m getting ready to do some fasting! AHHHHHHH!” But as we learn growing up, fasting is a choice to stop eating for a given period; traditional fasts can last for days and call for no caloric intake, allowing only water. And the reasons for fasting have included religious, medical, testing, discipline, mental clarity… the list goes on. But now, people are discovering the overall health benefits of fasting and timed fasting.
Intermittent fasting takes the concept of calorie restriction and basically reschedules it. In and of itself, intermittent fasting is not a diet. It is often mentioned alongside most diets because it can and will help you lose weight in conjunction with a diet plan. A diet is made up of what you eat, intermittent fasting is a schedule by which you eat your food. In actuality, intermittent fasting can accompany any diet, as its real purpose is to shut down calorie intake for portions of the day.
Since we are talking about a low-carb diet, you would plan your daily, low-carb meals, make sure they fit into the macro balance and proper caloric intake for your body and you would restrict your eating to an eight hour window (the actual window can vary in length, but we’ll get into that in the HOW portion). The remaining 16 hours of the day you would drink only fluids and sleep. Many intermittent fasters won’t eat their first bite of food for the day until 12 p.m. and will not eat anything after 8 p.m.
The simple answer to, “what is fasting?” is, it’s a confined window of time in which you eat your entire day’s-worth of calories.
WHY TRY INTERMITTENT FASTING?
Many people have asked why they need to add intermittent fasting to an already restrictive diet like low-carb that’s working so well already. For those who are high revved and losing the fat or who are eating low-carb to maintain a healthy body the answer is that intermittent fasting creates a higher metabolic adaptation of the nutrients you eat and improves muscle growth (1). To add to that, many people report a rejuvenated mental clarity on intermittent fasting and studies have shown that scheduled fasting can lead to a longer life (2).
Another wonderful benefit of intermittent fasting, that low-carb eating promotes as well, is Autophagy. Autophagy is Greek and translates to “eating of one’s self.” That sounds horrifying, but it’s actually a wonderful process that allows our body’s healthy cells to devour and destroy dead, decaying or unhealthy cells. Toxic cells, cancer cells, diseased cells and those cells responsible for aging are all eaten and cleansed by our healthier cells. We do this naturally, but intermittent fasting has been shown to promote this process and make it even more effective.
For all of those reasons alone, intermittent fasting is worth a try, but low-carb diets have a special relationship with intermittent fasting because it helps to shatter weight stalls. Plateaus are pebble in the shoe of a lot of low-carb dieters. Jumping on the low-carb train usually means a weight drop whoosh of 5-10 pounds, giving new low-carb dieters a sense of euphoria that they finally chose the right diet, and they did. But after a month or two, the weight loss stalls and the scale seems stuck on the same number even though the rules have been strictly followed. These stalls in loss occur because our bodies are amazing at adapting and our metabolism slows to adapt to our new way of eating, meaning your body has learned to be as efficient as possible with the calories you’re giving it.
This is where intermittent fasting can swoop in and save the day. Eating within a scheduled window forces your body to rev the action when it gets a full day’s worth of calories in 8 hours, then forces it to up hormones and use fat for the other 16 hours when it’s getting non new calories.
Intermittent fasting benefits:
Breaking weight loss stalls (3)
Cell Autophagy (4)
Revived mental clarity (5)
Improved muscle growth and synthesis (6)
Higher adaptation of nutrients
Longer, healthier life (7, 8, 9)
HOW TO INTERMITTENTLY FAST
1. Find Your Calories and Macros
The first step in trying intermittent fasting is to get your nutritional numbers: the calories based on your height, age, gender, weight and figure out your macro percentages for a low-carb diet. Likely you’ll already know these but just in case, here is a calculator.
2. Figure Out Your Foods
So now you know the ideal amount of calories you should be eating in a day to lose weight. Step two is figuring out exactly what to eat to maintain your caloric intake and the macro balance that keeps carbs low. If you’re having trouble setting up a meal plan, we have low-carb optimized plans with your macros laid out.
3. Set Your Eating Schedule
Once you have your foods laid out and ready you can pick your intermittent fasting window. Most beginners start with the 8 hour eating window mentioned above, and a 16 hour calorie break. We recommend you begin here and get used to fitting your food consumption into that 8 time frame first. As you get used to eating with a time restriction, you can shrink your eating window for an even more effective experience.
Beginners should try 8/16 – or an eight hour eating window and 16 hours of calorie with holding
Once you have the hang of it you can try a 6/18 – or a 6 hour eating window.
Experienced intermittent fasters can go as low as 3/21 where they limit their eating time to only 3 hours.
4. Figure Out When You Want Your Window to Begin
We here at niKETO know that everyone has a busy life these days and no one has the same schedule. You need to figure out the portion of your day that will be best for your 8 hour eating window. Typically you want to place it in the middle of the day. Many people start their window at noon and cut all calorie consumption off at 8 p.m. But people working later shifts need to adjust those times, obviously. Also, it comes down to when and what you like to eat. If you’d rather start eating earlier and don’t mind skipping the dinner hour, you can begin your window at 9 a.m. and end it at 4 p.m. The point is, you need to pick a window you will stick to and that isn’t uncomfortable or too difficult for you to follow.
5. The Add-Ons
Some intermittent fasters will start their fasting journey with a full, 24 hour fast. It’s believed that having a full day without calories will help jump-start your system into your new intermittent fasting regimen. Additionally, some intermittent fasters will schedule 1 day out of the week, every week, to do a full 24 hour fast. The idea behind a day-long fast once a week it to keep your system for getting too used to the schedule, keeping it guessing and never being able to find an efficiency that could potentially slow things down.
No matter how you choose to execute your intermittent fast, you need to remember to drink plenty of water or tea. Water and tea with nothing added are acceptable and encourage during your fasting hours. Fluids will help you feel full and keep you hydrated, staving off any sort of light-headed feelings or stomach cramping. So make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the entire day.
Intermittent fasting is an adjustment since most of us are new to the idea. But you’ll get used to it like anything else. Just go slow into your fast.
(1) Harvie, M. N., Pegington, M., Mattson, M. P., Frystyk, J., Dillon, B., Evans, G., … Howell, A. (2011). The effects of intermittent or continuous energy restriction on weight loss and metabolic disease risk markers: a randomized trial in young overweight women. International Journal of Obesity (2005), 35(5), 714–727. https://doi.org/10.1038/ijo.2010.171.
(2) Glick, D., Barth, S., & Macleod, K. F. (2010). Autophagy: cellular and molecular mechanisms. The Journal of Pathology, 221(1), 3–12. https://doi.org/10.1002/path.2697.
(3) Johnstone, A. (2015). Fasting for weight loss: an effective strategy or latest dieting trend? International Journal of Obesity (2005), 39(5), 727–733. https://doi.org/10.1038/ijo.2014.214.
(4) Alirezaei, M., Kemball, C. C., Flynn, C. T., Wood, M. R., Whitton, J. L., & Kiosses, W. B. (2010). Short-term fasting induces profound neuronal autophagy. Autophagy, 6(6), 702–710. https://doi.org/10.4161/auto.6.6.12376.
(5) Lee, J., Duan, W., Long, J. M., Ingram, D. K., & Mattson, M. P. (2000). Dietary restriction increases the number of newly generated neural cells, and induces BDNF expression, in the dentate gyrus of rats. Journal of Molecular Neuroscience: MN, 15(2), 99–108. https://doi.org/10.1385/JMN:15:2:99.
(6) Varady, K. A. (2011). Intermittent versus daily calorie restriction: which diet regimen is more effective for weight loss? Obesity Reviews: An Official Journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 12(7), e593-601. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-789X.2011.00873.x.
(7) Barnosky, A. R., Hoddy, K. K., Unterman, T. G., & Varady, K. A. (2014). Intermittent fasting vs daily calorie restriction for type 2 diabetes prevention: a review of human findings. Translational Research, 164(4), 302–311. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trsl.2014.05.013.
(8) The effects of intermittent energy restriction on indices of cardiometabolic health. (n.d.). Retrieved September 24, 2018, from https://ibimapublishing.com/articles/ENDO/2014/459119/.
(9) Longo, V. D., & Mattson, M. P. (2014). Fasting: molecular mechanisms and clinical applications. Cell Metabolism, 19(2), 181–192. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2013.12.008.