Intermittent Fasting: The Key to Metabolic Unity
The idea of fasting for weight loss, religious reasons, and cleansing the body has been around for centuries. Why does this ‘fad’ continue to keep popping back up over the years? Could there be something more to this than just caloric restriction? Indeed, why do some people actually feel more energy and mental clarity while fasting? The answer to all these questions and more has to do with the way our bodies see and process food.
Because food is so readily available in first world countries, we tend to eat multiple meals and snacks daily. We have programmed our brains, nervous systems, mitochondria, and digestive systems to expect a fairly routine flow of nutrients all day long. The problem is our physiology hasn’t yet caught up to our technology in terms of agriculture, industry, and the continual availability of food. Our bodies were meant to store nutrients during times of excess or increased availability. The storage of these nutrients in the form of fat is a process that occurs readily when we eat multiple meals and snacks daily. However, because a period of ‘famine’ never occurs, our mitochondria (the power plants of your cells) get used to simply burning sugar as the primary source of fuel due to the continual intake. In essence, the cells forget how to utilize or burn fat and instead just continue to store excess nutrients while waiting for that eventual famine to occur.
Excess nutrient availability forces the mitochondria to produce increasing amounts of free radicals. Free radicals have been shown to promote everything from inflammation and tissue damage to speeding up the aging process.”
The problem of persistent nutrient storage doesn’t only lead to weight gain. Many biological processes of the body are tied to insulin levels and thus blood sugar. When blood sugar levels remain high due to intake, our immune systems, our cells’ ability to repair, and our hormonal or endocrine system, all remain in a state of disarray. Some studies even suggest this may be an underlying cause for increasing rates of chronic disease and cancer. The excess nutrient availability forces the mitochondria to produce increasing amounts of free radicals. Free radicals have been shown to promote everything from inflammation and tissue damage to speeding up the aging process.
The good news is this can be turned around rather easily with a little determination and changes in your eating habits. Fasting for a period of 18 hours already starts the process of reversing the mitochondrial mayhem. This means eating a sensible dinner with plenty of veggies, a little lean protein (the size of your fist or less), and possibly a piece of fruit for dessert. More importantly, you then want to push back or even skip breakfast. Thus, if you eat dinner at 6pm and don’t put anything solid in the tank until noon the next day, you’ll have completed an 18 hour fast.
Studies have shown how metabolism is actually 10% higher at the end of fasting than the beginning. As the body begins to burn fat as fuel, more fat is converted to ketones via the liver. These ketones can increase mental clarity and provide energy for muscle and brain cells. This is why many experience a sense of euphoria and clarity after fasting.”
For some people, this may seem a little daunting at first… particularly for those used to snacking between dinner and bedtime. In reality, these are the exact individuals that have the most to gain from this habit. Once the body, cells, and mitochondria begin to adjust to a lower blood sugar, you will begin to burn fat rather than sugar for fuel. This is where the ‘metabolic magic’ begins to occur as your system starts to operate as it was supposed to. Indeed, studies have shown how metabolism is actually 10% higher at the end of fasting than the beginning.
Your cells are quite literally made to burn fat and they do so with wonderful efficiency when given the opportunity. In fact, the process can be slowly increased for even better results by gradually increasing the duration of the fast to 20 hours or even a multi-day fast. As the body begins to burn fat as fuel, more fat is converted to ketones via the liver. These ketones can increase mental clarity and provide energy for muscle and brain cells. This is why many experience a sense of euphoria and clarity after fasting. The ability for your cells to remove waste, known as autophagy, is also dramatically increased. This means your cells, tissues, and organs are better able to remove the buildup of daily debris thus making the entire body a far more efficient machine.
Fat in the form of avocado oil, coconut oil, MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) Oil, or even butter is sufficient to restore energy levels without stopping the fasting process.”
Now, clearly fasting isn’t for everyone. Those with eating disorders, pregnant women, and children should exercise extreme caution and elicit the help of a medical professional. Others with adrenal, thyroid, or insulin issues (diabetes) will require medical supervision particularly if taking medication that could be impacted by fasting. The production of ketones is a normal adaptation of the body to decreased blood sugar levels.
However, in a person with diabetes this can result in ketoacidosis, a life-threatening condition, and thus such individuals need to be carefully monitored. Even without such insulin challenges, some individuals may first notice fatigue when they attempt a prolonged fast. The addition of a little fat into the regimen should help you quickly bounce back. Be careful not to ingest sugar (or carbohydrate that quickly breaks down into sugar) or you will stop the metabolic benefit. Fat in the form of avocado oil, coconut oil, MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) Oil, or even butter is sufficient to restore energy levels without stopping the fasting process.
Water is absolutely critical during the fasting process to ensure that excess cellular waste is removed from the body and to provide some sense of satiety. Coffee, herbal tea and other drinks without sugar (no fruit juice, milk, or sweeteners) are acceptable to help get you through your fast. The trick is to start slowly and increase the duration of your fast until you reach an acceptable level of comfort while still getting results. The duration will vary for everyone depending on your current health, your dietary intake, your goals, and of course… your determination.
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