Intermittent Fasting (IF) is a simple but effective strategy to dramatically improve energy levels, cognitive performance and getting more efficient at burning body fat. Doc and I’ve been recommending this practice to clients and using it ourselves for the past year and feel comfortable recommending this practice for you.
Benefits of IF
IF has a number of health benefits, including improved heart health, reduced HgA1C, improved insulin sensitivity, decreased cancer risk, and increased longevity. Here are a few to review.
- IF helps reset your body’s ability to burn fat for fuel-when your body becomes adapted to burning more fat vs. sugar, you will greatly reduce your risk of chronic disease
- IF will help you get efficient at using your own body fat for energy. You will get hungry, but your hunger will be appropriate and over time you will need much less food to satisfy your hunger. You may also notice less cravings for sugar laden foods as your body gets more efficient at using your own body fat for energy.
- IF will improve your body composition (1)
- Normalizes ghrelin levels, also known as “the hunger hormone”
- Promoting human growth hormone (HGH) production: Research has shown fasting can raise HGH by as much as 1,300 percent in women, and 2,000 percent in men,2which plays an important part in health, fitness, and slowing the aging process. HGH is also a fat-burning hormone, which helps explain why fasting is so effective for weight loss
- Reduces oxidative stress:Fasting decreases the accumulation of oxidative radicals in the cell, and thereby prevents oxidative damage to cellular proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids associated with aging and disease.
Our Recommendation-The 16:8 Plan
IF is about as simple as it gets. A 24-hour day is broken up into 2 periods, the eating period and the “fasting” period. You do all of your eating in the (relatively short) eating period. The rest of the day, you eat nothing. That’s it. Most people practice IF with a 6-8 hour eating period, followed by a 16-18 hour fasting period.
Fat, being a slow-burning fuel, allows you to keep going without suffering from the dramatic energy crashes associated with sugar. And, if you’re not hungry… well, then not eating for several hours is no big deal! You can do this every day until your insulin/leptin resistance improves (weight, blood pressure, cholesterol ratios, or diabetes normalizes). Then you continue to do it as often as you need to maintain your healthy state. Many people practice this 4- 5 days a week and then take off on the weekends.
Your Body is Like a Prius-
That’s right. Your body can choose between using fat or sugar as a fuel source. Fundamentally, IF is a technique for training your metabolism to use fats as its primary energy source – and do so very efficiently.
When you eat several times throughout a day, your metabolism goes through several cycles of breaking down carbohydrate and turning it into blood sugar, where it will either get used for energy or stored in cells for use later (i.e. as fat). After all the blood sugar is consumed or stored, blood sugar drops,taking your body will use them readily. Consuming significant amounts of short- and medium-chain fats will encourage your body to build up fat-burning metabolic pathways. These include animal fats such as butter and ghee and the use of medium -chain triglycerides like MCT oil.
Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT’s) are a form of saturated fatty acids that have numerous health benefits including better fat loss and improved cognitive function. They are naturally found in coconut oil, which is about 60% MCT’s by volume. MCT’s are easily digested and sent directly to your liver, where they have a thermogenic effect and the ability to positively alter your metabolism.
A final tip to help with hunger– If you are struggling with cravings or hunger towards the end of a fasting period, try using 1 tablespoon of MCT oil alone …or… in 1 C of plain coffee or tea. This will add about 130 calories of fat but will help you feel full and satisfied for another 1-2 hours. The trade-off is that your body will use this fat for energy and will be less active in consuming stored fat from your fat tissue – but this may be worth it to stay in better fat burning mode than to break your fast with eating protein or carbs.
Keep us posted on how you do with IF and list any questions or comments below.
Effects of intermittent fasting on body composition and clinical health markers in humans. Nutr Rev. 2015 Oct;73(10):661-74. doi:
Comparison of Intermittent Fasting Versus Caloric Restriction in Obese Subjects: A Two Year Follow-Up. J Nutr Health Aging. 2017;21(6):681-685. doi: 10.1007/s12603-016-0786-y.