It’s been hailed by some recently as the gold standard approach to weight loss. Some claim it can reduce chronic disease risk and extend longevity.
The idea is fairly simple: these diets claim that you should fast during a certain period (i.e. one or more days of the week, or during a specific window every day) while eating normally during another period.
One version of this diet says that you should fast for two days out of the week and eat normally for five days out of the week. Another version is where you fast for 18 hours (i.e. from 6pm to 12pm the next day) and feast for 6 hours (i.e. from 12pm to 6pm).
Now, there seems to be ample research to support the safety and efficacy of intermittent fasting and fasting in general with regard to fat loss, reducing inflammation, cognitive benefits, resetting appetite, and more.
The point of this article is to provide a different perspective on this popular diet topic, however, I want to be clear that whatever diet you choose if it works for you, more power to you. If you have or are currently seeing results with intermittent fasting, great! If you are happy, feel great, and are experiencing benefits then keep doing what you’re doing.
The purpose of this article is to suggest a few alternatives should this diet not be appropriate for you.
Now, let’s discuss fasting further. Fasting may help a person get in touch with their natural sense of hunger (also known as homeostatic hunger). When you fast, you feel hunger pangs you wouldn’t ordinarily feel when you eat normally. This sensitizes you to the feeling of hunger generally speaking. When a person becomes more aware of true hunger, they become less sensitive to emotional and social cues that stimulate eating (also known as hedonic hunger).
There is some evidence to support the diet but it must be noted that it does rely upon studies which lack a randomized population and control groups. In fact, not one randomized controlled trial has been published to date according to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Again, that doesn’t mean the diet isn’t effective, it just means the typical gold standard form of research hasn’t been done, yet.
Things to be Cautious of with Fasting
Intermittent fasting diets may encourage regular physical activity on the fasting days. Keeping up with regular activity despite the lowered calorie intake may put you at risk for low blood sugar, dehydration, injury, and compromised immune function. You have to make sure to pay attention to your body and adjust your overall calorie intact and activity as needed.
Fasting can also be inappropriate for certain subpopulations. These include women (since women tend to be more sensitive to negative energy balances), people with type 1 diabetes, those with a history of disordered eating, and people who take prescription medication.
Also, fasting can be beneficial for certain medical conditions. However, this kind of fasting should be closely monitored by a physician.
With fasting, it is possible for some peoples’ metabolics to not be in the condition to handle it and will therefore crash before being able to reach the benefits of the diet. If this is the case, another option may be to focus on optimizing the fasting during sleep.
So try and develop a “kitchen closed” rule where you take your last bite of food about two hours before bedtime. This is important for two reasons.
First, you are inactive towards the later evening. This means you will likely not immediately burn off the calories you consume then. Also, you may feel more refreshed and alert the next morning. This is because your body didn’t have to overwork itself by digesting the snack overnight.
The other tricky part with fasting is to make sure you eat enough quality, nutrient-dense food during the feasting period.
To maximize the benefits of this diet, I recommend a Weston A. Price style diet in conjunction (or as an alternative). This type of diet consists of eating primarily pasture raised sources of animal fats and proteins (i.e. grass fed butter, raw whole milk, pasture raised eggs, grass fed beef, duck fat, etc). The diet isn’t all carnivorous though, it integrates many plants and natural carbohydrates.
To give you a little background on Weston A. Price, he was a dentist by trade that traveled the world studying traditional diets. What he discovered was astounding. Many indigenous peoples, without access to modern technology or dentistry, had perfectly straight teeth, no wisdom teeth that had to be pulled, no heart disease, and virtually optimal health. When he studied their diets he found that they of course varied based on what they had access to, but here were the common denominators:
- Their diets were high in animal-based Vitamins A & D (such as cod liver oil)
- They ate a large amount of animal products, and none were vegetarian or vegan
- They did not consume refined carbohydrates or packaged goods – they only ate REAL FOOD
What was most interesting about Weston’s philosophies was how he treated his dental patients. He realized these specific foods were so high in critical nutrients which his patients were missing, that were ultimately leading to their tooth decay as well as their health decay. They didn’t actually have to completely change their current diets. Instead, he found he could achieve results by having them integrate the following on top of what they were already eating into their daily diets:
- 3/4 tsp cod liver oil and butter oil in a small amount of orange juice
- A stew with green vegetables, carrots, meat, and bone marrow. These would be rotated with organ meats and fish chowder.
- Fruit, that has been slightly cooked
- Rolls made from freshly ground wheat with natural butter
- Two glasses of whole raw milk
After eating all of the above in addition to whatever else the patients wanted, they were allowed to go back for seconds or thirds if they were still hungry. With this diet, Weston helped improve their oral health as well as some of them lose weight and optimize their overall health.
I like this type of diet in general because it is more inclusive rather than exclusive (many diets tend to become exclusion diets). This style of eating may be most useful for weight loss as well as helping reduce inflammation, prevent blood sugar volatility and cravings, improve gut health, dental health, and longevity.
When dieting, it is important to remain hydrated. You should be drinking enough water to keep all of your vital processes running properly.
Finally, it is important to get a full night’s sleep every night. This will not only keep you alert during the day but will also help keep your vital processes working properly.
In conclusion, intermittent fasting may or may not be the right diet for you. The best approach may be to experiment and find what works best for you, your individual needs, genetics, body type, and goals.
Stay tuned, because in my next article I’m going to share with you a way to biohack strength, pain, flexibility, and more – with exercises that take 30 seconds or less!
To your gains,