Always on the alert for natural solutions to health and well-being, I was excited to explore the trendy eating philosophy, intermittent fasting (IF). In my efforts to maintain a healthy weight, I have tried many diets and trends, including: low-fat, no carbohydrates, calorie restriction, paleo, juice fasting, a raw food diet, and many others.
Before jumping in and giving intermittent fasting a try, I sat down with an expert to talk about intermittent fasting, so I can make an educated decision for my body.
Linzi Martinez, CPT, NT, is the host of the television series, Happy Healthy Stronger and has been helping clients transform their bodies for her entire career as a fitness and nutrition expert. The following is my conversation with her.
Debra: In your opinion, why would someone consider IF as part of their wellbeing strategy?
Linzi: Research is demonstrating more concretely what makes our bodies healthy and what tends to set us back. One of the biggest culprits in poor health is insulin overload. When we eat we provide our body with glucose. Our cells require energy to function and glucose (a small, simple sugar) serves as a fuel for energy production. Our challenge is, we are intaking too many sugars and as our bodies attempt to manage the excess, we produce insulin, which is a fat storing hormone. Continuous insulin overload can lead to insulin resistance and wreak havoc on your body. Intermittent fasting is not caloric restriction, but rather a change in the timing of eating.
Debra: Share with us the basic process of doing IF.
Linzi: Most people tend to eat around five times each day: breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, and a snack before bed. Here are some rules regarding changing your eating frequency with intermittent fasting. First, eliminate snacks in-between meals. To stay satiated, eat more healthy fats within meals. Second, adhere to an eating schedule of 16:8, meaning all your food will be consumed within an eight-hour block and then you will not eat anything for 16 hours. This sounds extreme but can be quite manageable. For example, you would not eat breakfast and your first meal would be around noon. Your last meal would be consumed around eight o’clock in the evening. You are sleeping during the main part of the fast making it easier. Third, once comfortable with three meals consumed within an eight-hour period, some begin adhering to a 20:4 program. This is more extreme and might take months to do effectively. It isn’t necessary to go to this level.
Debra: What are the main benefits of intermittent fasting?
Linzi: First, when you eat, you store energy in the form of glycogen. When your body enters a fasting state your existing glycogen levels deplete. With fasting, your glycogen levels deplete stimulating fat to be released from fat cells. This released fat is then utilized for energy. Also, when you fast, your body naturally initiates cellular repair processes, such as removing waste material from cells. Hormone levels change, making stored body fat more accessible to burn for fuel. Insulin levels drop, which also aids in fat burning. As human growth hormone production increases, the body also begins to improve with the ability to gain muscle and recover from workouts better. Studies have shown that human growth hormone can also rejuvenate the skin. Adding in training in the morning, while fasting, can greatly assist fat burning efforts, but be patient – it may take your body a while to get used to burning fat as fuel. It is very accustomed to using food energy for that function.
Debra: Is it also important to choose what to eat during the eating phase?
Linzi: Your main goal will be to choose foods that do not spike your insulin levels. Here are some guidelines to follow. Eliminate almost all sugars, including eating anything white, like sugars and breads. Stay alert for hidden sugars in foods like yogurts and certain fruits. Avoid combining your proteins with sugar. For example, do not eat breaded chicken. It is better to have more fat with your proteins to keep insulin levels more stable. Do not overeat proteins. Try to range between three to six ounces per meal. Eliminate any foods with MSG, as it can spike insulin levels by 200 percent. Try to adhere to the three-meal plan, as eating too frequently will spike insulin. With the above in mind, here is my recommend plan. You should first eat the vegetables – such as a large salad. Then, eat proteins and fats like meats, nut butters, avocados, and olives. If still hungry, add in a low glycemic fruit such as berries.
While most people associate IF with weight loss, one surprising benefit is the positive effect it can have on skin. During the fasting phase, as the body works internally to clean and purify – a process called autophagy – this powerful force also addresses damage and dead cells in the skin. As these clear up, the skin looks fresh and younger. If the faster also adheres to a diet low in foods that cause sensitivities during the eating phase, the skin also has the benefit of reacting less to food irritants, resulting in improved appearance and texture. One can expect that the skin will get clearer and bags underneath the eyes will diminish.
If you have considered IF as part of your health plan, you can now begin with more information. As always when making changes to your diet, consider checking with your doctor.