An Introduction to Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting or “IF” has been around for five or so years as a boost to weight loss and an overall improver of health. This is especially true when team up with LCHF (and keto) ways of eating. In a nutshell, intermittent fasting helps us become “fat-adapted” more quickly. It improves our body’s ability to shed excess weight, maintain an even blood sugar level, and makes us feel better in the long run.

Here is a very quick, non-technical explanation of why IF is a “thing” in low-carb ways of eating circles. There’s alot of good research that indicates that IF can speed weight loss and generally deliver excellent health benefits. In the next post, I’ll provide a synopsis on how to get started and choose the style of IF that’s right for you –if you decide this is what you’re looking for to supplement your journey to better health.

Constant Snacking Is Not Good

I like my snacks. I’ve avoided IF for years because of my fear of losing snacking privileges. One of the great advantages of going LCHF (or dirty keto) is the fact that one can just swap high carb snacks for low-carb ones and still lose weight. Lots of people do. Stephanie Nyland Laska of Dirty, Lazy Keto fame has gone on record as to not having done anything like IF — and she lost 140 lbs so she has that as her personal experience.

I tried IF in the “early days” — but couldn’t stick with it, though I knew it had real, scientifically founded benefits–and I lost 20 lbs myself on LCHF. But this go-round, since I’m dealing with a much bigger problem of T2 diabetes, I thought it was high time I looked into it again as a way to get back to greater health.

What is IF (Intermittent Fasting)?

Intermittent fasting is a going without food for a period of 12 hours or more, depending on the various “styles” (or “schemes”) to lose weight and advance our general fitness. This article by Diet Doctor explains what IF is and its benefits. 

This post is based on the Diet Doctor’s advice — which I find easiest to understand. It could probably be a little easier, though. When scientists talk in technical terms, I notice people’s eyes glaze over. They don’t get it. So here’s a very non-technical explanation. It’s a little shorter and not nearly as accurate as the Diet Doctor’s or other highly technical discussions on the Internet, but I find that many people do not want the “deep dive” explanation.

How we get fat

When we eat, the body takes the calories we consumes and converts them in to energy we use (in moving around, sitting in a chair, petting the dog, what have you). Carbohydrates get converted quickly and easily into energy for immediate use. Fat can also get converted into energy after the carbs run out. Energy that is not burnt off (either carb or fats) in daily activity gets stored in the liver.

The liver can only hold so much fat and no more. If the liver “tank” is full up, then excess calories are converted into body fat. Losing weight is about getting our bodies to process the body fat, readily and easily, into energy.

Insulin resistance and Diabetes

Science doesn’t fully understand the process of weight loss because individual health issues can get in the way, hampering our body’s ability to burn off body fat. Insulin levels in our blood rises when we eat. Insulin is kind of like a air traffic control tower. It directs the energy from the food we eat straight into the tissues of the body that need immediate energy. Some people develop insulin resistance so that the body doesn’t easily turn the food we eat straight into energy we use. Instead, more of the calories we eat get stored as body fat. Yes, you can eat the very same foods as someone else —and you’ll get fat and that other person won’t–because you have insulin resistance.

If I had known there was a lifetime limit on junk food, I would’ve paced myself.

(What I often think when I’m looking at a pastry counter’s lovely offerings. Sigh.)

If this goes on, the body will begin to produce less and less insulin, so that in time, we get diabetes Type 2. And we get fat –more easily and more quickly than before — because the body begins storing the energy from food (as fat) rather than making it available to our body tissues for energy. Eat too many calories from protein and the body may also begin changing the protein into “sugar” (glucose) and storing it as well. Yikes. This is why everyone is so obsessed with the “macros.”

It takes energy to convert the food we eat into fat. Protein takes the most energy to get converted into glucose (and then into fat). Carbohydrates take the least energy to convert into fat. A low-carb diet pushes the body to convert fat into energy in a preferred way. This is what we mean by being “fat adapted.” When we’re fat-adapted, we lose more weight.

How IF helps get us back our health

Human bodies need a break from constant processing calories.

We usually get that break at night–while we sleep. During the night, our bodies heal up from the stresses and physical issues of the day. That gives us about 8 hours or thereabouts for our bodies to repair themselves–and to BURN OFF FAT. Since we’re not taking in any food, the body turns to the liver and to our body’s stores of fat for the energy it needs to fight off microbes, repair our muscles, and do all the many maintenance tasks we need to stay alive. Put simply, when we fast, we burn body fat. When we eat, things get complicated for the body as it tries to trade off between burning the incoming calories — and burning the body’s stores of fat.

Intermittent fasting is simply extending that time period of going without calories to longer than 8 hours–stretching it to 12 hours or more. This gives our bodies more time to process and burn off our fat stores without throwing in the complication of “what to do” with incoming calories.

IF helps to reduce inflammation, improves our capability to burn fat, lowers cholesterol and increases mental clarity–to name just a few of its many benefits. It also can help to reverse Type 2 diabetes–for me, a great reason to work this into my weekly plan.

A Great Guide to Beginning IF

The Diet Doctor’s blogpost also provide a link to a detailed guide on IF that explains three different styles.

I’ll write and post a short beginning guide to these styles based on this article tomorrow. But here are some highlights to take away with you.

  1. You don’t have to do IF every day to be successful.

Even a few days a week can help. Even just ONE day a week can get you some of the benefits!

2. You can drink water, coffee with no-calorie sweeteners, tea or diet soda and not “break the fast.”

That simplifies matters and doesn’t leave me too hungry.

More soon. And Happy Holidays

Author: Lola

Recovering academic, real-life, honest to cornflakes anthropologist (Ph.D. and fieldwork and everything), tech-head and social media researcher.

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