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IF – you could, you should

26/10/2010

IF – Intermittent Fasting

When most people hear the word fast, they think of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Gandhi is considered the “Father” of India; he is commonly referred to as Bapu or Father. Through the very turbulent years of India’s independence, Gandhi led the fight for independence through non-violent or civil disobedience. This involved what we commonly refer to now as sit-ins and marches. Sit-ins are now common place amongst those wanting to strike or protest for a cause. This was a polar opposite from the typical protesting method of rioting and violence. In this respect it was eye opening in the same way as violent protest is eye opening. It was against the norm.

Apart of his protest were long periods of fasting. Like his non-violent protesting, fasting was a way to call attention to his cause. Throughout his life Gandhi had experimented with Vegetarianism and fruitarian diets. But what stuck out to most people? What was viewed predominantly in the motion picture? Fasting.

In many cultures, fasting is considered a cleansing ritual as well as religious rite. A means to cleanse the soul and the gut.

For me, when I think of fasting or emaciation. I think of the concentration camps of World War II.

In today’s society fasting is taboo, frowned upon. Typically when you think of fasting it is paired with anorexia, and starvation diets, purge diets. Pick up any tabloid and there is usually a picture of a celebrity that is rail thin.

Any way you look at the term fasting it will have negative connotations. It wrecks your metabolism; it is starving your body, etc…

I want to address those misconceptions.

From a Wikipedia entry on fasting;

Fasting is primarily the act of willingly abstaining from some or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time. An absolute fast is normally defined as abstinence from all food and liquid for a defined period, usually a single day (24 hours), or several daytime periods. Other fasts may be partial in scope of food and drink, such as restricting only meat. The fast may also be intermittent, spanning an irregular set of days. Fasting practices may preclude sexual and other activities as well as food.

In addressing the complaints, I find no credible study or scientific journal that’s shows conclusive evidence that any type of fasting plays with your metabolism. Like freckles and red hair, you’re born with the metabolism you have. In fact much research suggests the opposite. Caloric restriction may cause reduced risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, immune disorders and insulin resistance. Intermittent fasting may even increase pour life span.

Fasting and our bodies.

The fuel our bodies consume is Glucose. From our brain to our toe nails, our body requires Glucose to live. In other terms it is the wood to our fire.

When we refrain from allowing our body to feed on glucose, the body turns to the liver for glycogen. Glycogen is the form Glucose takes in storage. Glycogenolysis is a process where glycogen is converted into a usable form of fuel. Typically this process will suffice. When there is an absence of glucose, the body will turn to other parts of our body for fuel. Starting in our muscles, it will convert trace amounts glycogen to fuel. Once the body feels this is a waste of time it will switch to fat stores. It will convert fat into Ketone through a process called catabolism. Although Ketones are not a sugar, it can still be used as fuel.

In a recent study on mice, it was shown that fasting every other day and eating double on the non-fasting days can lead to improved insulin and blood sugar control, neuronal resistance to injury and general health indicators.

On the flip side, fasting can be dangerous if the body cannot perform Gluconeogenesis. If the body is not in ketosis, then the brain and vital organs need 800 calories a day to run. If this is lacking, the brain and vital organs are deprived of necessary glucose and can cause damage, in some cases death. Which is why it is imperative to enter and remain in ketosis during a fast.

Ketosis

Ketosis is a state where there are elevated levels of ketone bodies in the blood. Ketone bodies are formed when the liver’s glycogen stores are depleted. During long fasts or physical training sessions, the body starts utilizing fatty acids instead of glucose. Because the brain cannot process fatty acids, the ketone bodies are able to cross the blood-brain barrier.

When a body changes form a high glycemic load to a diet that does not provide the body with sufficient carbohydrate to both replenish glycogen stores and fuel the body. The body goes into several stages to enter into ketosis. The initial stage the brain uses ketones for lipid synthesis. After 48 hours of this process, the brain will start to burn the ketones, in order to utilize the energy from our fat stores. It reserves the glucose only for its absolute last needs, thereby avoiding the depletion of protein stores within the muscles.

Intermittent fasting

I started fasting pretty late in my journey. I had heard a lot about it, but like a lot of people I was still under the impression it would hamper my weight loss, or screw up my metabolism. I know we hear the same thing over and over, eat 6 to 8 small meals a day to keep our metabolism in check and burning.

I grew up like a lot of people, getting the guilt trip if I didn’t clean my plate. I was even pretty damn rude too, “fine, send it to the kid in China then. I still won’t eat it”. I grew up with the three square meal mentality, eat or you’ll waste away, and the hardest to bear, the food pyramid. I want to delve into the dreaded food pyramid in a later post. That subject will take a lot of ranting explaining. Don’t get me wrong; agree to sitting down for some good homemade meals with the family. The problem is the mentality of youth and families today is that we depend on the snack. My kids come home; they immediately need to have their after school snack. That could be an apple; it could be a pop-tart. I still go though my VERY bad habits of snacking at night. If it’s there I am going to eat it, or at least try to. It happens in families all across the nation and world. Little Debbie and all the other cute little cartoon cookies have taken up a place in our lexicon, pantry and mindset. “In a pinch, grab a Snickers”.

Too often we think our stomach is rumbling it needs to be filled. When in reality, 90% of hunger pain is actually thirst. Not to mention, he growling of a stomach is actually the stomach purging itself of the last remnants of the last meal. Coincidently, this is typically 3 to 4 hours after ingestion. Right around the next meal time? Yet, most people think of this as hunger.

Have you ever gone fasting, I bet you have and not even realized it. Fast last anywhere from 4 to 48 hours, sometimes even longer. When you eat dinner, that is usually (should be) around 6 to 7pm. If you are good then you are in bed and asleep by 10pm. Most people wake by 6 or 7am right? That’s roughly 10 to 12 hours fasting. Granted your body is a little preoccupied in sleep and rebuilding. But it is still a fast. It can be done.

What I tend to suggest is to start off slow. Skip a meal here or there. Make sure to ingest plenty of water and tea/coffee. On a busy day, if you are not reminded, could you work through lunch? Have you worked through lunch? You survived I assume? I tend to start my fasting regiment on Monday morning. Fresh off the weekend, since I subscribe to an 80/20 rule, I won’t bash myself for slipping over the weekend. I will “reset” as it were Monday. It was very difficult the first few weeks. (I actually started on a Wednesday typically our busy days for grocery shopping and so on, where I am busy from morning to bedtime) Once I established a routine, where I know it’s coming, it has worked very well. There is a lot of will power involved. I still have a problem of snacking, whether its Paleo snacks (almonds, dried fruit etc…) or machine processed snacks. I still have a problem of eating.

During a recent bout of cold I was finally able to accomplish a true fast. Over 48 hours with no food. It was a very strange sensation after the 24th hour, by the second day I actually felt no hunger at all.

All in all, fasting is not taboo, it isn’t shamed. It should never be confused with emaciation, anorexia etc… You will survive. It is a weight loss tool, that used correctly, is very effective. Whether it does cleanse your body of bad juju? I am not the one to answer to. Does it clear my head (gut) and allow me to better enjoy food, yes. Do I feel any worse when fasting, no. It is of course key to use it correctly. You should never expect immediate results but used in conjunction with the primal way of life you will see very good results.

I have yet to get my family to try a more Primal diet. In a future post I will be challenging you to give it a shot. A 30 day challenge. This would be a good time I suppose. One of the hardest parts of changing your life style is getting others on board. Even more difficult or near impossible? FAMILY. They could be on deaths door, diabetic and morbidly obese. But, trying something new is just another fad. I always tell everyone to try it for thirty days. What’s the worst that will happen? You don’t get to eat the food you love for thirty days. Would COULD go right? Anyways, that’s a future subject.

Toodles for now,

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. 29/10/2010 10:16 am

    I would say that if you have not been able to trim down fast in the past because diets were to restrictive, boring, or you kept plateauing then an eat every other day diet plan or EODD may just be the ticket for you to trim down fast!

    • 29/10/2010 9:52 pm

      I agree, this next month for my 30 day challenge I plane to change this. I will keep the EODD in mind, it sounds to be the right path.

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