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What’s the deal with Intermittent Fasting? Part 1

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Sometimes, you eat. Sometimes, you don’t eat.

That pretty much sums up intermittent fasting (IF) right there.

However, we want to educate you as much as we can to help you make a better decision as to whether IF is a good choice for you.

Definitions:

Fasting: is just a fancy word for “not eating”.

Intermittent: is a fancy word for “sometimes”, “occasionally”, or “now and again”.

Energy Restriction: is a fancy word for “eating less”.

Occasionally not eating or in other words, intermittent fasting (IF), might be helpful, for some people.

Additionally, eating less or in other words, intermittent energy restriction (IER), might also be helpful, for some people.

Fasting is a normal part of life

We all fast when we go to sleep. Unless you’re waking up in the middle of the night and raiding the fridge, you’re already doing IF by going without food for around 8 to 12 hours.

Further, humans have gone without food periodically for most of their history, whether that’s because of sleep, scarcity, or spiritually. So, fasting is quite a natural and normal process for us.

While fasting is entirely normal and part of our evolutionary history, it’s not a one-size fit’s all experience.

In addition, we do need to understand the difference between fasting and malnutrition & starvation.

Think about fasting on a timeline

When we eat, our body goes through a process of digestion and absorption, clearing food and nutrients progressively through our gastrointestinal (GI) tract and then our circulation.

Below is a timeline of what the body goes through in a fasted state for 72 hours.

As you can see, it takes the body between 12-48 hours to start using free fatty acids by a process called gluconeogenesis. By 72 hours, the body is almost completely relying on fatty acids released from our adipose (fat) tissue for fuel.

That is what most people want when they undergo IF, to start using “fat” as fuel.

What happens when we fast?

During fasting, many physiological processes change. How much or how significantly this happens, and whether this is helpful or harmful (or has any effect at all), will depend on many factors.

Interestingly, as fasting progresses over days, the balance of fatty acids in circulation shifts from saturated (“bad fat”) to unsaturated fatty acids (“good fat”). 

Having more unsaturated fatty acids in circulation has been associated with slower aging, which means that this may represent a kind of “anti-aging” fatty acid profile.

As represented by the timeline above, our source of fuel during fasting changes from external (food) to internal (glycogen, fatty acids, or, eventually, protein).

Many people worry about “losing muscle” when they fast, but in fact, our bodies prefer not to use protein for fuel until much later in the progression of starvation (we want to avoid this).

Stay tuned next week for part 2 on intermittent fasting!

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