Intermittent fasting (IF) involves skipping an occasional meal or adjusting when we eat most of our daily calories. IF maximizes fat loss – perfect for low carb and keto diets.
- Flexible fasting plan
- Adding exercise to your fast
- How to decide if you should fast
- Major benefits of IF and a few warnings
Fasting isn’t new. Humans experienced irregular meal schedules long before grocery stores and food preservation made three meals a day possible. Early humans ate to a point of satiety whenever food was available. They had a strategy.
Simply put, IF is an irregular meal schedule. During fasting, your body responds to the stress of calorie changes – becoming stronger and healthier after the fast.
During IF, low carbers have two huge advantages:
- Stable blood sugar levels stave off hunger for hours.
- Ketosis maximizes fat loss during the fast.
Intermittent Fasting is Easy
Being on a low carb diet makes intermittent fasting relatively easy:
When eating low carb foods, your energy levels don’t spike and crash with every meal, so you shouldn’t experience mental fogginess or feel overly exhausted during a fast.
Instead, meals will give a satisfying energy boost.
Flexible Fasting Plan
Practicing intermittent fasting means incorporating regular periods of fasting into your everyday meal schedule.
The IF Schedule
Some people fast for a 24 hour period once or twice a week.
Others try shorter but more frequent fasts by restricting their daily caloric intake to a window of four to eight hours.
What to Drink
Drink zero-calorie liquids during the fasting hours to boost energy levels and prevent dehydration.
Coffee and very strong tea falls into this category. Zero calorie energy drinks and soft drinks DO NOT.
Adjusting Your Fast for Exercise
Intermittent fasting improves athletic performance – as long as you limit the amount of time you spend fasting.
Extended periods of fasting are not usually recommended if you are exercising intensely.
There are, however, techniques for fasting and exercising that can produce dramatic results.
Low to Medium Intensity, Endurance Exercise
The benefits of fasting for endurance athletes come from a two-part approach: training during a fasted state, and competing during a fed state.
Training during a fast improves performance by forcing the body to adjust to lowered glycogen stores.
This adjustment results in the body using glycogen more efficiently.
Training while fasting also stresses the metabolism and the muscles, forcing the body to compensate.
As a result, the muscles become stronger.
This sets up a huge boost when competing in the fed state– the body now maximizes it’s pre-workout fuel.
High Intensity, Short Duration Exercise
Short-term fasting is also beneficial for power training.
Intermittent fasts lasting less than 24 hours will not cause muscle loss or prompt your body to enter starvation mode as long as you consume adequate calories and protein when you are eating.
If you’re eating 1,500 calories per day, a typical (easy) fasting schedule might include a 300-500 calorie breakfast, followed by an all-day fast.
Eat all remaining daily calories during a healthy, late meal.
Weightlifting while fasting offers even more advantages.
During a fast, the body uses protein more efficiently, giving a boost to muscle growth.
Eat lean, healthy proteins to gain lean mass without adding fat.
Benefits of Fasting
Deliberate intermittent fasting is a powerful weight loss tool.
Fasting involves restricting calories and reduces hunger.
Many people feel a reduction in hunger while fasting, and a feeling of accomplishment when they end the fast with a healthy, satisfying meal.
While fasting, there is less calorie counting, less fixation on eating meals and less opportunity for overeating.
Hormonal changes involved in fasting also promote weight loss, even if you don’t restrict your daily calories.
Fasting lowers levels of the hormone insulin, releasing more stored body fat.
Fasting increases catecholamines, hormones that cause the body to use energy at a faster rate.
This makes fasting a particularly useful tool for dieters, since it promotes the loss of fat specifically, allowing you to keep your muscle mass.
The body responds to the stress of fasting in remarkable ways that promote health and longevity. Fasting helps fight disease.
Cells experience the stress of the fast and go into a type of survival mode, giving them an increased resistance and advantage over unhealthy cells.
Regular fasting decreases low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol. It’s also thought that fasting may improve the way your body metabolizes sugar.
This reduces your risk of gaining weight and developing diabetes, the two greatest risk factors for heart disease.
Medical professionals associate the effects of aging with this type of stress.
Fasting helps the cells reduce these oxidized proteins and allow the cells to work in a healthier way.
Increased Brain Function and Cell Repair
Fasting increases the brain cells’ ability to repair themselves, purge toxins and eliminate waste material.
Fasting encourages the body to release more of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).
These proteins support healthy brain function and prevent degenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.
Restore Your Natural Rhythm
Intermittent fasting helps stabilize circadian rhythms.
Circadian rhythms are more strongly tied to eating patterns than to light exposure.
Planning a fast on your trip helps beat jet lag by resetting your internal clock to the new time zone.
Should You Try Fasting?
Most healthy adults on a low carb diet should have no trouble with an occasional, intermittent fast.
But before adding IF to your routine, make sure your body has fully adjusted to eating low carb.
This amount of time is different for everyone. Fasting is not recommended for unstable conditions.
You should not feel sick, dizzy, or inexplicably exhausted during a fast.
If you do experience these symptoms, have a small snack, or adjust your fasting hours to include a light breakfast of 100-300 calories.
Adjust Before You Try IF
Allow yourself to adjust to the low carb food changes in your diet.
Work on getting enough sleep and reducing chronic stress if possible. Then consider adding intermittent fasting to your routine.
Fasting stresses the body, so it can do more harm than good if you’re already under any kind of chronic stress.
When Fasting is a No-No
Consider postponing the fast if you are experiencing any of the following:
- fatigue or feeling very sleep-deprived
- suffering the physical effects of training too hard
- chronic lifestyle stress from family or work issues
- are leptin resistant
- having blood sugar problems
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