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Overview Of Intermittent Fasting: Part Three

In part two of this series I talked a lot about the catabolic and anabolic phases the human body goes through daily along with the functions of  the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.

To fully understand how intermittent fasting can provide benefits it’s important to at least have a grasp of these terms. While some individuals will just throw out an article or statement in favor for or in opposition to fasting, I’d rather provide you with the information and let you make your own educated decisions.

My objective is simple…the more you understand about how the human body functions, the better you’ll be able to use your own intuition and instinct to find the right diet and exercise combinations that best fits you.

With that being said, let’s keep digging in.

More after the jump…

More on the benefits of “under feeding” and what happens in your body

As I eluded to in a previous segment in this series, I think the word “fasting” tends to freak some people out. There’s a negative connotation associated with fasting that you’ll hear a lot of nutritionists and physicians talk about.

While long term fasting certainly comes with more than its fair share of negative consequences, it’s important to remember we’re only talking about short-term or intermittent fasting.

There’s certainly nothing unhealthy about fasting so long as you don’t restrict essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients for too long. In fact, there are several reasons backed by science that support occasional under-feeding.

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Let’s look at a few…

Protein efficiency

If you refrain from eating large amounts of protein at arbitrary times, your body will become more efficient at recycling proteins, so when you do eat proteins, it’ll be utilized much more efficiently. In essence your cells can “de-junk” themselves and recycle fragmented chains of amino acids during under-feeding phases.

This is all part of the natural detoxification and cleansing process that occurs at the cellular level during a fasted or semi-fasted state. In simple terms, when you clean out the junk you have a much easier and more efficient means of assimilating and utilizing the good stuff (nutrients) when they’re reintroduced.

The more you bog down the systems of your body with metabolic waste and toxins, the less efficient you are with assimilation. Think about the bodybuilder who comes several hundred grams of protein each day, do you really think they need that much to support lean muscle growth?

While the protein requirements are certainly higher than that of a sedentary individual, there’s little need for the excessive amounts (often 300-500 grams or more) that many of them consume.

Too much is just as counterproductive as not enough. Scores of bodybuilders have learned this lesson, as evident for example by those who have followed the intermittent fasting strategies in Jason Ferruggia’s “Renegade Diet.”

Instead of pounding down proteins and carbs all day long, they’ve been able to make gains in muscle mass through the use of nutrient timing with larger meals primarily after workouts. All lessons in efficiency and assimilation.

The point is intermittent fasting isn’t just a strategy utilized and experimented with by folks looking for anti-aging benefits or fat loss. There’s a lot of success stories coming from bodybuilders and those looking to add muscle as well.

Insulin Sensitivity

Another key benefit that occurs with intermittent fasting is improvement in insulin sensitivity. As you know insulin plays a large role in blood sugar regulation. Many individuals who are overweight have low insulin sensitivity which results in less efficiency of clearing glucose (sugar) from the blood.

The end result is elevated blood sugar levels and circulating insulin as the cells become “insulin resistant.” Left unchecked, the next stop is type II diabetes.

When you go through a short term fasting state, insulin levels drop and the hormone glucagon increases to ensure a steady supply of energy to the body. When glucagon dominates, most of the body’s energy is derived from glycogen (carb) reserves and fat stores.

By refraining from constantly putting your body under the burden of dealing with elevated blood sugar levels, insulin secretion is lowered and over time sensitivity is improved. This is enhanced with regular exercise as well.

Immune system response

More and more research is emerging showing evidence that intermittent fasting and the resulting detoxification helps attack sick cells and pathogens in the body.

Everything from candida in the gastrointestinal tract to cancer cells thrive on sugar and acid environments. Short term fasting helps to lower blood sugar levels and if small amounts of fruits and vegetables are ingested during under-feeding times, the enzymes and probiotics help to break down and clear out foreign invaders, damaged proteins, and unhealthy cells.

Make no mistake, your immune system is naturally boosted during fasting and detoxification. The response is heightened much like when you have a fever. While obviously not to the same degree, immune system response is enhanced none-the-less.

In my opinion, short term fasting or semi-fasting states with fruits and vegetables (or freshly made juices from both), is one of the best ways to restore hormonal balance in the body along with ridding toxins.

What to eat during during an under-feeding or intermittent fasting state

This is where you’ll see opinions differ on the best approaches. Some individuals advocate consuming nothing but water during the intermittent fasting state (after all it is a “fast). There are others, myself included, who believe you don’t necessarily have to omit all food during the detoxification and cleansing phase.

In my opinion, detoxification can be enhanced with the aid of enzymes and phytonutrients found in foods like fruits and vegetables. Raw fruits and vegetables or freshly made juices from raw forms of both can be consumed in moderation during a fasting state.

However, you’ll want to go light especially with the fruits due to the sugars. A bowl of berries, an apple, or a green juice with fruits and vegetables for example could work in your favor during an intermittent fast. Pounding down several servings of fruit may not work to the same benefit. Remember the idea is to under-feed and lower blood sugar levels.

A cup of black coffee and most teas would be permissible as well. Once again, keep in moderation. You don’t want a ton of caffeine jacking up your sympathetic nervous system during a fasting state.

Another option you can consider during the under-feeding or intermittent fasting state is a small amount of high quality whey protein. Keep the amount low (15-20 grams) as not to promote an insulin release.

While some will argue against whey protein during a fasting state, I’ve seen enough evidence that supports the detoxification and immune system benefits of whey protein (through Immunoglobulins -proteins that trigger immunity antigenic activity against pathogens) to deem it permissible. Just make sure to consume a really high quality whey protein powder.

In addition to the above food and drink you may also want to look at incorporating probiotics, enzymes, and a high quality multi-vitamin and mineral support supplement. While not imperative for everyone, you may find these things to be helpful.

What to eat when ending an under-feeding or intermittent fasting state

When you first break a fast or under-feeding phase, it’s imperative that you go slow and consume only easy to digest and assimilate foods first. Think along the lines of fruits, vegetables, salads, eggs, yogurt, cottage cheese, and the like. Now is not the time for a steak and potatoes.

What you do consume will kind of depend on your individual needs and when you end the fasting state. For those who are ending the fasting state after a workout, they may want to do so with a small piece of fruit, like a ripe banana, and a whey protein shake.

If you’re not ending the fasting state after a workout, maybe a garden salad then with lots of veggies, some lean protein like chicken, tuna fish, etc, and olive oil drizzled over top.

To simplify things, you basically want to start with easier to digest foods then progress to heavier proteins and possibly starches with later meals.

Any way you go about it, most people will be better off to “pulse feed” with smaller, more frequent, meals when ending a fasting state than consuming a larger meal. The last thing you want to be doing is overloading your digestive tract all at once.

Be especially mindful with carbohydrate intake. Unless you have really good insulin sensitivity you’ll want to stick with fruits and vegetables immediately upon ending a fasting state, and wait for starches to come at later meals in the evening.

A wrap maybe one thing, but loading up on bread, rice, potatoes, etc, when ending a fast will likely cause insulin to surge and you’ll find yourself lethargic and tired shortly thereafter.

The best approach is to listen to your body. If you feel sluggish or tired after consuming the first few meals after ending your fast, you’ve probably eaten too much or had too many carbs. Scale things back appropriately and go easy.

Once again, each person will be different due to insulin sensitivity, lean body mass, and other factors. Either way you’re best served to err on the side of eating smaller, more frequent servings of food and having your larger meal(s) several hours after ending the fast.

In part four of this series tomorrow, we’ll talk about the most likely culprit to blowing up the benefits of an intermittent fasting strategy….dinner and your meals and snacks at night.

A lot of IF plans make it sound like you can eat anything you want and all you want at dinner and things will be just fine. As you can imagine it’s not that simple. If that were the case everyone could just skip breakfast and lunch and mow down at Carrabba’s for dinner.

A lot of people are already doing some version of that and it sure as heck ain’t working so hot for them. Intermittent fasting isn’t about just skipping meals and then eating whatever you want at dinner.

The genetically blessed may be able to get away with 2000 plus calorie meals at a single sitting, but they’ll be in the minority. Sure you’ll be getting the majority of your daily calories in the late afternoon and evening hours, but the numbers and amounts still matter.

More on that in part four.

In the meantime, once again feel free to leave your comments or questions.

Shane Doll is a certified personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts, a Mt. Pleasant personal training studio that specializes in Charleston weight loss and fitness programs for middle age adults who seek a body transformation.

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Category: Fat Loss.