Fasting has been used throughout human history. People fasted during lean food times like winter, war, or on long voyages in search of new lands. Religions all around the world use fasting as penance or as a form of charity, going without to provide for others who are less fortunate. The body actually prefers to be in a fasting state. Once we can get past the Critter Brain telling us we might starve, our brains work better, our energy stays level, our gut works better and we lose the extra weight, we even sleep better. We as humans evolved for long cycles of feast and famine.
Intermittent Fasting (IF) is an eating pattern that cycles between fasting and eating; the most common pattern being 16 hours of fasting and 8 hours of eating. There are other common splits, like 12 and 12 or 20 and 4, chosen for the body’s preference, the seasons, or lifestyle factors. It’s not about calorie reduction, it’s about giving our bodies time to process the nourishment we’ve already ingested.
Don’t put gas in a full tank, it’ll end up in the Jerry can in the trunk.
What kind of nourishment will keep you going? Most diets talk about the balance of macro nutrients, or Macros. It’s a way to understand the different types of fuel we put in our tanks, and how our bodies process them for performance. The three main Macros are Carbs, Protein and Fat.
Carbs: The Quick Fuel
Carbs have been getting a bad reputation lately. Carbs tend to be turned into Glucose once they hit our digestive system. Glucose is sugar, plain and simple sugar. It doesn’t matter which form of sugar enters the body (sugary treats, honey, bananas, bread), it all turns into glucose through digestion. When it enters the bloodstream, it spikes blood sugar levels, signalling the pancreas to release insulin to bring them back to normal.
I have described carbs as cedar shakes being added to a bonfire. They burn hot and fast, and you constantly have to put more on as the fire burns through the fuel really quickly.
Look for high fiber content and whole foods to level out your ride. Green leafy vegetables and beans and lentils will have more nutrients to fuel your body than highly processed “food” like chicken fingers and fries with ketchup. Let’s all agree to cut back on cheap carb snacks and meals, shall we?
Fats: The Long-Haul Fuel
Adding healthy fats to your diet will help balance out your blood sugar levels and keep your energy high all day. When your blood sugar levels are stable and insulin levels aren’t spiking, your body can produce Glucagon and convert stored fat into fuel for your liver.
Healthy fats help make your food more satisfying. Be aware of smoking points of oils; burning fats introduces all sorts of nastiness and won’t help! Look for ways to add avocados, olives, yogurt, cheese, nuts and seeds to your diet. Start picking the full fat version of things like yogurt and ground beef; you’ll find yourself much more satisfied with a smaller meal.
When the liver burns fat to be used as fuel, it creates Ketones. Ketones are more like coal; it can take a while for the body to get the fire going, but once it does, it burns hot, long and slow. This is the basis of the Keto diet.
Proteins: The Power Booster
We have to be careful of the “boosters” in our lives – too little, we don’t get ideal performance. Our bodies will start eating our own muscle to get the protein we need to function. Too much, and our bodies are smart enough to put the excess away for future needs. In today’s world, that future need never comes and it sits on the hips.
Start with cutting back meat portions and scooping up more vegetable dishes. Balance your casseroles, stews and meat loafs with shredded vegetables or beans to replace some of the meat.
A common misconception with low carb diets is that you can eat all the bacon you want. Finding the right balance of protein – how much to eat, when to eat it, plant vs animal sources – is a journey for each person. We’re all different, and there is no magical number that works for everyone.
Now that you’re fueled, how do you get started with Intermittent Fasting?
When we nourish our bodies properly, we don’t need to spend so much time and effort dealing with energy crashes. On the other hand, it’s hard to change our habits. So how did I get past the hunger pains before bed, and start exercising on an empty stomach during my fasts?
Tune in next week, when I’ll walk you through how to get started with Intermittent Fasting, and what to expect if you stick with it.
If you can’t wait that long, sign up for your FREE 45 minute Kick Off Coaching call. We will find what has been holding you back from becoming the best version of yourself. See what’s waiting for you on the other side as I my experiences on Instagram at bigmtncoach.