Maybe you are like me during the holidays… finding myself 5-10 lbs heavier starting the New Year after indulging in festive meals with family, fun adult beverages and a cookie decorating obsession with grandma’s sugar cookie recipe. But if I’m honest, it’s been more and more difficult overall to lose those last 10 lbs since I hit menopause.
While we will attend less parties than usual this year, I want to encourage you to try intermittent fasting to not only lose weight but also to get the benefits of ant-aging and reversal or slowing of disease processes that are already in play.
Intermittent Fasting: the science behind the diet
The 2019 review article from the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that with intermittent fasting there are processes that are activated that go beyond weight loss and reversing insulin resistance, which are health-promoting on their own. They found that the cellular response to repeated intermittent fasting created an adaptive stress response that leads to increased antioxidant activity, DNA repair, cardiac benefits, mitochondrial renewal, autophagy, and down-regulation of inflammation.
What does all of that mean? Intermittent fasting is basically an anti-aging diet. In response to the stress brought on by fasting or calorie restriction, autophagy causes the body’s cells to clean out and eliminate damaged parts which supports optimal cell health preventing cancer, neurodegeneration, cardiac and autoimmune conditions.
A simple way to incorporate Intermittent Fasting
Let’s take a look at the different ways that intermittent fasting can be beneficial for weight loss and anti-aging. It is important to start slowly in order for you body to gradually shift from sugar burning to fat burning over time. If you try to increase your fasting window too fast you may suffer from headaches, hunger, poor sleep and irritability- especially if you have not been following a low-carbohydrate diet.
Also, if you are over 70, are underweight, frail or have a history of an eating disorder, intermittent fasting is not recommended. If you have a chronic health conditions, always check with your doctor if intermittent fasting is right for you.
Intermittent Fasting 4-6 days a week
The easiest way to start IF is with fasting windows and feeding windows:
- Fast 12 hours from 7pm-7am and eat 7am-7pm
- Fast 14 hours from 7pm- 9am and eat 9am-7pm
- Fast 16-18 hours overnight and eat from noon-7pm
- Fast 20 hours overnight and eat from 2pm-7pm
Stages of fasting and fat burning
Dr. Jason Fung, nephrologist and author of the Diabetes Code and Life in the Fasting Lane, talks about the stages of fasting and how it affects key hormones: insulin, cortisol and human growth hormone. When the body is activated by fasting, it is forced to switch its fuel sources. This activates norepinephrine and cortisol which then increases Human Growth Hormone which decreases rapidly as we age. HGH builds muscle, bone, boosts metabolism, burns fat and improves the quality and appearance of the skin.
Stage 1: While you are eating, insulin and glucose are high while you are burning glucose for energy and storing fat.
Stage 2: While sleeping or fasting, insulin and glucose are low and you are getting glucose from stored glycogen in your liver
Stage 3: While on longer fasting periods 12-36 hrs -insulin is low and glucose is low while you burn fat for energy from a process in the liver called gluconeogenesis where ketones are created
You are free to use any diet while intermittent fasting but if your goal is to lose weight and reverse insulin resistance, Dr. Fung recommends a low-carbohydrate and high healthy fat approach (LCHF) similar to a ketogenic diet during your eating windows. This way of eating will also avoid those ‘hangry’ meltdowns, sugar cravings and improve your metabolic flexibility to switch into fat burning easily.
So if you want to find control over your cravings and avoid gaining weight over the holidays, give intermittent fasting a try with all the other benefits an amazing added bonus. You can decide today to start your intermittent fasting lifestyle and by the new year you will be a fat-burning machine!