Intermittent fasting, time restrictive eating, water fasting….woah…these words and types of diets are all the rage right now and it’s hard not to jump on the bandwagon. But people do so without knowing all of the facts. Well
honestly, when it comes to nutrition, I don't think one can ever get all of the facts. If I’ve learned anything about health and nutrition it’s that there is no ‘one way.’ Every body is different and how we react to specific diets etc., is going to be different for every person. That said I have been quietly sitting back, studying and researching the data behind some of these trends right now. I have been experimenting on myself and studying, studying, studying the research. Talking to physicians in the field, and basically keeping my eyes open and my mouth shut for a time. Now however I would like to put in my two cents for my own followers, because there is benefit to the current trends but how you do it is extremely important. AND one should know, these type of regimens are not for long term. They are meant to either jump start a healthy regimen, assist in getting someone back on track from perhaps a poor diet, help those managing obesity and/or diabetes and other such chronic illnesses etc., but NOT as a way of life long term.
The whole idea behind intermittent fasting, fasting mimicking, water fasting etc. is not primarily about losing weight, although that will definitely happen and many people are doing it for that reason specifically. But ultimately, if done properly, these diets encourage our bodies to start ‘cleaning up’ the rogue and damaged cells in our bodies. Kind of like PacMan - by restricting our calories our bodies turn into lean, mean, fighting machines and our immune system basically starts chomping down, cleaning up and eliminating the bad cells in our body (the scientific term is called autophagy). I could go into great detail about how this is done through different nutrient-signaling pathways like the Ras/cAMP/PKA or Tor/S6K pathways, as well as the mitogenic component IGF-I etc. but rather I will leave that to the expert researchers who study this stuff on a daily basis all day long. For the layman, who would like to read more about fasting to regenerate cells and fight disease, I’d highly recommend looking into Dr. Valter Longo’s book The Longevity Diet, as well as his extensive research. Dr. Longo designed the Fasting Mimicking Diet (FMD) and has developed an easy to use 5-day FMD kit called ProLon, which I’ve used both on myself and on a few of my clients.
People use intermittent fasting, aka time restrictive eating, in an attempt to get their bodies into nutritional ketosis. Believing, through intermittent fasting, they have switched their bodies from burning glucose to burning fat for fuel. Essentially this is very hard to do if you are just restricting your feeding time and nothing else. Even if you are restricting your eating for 14-16-18 hours, it is still difficult to do. Per Dr. Longo, it can take an average of 48-72hrs of very restrictive eating to get your body into ketosis, and then it is just getting started. To stay there is not easy. The first time I did ProLon it took my body almost 4 days to transition to burning fat for fuel. 30 days later, when I did my own 5-day food based fasting mimicking diet, it took me 72 hours. Afterwards I stayed in ketosis for maybe 1 1/2 days before I started to pull out of it and begin burning glucose again. Intermittent fasting definitely has its place, but using it and believing you are sitting in nutritional ketosis is misleading.
The thing I find most intriguing about fasting is the idea that, when a cancer patient is receiving chemotherapy, fasting can be protective toward normal healthy cells and tissue, as well as it can reduce some of the potential side effects of chemotherapy.(1) Basically fasting causes changes in glucose, IGF-I, IGFBP-I and other proteins, that protect normal cells but not cancer cells. Dr. Longo calls this idea “differential stress resistance” and in his book he uses the example of a magic shield in a battlefield. I’m paraphrasing here but…on the battlefield (in the body of someone with cancer) there are normal cells holding these magic shields and cancerous cells without. When chemotherapy is injected onto the battlefield the normal cells, through fasting, instantly know to kneel and put up their magic shield, while the cancer cells are clueless and remain standing. The chemotherapy thus attacks the cancer cells but not the normal cells, causing the chemo to be more effective toward the cancer cells while also minimizing chemotherapy’s potential side effects like nausea, vomiting etc. Do you get the picture…?;-) This area of study is truly remarkable and you can bet I’ll be following it like a hawk, perhaps even encouraging some of my cancer clients to join Dr. Longo’s ongoing studies.
All in all there is a place for every one of these diets, but just be clear as to why you are doing them, and please, please do it under the guidance of your doctor. None of these diets should be done long term, as in a type of lifestyle, they are too restrictive in their nutrient density.
As a general guideline here are some of the reasons one might want to try these diets:
*Intermittent Fasting (aka time restricted eating) - wanting to jumpstart a healthy routine, lose weight, reduce inflammation and improve markers such as blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar, wanting to improve clarity, focus, and energy.
*Fasting Mimicking Diet - all of the reasons for intermittent fasting as well as FMD can better activate stem cell regeneration and autophagy, lose visceral fat (belly fat), and better protection from loss of lean muscle mass.
*Water Fast - all of the above reasons as well as, quickest way to get into ketosis, improve cell recycling and hormone signaling, less oxidative stress, and cancer management therapy.
*NOTE: As I mentioned above, if you are considering doing any one of these diets/fasts, please go see your health professional MD for guidance according to your specific needs. I would never recommend doing any one of these alone as they are quite rigorous and extreme. Side effects can result and you should be monitored.
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