I’ve been busy researching, reading, and compiling more information from scientific studies done on intermittent fasting and its potential benefits. This is part two, but you can go here to read about more research on fasting or here if you’re not sure what intermittent fasting is all about.

Can intermittent fasting…

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Photo from oxfordlearning.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…improve blood sugars and prevent/manage diabetes?

  • Animals that ate intermittently exhibited resistance to diabetes and improved blood glucose and insulin sensitivity, even if they did not achieve caloric restriction (Anson et al 2003Duan et al 2003)
  • Animals on daily caloric restriction have lower fasting blood glucose, fasting insulin, reduced inflammatory markers, and improved insulin sensitivity (Lane, Ingram, Roth 1999Imai 2010Hursting et al 2003Lane et al 1995; Wang et al 2007Bonkowski et al 2006Okauchi et al 1995; Walford et al 1999; Walford et al 2002; Wang et al 2007Kalani et al 2006)
  • Human results on intermittent fasting are mixed:
    • One study found no change in glucose but lower fasting insulin after 22 days of intermittent fasting (Hielbronn et al Jan 2005).
    • One study found that, while fasting, subjects with diabetes had higher blood sugar levels (Saada et al 2010).
    • Another found that after 22 days of intermittent fasting, women’s bodies showed more difficulty clearing blood glucose but that there was no difference in men. Men also had a decreased insulin response, but women didn’t. (Hielbronn et al Mar 2005).
    • Another study found no change in glucose or insulin in men after 14 days of intermittent fasting (Halberg et al 2005).
    • Two studies found that in humans, insulin sensitivity is more improved with fasting than with caloric restriction (Varady & Hellerstein 2007; Harvie et al 2010)
  • Humans on caloric restriction showed lower fasting insulin levels, improved insulin sensitivity, and lower blood glucose. (Hielbronn et al 2006; Weiss et al 2006; Fontana et al 2004).
  • The boiled-down verdict: Animals show improvements in blood glucose, insulin sensitivity, and resistance to diabetes with both intermittent fasting (without caloric restriction) as well as caloric restriction (without intermittent fasting). In humans, research on intermittent fasting and blood sugars delivers mixed messages, which probably means there are other factors involved that we don’t understand yet. There might be a gender difference in the blood glucose response to intermittent fasting. Several studies showed that daily caloric restriction can improve fasting insulin levels, insulin sensitivity, and blood glucose in humans.

 

…treat asthma?

  • In one study, intermittent fasting reduced airway resistance, reduced inflammation, and improved the medicinal effects of albuterol in patients with asthma. (Johnson et al 2007)
  • The boiled-down verdict: We need more research, but intermittent fasting may have some promising benefits for those with asthma.

 

…decrease risk of heart disease?

 

…slow cancer?

  • Animals that eat intermittently exhibit slowed tumor growth, improved the effectiveness of chemotherapy, and reduced side effects of chemotherapy (Berrigan et al 2002;Lee at al 2012).
  • In mice, intermittent fasting without caloric restriction reduced the occurrence and growth of lymphoma (Descamps et al 2005).
  • Several studies show that animals with tumors had slower tumor growth and lived longer when calorically restricted with adequate protein, vitamin, and mineral intakes (Weindruch et al 1986Pashko & Shwartz 1996Pugh et al 1999; Imai 2010Hursting et al 2003); however, one study showed mice had no slowing of tumor growth when on caloric restriction (Keenan et al 1997).
  • Reviews of animal research conclude that the cancer prevention/slowing benefits are similar between intermittent fasting and calorie restriction (Varady & Hellerstein 2007).
  • The boiled-down verdict: Research on the benefits of caloric restriction for cancer is mixed. Intermittent fasting may slow tumor growth and improve the effects of cancer treatment in animals. We need more research to know how these effects may transfer over to humans.

How it Went:

I’ve still been so hungry in the mornings waiting to break my fast. This leads to crabbyness (the severity of which depends on who you ask…). Then, once I’m able to eat, I feel like I’m constantly eating to hit my macro goals. Eating when I’m not hungry leads to crabbyness. These are unfortunate happenings. During this week I missed my macros for a couple days and one morning hit a blood sugar low during my workout that forced me to realize I need more structure to get my macros in throughout the day. You can read about that here. After I created a more specific eating schedule, I was able to get my macros in a little easier, but I still felt hungry in the mornings and very full during my eating window. I haven’t really felt great at all since I started intermittent fasting.

On the flip side, my pants are definitely fitting better and I can tell that I’ve lost a bit from my waist overall. The measurements don’t reflect it this week because, unfortunately, this is the nasty week of water retention (or as my husband and I refer to it, the “natural disaster”). I expect that next week’s numbers will go back down again.

What I learned:

My fitness goal right now is primarily to gain strength and muscle and maintain cardiovascular fitness and flexibility. I’ve been using a heavy weight lifting routine (along with some moderate cardio and yoga) to achieve that goal for several months now. Lifting heavy and gaining muscle requires an increase in calorie intake to sustain muscle building and recovery, but I’ve found that I really can’t comfortably meet that goal in an intermittent fasting window. When I was eating normally, I didn’t have any trouble meeting that goal because I had more time to digest food before eating again.

I lamented about my struggles to my intermittent fasting coach friend Emily Arger, who offered to let me try her 7-Day Whittle Your Waist plan. The workouts included in her plan are designed to pair better with intermittent fasting than my heavy lifting plan, since I won’t need as many calories/macros. The main goal of the plan (as you might gather from the name), is fat loss. This is a shift from what my actual personal goals are, but I learned that heavy lifting/muscle gain is a very tricky thing to accomplish while intermittent fasting, at least for me. I started her new workout plan today, which includes 25-30-minute Tabata-style high intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts. My cat was impressed…and possibly confused.

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How I did and what changed:

  Goal Week #1 Week #2
# of days 16-hour fast was achieved 7 6 7
Average daily protein intake 90 grams 85.4 grams 82.2 grams
Average daily carb intake 225 grams 209 grams 205 grams
Average daily fat intake 60 grams 73.2 grams 64 grams
Weight change   0 lbs -1.2 lbs
Body fat % change   -.5% -.5%%
Waist measurement change   -1″ +.75″
Hip measurement change   0” 0”
Thigh measurement change   -1″ +.5″

This week I’ve been really struggling to get my macronutrients (aka carbs, protein, and fat) in during my

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8-hour eating window. I’ve just been too stuffed near the end of my window to get them in. For the past couple of days, I’ve been under my macro goals and I am really starting to feel it the next morning. Today, my workout was a struggle. I hit the worst blood sugar low I’ve had yet during my fast this morning, and it was rough.

I always like to make eating plans as flexible as I can while still hitting goals, but it’s pretty clear that trying to hit my macro goals while intermittent fasting isn’t going to happen without a bit more structure. I sat down, created an eating schedule by dividing my eating window up and scheduling meals and snacks, and dividing my macro goals amongst them. My first breakfast on this plan: egg and veggie scramble with low fat sausage and salsa, a slice of whole wheat toast, and a homemade muffin.

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My macro goals for this meal: 55 grams carbohydrate, 20 grams protein, and 15 grams fat.

Actual intake from this meal: 55 grams carbohydrate (on the nose!), 25 grams protein, and 25 grams fat (I gotta work on getting this down…).

I am STUFFED. I’m used to eating a little bit less than this and spreading it out more throughout the day. At least I got in all the macros I needed to with this meal (and a little bit more). We’ll see how the next few days go with hitting macro goals. I’m hoping it will help with my hunger and low blood sugar in the mornings.


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Today marks the completion of my first week on intermittent fasting! I’m sitting here waiting for my eating window to open, so I figured I might as well hammer out a blog post. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, go here to read about my intermittent fasting experiment. Here’s a quick rundown on my week:

How it went:

It’s been a little rough, to be honest. I’m starving in the mornings waiting to eat, pretty much no matter what I’ve eaten the night before. My hunger was a little better when I hit my macros perfectly (or darn close) the day before. At the beginning of a day, it feels impossible to be satisfied once I start eating, then I find myself stuffed with only two hours left to go in my eating window. Then I’m feeling like I should eat because my window is about to close and I know I’ll be starving in the morning if I don’t eat. As I am generally a promoter of intuitive eating (creating an eating schedule based around your body’s own natural hunger cues), this is totally backwards to me. I’m not eating when I am hungry, and I’m eating when I’m not hungry. Not to mention the fact that when I’m starving, I’m much less likely to choose healthy options. For me, my desire for Cajun tots and nachos with cheap, plasticky cheese is directly proportional to the length of time I’ve been hungry. Thus, I struggled to stay within my fat goal. Hunger cues are adaptable, so I’m curious to see if these issues improve in the next two weeks.

I haven’t been hungry most evenings, even though I stop eating at 6 pm and don’t go to bed until around 10 pm. That’s not too much of a surprise, since I’m typically hungry every 4 hours or so normally.

One pleasant surprise: working out while fasted has not been that tough. I like to work out in the mornings and did not want to change that schedule even though I was fasting, but I was worried. I get low blood sugar, especially when exercising, so I was really concerned about completing my normal workouts while fasted. Turns out, working out actually distracted me a bit from my hunger. I did schedule my workouts to end right at 10 am as my eating window opened, because I’m always extra hungry right after my workout. That part has been going great!

What I’ve learned:

Intermittent fasting is probably a great option for a certain type of person – an intermittent fasting “candidate,” if you will. This person is probably not used to eating breakfast or can easily skip breakfast without too much notice, likes to eat larger meals, doesn’t have issues with high or low blood sugar, and has irregular or non-existent hunger cues.

On top of that, a good fasting candidate has a schedule that can work with their fasting instead of against it. Because I work from home, I am mostly able to eat when my window opens, but I have thought about the fact that if I were working my former full-time job, it would be very difficult to follow intermittent fasting. I can’t imagine waiting any longer to eat than 10 am, and 10 am would not be a realistic time to eat at my desk job.

It’s also possible that this person has a sedentary lifestyle so they do not need to eat often to meet their energy needs. I often teach about matching energy needs with energy intake throughout the day, which is tough to do if you’re active for 12 hours but only able to eat for 8.

If these characteristics describe you, you may be a great candidate for intermittent fasting.

How I did and what changed:

  Goal Week #1 Week #2 Week #3
# of days 16-hour fast was achieved 7 6    
Average daily protein intake 90 grams 85.4 grams    
Average daily carb intake 225 grams 209 grams    
Average daily fat intake 60 grams 73.2 grams    
Weight change   0 lbs    
Body fat % change   -.5%    
Waist measurement change   -1″    
Hip measurement change   0”    
Thigh measurement change   -1″  

 

Even though my weight stayed the same, I did lose an inch from my waist and another from my thighs during this week. One of the claims of intermittent fasting is that it will promote fat loss, particularly in the abdominal area. My scant week on the diet shows that could be the case! Keep checking in for more updates on what the research says about intermittent fasting.


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Emily Arger, Certified FASTer Way to Fat Loss Coach

For some, intermittent fasting can mean a significant lifestyle change that can have challenges to implement. I myself have struggled a bit with hunger and fullness at inconvenient times throughout my few days on intermittent fasting. I chatted for a few minutes with Emily Arger, Certified FASTer Way to Fat Loss Coach and creator of the 7-day Whittle Your Waist Mini-Course. Emily coaches women on following an intermittent fasting lifestyle and also provides 25-30 minute home workout plans to these ladies. Check out her answers to some of my questions about intermittent fasting:

How did you first learn about intermittent fasting?

I actually heard about it before I had my kids – I read a book called Eat, Stop, Eat by Brad Pilon about the benefits of fasting. It’s a great book, but it was actually a bit different from what I teach now. I read it and it was intriguing, it was different. At first it was never something I intended to coach. I thought people might think I was crazy, because we are so ingrained with the idea that we need to eat 5-6 meals per day. It wasn’t until much later that I actually picked it back up again, after my kids were a little bit older.

What made you want to teach intermittent fasting?

I had done a lot of measuring and using containers to portion foods and I was so over that. I kept asking myself if that was a lifestyle that I wanted my clients to live forever, and the answer was no. When you master the intricacies of intermittent fasting – making sure you get in your macros and eat enough – and once you adapt to [intermittent fasting], there is so much freedom in it. That’s why I wanted to start sharing that with the ladies I work with.

What is your favorite thing about intermittent fasting?

Honestly, the ease. The ease and freedom of it. The ladies who go through the first few days of Whittle Your Waist start off thinking that they can’t do it, but once they adapt to it, they love the freedom of it. They say, “Hey, I’m not that hungry and I’m not spending my entire day thinking about food anymore.”

What do you see as the biggest challenge of intermittent fasting?

I think it’s definitely making sure you’re getting enough. I know that sounds crazy, but once you get used to it, it can be tempting to get to 10 am or noon and say, “Hey, I’m not hungry yet” and they try to push that window a little bit farther, but when they start so much later, it’s a big challenge to get say, 1800 calories in in only 6 hours. It’s important to plan things out, especially at the beginning, and get a coach if you’re struggling to meet all your macronutrient and micronutrient needs in such a small window.

What’s your #1 piece of advice to someone wanting to try intermittent fasting?

I would say to seek out the scientific-based research on it, because we’ve been inundated with these myths like “you have to eat every 2-3 hours” or “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” It’s important to read the research yourself to understand the benefits of intermittent fasting and how it’s good for you. Otherwise, you’re going to read a magazine or something that tries to tell you that what you’re wanting to do isn’t right and it gets confusing. It’s important to ground yourself in the research so you can really understand why intermittent fasting works and what it does for your body.


Yesterday was my first day following an intermittent fasting lifestyle. I’m using a 16:8 protocol – if you want to know more about that, you can read my last post here. I chose to make my eating window from 10 am to 6 pm. Read on to see how the first day went!

6:30 am Woke up. Usually this is when I get my breakfast ready, but not today! Got my boys sent off to school.

7:00 am Made and drank some green tea. Since I’m a big breakfast eater I was a little concerned that waiting until 10 am would be a struggle. I made genmaicha green tea because it’s made with toasted rice and has a bit of a savory flavor – I thought maybe it would help trick me into thinking it’s a little more substantial. Then I got to wondering: genmaicha has actual bits of toasted rice steeped in it…does it have calories or carbohydrates?? Had to look it up. Good news – it has neither! Genmaicha is good to go during my fasting window.

7:30 am Had my first teeny desire to eat. Drank more tea.

8:00 am This is my normal workout time. I decided to postpone it half an hour so that I could eat right after my workout. In the past I haven’t done well working out on an empty stomach. We’ll see…

8:30 am Workout time. Tummy is growling big time…I’m 32 oz. of tea in. This not eating has been great for my hydration!

10 am Food! Finally! Toast with avocado, poached egg, curry, and garlic.IMG_3796

10:30 am Still feeling hungry – I went ahead and made my typical post-workout protein smoothie and drank it. Still not totally satisfied.

11:45 am Ate lunch – leftover salmon, stuffing, and salad. Still not satisfied…this is getting old already. I need to work on adjusting my portions to fit a smaller eating window.

2:30 pm Feeling hungry, ate a yogurt.

4 pm Realized I have to start dinner soon if I’m going to get it ready, take my son to practice, and eat before 6 pm. That will take some getting used to!

5:30 pm Ate dinner – whole wheat pasta, chicken breast, and roasted vegetable sauce. I got a little panicky about the thought of not eating until 10 tomorrow so I overdid it a bit…I had two bowls of pasta then chased them with some apples and caramel sauce. I ended up hitting my protein goal for the day but being a bit behind on calories (200 calories), carbohydrates (20 g), and fat (12 g). I felt stuffed.

7:30 pm I’m still stuffed, but it’s nice to be all done with worrying about cooking, cleaning, and snacking so early in the night.

 


 

 

Photo from medium.com

Photo from medium.com

Intermittent fasting is a big time buzz-phrase these days. I see people posting about it on Facebook and Instagram, some of my fitness-savvy friends advocate for it, and I read an article about it in Women’s Health magazine. I’ve seen a teensy bit of research floating around but I’m ready to dig in and really see what it’s all about and whether or not it’s something I might incorporate into my practice.

Today I started my own intermittent fasting experiment. I will be trialing an intermittent fasting lifestyle for the next 3 weeks to practice it, research it, and teach you about it! Along the way, you’ll get all the details of how I’m feeling, whether or not my weight, measurements, blood pressure, or heart rate change, and how cranky I am (I’ll let my husband score that one – for objectivity’s sake). For today, let’s go over some basics of intermittent fasting:

What is intermittent fasting?

Boiled down, intermittent fasting basically means alternating between eating normally and restricting your food intake on a regular schedule. This manifests in many different styles. Some of the more popular protocols are detailed here:

  • 16:8 or 20:4 – This is a daily goal to limit time spent eating during the day, making the nighttime fast longer. In a 16:8 schedule, people fast for 16 hours each day and limit their eating to an 8-hour window each day. This is the protocol I will be using. In a 20:4 schedule, people fast for 20 hours per day and limit the eating window to four hours.
  • Alternate-day Fasting – I’ve read about a few different schedules under this name, but the most common is a 5:2 schedule. In a 5:2, you would eat normally 5 days of the week, and 2 days during the week (you can split them up) you fast entirely or restrict intakes to 500 calories per day.
  • Extended Fasting – In extended fasting, folks avoid eating or restrict the types of foods they eat for longer periods of time, anywhere from 2 days to several weeks or months.

 

Can you eat anything during the fasting period?

That depends on the type of protocol you’re following, but best I can tell, most protocols recommend only calorie-free beverages like black coffee, tea, or water during the fasting period. Anything with calories breaks the fast.

 

Are there limits to what you can eat during your eating window?

Generally, no. Most websites and researchers recommend eating healthful foods, of course, but there are not too many limits. Some protocols advocate for tracking what you eat to make sure that you meet your macronutrient (carbohydrate, protein, and fat) needs during the eating window. Other plans allow intermittent fasters to eat however much they choose. The end goal is to eat as much food as you need, just in a shorter period of time.

 

What are the benefits of intermittent fasting?

There have been many claims about the purported benefits of intermittent fasting. I’m working through the research on a bunch of them and I will let you know what I find out in a future post! In what I’ve read so far, supporters of intermittent fasting report improvements in:

  • Focus, productivity, and mental performance
  • Stress resistance
  • Longevity
  • Resistance to chronic diseases like diabetes, cancers, and Alzheimer’s
  • Fat loss, especially belly fat, while maintaining muscle mass
  • Inflammation levels
  • Blood pressure and heart rate

 

How does it do all that?

Honestly, I have a bit more research to do in this area but I will keep you up to date as I learn more. In the initial articles I’ve read, the authors credit ketosis as the cause of many of the benefits listed above. When humans fast for or avoid carbohydrates for a prolonged period of time, they basically run out of glucose energy from food, so the liver starts producing ketones to use as an alternative energy source. It’s sort of like a tank of gas on a hybrid car – if the battery runs out, you can run on gasoline instead. What I need to learn now is why supporters of intermittent fasting believe these ketones are so beneficial. I have some reading to do!

 

What changes will you be making?

I’m starting out by using a 16:8 protocol and setting my eating window from 10 am to 6 pm. There will likely be a little trial-and-error involved, I imagine. I’m keeping my workouts the same (30 mins cardio, heavy weight lifting, and 30 mins yoga 5 days per week) and eating the same types of food I usually do. I expect that I may have to play with my workout schedule a little bit since I haven’t done well with working out on an empty stomach in the past. Tune in tomorrow to see how I did on my first day!


TIME TO VOTE!Be sure to enter your vote for Dietitian on a Diet’s next feature! The runners-up are:

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

This is a style of exercise training that involves training at…well, high-intensity intervals. This pattern of exercise involves alternating between lower- and higher-intensity bouts of exercise. Research shows that incorporating high intensity intervals can provide many of the same benefits as lower-intensity exercise, but with a shorter amount of time spent exercising. HIIT workouts are often promoted for fat loss, aerobic fitness, blood sugar management, decreasing inflammation, and improving cholesterol.

Intermittent Fasting

The term “intermittent fasting” has been used to describe a wide variety of eating styles and schedules, all based on the premise that fasting has metabolic benefits. These eating styles incorporate regularly scheduled “fasts”; some include complete fasts for 1 or more days per week or 1 week per month, but often (and for the style I would be following) intermittent fasting involves limiting the “eating window” to a certain part of the day and fasting for the remainder. The primary goals with intermittent fasting are often to 1) lose weight, 2) increase energy, or 3) reduce inflammation.

Budget-driven Meal Planning

This is actually a brain-child of mine, compiled from everything I have learned about how to drive the cost of healthful groceries down as far as possible. This way of purchasing food and eating has cut many of my clients’ grocery costs by 25%, even while eating healthful food. One particular client, with a family of 8, decreased her grocery bill by 50%! In this I will share what we spend on groceries, where we shop, how I save money, and how I do it all while eating healthfully.

Be sure to vote for the diet or exercise plan you most want to learn more about!

Note: If you’re on a computer, the poll will be in the left-hand sidebar. If you’re on a phone, scroll down to vote.