It’s here! The Dietitian on a Diet/i’mPowered Nutrition & Fitness giveaway challenge begins today! To participate for the chance to win a beautiful goal-tracking planner/journal from The Simple Elephant, planner stickers, and a set of Papermate Inkjoy pens, follow Dietitian on a Diet on Instagram or like Dietitian on a Diet on Facebook, and follow the instructions on my giveaway post
Based on my experience with intermittent fasting, I have discovered a few characteristics of a person who might really thrive on intermittent fasting. Check out the list below to see if you might be one of them!
Likely Good Candidates:
- Absent or minimal hunger cues or doesn’t mind being hungry – I often hear “I often forget to eat” or “I could go all day without eating”
- Not usually hungry in the morning/prefers to skip breakfast
- Dislikes the structure of tracking calories daily
- Prefers limiting intakes significantly sometimes and not regulating at all at other times
- Schedule that allows eating at “unconventional” times (for 16:8 protocol)
- Goals might include: weight loss, decreased inflammation, reduced risk for chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s
Likely Not Good Candidates:
- Frequent hunger (every 3-4 hours or less)
- Regular breakfast eater
- Prefers more structured eating regimen
- Prefers moderating intakes a little each day to an “all or nothing” mindset
- Goals might include: weight loss, muscle gain, reduced risk for chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s
If you want to learn more about creating a personalized plan to meet your goals and fit your lifestyle, visit my practice website and set up an appointment!
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
- 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!
When you’re aiming to be less inflamed, it can be worthwhile to look beyond regular foods to supplements and what I’m calling “add-ins” – foods/condiments to intentionally put on or in your food because of their anti-inflammatory benefits. Check out all the options:
1. Brightly-Colored Spices (like ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, etc)
Brightly-colored spices have high antioxidant content that can be powerfully anti-inflammatory. Several have specifically been researched and tested for efficacy in managing blood sugar in diabetes, though their anti-inflammatory properties can be beneficial for muscle soreness, recovery after exercise, and metabolic syndrome.1-4
You can take these supplements in concentrated capsules (stick to the recommended dosage) or make a concerted effort to add brightly-colored spices to your food regularly.
2. Fish Oil/Omega-3s/Borage Oil
Increasing intakes of omega-3 fatty acids have been demonstrated to reduce inflammation. They are currently being researched and tested for treatment of many health factors, from prevention of dementia (dementia rates decreased in 19 out of 22 reported studies in a review)5 and cancer to lower cholesterol.6-7
To increase your intake of omega-3s, you can eat more fish, walnuts, flax seed, and chia seeds. Chia is one of my personal favorites because it contains a high concentration of omega-3s and has nearly no flavor. I mix them into oatmeal, smoothies, and yogurt. If you take a capsule supplement, be sure to find one that states it is “burpless” or “enteric-coated.” That ensures the capsules go alllllll the way into your intestines before dissolving, preventing unpleasantly fishy-tasting burps/breath.
3. Tart Cherries
These tart little guys are becoming big news in the anti-inflammatory scene, largely for treatment of inflammatory joint pain caused by conditions like arthritis and gout. Some research with dosing tart cherry has shown similar decreases in pain to leading medications for arthritis and gout.8-10
You can eat them canned, dried, in supplement form, or drink 100% tart cherry juice.
4. Vitamin D
Photo from betterbodygroup.co.uk
Vitamin D has been shown to be important not only for preventing cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and many types of cancers, but also plays a role in improving depression.5
We get a lot less vitamin D these days than we used to. Our primary sources are sunlight (15-20 minutes of sunlight helps our skin make its own vitamin D!) and fortified foods like milk, other dairy, and fruit juices. Supplements are also an option. Ask your doctor to check your vitamin D levels and if they are low, consider working on boosting your intake with food or supplementation.
5. Pawlak, Laura. The Hungry Brain. 2012. Biomed Books. p. 177.
Sorry for the delay in posting – I’ve been experiencing technical difficulties. And by “technical difficulties” I mean that my work tablet took a brief swim and is now resting in a pan of rice. 🙁 Pray for dry insides!
Anyhoo, as you may know, eating out and eating well can be a challenge. My favorite mantra for eating out:
You can make a “bad” choice just about everywhere, you can make a “good” choice pretty much anywhere, but you can always make the best choice for where you are.
Life happens. Food is a (wonderful!) part of life. By all means, eat out and enjoy it! Making choices when eating out depends a lot on how frequently you eat out. If you mostly cook at home and eat out once or twice a month or only on special occasions, ignore this post. Go out on your date night, anniversary, or family fun night and enjoy it. Don’t worry about this – it’s not a big enough portion of your whole eating picture to matter that much. I’m not advocating an all-out binge, but you should order what you want and move on.
On the other hand, if eating out is more frequent for you – maybe you travel or life is just busy – the story is different. You will have to tailor your eating out for your health goals if you ever hope to meet them. If you’re hoping to eat well with an eye towards decreasing inflammation, here are some tips from my experiences in the last few weeks:
We’ve eaten Asian food out twice since I started anti-inflammatory. Once we went to a new (to us) local Asian fusion restaurant that essentially offers a Subway-style, build-your-own sushi wrap, bowl, or salad. When eating out along these lines, choose foods without too much carbohydrate and get lots of veggies. Choose fish (especially salmon) – it’s high in anti-inflammatory omega-3s! If you’re up for spicy, add in brightly-colored spicy sauces, but go easy on those with sugar like teriyaki or sweet chili sauce. The seaweed in sushi is loaded with antioxidants too. I really wanted a sushi wrap so I asked for a light layer of rice, got miso soup on the side, and only ate half of the wrap.
Another day we went to a Korean restaurant. This one was easy – I love bibimbap! If you aren’t familiar, it’s a crackly, delicious cauldron of rice, tons of veggies, a meat of your choice, and an egg. I chose chicken and added loads of the optional veggie add-ins at the table (especially kimchi, which not only has colorful spices but also contains probiotics). Again, I saved half for later.
This one was tricky because (by far) my favorite type of Italian food is pasta, and most pasta dishes are just that – a giant plate of carbohydrates with a creamy, buttery inflammatory sauce. Hmph. I had to do a little finagling for this one. I decided I would still get pasta but choose a lean meat, an olive-oil based vinaigrette sauce, and lots of colorful vegetables. In this case, I picked a seafood pasta (to up the omega-3s) with tomatoes, onions, and asparagus. To prevent eating too many carbs I only ate half (are you noticing a pattern?). A vegetable-based sauce (like marinara) would have worked nicely too. Watch out for too much cheese or the absurd amount of delicious carbohydrates like breadsticks with pasta, pasta, and more pasta!
If you weren’t so much a pasta person, a salad with Italian vinaigrette or a chicken breast with marinara sauce could be a less inflammatory choice.
A friend’s birthday dinner took us to a seafood restaurant. Seafood is anti-inflammatory as long as it’s not covered in butter or alfredo sauce (darn it), so you can choose a fillet of salmon or whitefish with veggies and a starch any time. I opted for a cioppino – basically seafood stewed in a tomato-based sauce with herbs and spices. High in antioxidants and omega-3s! It came with one slice of bread (plus in the spirit of full disclosure, I ate a slice of sourdough as an appetizer too). I skipped a drink and opted for water instead. Since my entree wasn’t inflammatory and it was delicious and reasonably portioned, I ate the whole thing!
We didn’t actually go out to an Indian restaurant in the last three weeks, but it could be a great place to go for an anti-inflammatory meal because of all of the beautiful spices they use! Keep your rice/naan portion reasonable, choose a sauce that is brightly-colored but not creamy, like curry, and get a brightly-colored veggie for a side (like palak paneer aka curried spinach with goat cheese). This is a great opportunity to go meatless and choose a lentil- or garbanzo-based dish as well!
As I’ve continued with anti-inflammatory eating, I’ve frequently found myself at BBQs – summer is starting! Depending on the context, anti-inflammatory eating can be tricky at BBQs because there may not be very many options, other people are bringing the foods, and sometimes the sides are just junk food. Tough anti-inflammatory noogies for Becki.
So, I’ve had to be creative: eat small at the BBQ and fill in the gaps with fruits or veggies at home after or bring a fruit or veggie to the BBQ.
Fruit has become my go-to anti-inflammatory snack, and that is fine with me. I’m sprinkling chia seeds on nearly any edible object that will allow it, and using lots and lots of spices, which is so fun! I’ve really enjoyed the food I’ve been eating and it’s anything but bland. The anti-inflammatory diet definitely makes for colorful, visually pleasing, and delicious healthful eating.
Tune in later this week to learn about who can benefit from an anti-inflammatory diet, and tips on eating out while on an anti-inflammatory diet.
Your voices have been heard! The anti-inflammatory diet came out on top with more than double the votes of either of the other two options.
As a quick overview, there is not truly one well-defined and well-recognized “anti-inflammatory diet” per se, but rather we have a lot of research about how food affects inflammation in the body that we can leverage to decrease inflammation. In the coming weeks I will bring you information on what inflammation is, whether or not we really need to fight it with food, and what the research is telling us about lifestyle changes you can make to affect your levels of inflammation.
Sit back and relax because you’ll have plenty more info on anti-inflammatory eating coming your way soon!