Human beings didn’t always have such vast amounts and easy access to food. For a lot longer than we’ve had ‘fast’ food, we’ve had ‘slow’ food; enduring prolonged periods of starvation and short periods of fasting.
Our bodies have evolved to cope with this uncertainty.
Only recently we’ve discovered that our bodies don’t just cope during periods of fasting - they repair themselves.
So, don’t just read this and go “oh, not another ridiculous article saying that starving myself will cure my diabetes (it won’t). Think of this as a column that breaks down what many would consider a fad diet, but is in-fact a lesson on anthropology (Just slightly more entertaining and related to diabetes.. hopefully).
In a nut shell; IF is when you cycle between periods of eating and fasting.
Note: Try and not take this as just a tool for losing weight. Cut refined carbs from your life and you’ll lose weight - this is different. Many people may be interested in IF as a mechanism for weight loss, and it is, but the reality is it has a profound affect on our health in the following ways;
1) It allows your bodies insulin levels to decrease (good thing - even for diabetics).
2) Increased levels of human growth hormone - responsible for muscle gain, fat burning, repairing of organ and brain tissue - even boost the appearance of your skin.
3) Your body starts to ’eat’ and repair cells (Autophagy - more on this later).
4) Changes to your ‘gene expression’ - supporting longevity and disease prevention.
5) IF reduces insulin resistance, fasting insulin levels and fasting blood glucose - tick, tick, tick for diabetes.
6) IF helps fight inflammation - (many scientists consider inflammation to be a driving cause of chronic disease)
There are many more benefits of IF that have been studied, including it’s impact on heart health, alzheimers, cancer, even living a longer life.
You can follow particular models like 16/8 - 16 hours fasting, 8 hours eating or 5/2 - 5 days normal eating, 2 days restrictive caloric diet (500/600 cals).
If you eat high levels of carbohydrates, it will be more difficult to find immediate successful at IF. Why? because your body needs to lower it’s insulin levels to burn fat. If you routinely eat a lot of carbs you are carbohydrate adapted and your body uses glucose for energy (not fat) - carbs are broken down into glucose.
Therefore, it will take longer to lower your insulin levels and adapt the body to burn fat and trigger autophagy. You will also find yourself far more hungry when carb adapted, as there is more insulin in the blood.
If you are trying IF and you eat a very low carb diet already, it will find it quicker to lose weight and start autophagy because your body is already fat adapted.
So how long is a fasting period?
As stated above, you can follow a model of 16/8 or 5/2, or you can just go with how you feel (how I fast), or you can go longer - 24 to 48 hours. Some people even up go to 7 days. It’s up to you (just be safe).
The point here is that If you can go over 24 hours, you’re likely to trigger autophagy and it’s benefits.
I usually have dinner around 6 - 6:30pm. I then won’t eat anything until 12pm the next day. This equates to 18 hours fasting. I’ll do this two or three times a week.
Well, my blood sugars are outstanding when I fast. They rarely move at all - no more than 0.5 mmol (10 mg/dl).
I also produce ketones, which provide energy and help keep my brain sharp. I do not get any fatigue whilst fasting.
My goal - other than the points stated above - is to trigger the process of autophagy.
In 2016, a Japanese cell biologist called Yoshinori Ohsumi was awarded the Nobel prize for his work on autophagy. So bear in mind, this is not a fad diet.
Autophagy derives from the Greek and meaning “to eat oneself”. Sounds lovely.
Basically, it’s a spring clean for your cells, whereby your body recycles damaged cells and produces new ‘healthier’ ones.
This is an entirely natural process that has startling health benefits.
It makes us more efficient - removing diseased and damaged cells. Stopping cancerous growths and metabolic dysfunction (diabetes, obesity). It also helps control inflammation and immunity.
Exercise can trigger autophagy and start the process of repair and restoration.
When you work out, you make tiny tears in your muscles which your body then heals (that’s why many people have a protein shake following a weights session to repair and build torn muscle).
IF and Autophagy
The most efficient way to reap the benefits of autophagy is by fasting. Your body needs to go through stress (like exercise) for your body to start the process.
You need to avoid raising your insulin levels whilst you fast. So, don‘t eat or drink anything that can knock you out of fasting - calories are a no no. That means only water, black tea, black coffee. No milk or anything that has carbohydrates in it.
The simplest way to start is to eat dinner at your normal time and then skip breakfast. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water - especially if you’re already on keto/LCHF.
We get roughly 20% of our daily water intake from food so we need to replenish this.
By skipping breakfast, you can easily go 12 - 16 hours fasting. Your insulin levels will drop and your body will start the process of burning fat for energy.
Remember: by starting on keto or low carb diets first, the process is a lot easier and will benefit your weight loss goals (if you have them). You will also notice a huge benefit on blood sugars.
IF, Autography and Diabetes
Diabetes comes with increased risk of complications, mainly from hyperglycemia (high blood sugars) accumulated over time.
The benefits of IF and autography directly impacts our blood sugars and lowers the levels of insulin in our blood. That means we’re experiencing longer periods of stable, in-target blood sugars, less hunger from lower levels of insulin and cellular repair. our body is also getting better at using fat for energy, meaning less surrounding our organs (visceral) - which increases our chances of cardiovascular disease, stroke and high blood pressure.
Be safe practicing IF when you have diabetes.
You will need to reduce basal insulin if you are trying fasting from a high carb diet. Please consult your medical team to learn how to do this safely.
There are millions of ‘get fit quick’, ‘lose weight fast’, ‘reverse your diabetes’ schemes out there.
This is not one of them.
This is a process that our bodies have evolved over a millenia. We have become used to eating all the time and it isn’t good for us. Forget everything you’ve been told about ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’ and ‘eat small meals often’. This is all geared toward you eating more, and more importantly, spending more. For your health’s sake - listen to your body and eat when you‘re hungry, not just because it’s a certain time of the day.
There is increasing research around Intermittent fasting and autophagy. You don’t have to do a lot of your own digging to uncover that this is not a fad - this is something that can have huge benefits for your health and your disease.
Believe the hypo