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The Many Advantages of Intermittent Fasting

As the days become sunnier and warmer, I notice the extra weight I gained while in hibernation over the winter. When I’m up on the hill skiing, I’m all bundled up and the little extra gets me down a run a bit faster. But as the snow melts, I feel motivated to let some of this go.

One of my most powerful tools is fasting, or changing the timing of eating. Simply put, I like to not eat for a meal or two, and drink water and a cup of coffee instead.

When I do eat again, I eat my regular diet. Changing when I eat doesn’t require me to change what I’m eating, or to eat less.

This is one of the simplest strategies I have discovered to take off fat while working out to maintain lean muscle. It requires very little change in behavior to do it, while being meaningful enough that it actually makes a difference.

How this works relates to how the body responds in a fasted state verses a fed state. Every time I eat it takes about four hours for my body to digest and absorb food. During this time, it’s very hard to burn fat because insulin levels are too high. Insulin not only helps to use food energy, it helps store energy.

Once food is processed, there is another period that starts about eight hours later. This is when I move into the fasted state and my body begins burning fat because insulin levels are now low.

In the fasted state metabolism may speed up by 4 to 14%, adrenaline is increased, and growth hormone production is increased. Fasting has been shown in clinical trials to substantially improve insulin sensitivity and levels compared to calorie reduction. Other benefits include reducing inflammation, as well as lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, and heart rate.

I’ve heard for years you have to eat every three hours, have a small snack before bed, or that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. The idea of voluntarily fasting is thought to cause starvation mode, burning of muscle, over eating, or low blood sugar.

But this is typically just not the case. Fasting doesn’t get talked about as much because there is nothing to buy or any membership required. Though it’s been around for millenniums, it is widely ignored as a dietary therapy.

Don’t just jump into fasting if you are taking medication to control blood glucose, need to closely monitor your blood sugar levels, or are underweight. It’s also not good idea for food disorders or addictions..

There are several duration’s to pick from. If I skip breakfast the result is an 18 hour fast. This is because my last meal was the night before, around 6 pm, and I started eating again at noon the next day.

Another way is to skip both breakfast and lunch. This gets me 24 hours of fasting. But the schedule I really like is not eating for a full day and waiting until breakfast the next day. That’s a whopping total of 36 hours.

Fasting works with any type of diet, it’s flexible and a powerful weight loss tool. It supports my bodies natural repair, detoxification, and cleansing processes. I like to do an intermittent fast at least once a week. But I’m also known to have fasted more than that.

Recently, I did 108 hours in one week by combining fasting days with alternating eating days. Getting past the mind games of hunger, gives me the ability to stay in the fasted state a lot longer. I felt sharper and had tons of energy.

Come on down and let’s talk.

Scott Porter is a Functional Medicine Pharmacist at Sandpoint Super Drug. He is a member of the Sandpoint Wellness Council.

Photo: michelmondadori / Pixabay

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