The Nutritional Side of Intermittent Fasting

Hi All.

A few weeks ago we sent out an article on intermittent fasting - our take and suggestions about what it is and how to use it. Some of you felt you needed more information. So, we are going to delve a little deeper into the equation of weight loss and good nutritional habits. This article will give you the final answer on what causes weight loss and how it may be achieved successfully.

We’ll start with intermittent fasting because that’s where we left off. If you haven’t read the first article you can view it here.

As we said previously, intermittent fasting is a planned or random spacing between meals that do not come at regular intervals. This is probably close to how our ancestors consumed food 10,000 years ago because they ate when food was available and they didn’t eat when it was not. Obesity was likely not an issue 10,000 years ago. It would stand to reason that our bodies may respond well to intermittent fasting. There are still some rules that need to be followed, and successful weight loss and good nutrition cannot be achieved without them.

First and foremost, whether you’ve decided to give intermittent fasting a try (please do if it something that interests you; you might like it), or you're eating what we think of as the traditional three meals per day, the equation of energy in/energy out still stands. The number of calories ingested must be fewer than the number of calories expended to achieve weight loss. This comes with its own set of rules which we will get into shortly.

There have been way too many studies that have been done to support this and there’s just no other way to look at it. The reason Keto works, Paleo works, and Whole 30 works is that sometimes without knowing you are cutting excess calories by restricting access to certain types of foods. With Keto, carbs are gone or at least severely restricted, and with Paleo, processed foods and sugar are out. Whole 30 is much the same as Paleo. I have nothing against any of these approaches; I actually think being paleoish is great! That’s Paleo without the dogma. 😁But when it comes to the weight loss aspect of these diets there’s one thing they’d have in common: calories in/calories out. Please take this to heart. It is what works.

There are rules behind calories in calories out. Proper nutrition and weight loss require time and adjustments for each individual. No one way works for everyone- that’s why there are 5700 weight loss/nutrition books out there, and also why it is so frustrating for so many. There are some rules to follow though. Calories in/calories out yes, but severely restricting calories will result in some unintended consequences, loss of muscle, inhibited immune function, lowered metabolic function, lower brain function, bad hair, and a number of other issues you won’t like. Please don’t take this route. It doesn’t ultimately work and it is bad for your health.

Whether it be intermittent fasting or not, proper weight loss still requires getting a healthful number of calories to optimally support bodily function and health. This is where time and adjustment comes in. You have no idea how many calories you’re taking in per day or expending, and it fluctuates greatly from day to day. So what do you do? You start somewhere.

Meal composition. Is every meal comprised of protein, fats, and carbohydrates in the right amounts?

Meal serving size. Are you getting adequate portions of each of these macro elements in each meal?

Quality calories. Are you mitigating or eliminating processed food and excess sugar? Are you eating a wide array of vegetables and fruits? Is your food responsibly sourced?

Hydration. Are you drinking adequate amounts of water?

All of these rules and more need to be a part of a successful and lasting program. We will go into deeper detail on all of these in subsequent nutritional articles.

What’s insulin got to do with it? Under normal circumstances your body has an insulin response every time you take in food. This response is much higher when carbohydrates are present. Fat is stored when insulin is present, leading some to believe that if you mitigate carbohydrate intake or defer intake, as in intermittent fasting, you will not gain weight.

This is correct and incorrect. In the case of intermittent fasting if you’re taking in the same amount of carbohydrates (or calories), no matter when you take those calories in, be it every three hours or eight hours apart, that insulin response will be the same. It will just be timed differently. The equal number of calories equal the same response.

In terms of mitigating carbohydrate intake, you may lose weight by taking in less carbohydrates, mainly because you’re taking in fewer calories. You will have less of an insulin response, but if excess calories are still present fat will be stored. The equation of calories in/calories out stands.

For edification purposes, insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, considered the main anabolic hormone. It regulates the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and protein. Insulin up-regulates glucose from the blood into the liver and muscle tissue. Glucose is converted to glycogen, which supplies energy, and carries protein into the muscle. Insulin is responsible for a number of other anabolic functions. It's also an extremely important hormone, and a healthy insulin response is also very important. Eating well and eating in healthy amounts is very helpful to maintaining healthy insulin levels and responses in the body throughout life.

Protein is the most important macro. It's the only essential element of the big three, and the one thing food-wise that your body cannot survive without. Not only is it necessary for maintaining muscle tissue, but for some hormonal regulation as well. It's also the most satiating macro, which will keep you from feeling hungry longer.

In my opinion very few incorporate enough protein into their diet. The minimum intake for a healthy sedentary adult is .5-.75 gram/lb. of body weight. That is the BARE minimum. (See graphs below to get an idea of what your optimal intake should be.) When you are setting your goals and putting together your nutritional plan, please make sure that you consider proper amounts of protein in your daily caloric intake.

These are some of the major tenets we work with when planning the details of good nutrition and weight loss with our clients. This article is only discussing food/calorie intake. Hydration, exercise, stress management, and sleep are also important components of weight loss. We'll go into more detail with many of these rules of nutrition and lifestyle in the future, but hopefully this will give you a solid place to start. As always, we're very happy to hear your thoughts and feedback.

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