sleeping man hitting snooze on his phoneHey folks! Erin is here for another round of Ask a Health Coach. If you’re sleep-compromised, stressed out about carbs, or you’re a chronic snooze button pusher, today’s post is for you. Keep your questions coming in the Mark’s Daily Apple Facebook Group or share them down in the comments section.

Alicia asked:

“I’ve been trying to get up early to exercise, but I always end up hitting the snooze button and falling back asleep. Got any tricks to get myself up on time?”

I love that you’re setting goals for yourself. It proves that you don’t have to wait until New Year’s or (another) Monday to make a change in your life.https://www.marksdailyapple.com/sleep-tips-video/‘>4

1. Minimize screen time. If you need to use a computer, tablet, or phone in the evening, wear blue light blocking glasses or set devices to the “night shift” setting. Artificial light can mess with your circadian rhythm and therefore your sleep cycle.

2. Avoid that late-night drink. A glass of wine or cocktail might help you fall asleep faster, but it can disrupt your REM cycle, leaving you drained, groggy, and likely a little hungover the next day. Alcohol also relaxes the muscles, including the ones in your throat, which might cause you to snore more — or snore louder.

3. Keep your phone out of the bedroom. In addition to the aforementioned blue light situation, scrolling right before bed can lead to weird dreams and stressful fits of sleep. Plus, if you’re one of those people who checks email or social media the second you pop open your eyes, it might be worth exploring taking a break from that routine.

And if these don’t move the needle, consider getting in touch with a medical professional or health coach. Some Primal Health Coaches even specialize in sleep.

Marcelle asked:

“I’m stressing out about the carbohydrates I ate over Thanksgiving. I know a lot of people gain weight around the holidays, but I’ve been working so hard to keep it off. What can I do to off-set all those extra carbs?”

The holidays are always stressful, and, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, this year is no exception. But the extra pressure you’re putting on yourself for what you ate? Why do that to yourself? Adding stress on top of stress only makes your adrenals work harder, encourages your body to pump out more cortisol, and forces your body to store more fat, which if my hunch is correct, likely sends you into a spiral of worry, guilt, and shame.https://psychologyofeating.com/mind-over-food/‘>6

Also, since when are carbs a whole food group? I don’t know who needs to hear this, but carbohydrates are a macronutrient found in nearly every food, including, but not limited to almonds, apples, asparagus, broccoli, beans, cauliflower, carrots, mussels, oysters, yams, and yogurt.

Even if you served yourself up a plate loaded with meat and veg, you haven’t actually skipped the carbs. If you decided to skip the pumpkin pie with whipped cream and have fresh berries instead? Still carbs. If you passed on dessert altogether and poured another glass of wine? Still carbs.

We tend to criminalize these large subsections of foods — sweeping them all into one bucket. But not all carbohydrates are created equal and, honestly, not all of them are bad. When you become metabolically flexible, you can partake in any kind of food your heart desires and have the peace-of-mind that your body can handle it.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29767425/‘>1 They were getting “more” out of their food simply by chewing it up more.

Heed your salivary amylase levels: How much salivary amylase you produce is determined by your genetics, with historically agricultural (and thus starch-consuming) populations tending to possess more copies of the salivary amylase gene than other populations. There’s no good way to test salivary amylase gene status because the commercial genetic analysis sites don’t cover it. You’d need a more specific (and expensive) test for that. Ancestry can be a rough proxy; try to match your carb intake with the carb intake (and thus amylase copies) of your recent ancestors. But whatever number of amylase copies you (might) carry, chewing more times per bite will increase the efficacy of the salivary amylase you do produce.

As for meat and other animal foods which salivary amylase doesn’t affect, chewing is still important because it breaks apart the fibers and makes the nutrients contained therein more accessible to protein-digesting enzymes (proteases) in the stomach.

Mechanical Digestion, in the Stomach

Leaving the mouth, the food travels down the esophagus on into the stomach, where hydrochloric acid and a protein-degrading enzyme called pepsin break the food down into a big semifluid mass of partially-digested food components, water, enzymes, and acid known as chyme. The stomach walls undulate (move up and down) and mix the chyme,

How to Optimize Stomach Digestion?

Get your thiamine. Thiamine is a B-vitamin involved in hydrochloric acid production. If you want optimal stomach acidity—and you definitely do want it—you need to be replete in thiamine. The best source of thiamine is pork.

Watch the antacids. While heartburn meds can make a person feel better in an acute case of heartburn, they do so by inhibiting production of hydrochloric acid, which makes the stomach more alkaline and worsens your digestion in the long run. Pepsin cannot work without adequate acidity.

Try bitters. Post-meal bitters stimulate production of hydrochloric acid and assist many of the digestive organs, making the whole operation run more smoothly. But they must be bitter. Covering up the bitter flavor with something sweet mitigates the beneficial effect on digestion.

Get enough sodium. Low sodium levels reduce hydrochloric acid production. Make sure you’re salting your food to taste, as our moment-to-moment desire for salt is a good marker for sodium requirements. As long as you’re not eating packaged junk food, you won’t crave too much salt.

Try supplemental hydrochloric acid. A little betaine HCl, especially with protein meals, can really help if your acid production is too low. If you take betaine HCl and you feel a burn, you probably don’t need it.

Duodenum Digestion

Since the stomach is too acidic for amylase to work, the chyme migrates down to the duodenum, the first section of the small intestine immediately after the stomach where the pH is more alkaline. The pancreas produces protein-digesting enzymes as well as amylase and delivers them to the duodenum, where the full range of digestive enzymes can get to work liberating nutrients for absorption down the line. This is also where bile is introduced to assist in fat digestion.

Eat meals rather than graze. The human digestive system operates best when it encounters whole meals with plenty of time between subsequent meals, rather than a steady stream of incoming food. It even tries to enforce this; when a bolus of chyme enters the duodenum, the opening leading from the stomach to the duodenum tightens up to prevent more food from coming in. Overriding this with constant snacking will only impair your digestion and back things up.

Go for a walk. A short walk after eating speeds up the transition of food from the stomach through the duodenum into the small intestine. It “gets things moving,” in a good, beneficial way.

Small Intestine Digestion

After softening up in the duodenum, the chyme passes on into the small intestine where the bulk of nutrient absorption occurs. All along the intestinal walls lie villi — microscopic finger-like projections that increase the surface area of the intestinal lining and pluck nutrients from the passing slurry to be absorbed and assimilated. (You may have heard of villi in the context of gluten. Gluten can wipe out the villi in some people, leading to nutritional malabsorption.)

Optimize your serotonin. 95% of the serotonin in our body occurs in the gut; it’s one of the primary regulators of intestinal peristalsis — the muscular contractions that move and mix food through the digestive tract.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19332970‘>3https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21418261‘>5http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2036.2004.02274.x/abstract‘>7 I created Primal Probiotics with precisely these probiotics to tip the balance in your favor.


Get Primal Probiotics here


Digestion must be approached as a single unit. You don’t just pick one of these tips to try. You do them all, together, if they apply to you.

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low carb keto fluOver the first few days (up to two weeks) of eating low-carb, you may run into some frustration. Where is all of this energy I’m supposed to have? Why do I want to mow through that bag of chips right now? Am I coming down with a cold? For some people, the transition from burning glucose to burning fat comes with unwanted symptoms that range from slightly uncomfortable to miserable. This transition period is known as keto flu, or low-carb flu. It’s real, and it can be pretty terrible.

But, it’s temporary.

What is Low Carb Flu?

Low carb flu, or keto flu, is a set of symptoms that you may feel over the first few days of limiting carbohydrates. Low carb flu isn’t a flu or infection at all, and it’s not a medical term. It got its name because some of the symptoms of carb restriction can feel like you’re sick with the flu.

Low carb flu has dissuaded millions of people from pursuing and sticking to a healthy diet. You can laugh now that you’re fat-adapted and humming along on stored body fat, but you’ve forgotten just how terrible the transition from sugar-burning to fat-burning can be.

Symptoms of Keto Flu, or Low Carb Flu

It shows up differently for everyone. Some people, likely the ones who are metabolically flexible to a degree before even starting, won’t notice much trouble. That’s somewhat rare. More often, people new to carb restriction will experience some degree of:

  • Headaches
  • Brain fog
  • Malaise, fatigue, listlessness, and other synonyms for “exhaustion”
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • Irritability
  • Mood changes
  • Constplation
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle aches
  • Lack of motivation
  • Feelings of anxiousness
  • Cravings

At some point, you’ll just have to accept the reality of the situation: you’re shifting from a sugar-burning metabolism to a fat-burning metabolism. You’re building the metabolic machinery necessary to burn fat. You’re updating your body’s firmware, and it’s a big update. That takes time.

How Long Does Keto Flu Last?

Generally, you can expect keto flu to last 4-7 days.

Most commonly, people who have symptoms with low-carb will experience symptoms If the results of one study are representative, it takes about five days on a low-carb, high-fat diet to increase AMPK and start building new fat-burning mitochondria.https://www.thieme-connect.com/products/ejournals/abstract/10.1055/s-0032-1312656‘>2 And sure enough, most people report that the low-carb flu lasts from four to seven days—right on target.

But that doesn’t mean we have to like it. So, what can you do to speed up the transition and reduce the pain and suffering?

Here are a few strategies to help you cross the rocky terrain of keto flu more quickly.

11 Keto Flu Remedies to Make Low Carb Easier

  1. Eat fatty fish or take fish oil
  2. Support your stress systems
  3. Don’t skimp on salt
  4. Eat enough potassium
  5. Take magnesium
  6. Stay hydrated
  7. Eat more fat
  8. Include medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs)
  9. Consider ketone supplements
  10. Move around at a slow pace
  11. Reduce carbs gradually

1. Eat fatty fish or take fish oil

One theory is that low-carb flu is caused by the release of stored arachidonic acid from adipose tissue. Since AA is the precursor to inflammatory molecules implicated in headaches,http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1901193‘>4 If this is true, taking extra fish oil or eating fatty fish like sardines or salmon should counter the omega-6-induced inflammatory response triggering the headaches. If this isn’t true, eating fish is still a good idea.

2. Support your stress systems

There’s a good chance you have been fueled by glucose for most of your life. So, when glucose suddenly isn’t available, your body might think you’re in danger – that you’re in a time of scarcity or famine. That triggers your stress response, and your adrenal glands release cortisol, which makes you store body fat.

An easy way to combat this is with adaptogens – supplements that act directly on your body’s stress mechanisms. Adaptogens help to modulate the stress response so that the physical effects of stress are less pronounced.

3. Don’t skimp on salt

Going low-carb increases salt requirements on multiple levels. First, when your body dumps glycogen, it doesn’t just dump the water that accompanies it. You’re also losing tons of sodium. Second, a byproduct of low insulin is reduced sodium retention,http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7332312‘>6 To replenish your stores, Use Lite-Salt (a potassium salt) along with your regular salt, and eat lots of non-starchy green vegetation, like spinach. Other great potassium sources include avocados and yogurt (if you get real yogurt, the bacteria have consumed most of the sugar).

5. Take magnesium

Notice a theme here? Electrolytes matter when you’re going keto.

Although losing water doesn’t really flush out magnesium like it does other electrolytes, we do need extra magnesium to regulate sodium and potassium levels in the body.https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/10/10/1348/htm‘>1

Things like sleep deprivation, chronic stress, and gut dysbiosis are also shown to cause cravings for a variety of physiological reasons. But let’s say you’re getting a solid 8-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep, your stress levels are under control, your gut microbiome is balanced — and you’re still struggling with cravings. Then what?

Why Can’t I Quit Sugar?

Cravings are often more psychological than they are physiological. Maybe you’ve noticed that too. Maybe you’ve noticed that you start to have cravings any time you have a stressful day or feel anxious or deprived or smell something that reminds you of your favorite snickerdoodle cookie from childhood. In my experience, these are the top 5 emotionally driven reasons you might still be struggling with sugar cravings:

1. Your Diet is Too Restrictive

Eliminating certain foods and food-like items like grains, sugar, and refined carbohydrates is a good thing in general. But being too restrictive — or perceiving how you’re eating as a diet can end up backfiring. In fact, this study shows a direct correlation between food restriction and cravings.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4114146/‘>3 are also in charge of housing your memories and experiences.

3. State of Mental Health

Australian researchers conducted a study on pandemic-related depression, stress, anxiety, and well-being and found that 79% of the participants were struggling with mental health issues due to COVID-19.https://www.researchgate.net/publication/302969772_Effects_of_sugar_rich_diet_on_brain_serotonin_hyperphagia_and_anxiety_in_animal_model_of_both_genders‘>5 the neurotransmitter that regulates your mood. When you eat sugar, you feel happier, more connected, and less stressed out — at least until the sugar crash hits.

4. Current Rituals

Frozen junior mints at the movies. A slice of pie at summer barbeques. Checking out the dessert menu after dinner even though you’re stuffed. Your rituals and your environment  influence your behaviours (i.e. trigger you to search for something sweet).https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5868755/‘>7

Why It’s So Hard to Stop Eating Sugar

We’re taught early on that sugar equals love and that feeling “better” is as easy as snuggling a pint of Ben & Jerry’s on the couch. Sure, diving into the emotional side of good health can be uncomfortable, but it’s also extremely necessary if you want to get your cravings under control.

The more readily you can express and deal with your emotions, the healthier your mind and your body will be. In my 10+ years as a health coach, I’ve helped hundreds of men and women peel back the layers of their sugar cravings. And you can too. With the following strategies, you’ll learn that your sugar cravings aren’t something that need wrangling — they’re something that you can use to learn more about what you’re really craving.

How to Cut Your Sugar Habit: 5 Strategies to Stop Cravings

1. Add More Variety

A steady diet of grass-fed beef and local, organic veggies looks great on paper in respect to quality, but as mentioned above, might also feel too limiting for where you’re at right now. If you’re constantly dreaming of sugar-laden treats, take this opportunity to diversify your plate. By adding a variety of colors, textures, and flavors, you’re giving your brain and your body the signal that you’re having more, not less. And don’t forget to change it up now and then. Typically opt for ribeye? Try a salmon fillet. Love salads? Try grilled asparagus. Always snack on almonds? Buy some salted macadamia nuts. You get the picture.

2. Keep a Journal

You don’t have to write down all of your deepest, darkest thoughts, but I do recommend keeping a journal of when your food cravings hit — and this is the important part: what you’re feeling when they come on. Do this exercise without self-editing or judgement. Within a week, my guess is that you’ll start to see a connection between your triggers (which could be memories, celebrations, emotions, people, and places) and your sugar cravings. Research shows that having a practice of mindfulness can help you better manage the uncomfortable feelings that fuel your cravings.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4290532/‘>9 levels naturally (and reduce the desire to reach for sugar to feel good) through hugging, laughing, playing, and practicing gratitude. Other things like looking at photos of loved ones, singing, physical exercise, and support from family, friends, and our community here on Mark’s Daily Apple are also great ways to boost oxytocin levels. Emotional trauma of any kind can impact your habits and behaviors as an adult. And while a health coach can help you overcome certain obstacles, it’s crucial to work with a licensed professional trained to navigate these challenges https://celiac.org/about-celiac-disease/what-is-celiac-disease/‘>1 Unfortunately, not everyone who develops Celiac disease will have recognizable symptoms before the condition has wreaked serious havoc in the intestinal system by flattening of the intestinal villi and subsequently decreasing the area for nutrient absorption. For these people, Celiac disease often isn’t diagnosed until after effects of malnutrition have set in (lack of growth in children, diarrhea, stomach pain and/or bloating, vomiting, behavioral changes, etc.). In these cases, biopsies are often taken to assess the extent of damage and to aid diagnosis. Even if biopsies are normal, there is still the chance that nutrient absorption is impaired.

Thankfully, methods for diagnosing gluten sensitivity and related Celiac disease have improved in recent years as awareness has increased and more research has been done. Blood tests for specific antibodies have allowed physicians to diagnose the disease in many cases before much if any damage has occurred. Researchers are also beginning to test for antibodies in the intestinal tract, which may promise an even earlier diagnosis in at-risk individuals.

Is Gluten Intolerance Common?

Gluten sensitivity or intolerance, once thought to be rare, is now believed to affect a third of the population. (Some believe this number is substantially higher.) Experts report that up to 100 million Americans will consume gluten-free food products over the course of a year.https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/0167569992900208‘>3 It can appear at any point throughout your lifetime, and sometimes doesn’t manifest itself until a person is in their thirties or even forties.

Given my stance on grains, I obviously suggest avoiding gluten. As mentioned, gluten intolerance is a very common condition and may be underestimated still. Given the relatively recent introduction of gluten (and all grains) into the human diet, gluten intolerance and the related Celiac disease are very unfortunate but not very surprising conditions. In addition to omitting grains from your diet (especially those listed above), you can avoid processed foods, which likely contain trace amounts in forms like hydrolyzed proteins, starch/modified starch, malt, binders, and natural flavorings. If anyone in your family has been diagnosed with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance, it’s a wise idea to talk to your doctor about testing options.

What to Do If You Suspect You Are Gluten Intolerant

If you think you are having reactions to gluten, visit your doctor to rule out celiac disease. Then, it’s simply a matter of avoiding gluten. It’s difficult at first, but soon, you won’t miss them.

Foods that Contain Gluten

Gluten is present in only grains and grain-based foods. Ingredients to look out for if you’re avoiding gluten include:

  • Wheat
  • Oats if not labeled gluten-free (If they’re grown too close to wheat crops, you may end up with rogue wheat grains in the mix.)
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Triticale

When you’re Primal, you avoid grains, so you may be avoiding gluten by default.

Gluten-free grains, starches and flours

If you’re avoiding gluten and buying replacement foods, you may see ingredients including:

  • Amaranth
  • Rice
  • Arrowroot
  • Almond flour
  • Sorghum
  • Buckwheat
  • Cassava root
  • Teff
  • Corn
  • Flaxseed
  • Coconut flour
  • Potato starch
  • Millet
  • Quinoa
  • Soy
  • Tapioca

Just because it’s gluten free doesn’t mean it’s healthy or Primal. Read this article on grains before you decide to dig in. This article lists flours that are Primal-friendly. 

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The post Dear Mark: Gluten Sensitivity, Intolerance, Celiac Disease, and Grains appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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benefits of intermittent fastingAt this point, intermittent fasting isn’t a new concept, nor is it a difficult one. You take in all of your calories for the day within a limited window of time, and the rest of the day, you stick with water, maybe a cup of coffee, or tea in the morning if you feel so inclined. The idea is that giving your body a period of time “off” from digesting food allows your cells to heal and renew in other ways.

A Practice Born Because Calorie Restriction is Unpleasant

Intermittent fasting became popular because calorie restriction was found to contribute to healthy aging. A few mouse and worm studies seem to show that drastic reductions in food intake over a long period of time could prolong your life.

The research is compelling, but I’m not convinced actively restricting your calorie intake through sheer will is the true path to enjoyable longevity. I don’t want to be thin, frail, distractible, or preoccupied with food. I’d rather be vibrant and full of zest. I want to eat big strapping meals of steak and veggies smothered in butter without worrying about calories. I want to maintain muscle mass and have enough energy to go on long hikes and have the legs to still leap for high passes (over the young guys) at the end of Ultimate games. And as I appreciate the neuroprotective and autophagy-promoting qualities of calorie restriction, I’d rather not expend the mental energy and fortitude required to maintain such a regimen day-in and day-out.

Intermittent fasting is the workaround. Pushing off breakfast for a few hours gives me all of the benefits of calorie restriction, without all the misery.

Fasting is the way to have your cake and eat it too. Beyond the already proven benefits of a Primal Blueprint low-carb lifestyle, fasting once in a while seems to offer many of the same benefits of calorie restriction – you know, stuff like increased longevity, neuroprotection, increased insulin sensitivity, stronger resistance to stress, some cool effects on endogenous hormone production, increased mental clarity, plus more – but without the active, agonizing restriction.

You just eat Primally, focusing on meat and vegetables with plenty of animal fat, and skip meals on occasion. A sixteen-hour fast is on the low-but-still-effective end, or you could opt for longer, more intermittent fasts – say, a full twenty-four hours once or twice a week. Women may need to time fasts a little differently than men. More on that here.

When you’re done with the fast, eat as much as you want (which usually isn’t an issue, once you’re keto-adapted). It essentially turns into “eat when you’re hungry,” because let’s face it: eating the types of foods we evolved eating induces powerful satiety and makes eating the right amount of food a subconscious act. Fasting becomes a whole lot easier (and intuitive) when you’ve got your food quality dialed in. And I’ll come back to that little caveat at the end here.

“Fasting” was the top search term for MDA last week, and I hadn’t done a big post on it in a while, so I thought I’d do a comprehensive rundown of all the benefits (some conclusive, others prospective) you can expect to obtain from IF.


You can have a fun night out and stay on track. Instantly download the Primal and Keto Guide to Dining Out


Intermittent Fasting and Longevity

Everyone wants to live longer, but I find longevity pointless if you’re not enjoying yourself. Otherwise, life becomes dreary.

The popular c. elegans worm enjoys increased longevity with both twenty-four and forty-eight hour IFs via signaling through a gene that we all have.full PDF) from the 1940s found that varying amounts of twenty-four hour IFs (every other day, every fourth day, every eighth day, etc) prolonged the lifespan of rats without retarding or stunting the growth (as occurred with calorie restricting them). Female rats responded best to every eight day fasts, while males responded best to every other day fasts.

Reductions in brain insulin signaling have been shown to increase lifespan in animals, either by calorie restricting or actively knocking out brain insulin receptors.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21244426‘>3

Blood Lipids

Going in and pharmaceutically manhandling your cholesterol synthesizing equipment is one thing; eating real food and exercising, resulting in possible alterations to your lipid profile, is another. We don’t set out to force your blood lipids into submission, but lifestyle changes that happen to change them for “the better” are usually a good thing. Fasting brings potent changes to blood lipids in an “organic” way – you’re just letting your machinery do its thing on its own – and this is probably a very good thing.

Intermittent fasting is as effective or even more effective than calorie restriction in improving metabolic syndrome markers in overweight women, and it’s a whole lot easier to stick with.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20300080‘>5

I discussed this last week, but it can’t hurt to mention that short-term alternate day fasting wrought improvements in LDL particle size and distribution in obese adults.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20815899‘>7

Heck, intermittent fasting even helped cocaine addicts stick to their treatment and rehab program.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18184721‘>9 In fact, here’s a review of most of the animal anti-cancer evidence.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19135806‘>11 This is refreshing news. A preliminary studyhttp://ajpregu.physiology.org/content/296/1/R29.full‘>13 I’ve found this to be the case for me. If the body “needs” food right after a workout, why would hunger be blunted? This is why I tend to hold off on the eating post-workout. Every little bit helps, especially as you age.

Neurological Health

Fasting doesn’t cause your brain tissue to waste away, contrary to what some people will tell you. It’s actually good for brain health. Any dietary restriction tends to increase neuronal plasticity and promote neurogenesis, but it was IF that had the greatest effect (with the fewest downsides).http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1046/j.1471-4159.2003.01586.x/full‘>15 That is, mice who ate larger meals more infrequently saw greater increases in brain and overall bodily health. Still another study found that IF was beneficial for peripheral nerve function in mice by promoting the maintenance of the neuronal pathways responsible for locomotor performance.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21106691‘>17), which is the process by which cells recycle waste material, eliminate or downregulate wasteful processes, and repair themselves. Why is autophagy so important? It’s required to maintain muscle masshttp://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20104028‘>19  It reduces the negative effects of aginghttp://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17934054‘>21

Without the autophagy that fasting provides, you would get very few of the benefits. Fasting even increases neuronal autophagy,http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21051570‘>23 (which mean better performance down the line), improved muscle protein synthesis,http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20187284‘>25 (you’ll earn your meal and make more muscle out of it if you train on an empty stomach). Studies on Muslim athletes during Ramadan show no effect on performance while fasting,http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19787180‘>27 in those who exercise and fast rather than just fast. When you train in a fasted state, glycogen breakdown is blunted28 and more fat is burned, leaving you more glycolytic energy in the tank for when you really need it and less body fat. Those are just a sampling of the benefits to fasted training; there are dozens more.

Mental Well-being and Clarity

A lot of health influencers will tell you that failure to eat something every few hours will cause mental fog and sluggishness, so keep a banana or a granola bar on your person at all times. Of course, this is all based on an assumption that we need to supply exogenous carbs on a regular basis to properly fuel the brain. This notion that fasting is only the province of anorexics or “caveman” has kept many people from experiencing the vast array of benefits.

I maintain that one’s comfort in handling intermittent fasting effortlessly does increase dramatically when you’ve reprogrammed those cells (and genes) to predispose your body to derive most of your day-to-day energy from fat, as opposed to constantly dipping into glycogen stores (as happens when we rely so much on refeeding carbs every few hours).

Overall, fasting just seems right. It’s like a reset button for your entire body, presumably across a large spectrum of maladies and dysfunctions. It puts your body into repair mode – at the cellular level – and it can restore normal hormonal function in the obese or overweight. Now, you don’t have to fast, but it’s definitely something to consider.

Have you tried intermittent fasting yet? Let me know how intermittent fasting has worked – or hasn’t – with your lifestyle in the comment section!

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