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Fasting is a great tool for so many things. You can use it to regulate food intake and lose body fat. Fasting can help you shift body composition, normalize your appetite, and gain control over your relationship to food. Many people report cognitive enhancements from fasting, and it’s a surefire way to speed up the transition into ketosis and full-blown fat adaptation. There’s strong evidence that we look, feel, and perform best skipping the occasional meal—that it’s the evolutionary norm for humans not to have constant, unceasing access to food. After all, we didn’t always have 24 hour grocery stores and fast food restaurants. But what about fasting with a cold?
And what about intermittent fasting and the immune system? Should you fast at all when you’re sick? What about fasting with the flu? Or how about bacterial infections—can fasting help with those? These are actually some of the most common questions I receive. Because intermittent fasting seems to help with so many other conditions, it makes sense to wonder about its relationship to the immune response.
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There are two main types of infections that most people worry over: viral infections and bacterial infections.
- Viral infections include influenza (flu), the common cold, viral gastroenteritis, and the various coronaviruses. There are also things like measles, chickenpox, and viral meningitis, but most people aren’t very worried about catching those these days.
- Bacterial infections include pneumonia (most pneumonias are bacterial in origin, though some can be viral), bacterial gastroenteritis, food poisoning, and bacterial sinus infections.
Fasting With a Cold – Viral Infections
In general, fasting doesn’t look like a great idea if you’re dealing with a viral infection like the flu or common cold. Why?
Studies on Fasting and Viruses
Animal studies show that mice who fast have a worse response to subsequent viral infections. In one paper, mice were either fasted every other day or placed a normal diet, then exposed to a “viral mimetic” (a type of chemical that replicates a viral infection). The mice who fasted ended up with higher cortisol, a more inflammatory immune response, more severe symptoms, and acted sicker than the mice who ate.1
Another mouse study found that in animals exposed to an infectious virus, a fat-based (fasting) metabolism was detrimental to survival and a glucose-based (fed) metabolism was beneficial.2
Viruses Deplete Nutrients
Viruses are much smaller than bacteria and generally cause trouble by hijacking cells and using your body’s machinery to replicate. To do so, they often steal nutrients from the host. One example is selenium, a crucial nutrient for viral replication. Studies show that viral infections can induce selenium deficiencies and that correcting those deficiencies by, well, eating selenium-rich foods can improve the outcome of infections.3
Most viruses will deplete nutrients and you need to eat to replenish them.
Fasting Inhibits MTOR, Which is Good and Bad
Blocking MTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) through fasting reduces expression of another major immune component: the interferon-inducible transmembrane protein (IFITM). 4 Think of the IFITM as a barrier preventing some viruses from gaining a foothold in your body, including influenza, Ebola, SARS, MERS, Marburg, Dengue, and hepatitis C. These are IFITM-sensitive viruses, but there are also IFITM-resistant viruses, like the common cold.
In fact, one study found that increasing IFITM levels increased vulnerability to infection by the common cold virus.5 Using fasting to reduce mTOR and lower IFITM expression could conceivably increase resistance to the common cold while increasing vulnerability to flu (and the others like Ebola and so on). Double edged-blade.
Or perhaps it’s triple-edged.
Part of dealing with an infection is learning from it. Our immune systems have to seroconvert antibodies so that when we encounter the infection again, our immune system is better equipped to head it off at the pass. This is the concept behind vaccination—a measured dose of the infective agent that trains our immune system to defeat the real thing in the future. As it turns out, inhibiting mTOR through fasting could affect our ability to seroconvert antibodies in response to viral infections.
In studies of older adults, higher levels of mTOR predict lower rates of seroconversion, and giving them an mTOR inhibitor improves seroconversion after a flu vaccine. If fasting reduces mTOR (and it does), it should in theory improve the antibody response to a vaccine or infection.
Weird, right? Fasting reduces mTOR, which could impair your short term response to an infectious insult (or improve it if it’s the common cold) while improving your long term response. You might still get sick but at least your chances of developing longterm immunity should increase.
Fasting With a Cold – Bacterial Infections
In general, fasting looks like a better idea when you’re sick with a bacterial infection.
Research on Fasting and Bacteria
Animal models of bacterial infections find that mice tolerate them much better in a fasted, ketogenic state. In fact, the ketone body beta-hydroxybutyrate is able to directly nullify some of the oxidative stress associated with bacterial infections;6 while “ketogenesis was required for survival in bacterial inflammation, it was dispensable in the case of viral inflammation.”
Bacterial Infections Reduce Appetite Naturally
One indicator is that your appetite often falls off a cliff when you have a bacterial infection. The last you want to do when you’re dealing a bout of food poisoning is eat. This doesn’t usually happen with viral infections, and I believe that’s important. In those “base” states of survival, what you crave is a good indicator of what you need.
Fasting Improves Phagocytosis (and Sugar Inhibits It)
A key component of the innate immune system’s ability to deal with bacterial infections is phagocytosis: When a class of immune cells called neutrophils surrounds, engulfs, and destroys individual bacteria. The phagocytic index describes the number of bacterial cells a neutrophil is able to engulf and nullify in a set time. Generally speaking, higher phagocytic activity means you have a better response to bacterial infections.
Luckily, we know pretty well how to increase and decrease phagocytic activity in people. To decrease phagocytic activity (make neutrophils worse at engulfing and destroying pathogenic bacterial cells), you simply feed a person sugar.7 It could be orange juice, honey, sucrose, fructose, or glucose—any simple source of sugars—and if you give 100 grams to a person, their phagocytic capacity drops for at least five hours. Give the person nothing—let them fast—and their phagocytic capacity climbs. Even at 5 hours after eating the sugar, the phagocytosis still hasn’t caught up to that of the fasting person.
Later studies confirm that low fasting blood glucose is a strong predictor of a strong neutrophil:leukocyte ratio8. Lower glucose, more neutrophils available to take on bacterial pathogens. Fasting is a reliable way to drop your blood glucose.
Phagocytosis doesn’t work so well against viral infections because a virus sequesters itself in the host’s cells. Neutrophils can’t engulf and kill the host cells; that’d just be counterproductive and probably quite dangerous. However, there’s evidence both ways: that neutrophils can enhance the immune response to viral infections but they can also exacerbate the damage done to host tissues. It isn’t clear what role they play so I’d advise against consciously manipulating them through fasting.
Intermittent Fasting While Sick: Making Sense of it All
There are no easy, straightforward rules governing the optimal fasting strategy for infections, whether viral or bacterial. Each virus is different. Every bacteria is separate. Nothing in biology is simple. What we do know:
- If fasting stresses you out, it will be bad for your immunity. Cortisol depresses the immune system.
- If fasting ruins your sleep, it will be bad for your immunity. Proper sleep is absolutely essential for an optimal immune response.
- If you’re hungry, let that be your guide. Eat. Don’t force the issue.
- If you’re not hungry, skip the meal. Again, let your body’s signals be your guide.
- When faced with an immune insult, or if something’s “going around,” cut back on the fasting or at least keep it shorter than normal. 16 hours instead of 30. 20 instead of 48.
- Realize that fasting is not a panacea. It’s not the answer to everything.
- Understand that bacterial and viral infections often tag along with each other. A virus will weaken the host enough to allow bacterial pathogens to flourish. You’ll often be dealing with both at once. I’d imagine that something that allows you to stay fed while also enjoying a fat-based metabolism—like a lazy ketogenic diet—could work well here.
- Fasting can prune damaged parts of your immune system and replace them with renewed components.9 This is good for long term immune health, but if an infectious agent happens to catch you in the middle of an extended fast while you’re doing the pruning, your risk of infection probably goes up. There’s always a give and a take.
There are no magic bullets, but it cuts both ways. You are resilient. While most of the humans throughout history didn’t make it through hundreds of thousands of years of death, destruction, famine, and disease, your gene line did. So don’t think you have to pick one or the other—fasting or feeding—in response to illness. Go with what feels best, don’t get dogmatic, and just take it easy.
What’s your go-to feeding strategy for dealing with sickness? Do you differentiate between viral and bacterial illnesses? Let me know down below!
The post Fasting with a Cold: How Does Fasting Impact Viral and Bacterial Infections appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.
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For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering three questions taken from last week’s post on the power of pairing low-carb with fasting. First, do I have any advice for a woman who’s struggling to see results eating one meal a day? Second, how does low-carb interact with the different types of glucose tests you can take? And third, what are my thoughts on carb limits when fasting? Is lower always better? Is there a carb threshold after which fasting stops working so well?
I have been dappling in low carb for nearly year and in the last 2-3 months I have been playing around with OMAD. My question is, I eat ’till I’m full ,which is about 12-18 grams of carbs, never over 100g protein and around 100g fat, sitting at 1000-1400 calories—but I’m not losing weight. Over 3 months I’ve lost about 6kg and I have about 30kg to lose. Do I keep going? I’m enjoying it but I get frustrated about the lack of weight loss (I’ve lost a dress size).
The majority of women don’t do well on one meal a day. Consider the average office worker struggling to lose weight. They do coffee for breakfast and maybe have a salad with no meat (and few calories) for lunch, struggle mightily not to eat five stale donuts at 3p.m. in the break room, only to cave at night and eat a sack of potato chips and take out while streaming some show.
My point is not that these people would do better if only they ate a solid meal for dinner rather than chips and snacks and Netflix. Nor is it that this problem only afflicts women and never men. Plenty of men do it, too, and have bad results. But it shows more quickly in women, who by nature of their reproductive physiology are simply more vulnerable to nutritional insults than men—on average. I explain the reasons this happens in this post on fasting for women. Long story short, because reproduction is far more costly and demanding on a woman’s body than a man’s (conception, pregnancy, nursing); woman are more finely attuned to caloric restriction and fasting. My point is that fasting for most of the day, every day, doesn’t work well for most women—it becomes a constant stressor, driving unhealthy cravings to which you eventually succumb.
It sounds like OMAD might not be working for you. Just one dress size (which is a better barometer than weight) in 3 months? Yeah, it might be time to try something else.
Was low carb with more frequent meals working?
I’ve seen a lot of men burn out on OMAD, too. Throw in some sleep disturbances, a heavy training schedule, work-related stress, cooking for the family, bills, and whatever other stressors modern life throws our way, and OMAD can be counterproductive.
For one thing, your calorie intake is way too low. One thousand calories is way too low; 1400 calories is really pushing it. Perpetually starving yourself for 22 hours a day and then trying to cram a big meal in that doesn’t even provide enough calories or nutrients just doesn’t work for most people. I can imagine your leptin is low, your caloric expenditure dampened, your thyroid function inhibited.
Here’s what you might try.
Do OMAD with 1000-1400 calories once a week. Twice max. Eat normal—two to three meals—the rest of the days. This way you pulse your fasting and OMAD’ing. You eat normal amounts of calories for five days a week and then drop them down low twice a week, giving your body a message of relative abundance punctuated with short bouts of scarcity.
I think that’ll work better for you. Write back with your results.
If you are low carb and need to do a glucose blood test and an A1C test: What is the best fasting times then? Just the night before or for 24 hours?
If you fast longer, shouldn’t the glucose reading be lower?
It really depends on what kind of test you take.
If you’re doing a fasting blood glucose test, fasting will probably lower it.
If you’re doing a postprandial blood glucose test, fasting will probably raise it. You’re asking your body to suddenly go from burning fat to processing 75 grams of pure glucose. The fat-based metabolism triggers transient insulin resistance, which inhibits your ability to process the glucose efficiently. Your postprandial reading will thus be higher than is “real.”
If you’re doing an HbA1c test, fasting won’t affect it. HbA1c is the “average” blood sugar over three months or so; a single meal will have no impact.
I totally agree with the science of this relationship. Mark, at what intake level of carbs are you considering this relationship no longer synergistic? Anything over 100 grams or should the carb intake be kept lower to have the greatest fat-burning / weight-loss effect?
The bulk of the synergy lies in the ease with which you can maintain the fast. Low-carb/fat-based metabolisms simply make it easier to slip into and remain in the fat-based metabolism of the fasting state. If you can easily fast, easily slip back into ketosis and maintain the fast while eating an otherwise moderate or high-carb diet, have at it. That isn’t as common as the opposite, drawing on my experience talking to hundreds of people about this.
However, some people get the best weight-loss effect by combining intermittent fasting, heavy weight training, and periodic/timed carb feeds. The trick is to time your carbs around your workouts, and eat no more than you’ve actually expended through glycogen depletion. That means you’re still in a fat-based metabolism because the carbs you do eat are going toward glycogen repletion rather than being burned for energy, so they never actually inhibit the burning of body fat.
If you’re doing CrossFit WODs that hit every muscle and leave you panting on the ground (or the equivalent), you could probably get away with 100-200 grams right after without any issues. It really depends, of course. More muscle, larger glycogen sinks. Some people just slip right back into ketosis more easily. Others have a life history that may inhibit this. But that 100-ish carbs after a “hard” training session that you feel should be a good target for most people.
You should keep fat low and protein high in these carb-heavy meals. What you want is to refill that glycogen and hit the protein hard.
That’s it for today, folks. Take care. Be sure to ask any followups or additional questions down below. Thanks for reading!
The post Dear Mark: OMAD for Women, Low-Carb Glucose Testing, and Carb Limit When Fasting appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.
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Research of the Week
Blue-blocking glasses improve mania patients’ sleep quality.
The human landscape of ancient Africa looked a lot different 3000 years ago.
Without changing caloric intake, time-restricted eating improves metabolic health.
Ramadan-style fasting (30 days of 14-hour fasts, from dawn to sunset) activates proteins related to cancer protection, glucose regulation, fat burning, cognitive function, and immune function.
In Danes, taking fish oil was associated with larger testicles and better sperm parameters.
Women who take the birth control pill tend to have smaller hypothalamuses.
New Primal Blueprint Podcasts
Episode 400: Dr. Corey Riser: Host Elle Russ chats with Chiropractor and Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner Dr. Corey Riser.
Primal Health Coach Radio, Episode 44: Laura and Erin chat with Anya Perry and Deanna Wilcox, founders of Plan to Succeed.
Each week, select Mark’s Daily Apple blog posts are prepared as Primal Blueprint Podcasts. Need to catch up on reading, but don’t have the time? Prefer to listen to articles while on the go? Check out the new blog post podcasts, and subscribe to the Primal Blueprint Podcast here so you never miss an episode.
California may call Tylenol a carcinogen.
American Southerners in particular are inactive (but everyone’s pretty bad).
Interesting Blog Posts
Fat from your last meal sets the metabolic table.
Amy Remondi explains how she learned the science of Primal health and fitness while building her business.
Play a little. Or a lot.
What the smartphone has done to our concept of “space.”
More calls to look into the ethics of Harvard’s meat science research.
Things I’m Up to and Interested In
Interesting stat: When trying to lose weight, female doctors tend to personally use intermittent fasting, ketogenic diets, and low-carb diets.
Question I found interesting: What’s driving people to seek out and relish objectively painful and uncomfortable stimuli like cold water swimming?
I agree with this principle: Happiness (and love) is what matters.
Why not both?: Exercise as a caffeine alternative.
One of many: The forgotten art of squatting.
Question I’m Asking
Are you worried about the coronavirus?
One year ago (Jan 18– Jan 24)
- Is Iron the New Cholesterol? – Well, is it?
- Explaining Keto and Hair Loss (and Why Any Dietary Change Might Cause It) – Is keto to blame?
Comment of the Week
“Years ago my brother was placed on a drug for high blood pressure. Within two weeks he had a heated disagreement with his neighbor and code enforcement at his home that led to a SWAT team being called. Fortunately one of his neighbors was a cop in the same city; he was able to de-escalate the situation and no one was harmed. The next day my brother realized his outrage about many things had begun after taking the drug. He discontinued it. Three years later his wife was put on the same drug; due to constant arguing, they ended up divorced. They had been high school sweethearts.”
– That’s a sad, alarming story, Lisa.
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Is it just a case of overlapping interests? Is it because when you stumble upon one big lie perpetrated by the experts—that cutting carbs will give you heart disease and leave your brain starving for energy/you must eat 6-8 small meals a day or else risk “starvation mode” and “slow metabolism”—you start questioning all the other advice they give?
It might be some of that. But a big reason why intermittent fasting and low-carb eating tend to converge is that they are synergistic. Doing one makes the other work better, and vice versa.
What are the benefits? What are the synergies?
Fasting is easier when you’re low-carb. Low-carb is easier when you fast.
Low-carb is easier when you fast.
Fasting is easier when you’re low-carb.
The two inputs support each other. Rather than a vicious cycle, it’s a virtuous one. Fasting promotes fat-adaptation by upregulating fat-burning mitochondria, spurring the creation of new mitochondria, and reducing your reliance on sugar. Fat-adaptation makes going low-carb easier, because you’re really good at burning body fat and don’t get so many sugar cravings. Going low-carb makes you even better at burning fat and builds even more mitochondria, which is a prerequisite for fasting for extended periods of time.
If low-carb is going to work, you have to do it. If fasting is going to work, you have to fast. Anything that makes those easier is going to be good for your health. That’s where it all starts.
You’ll burn more fat.
A 2013 study compared low-fat dieters on an alternate day fasting schedule with low-carb dieters on an alternate day fasting schedule. Both groups lost weight and improved metabolic health markers, but the low-carbers lost more body fat.
A more recent study putting low-carbers on a fasting schedule for six months saw their body fat drop, lean mass remain stable, and fasting insulin decrease. However, there was no control group and the low-carb diet was still 30% carbs. I think you’d see better results if you dropped those carbs down even lower.
You’ll lose less muscle.
One common criticism lobbed at intermittent fasting enthusiasts is that it has the potential to cause muscle loss. This is a valid point. If you are insufficiently fat-adapted, your glucose requirements will remain elevated when fasting, and you may break down muscle tissue for the amino acids to convert to glucose.
Luckily, ketones spare muscle tissue by reducing your need for glucose. It turns out that a fair number of tissues that would otherwise run on glucose can run on ketones. Being in a ketogenic or low-carb fat-burning state before you fast accentuates this effect. It’s no wonder that the studies mentioned in the last section found that weight loss via low-carb dieting and fasting was entirely from body fat.
Bump up the muscle-sparing effect even more by lifting heavy things (even during the fast).
You’ll forget to eat.
A major reason low-carb and keto diets work so well for weight loss is that they increase satiety and inadvertently reduce calories. Whereas your average calorie-counter is painstakingly tracking everything he or she eats and expends just to wrangle a few pounds lost, the low-carb dieter often just eats to satiety and lets the weight loss happen.
The average low-carber will fast without even thinking about it. They fast because they simply aren’t hungry and forget to eat. Someone on a higher-carb “regular” diet often must summon superhuman willpower to fast. They fast in spite of being ravenous and can think of nothing else but eating.
Forgetting to eat is a much easier way to fast than willing yourself to do it.
You’ll avoid harmful postprandial blood sugar spikes.
Eating a high-carb meal after fasting for two days will spike your postprandial blood sugar. Eating a low-carb meal after fasting for two days will likely not. Why?
Consider the problem of the long-term low-carber trying to pass a glucose tolerance test. It’s common for long-term low-carbers to “fail” glucose tolerance tests because they’re trying to handle 75 grams of pure glucose with a fat-based metabolism. The body is set up to burn fat and you suddenly introduce a bunch of glucose. It’s hard to do, and most people will fail that—even if they’re healthy.
When you’re coming off a fast, you’re burning fat. You may not have the glucose intolerance of a long-term low-carber, but you are running on fat, and that’s going to raise the chance of exaggerated postprandial blood sugar numbers.
If you do want to eat carbs after a fast, the best way to mitigate this issue is to break the fast with a hard workout and then eat the carbs. You’ll “simulate” glucose tolerance by clearing out glycogen and providing open storage depots for the incoming carbohydrates.
Or you could just be a low-carber to begin with and avoid the problem altogether.
You’re less likely to overdo the re-feeds.
Fasting is a great way to induce caloric deficits and thus lose weight. That’s pretty much why it works so well, as an artificial boundary to control our eating and snacking habits. However, people can tend to go a little wild on the re-feeds. They haven’t eaten all day, so of course they’re going to pig out when they break the fast and eat all sorts of foods they wouldn’t otherwise eat—and eat way more calories than they would have, thereby counteracting all the good they did not eating.
If you’re sticking to low-carb or keto principles, the re-feed is safer. You’re less likely to overeat, because low-carb is so satiating. You’re less likely to eat junk, because the “rules” of the diet eliminate most of the offending foods like chips, sweets, and fried carbohydrates.
Your insulin will normalize.
When insulin is elevated, fat is locked away in our adipose tissue, making it very difficult to burn fat. Hyperinsulinemia, or chronically elevated insulin, also increases the risk of cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, and elevated insulin levels are linked to atherosclerosis.
Intermittent fasting is a potent antidote to hyperinsulinemia. This recent study found that, despite causing similar reductions in body weight, alternate day fasting led to greater improvements in insulin and insulin resistance than regular caloric restriction.
Low-carb eating is also a potent antidote to hyperinsulinemia. As it turns out, avoiding carbohydrates reduces one’s insulin load.
I’m no enemy of insulin. It serves many valuable purposes, and we wouldn’t be alive without it. But too much insulin at the wrong time causes undeniable problems—and combining IF with low-carb can normalize it.
So, should you avoid fasting if you’re not low-carb?
Fasting while low-carb isn’t the only way to do it. Many people have great success combining high-carb dieting with fasting, provided they also lift weights. One popular (and effective) method is to go high-carb, low-fat on training days, with the workout coming at the tail end of the fast and the first meal coming after the workout. Then on rest days, you break the fast with low-carb, high-fat meals. The training stimulus increases insulin sensitivity and gives all those carbs a place to go (your muscle glycogen stores).
But combining low-carb and intermittent fasting really does increase and accentuate the benefits of both practices.
Thanks for reading, everyone. I’d love to hear about your experiences with intermittent fasting and low-carb eating. Do you find that the two go hand in hand, or have you also had success fasting with a higher-carb diet?
Klempel MC, Kroeger CM, Varady KA. Alternate day fasting (ADF) with a high-fat diet produces similar weight loss and cardio-protection as ADF with a low-fat diet. Metab Clin Exp. 2013;62(1):137-43.
Kalam F, Gabel K, Cienfuegos S, et al. Alternate day fasting combined with a low-carbohydrate diet for weight loss, weight maintenance, and metabolic disease risk reduction. Obes Sci Pract. 2019;5(6):531-539.
Mujaj B, Bos D, Kavousi M, et al. Serum insulin levels are associated with vulnerable plaque components in the carotid artery: the Rotterdam Study. Eur J Endocrinol. 2020;
Gabel K, Kroeger CM, Trepanowski JF, et al. Differential Effects of Alternate-Day Fasting Versus Daily Calorie Restriction on Insulin Resistance. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2019;27(9):1443-1450.
The post Benefits of Pairing Low-Carb Eating with Intermittent Fasting for Health and Weight Loss appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.
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It’s curious how not eating can spark so many questions and debates. A practice born out of necessity for our ancestors, fasting for long stretches happened when weather or circumstance hampered hunting and gathering, or for shorter periods while on the hunt or foraging.
As food has become readily available and abundant in many countries, our near-constant state of food arousal can dull the hormonal drivers that regulate appetite and, ironically, lead us to want to counteract the overabundance with some restriction. When we eat too much too often, we get the natural inclination to push back from the table and vow not to consume another bite for a (possibly long) while.
Fasting, particularly intermittent fasting, is gaining popularity now as a weight loss and weight management tool. As some celebrities proclaim that intermittent fasting is one of their “secrets” to their hard Hollywood-worthy bods, more and more people will be keen to latch on. We compiled a list of our greatest hits on fasting and intermittent fasting to provide education and context around how intermittent fasting works, reasons you may want to try it, reasons you may not want to try it, and considerations for athletes who want to fast.
First, let’s start with the basics. Before making any changes to your eating (or non-eating) habits, it’s important to understand:
- what it means to fast
- why people fast
- how long to fast
- what benefits or downfalls there could be to fasting
- whether all of the above can or should apply to you individually
Do the effects of fasting differ for men and women? What are the most common things people get wrong about fasting? Is fasting an effective tool for weight loss? We answer those questions, and more, in the following articles.
Fasting How to
How to Lose Weight with Intermittent Fasting
Fasting can be really beneficial to those who are trying to lose fat. Yes, that’s fat and not weight. Unlike some other kinds of weight-loss methods, which result in loss of water weight or muscle mass, fasting can effectively get rid of fat.
How to: Intermittent Fasting
There is no one way to do IF. The only real guideline is that, as always, the food you eat should be healthy. (It’s pretty clear how we choose to characterize that.) In addition to the substantial health benefits, the simplicity and flexibility are what draw people to IF.
Dry fasting is going without both food and fluid. That means no coffee, no tea, no broth, and no water or liquid of any kind (except the saliva you manage to produce). It’s an extreme type of fast whose fans and practitioners are adamant that it can resolve serious health issues. But does it? Is it safe? And what kind of research is available on it?
Fasting vs. Carb Restriction
Both fasting and carb-restriction appear to operate along similar physiological pathways. Both lower carbs. Both increase fat-adaptation. Both have the potential to get you into ketosis. Both lower insulin and blood sugar. But is one better than the other?
Top 10 Fasting Mistakes
If you’re making fasting mistakes, you might never accomplish the benefits you were hoping for. Before you throw in the towel, I want to help you identify some possible fasting pitfalls you might not be aware of and also help you avoid them.
The Pros and Cons of Fasting
The Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Fasting is one 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.
Intermittent Fasting for Women
With fasting, perhaps the most important variable to consider is your biological sex. This really does make intuitive sense. Biology cares most about your fertility. Can you reproduce? Can you produce healthy offspring that survive to do the same? These things come first. And from that perspective, a woman’s situation is more precarious than a man’s.
Should You Try Fasting?
Primal folks who are losing weight or looking to lose a bit more, and getting the right lifestyle changes enacted (sleep, exercise, sex, leisure, rest, relaxation, mental stimulation) should definitely try fasting. They will likely flourish.
When Does Fasting Cross the Line?
How do you know if your fasting regimen may be slipping into the grey area of potential orthorexia or disordered eating? We can’t diagnose anyone in an article, of course, but there are signs to watch out for if you have personal concerns or worries about others.
14 Reasons to Fast
Anytime you attempt a “radical” health practice like not eating, it helps to have a good reason to do it. That will not only give you something to aim for, but it will ensure you actually have a physiological justification for your experiment. Never go in blind. What are some of the specific scenarios and conditions where fasting makes the most sense?
Long Fasts: Worth the Risk?
If fasting for more than three days sounds riskier than just skipping breakfast, you’re right. Long fasts can get you into trouble. They’re a big commitment. You shouldn’t just stumble into one because it sounds interesting or some guy on your Twitter feed wrote about it.
What Breaks a Fast?
It’s the nature of many beings—particularly those with weight-loss goals, it seems—to want to know what the “rules” are so they can look for the loopholes to bend them. It’s no surprise that the top-performing article last year on Mark’s Daily Apple was “Does Coffee Break a Fast?” Consequently, we followed up with an article about whether bone broth breaks a fast because we received additional questions. Then people wanted to know about supplements—should they be taken while fasting? We then created a definitive guide to what breaks a fast. If there’s any other liquid, leaf, pill, stone, or twig we neglected to examine, let us know in the comments section.
Does Bone Broth Break a Fast?
Most people aren’t fasting to be able to brag about eating no calories for X number of days. They fast for shorter (often intermittent) periods of time for specific health benefits. It’s entirely possible that bone broth “breaks a fast” but allows many of the benefits we associate with fasting to occur.
Does Coffee Break a Fast?
Does black coffee break a fast? Put another way… Does coffee interfere with the benefits we’re seeking from a fast? Depends on the benefits you’re seeking (and what you put in the coffee).
Let’s look at some of the most common benefits first and if/how coffee affects them.
Do Supplements Break a Fast?
Does fish oil break a fast? What about my multivitamin, protein powder, collagen, or melatonin? Mark delves into the research to provide definitive answers.
Definitive Guide to What Breaks a Fast
One of the most common questions I get is “Does [x] break a fast?”
What they’re really inquiring about is: “Does this interfere with, negate, or nullify the benefits of fasting?” Let’s go through the most popular queries one by one and figure out how each one affects an intermittent fast.
Does Intermittent Fasting Work for Athletes?
Does fasting before and during workouts confer any performance perks or additional fat-burning benefits? Should athletes fast before every session, or only specific types of workouts? What are the potential drawbacks to fasting for athletes? Let’s go.
Intermittent Fasting Tips for Athletes
What are my specific recommendations for athletes who wish to explore intermittent fasting? I’ve got 12… plus some details about my own fasting and workout routine.
Benefits & Concerns Fasting for Athletes
Sometimes, high stress is exactly what we need to progress—a few heavy sets of squats, some rounds on the Airdyne, a killer CrossFit workout—as long as you can recover from it. A major modulator of our stress is the amount of food we have coming in. At least in theory, exercising in a fasted state could provoke a powerful adaptive response that athletes would find helpful. So, does it stack up? What exactly can intermittent fasting offer athletes?
To some, the idea of working out without “carbing up” or doing the pre-workout protein shake is unthinkable. To others, fasted workouts are sacred tools, the perfect antidote to modern decrepitude. Where does the truth lie?
That’s it for today, folks. Thanks for reading, take care, and leave a comment below if there are more questions you have about IF!
The post Intermittent Fasting: How It Works, Reasons to Try It & Considerations for Athletes appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.
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