Intermittent Fasting has health benefits and side effects. Whether you win or lose depends on where you’re starting from: Sugar Burner or Fat Adapted. When the body is efficient at burning fat, then fasting is a great way to lose a few extra pounds and detox the body. It’s regenerating on the cellular level, and boosts the functioning of the immune system. But when Glucose/Sugar is the default energy source, then an Intermittent Fast will send the body into crisis.
Intermittent Fasting and Carbohydrate Dependency
Carbohydrate Dependancy creates chronically high insulin levels. Insulin, the ‘Master Hormone’, facilitates the transport of nurtrients and hormones around the body. When we ingest food, the body metabolizes the proteins and glucose which it needs straight away. The rest is placed into storage. (Excess protein is also converted into glucose.) A limited amount of excess glucose can be stored in the liver and muscles in the form of glycogen, which serves the body in moments of high physical stress. All the rest is transformed into triglycerides and stored in the fat cells. Triglycerides, in order to get back out of the cells, need to be converted into free fatty acids. Glucagon is the hormone which activates this process.
The problem is that when blood insulin levels are chronically high, glucagon is suppressed. Thus, it’s impossible for the energy inside the fat cells to get back out. When blood sugar levels run low, the body/brain goes into crisis. Quite literally, it doesn’t have enough energy to survive, even though there’s fat locked in storage. The crisis sets off cravings. The Carb Dependent human will find a way to get that quick carb fix – a museli bar, a wholegrain sandwich, ice cream, beer, whatever. This new flood of glucose into the bloodstream triggers the release of more insulin, and the roller coaster ride is never ending: insulin spike, sugar crash and craving. Trapped in this pattern, fat-storing genes are up-regulated, and fat-burning genes are down-regulated.
Intermittent Fasting: Sugar Burner Side Effects
When no food is available – maybe a meal is skipped because of work or travel commitments – the Carb Dependent body will switch into crisis mode. The brain/body will interpret the low blood glucose levels as a life-or-death situation: it doesn’t have enough energy in the bloodstream to supply the vital organs. If glucose levels aren’t immedietely replenished, the stress hormone, cortisol, is released, activating the Fight/Flight response. All bodily systems are switched into high gear. To facilitate the quickest surge of energy possible, the cortisol strips amino acids from lean muscle tissue, transforming it into glucose through the process of gluconeogenesis. Hence, during an Intermittent Fast, the Carb Burner will deplete muscle tissue, instead of fat. Along with this catabolic effect, cortisol signals the body to store even more fat. Appetite is likely to remain high, especially for sugar. The immune system will be suppressed. And if the state of stress/cortisol release is prolonged, through continued fasting, crash dieting, chronic exercise, poor sleeping habits and a high stress lifestyle, the eventual result will be burn out, break down, and sistemic inflammation.
Intermittent Fasting and the Fat Burner
In contrast, a high fat, moderate protein and low carbohydrate diet produces only enough insulin to maintain homeostasis in the body. The genes responsible for burning both stored and ingested fat are up-regulated, as are the hormones responsible for regulating appetite and metabolism. The Fat Burning body is able to access energy, easily and efficiently, from various internal and external sources.
The glucose derived in healthy quantities from primal foods will be utilized in the bloodstream without causing an insulin spike and sugar crash. Because insulin levels remain low, when blood sugar levels drop, glucagon is able to do it’s job of transforming the triglycerides locked in the fat cells back into fatty acids, wherby they can re-enter the bloodstream. And if blood glucose and blood insulin levels fall really low, the body, rather than going into crisis, will simply burn ketones.
Produced in the liver, ketones are by-products of fat metabolism, and are an incredible example of the fortitude of the homo sapiens genetic blueprint. Throughout our evolution, the threat of starvation has been real. Contained within our DNA, this internal source of energy, allows us to survive when external fuel is scarce or unavailable. The body, brain, cardiac and skeletal muscle cells all run just as efficiently on ketone bodies as they do on glucose.
The conversion of fat into ketones in the liver is directly related to the amount of glucose in the bloodstream. When glucose levels are high, ketone production is suppressed. When glucose is low, ketone production is charged.
Intermittent Fasting: Fat Burner Benefits
For the Fat Adapted individual, an Intermittent Fast is an opportunity to tap into the stored energy that is locked away in fat cells, or burn ketones. As the keto and fat burning genes are already up-regulated, this is no problem. Lean muscle tissue will be maintained, as opposed to stripped through gluconeogenesis, and the fuel will simply be burned off the belly or the bum.
Giving the digestive system a good long break promotes caloric efficiency – the body will happily get by on fewer ingested calories. Intermittent Fasting slows down the rate of cell division, one of the main causes of premature aging, and cell repair is enhanced. Detoxification occurs at the cellular level, as metabolic processes will burn through old debris and free radicals that are locked in the cells. The hormones responsible for growth, repair and immune function are optimized, as they’re able to circulate freely in the bloodstream. Energy mobilisation is enhanced as the body becomes better at accessing fatty acids and ketones, and mental function is optimised through the release of adaptive agents.
For the Fat Adapted individual, Intermittent Fasting promotes health and longevity, without sacrifice or strain.
Intermittent Fasting – When and How to Begin
If not already fat-adapted, then commit to at least 21 days free of grains and cereals, sugar, legumes, alcohol and dairy. 21 days is, more or less, what it will take to transform the body from burning sugar to burning fat.
If you’re already fat adapted – you’re able to wake up in the morning and function well without eating, your energy is stable throughout the day and you don’t crave sugar or carbs – then play around gently with Intermittent Fasting.
The best way to start is to not have breakfast straight away. Rather, wait until WHEN: When Hunger Ensues Naturally. This will sensitize you to the signals from the body. If you’re not hungry, don’t eat.
Then, play with skipping a meal. Go to bed without dinner. See how it feels. If you’re not hungry at breakfast, skip that as well.
You shouldn’t ever feel desperately hungry. It’s not about deprivation. It’s just about listening to your body, and being honest with the sensations. The feeling of hunger, as it’s been appropriately described, should feel like a whisper, not a roar. The emptiness should feel light and clarifying. The attitude around mealtimes should be a casual kind of, ‘Take it or leave it’. If hunger really starts to nag, then it means it’s time to refuel. Do so with gusto: prepare a delicious, nutritionally dense, high fat, moderate protein, low carb meal, and eat ’til your belly is satisfied and your heart content.
Have you tried Intermittent Fasting? How have you found it?
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