Two Keys to Ease Into Intermittent Fasting

Written by Stephen Anton PhD on July 27th, 2020

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have likely heard about the benefits of intermittent fasting.

Benefits attributed to intermittent fasting include:

Weight loss

Fat loss

Mental clarity

Cellular cleansing

Improved blood cholesterol profiles

Possible reversal of type 2 diabetes

While it’s true that there are tremendous benefits to intermittent fasting, there are right and wrong ways to get started with an intermittent fasting lifestyle.

Time-Restricted Feeding

First and foremost, intermittent fasting can mean different things to different people, and there are multiple types of intermittent fasting protocols.

In this article, we’ll focus on an intermittent fasting protocol known as time-restricted feeding (TRF). 

TRF is one of the most popular forms of intermittent fasting.

It involves two periods:

Period where no calories are consumed each day, typically around 16 hours

Period where you consume all your daily calories, typically around 8 hours

Let’s learn the two keys to ease into TRF.

Key #1: A Little Bit at a Time

If you’re like most people, running a mile would provide:

A healthy level of stress

With a little recovery time that stress would result in a positive adaptation

This, in theory, means that the next time you ran the same mile your body would handle it easier.

This is similar to a medical concept called Hormesis, which is our first key to ease into the intermittent fasting world.

Hormesis states that:

A mild dose of a stressor can be good

Whereas a higher dose of the same stressor can be very detrimental

Imagine this, an untrained person tries to run a full marathon.

This would be a terrible idea because the demands placed on the person’s body would greatly exceed their capacity to adapt during the race.

This, essentially, overwhelms the person’s ability to recover and can lead to a host of unhealthy physiological changes like:

Reduced immune function

Elevated inflammation

Joint pain

In a similar way, fasting too long before your body has become fat-adapted can put too much stress on the body. 

Key #2: Fat vs. Sugar

Have you ever built a fire?

You might start with small twigs and dry leaves, or kindling, which catches fire quickly and burns off just as fast.

This is similar to your body running on sugar for fuel.

Now, when I say sugar, I’m not just talking about candy bars and soda.

Carbohydrates in all forms turn into glucose, sugar, in your body.

Here is a comparison of burning carbs compared to burning fat:

If you rely on carbohydrates as your main form of energy, it’s as if you’re trying to keep the fire going with just kindling

Fat, on the other hand, is more like burning giant logs or even coal in your fire

And, when you become fat-adapted it means your body can use fat for energy instead of carbohydrates:

The more adapted your body is to using fat for energy the longer you’ll be able to fast

The longer you can fast the more of the fasting benefits you can receive

Here’s a key point to think about, our ancestors were likely very fat adapted since the environment was always feast or famine.

The current day problem is:

Very few people are metabolically flexible

So, it is difficult for most of us to tap into our fat stores as a source of energy, at first

What many of us need is a way to help flip, what I call, the metabolic switch.

A Lesson from Corporate Japan

Back in 1986, a Japanese business consultant named Masaaki Imai founded the Kaizen Institute, to bring the concepts of Kaizen to western companies.

Kaizen roughly translates to change is good, and the Kaizen principle translates to major change through small, daily improvements over time. 

If we apply this concept to fasting, it means we can quickly start to see the benefits of fasting by gradually increasing our fasting time each day.

For example:

If you currently eat breakfast at 8 am

You would wait until 8:15 am the next day

The day after that you would wait until maybe 8:30, 8:45 or even 9 am, and so on

As long as you are feeling good and in, what I’ll call, the “healthy fasting zone”, you can continue extending your fasting time period.

So, you may be wondering,

 “What is a health fasting zone and how do I know if I’m experiencing it?

Below are a few key indicators of a healthy fasting zone:

You are very comfortable going at least 8-12 hours between meals

None or only minor feelings of hunger

Great focus and mental clarity

Energized yet calm feeling

Happy and enthusiastic feelings about life

Relaxed muscles

Absence of headache, dizziness, and light-headed feelings

Capable of working at a high-level

This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s enough to get you started.

If, during, your fasting time you have the above feelings you’re most likely fine and you can even go further.

Dealing with Fasting Criticism

An obstacle you might face in your fasting journey is the criticism of armchair “experts” who think you’re crazy for not eating 3, 5, 7 or more meals a day.

It’s not uncommon for people to feel great going 24, 36, 48 hours or more in between meals once they’ve become sufficiently adapted to using both dietary and stored body fat as their main fuel source.

Main Takeaways

Anyone can experience the benefits of intermittent fasting.

The important part is getting started in the right way.

The two keys to ease into intermittent fasting will help you get started so you can experience:

Weight loss

Fat loss

Mental clarity

Cellular cleansing

Improved blood cholesterol profiles

The possible reversal of type 2 diabetes

For more information, check out another article on common intermittent fasting myths.

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    Real science. Real advice. Straight to your inbox!

    Get the latest news on topics like intermittent fasting, healthy aging, reducing obesity, and more.