Different fasting protocols have become a popular tool to slow down aging and even help reverse chronic health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. However not all fasting protocols work the same and some even lead to unwanted outcomes such as depression and emotional instability.
Let’s take a look at the different kinds of fasting protocols:
1. CALORIC RESTRICTION FASTING This protocol consists in daily reduction of nutrient intake by 15-40% without malnutrition (maintaining adequate intake of vitamins and minerals). It helps with prevention of cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, oxidative stress, high cholesterol. However, it can create some issues with mood and emotions if done for too long. It has been found to induce profound metabolic and cellular changes (mTor, AMPK, sirtuins, NRF2) that are related to healthy aging and longevity. Be aware:
Caloric restriction may lead to thyroid dysregulation and ultimately will slow your metabolism down leading to weight gain.
2. TIME RESTRICTED FASTING This protocole consists in daily food consumption restricted to a 4-12 hour period with no restriction in the amount of calories consumed. So your normal amount of food has to be eaten in a shorter period of time. The circadian rhythm plays an important role here. There are clock genes that regulate enzymes which essentially means our bodies are programmed to do certain metabolic functions based on a circadian rhythm. It protects against high cholesterol, diabetes, fatty liver, increases health span, helps to decrease body fat and reduces inflammation.
Interestingly there is evidence that shows that there may be more benefit in eating the food in the first half of the day. On the contrary, restricting food intake to the late afternoon or evening either produced no results or worsened glucose levels, blood pressure and lipid levels. So essentially make sure you eat a GOOD breakfast for your first meal of the day and a LIGHT dinner. Both the amount of time spent eating during the day and the time at which food is consumed relative to the circadian rhythm are critically important to health and longevity. Circadian rhythm biology means that your hormonal rhythm, sleep and wake rhythms are based on movement, light and food cues. So having regular eating times and fasting times helps to regulate your internal clock. Also helps with hormones such as Estrogen and Testosterone. In addition, you can go deeper by adding with intermittent fasting, i.e.: alternating a 24 hour fasting period (no or few calories are consumed) with a 24 hour free eating period. It protects against oxidative stress, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and neuro-degeneration.
Take a very careful approach if you are a very lean person with very low body fat (BMI < 20).
If you currently have or have a history of an eating disorder I do NOT recommend you do intermittent fasting.
If you have been told that you have adrenal fatigue intermittent fasting can make this worse.
3. FASTING MIMICKING DIET
This protocole was made popular by Dr Valter Longo (The Longevity Diet) who did most of the research on this topic. Reduced caloric intake for 5 consecutive days before returning to a normal eating cycle. This is done once per month for 3-4 months per year. This has shown to protect against cancer, diabetes, increase stem cells and can control autoimmune disease such as MS.
Longo came up with pre-made meals/snacks that are low in carbohydrates, high in fats and make compliance to a 5 day “fast” easier by avoiding complete deprivation of food. The diet is made up of plant-based soups, herbal teas, energy bars, nut based snacks. The first day of the diet if just over 1000kcal (10%protein, 56% fat, 34% carbs) and days 2-5 only 725 kcals (9% protein, 44% fats, 47% carbs). You can order this diet, called the PROLON diet online: https://prolonfmd.com.
NEW TO INTERMITTENT FASTING?
If you are just getting started with fasting a good approach may be to work your way up from a 12hr to 16hr intermittent overnight fast several times per week.
If you don’t want to lose muscle during a prolonged fast try some amino acids, bone broths or teas.
Make sure you load complex carbohydrates at dinner time to help with sleep. (sweet potatoes, tubers, beets, carrots, parsnips etc).
If sleep is an issue while fasting, you may have to supplement with some natural sleep aids. Try Breathwork and Meditation to calm your nervous system during the fast.
WHEN TO BREAK A FAST?
Anxiety or severe mood issues.
Hormonal issues (drop in estrogen or testosterone).
If you are diabetic and take medication, please check in with your primary care provider before fasting. Also check your blood sugars frequently during the day and be aware of symptoms of low blood sugar (sweating, confusion, rapid heart beat, weakness etc).
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Author: Elke Cooke