Intermittent fasting is a pattern for setting specific times throughout the 24hr day for eating and repair purposes. It has been shown to be effective as a weight management method due to its containment of thoughts, patterns, choices, and habits related to eating behaviors.
However, there are less commonly heard effects and benefits of using intermittent fasting. For example, as a practice to seek body and mind alignment, increase energy and focus levels. The reason we don't hear much discussion around these benefits is that the talk usually concentrates on the side of weight loss and weight management effects. Since weight is a sensitive topic in some cultures and social constructs, intermittent fasting can be closely linked to eating disorders or just another trend in fitness.
How do you do intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting can be adopted as a base set of behaviors to bring healthier habits, environments, and like-minded people into one's life.
It consists of a cycle in which food intake hours are reduced in order to favor energy and resources towards the body (cells) care and repair.
When the body is not processing food, it repairs and heals.
It can be adopted every day or as the participant desires. This flexibility is a nice feature of intermittent fasting as you can always resume it just the next day. It's about intentionally creating your own life using an effective tool that you can regulate. Paired with the benefits of wellness coaching, it will keep you focused and prevent distracting internal messages and external stimuli. I will share more on this below.
Common intermittent fasting modalities
8hrs, your doctor will recommend this if you are taking blood work the next day.
16hrs, This mode refers to a commonly used choice for intermittent fasting windows of 16hrs of repair, 8hrs of eating. These 16hrs of repair tie blocks can be placed at the most convenient or comfortable logistical time of the participant's day. For example, the 9 pm fast allows for sleep time (hopefully 8hrs) to be built into the 16hrs repair time before eating around 1 pm the next day.
24hrs, this is a modality used by seasoned fasters and usually requires a break after completing the 24hr fast.
3 days, it is said that this fasting mode symbolizes an adaptation by ancient/earlier nomadic cultures that will travel from one place to another in order to resettle or to look for food (paleo). It has been linked to a reset of the immune system as it is believed that the pathogens in the new destination may be different from those adaptations from the original departure area. This reset is believed to help the body fight any new bugs found in the new place.
Hunger strike, what is a hunger strike?
I was discussing the progress of a colleague who has recently engaged in intermittent fasting and we found the following topics of discussion.
Eating for Energy and Nutrients. Not all meals can be a feast with lots of rituals, excessive eating, and drinking. Even if this is the way you go because your income allows for it, indulging in the sole action of making every meal a fest is time and energy-consuming, as you will probably have more opportunities to overeat, and therefore, although delicious and nice feeling, hugely detrimental on your health in the long term. Feasting will make you more tired, as increased amounts of energy have to be used when there is more food the body will have to process.
Some eating has to be transactional. Not every meal can be, nor should be, a feast.
Load energy and nutrients into your body, and move on. Simple, nutritious, and quality energy is achievable by making the right choices. In order o make good choices, you need good information, but most importantly, you have to seek to gain this information about how your own body works intentionally and own your own.
Emotional Eating & Survival Responses. All deficiencies are represented in the same way. Does not matter if you are deficient in amino acids, vitamins, or minerals, the body will ask for it always in the same way, thru a feeling of hunger. Hunger means intake, regardless of the intake.
Therefore it becomes important to complement and supplement the eating behavior so that the body represents hunger the least amount of times possible. This will ensure and help you keep track of your diet engagement and help you move forward down the path of changing your body externally and internally with emphasis on the energy pathways. Less feeling of hunger means less stress and logistics for you to manage. what would you do with your free time?
Ketoacidosis. The brain prefers sugar over any other energy source. When the brain uses fat as an energy source it breaks it apart and produces a by-product that accumulates as a toxin. This is what you feel when you have increased episodes of irritability, crankiness, mood swings, etc. This is also a safety mechanism of the brain to secure the preferred energy source. The brain plays with your emotions in order to feed itself.
The goal of this “altered mental and emotional state” is a way of the brain to force the body (thru instigating action) into intaking food, which may or may not contain the sugar the brain seeks. Nonetheless, the brain believes that eating external food has better chances of getting those nutrients in demand, than not eating at all.
When we train ourselves to recognize these swings, we use the awareness to audit the emotional message and in consequence, take active management and make good choices at the time of seeking the food. If eating is not necessary, then we work to calm our emotional center down and let the emotional surge pass. There are a lot of methods you can use to achieve this balance. Engaging in Wellness coaching is a secure way to provide yourself with positive management tools.
Eventually, after several times, as a crying child would, the brain will understand that the results have no effect and tame itself down. This is called "extinction burst" in behavior management.
Brain Power over Emotional Balance. This also needs another important component to bring balance. That is if we feed the body while the emotional swing is active and in full charge, then we feed the body in its terms, not our own conscious and planned decision. This will alert the brain that when it triggers an emotional reaction, it will get what it wants, therefore it can use this method again in the future to subdue your actions.
The brain eventually understands that it will be fed and that missing the sugar is not a big consequence. If we fail to control this and cave into bad choices, especially when the brain is in an active attack using an emotional swing to exert control, the intensity will increase and amplify. If the brain gets what it wants, then it becomes better at doing so at the expense of your emotional balance.
this means not only do you have an outside influencer, but you got a monster inside of you many times not working in your best interest.
How do we re-train our energy pathways?
Sugar is stored in the liver and in the muscles mainly. When we engage in intermittent fasting we first deplete the circulating glucose in the bloodstream and next is the liver supplies. After a 16 hour fast, we are coming to the point of depletion of the liver resources.
Interestingly enough, the liver has a conflict of interest at this point. It has the ability to also process and break down the fats into smaller molecules (glucose, ATP, creatine, etc) but as an efficiency and survival measure (energy cost), it prefers to find new (external) sources of glucose before engaging in breaking apart fats which is energy intense.
Since the liver can't tap into the muscles for the stored glucose as this supply now belongs to the muscles, it will send a single to the brain via de bloodstream to alert to the low supply of sugar. The brain will then represent this via the mood swings to get the supply back into the body via eating and drinking.
At this point, we are at the most critical moment. If we intake an external source of food, the body throws away the progress and efforts then goes back to using available sugar provides from food. However, if we get past this emotional attack, which is paired with a low system sugar, we turn on the fat breakdown process in the liver (survival stress). Once started it will source energy from within the body and will continue to run on this system. Once running, it will be more efficient to use long term than to switch back.
Obviously, that if you change your eating behavior to start intaking carbohydrates again, eventually the liver will opt out of the fat energy pathway and go back to the sugar-based system, having to reset your progress.
It is important to know and understand that both systems are part of the pathway of life, but when we are constantly intaking external energy sources instead of internal ones because of fears and stress, we are constantly growing these energy reserves, and therefore the size of our bodies.
Industrial Applications. How can bad behaviors have good effects? Results are in the eye of the beholder. In farming, cattle growers use feedlots as a final process to increase the weight and also add extra energy reserves for the truck journey into the processing facility. The cattle would not have a chance to eat regularly during transportation, and the farmers, to protect their hard work of growing and gracing their ruminant in the field for many years, use the feedlot system to add a substantial amount of value in the least amount of time possible before the cattle are shipped out.
DIGESTION & SLEEP
Lots of advances in sleep and sleep therapies have been produced in recent years. One study suggests that sleep allows the brain to cleanse from toxins along with other aspects of sleep that we have known for a longer time like serving as a moment to record your memories and make connections in between neurons. This cleansing period serves as a "brainwash" in which toxins are removed and the natural fluid seeks to regain balance. Lack of sleep decreases the available time for cleansing and repair. This will result in the brain needing the next sleep cycle to catch up with improper cleansing. When we constantly deprive ourselves of sleep, the brain falls quite behind on keeping itself and your thoughts optimal and positive.
Empty Stomach. Intermittent fasting promotes better sleep and sleeps recovery effects by reducing the amount of food that is being processed when the body is performing a repair to the brain during sleep. Redirecting the blood flow, more energy dedicated to sleep repair, and recovery activities will result in emotional centering, stress reduction, and positive thinking.
The same concept can be used for exercise on an empty stomach, in which the body learns how to access and use internal energy storage. On an empty stomach, the body redirects the blood flow towards movement and energy sources away from food processing which also involves the liver. More energy and oxygen flow to the extremities results in a superior fight or flight response building your resilience.
OVEREATING & IMPROPER DIGESTION
The stomach has many layers of muscles that compress, squeeze, and twist the stomach walls in other to help in the break up of food. The issue is when you eat and then lay down to sleep, the stomach muscles are not in their natural position to perform their duty. Tossing and turning sound like a way to intend to get you into that natural position. This will keep you awake as the body needs you to move to find this optimal position. Another way to keep you awake is to increase your body temperature. This is for you to wake up feeling uncomfortable which may trigger you to sit, stand or walk to cool off or seek hydration. The body's reaction to any external invasion is to increase its temperature to attempt to degrade it.
Remember that the digestive system is a tube that has a beginning and end that all things that goes in have to be properly processed to become adsorbed and for the waste to come out the other side. Nutrients and not technically inside the body until they are absorbed.
Overeating can cause you to miss out on nutrients and proper contact time for degradation of the food nutrients. This is a big factor in weight and size gain.
When eating too close to another meal, the new meal can push over the previous one as it is being absorbed of nutrients in the small intestine. The body has systems in place to deal with this kind of extra stress, but it should not be doing it as the normal process. Improper digestion and absorption of nutrients will then stress the large intestine that is not much dedicated to the absorption of nutrients but to the absorption of water back into the body. When digestion contact time is reduced due to the pushover in the intestinal tube, the digestion of some of these foods finalizes in the large intestine that is not the proper equipment place for this type of job and affects the overall optimal work of the chamber.
Creating intentional spaces in between meals and meal types as well as eating several hours before bed has a huge effect reducing the onset of occurrences. The stomach is composed of different layers of muscles that allow the mastication, compression, shearing, and eventual dump of food to continue down the digestion and absorption path. When you over-eat, these muscles stretch as you do when you warm up for an exercise. If you over-stretch them they will remain this way for some time as part of micro-injuries in the muscle tissue.
When we overstretch the muscles of the stomach forcefully via over-eating, in a single seating or not allowing for the previous meal to fully leave the digestion system, you are forcefully increasing and shaping the capacity of the stomach, therefore, needing more food than your average to fill it and feel full of it (satiety and satiation). It becomes a vicious cycle that will feed itself, always needing more volume of food to get satisfied to shut the hunger feeling down.
Intermittent fasting is a powerful way to reduce the intake volume of food allowing for the stretched muscles of the stomach to reattain their regular shape, decreasing the size of the stomach and therefore acquiring the satiation feeling sooner and with less volume of food. If you have ever experienced muscle soreness after an intense workout, the stomach and its muscles can also become sore and micro-injured after an intense amount of stress.
In the same manner as intense exercise and practice, the muscles will eventually heal with rest, unless you keep repeating the intense stressor multiple times a day in which the injury will remain unable to heal and probably degrade and expand. This is called an overuse injury.
A great way to compare the effects of intermittent fasting is to do eating vs not eating periods comparison. This will give you a clear measurement of your success.
Be the director, not the follower, of the diet plan you choose to engage.
EXERCISE INDUCED MOMENTUM
Create momentum and direction when using the energy sources relatedly by engaging in repeated exercise that will test and stress the energy pathways. With proper practice and time, the habit will set and you will feel comfortable and in control as you will have created a strong relationship between what you you do and what you get thru observable behaviors and results.