Is Intermittent Fasting Right For You?
You are what you eat…no, when you eat…er, how you eat! With so much eating advice out there, what is the best approach?
There are as many right answers as there are individuals. There is no one-size-fits-all diet. We’re all unique, right down to our physiology. What plan you should adopt depends on your goals and your body’s needs. That’s why having a nutritional therapist as an advocate can be a blessing.
You might want to try Intermittent Fasting if you have high blood sugars and are insulin resistant.
If insulin is high, you are going to store fat, not burn it. Insulin rises after a meal. It rises dramatically after a high-carb meal because it has to escort all that glucose into the cells for energy. When you are insulin-resistant, the cells won’t accept either the messenger or its package and blood sugars remain too high.
Intermittent Fasting works because insulin can’t spike if you don’t eat, and your cells can become re-sensitized to insulin. In the meantime, you are able to burn off some of those fat stores while insulin levels are reduced.
Red flags for insulin resistance include:
- feeling tired after a meal.
- needing sweets or a stimulant after a meal.
- weight gain.
- memory loss.
- slow healing.
- premature aging.
- thyroid hormone imbalances.
You might want to avoid Intermittent Fasting if you are hypoglycemic.
You have to have a certain level of glucose in your blood in order to function. The brain’s primary fuel is glucose, and” if the brain ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” So a hormone called glucagon works in opposition to insulin to keep blood sugars from dropping too low. The ideal blood glucose level is between 70-90 mg/dL before a meal.
A hypoglycemic drops much lower than that. Getting glucose to the brain becomes an emergency, so cortisol steps in to help glucagon raise your blood sugars back to at least 70 mg/dL. When this happens repeatedly, cortisol actually increases insulin resistance! Fasting in this condition will make matters worse, because cortisol will be produced to keep you from having a sugar emergency, and you may actually aggravate your insulin resistance.
Red flags for hypoglycemia include:
- feeling jittery, shaky, or light-headed before a meal.
- irritability if a meal is missed.
- chronic snacking or need to eat every 2-3 hours.
- fluctuating energy (wired & tired syndrome).
- easily upset or nervous.
- constant cravings for sweets.
You might want to avoid Intermittent Fasting if you have Adrenal Fatigue.
Adrenal fatigue is a condition that develops from chronic cortisol output. It doesn’t matter whether the cortisol is stimulated by emotional stress (think bosses, deadlines, rocky relationships, worry, etc.) or by physiological stress (such as food sensitivities, chronic infections, or high-carb eating). As addressed above, fasting in this state is only going to provoke greater cortisol output.
Red flags for Adrenal Fatigue include:
- feeling tired when you wake up, even after a sufficient number of hours.
- not being able to fall asleep or stay asleep, or having poor quality sleep.
- inability to cope well with normal stress.
- unable to recover quickly after exercise, or not able to tolerate exercise.
- having an afternoon energy crash.
Are there alternatives to Intermittent Fasting?
You might consider eating different food all the time, instead of going without food intermittently. You could swap everything that contains flour or sugar for vegetables with butter on them. Sound drastic? Well, Intermittent Fasting is drastic, too. If insulin is a problem, then analyze your fat-carb-protein ratios. There has been much focus on balancing carbs and proteins, but proper fat levels are not always addressed.
You could try Eating Rhythms, a system of eating nutrient dense food at roughly 5 hour intervals, designed to normalize blood sugar levels. Under this system, you have a no-carb breakfast (such as avocado and egg), then refrain from snacking until lunch, when you have a healthy protein with some complex carbohydrates and natural, unrefined fat (perhaps a steak salad with oil and vinegar dressing). Don’t eat anything more until dinner, when you again have protein and unrefined carbs, along with healthy fat (maybe fish, cooked vegetables, and butter). Then you do not eat again until breakfast, going a full 12 hours or more with no food overnight.
How do you know it is working?
You will know you are succeeding at controlling your insulin levels not just by your waistline, but by the way you feel satiated after a meal, have sustained energy throughout the day, think clearly and maintain focus, don’t need to snack between meals, no longer crave sweets, have plenty of stamina for your work-out, and experience level moods.