Intermittent fasting is selectively eating at particular times of the day or week and consuming only water and a bit of salt while not eating. Intermittent fasting is done a few different ways, each has its advantage and disadvantage, these methods can also be combined in ways that work best for each person. The purpose of intermittent fasting is to let the digestive organs rest and cleanse, in fact the modern day practice of three meals with snacks in between was fine for farmers, construction workers, athletes, and other very physically active groups, but it partly responsible for an epidemic of obesity worldwide. Most of the rest of the responsibility goes to the kinds of food we eat. Processed foods, sugary drinks, and other substances that satisfy the fat, sugar, salt urge have led to the serious deterioration of our health. Studies have shown that all the intermittent fasting methods result in up 30% reduction in caloric intake. Eating less frequently means your stomach shrinks and there is less opportunity to eat as much as you once did. While fasting it is critical to drink a lot of clean pure water to help eliminate the impurities your body will produce. I highly recommend only combining intermittent fasting with the Mediterranean Diet for maximum health and nutrition.
Intermittent Fasting has become an increasingly popular way to lose weight, and it can effectively become permanent without too much discomfort or upheaval. My theme this year is why adopt a Way of Eating (WOE) that is not sustainable. Even if you do lose weight rapidly with one of the many fad diets available, putting the weight back on will be depressing and self-defeating. Be aware that I have tried and continue to use all of the intermittent fasting methods, but I am not a physician and you will want to consult your physician before committing. First lets talk about Intermittent Fasting.
Intermittent Fasting – One Meal a Day
One Meal a Day is known as OMAD and is an effective weight loss technique. Although I have found this to be more discomforting than other intermittent fasting methods, it is increasing in popularity. The OMAD method is just like it sounds; you consume all of your calories during one sitting then do not eat other meals or snacks until the same time the next day. Autophagy starts after twelve hours (more on this later) so it allows the digestive system to rest, the body to start to heal and cleanse damaged cells each day. Preparing one Mediterranean Diet meal per day is easier than preparing three meals per day. Although I prefer breakfast as the one meal as it is more comfortable to sleep thorough the final hours of the daily fast, other options have merit. In fact ideally you would exercise before breaking your fast to increase your metabolism and burn additional fat.
Intermittent Fasting – 5:2
5:2 is the intermittent fasting method where you eat the Mediterranean Diet normally for five days each week, then reduce calories to 500 or altogether for the other two days. This method is popular because it allows people to eat freely for most of each week, and it accelerates the autophagy process because you get deeper into that state. 5:2 is also very popular, used by some celebrities to stay trim. With 5:2 it is especially important to drink a lot of water and up to 3 tsp which is 15 grams of salt. Without the salt your body will not absorb water and you will become dehydrated, no matter how much water you drink. Drinking water flushes out your system and maximizes the benefits of fasting. The benefit of autophagy peaks at 48 hours making 5:2 and the Mediterranean Diet the ideal weight loss and healthy Way of Eating.
Intermittent Fasting – 12/12
The 12/12 method of intermittent fasting means that you eat a meal in the morning and gain 12 hours later in the evening, for instance 6AM and 6PM. Although this is easy to adopt 12 hours will just get you to autophagy and not really perform all of the wonderful things autophagy does. The main benefit is that by skipping one meal and any snacks all day it is likely that you will reduce calories naturally. Combined with the Mediterranean Diet this can help you drop weight and become healthier, just by focusing on less calories of more nutritious food at each meal.
Intermittent Fasting – Stretch Times Between Meals
Another common intermittent fasting practice is to stretch out times between meals and to not snack during that time. Many people using this method have found it very successful. With stretch times you can have a breakfast and lunch, or lunch and dinner, and the idea is to limit the amount of time you are taking meals and maximize the fasting time each day. For me, having breakfast at 6:00 AM and lunch by 11:00 AM means I have a 5 hour windows of eating and adding 6-8 hours for digestion means I get approximately 11- 13 hours of true fasting each day. It also happens to help eat at the right time of the day. Meals eaten later in the day will tend to inhibit the weight loss process as your metabolism is slower, especially when you sleep. I have found this method to be relatively easy to adopt, the downside it allows for very little autophagy.
Now About Autophagy and the Mediterranean Diet
Autophagy is a natural process that was identified in the 1960’s then detailed by a scientist named Yoshinori Ohsumi who was awarded a Nobel Prize for his work in 2016. Autophagy occurs when your body is deprived of nutrients through either intermittent fasting, eating a high fat low card diet, limiting protein to 15 grams each day weekly, or through restorative sleep. Intermittent fasting is the most predictable method of bring your body into the state of autophagy, with the reduced calorie consumption makes it ideal to pair with the Mediterranean Diet and autophagy.
How does Autophagy work?
After the requisite fasting period of 12 to 48 hours, a catabolic process forms vesicles called autophagosomes that engulf cellular macromolecules and organelles. Obviously extending the autophagy process as long past the 12 hour “start” is going to be increasingly beneficial.
What this does for your body is as follows:
- Provides cells with molecular building blocks and energy
- Clears damaged endoplasmic reticulum and peroxisomes
- Eliminates intracellular pathogens and enhances the immune system
- Helps prevent damage to healthy tissues and organs
- May prevent cancer and other major illnesses
- Reduces inflammation by clearing damaged proteins, dead organelles, and oxidized particles to make your body function optimally
- Recycles damaged organelles and proteins
- Protects against heart disease and supports the growth of heart cells
- Regulates cell mitochondria that can be damaged by oxidative stress
- Improves cognitive function, brain structure and neuroplasticity
Autophagy is now being called a “key in preventing diseases such as cancer, neurodegeneration, cardiomyopathy, diabetes, liver disease, autoimmune diseases and infections.”
Keto or Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic diet focuses on consuming few carbohydrates while eating more fats. This diet has become popular recently and is similar to the Atkins Diet. Replacing your carbohydrate intake with fats puts your body into ketosis, a metabolic state where your body is deprived of carbs to burn and burns fat instead. While this sounds fine in theory there are dangers to over doing this diet. I also have a growing number of ex keto dieters flooding my Mediterranean Diet Facebook group. The consensus among our keto members is that is far more difficult to adopt than the Mediterranean Diet, and results are mixed.
As mentioned elsewhere I have used all of these Intermittent Fasting techniques along with the Mediterranean Diet, and sometimes I mix and match, combining a OMAD with a 5:2 in the same week. What I tell everyone that wants to lose weight and feel great is this. Pick a diet that is healthy, delicious and sustainable, and never look back. If you want to add the health benefits of autophagy it is not too difficult or uncomfortable to do, and the positives from doing so will multiply and accelerate the benefits you are getting from the Mediterranean Diet. Losing your belly fat and reducing your waist size, feeling better and having more energy, and using your diet to battle disease make the Med Diet, and maybe autophagy as well make a fantastic life choice, one that you will be happy to keep up.
To Your Health!