We finally made it — the third and final part of my food journey to-date. Thanks for sticking with me this long. In part two of this intro series, I shared my experiences following the Paleo, Raw Food and Vegan diets. That brings us to my current food adventure — Keto! I also promised in my last post to also talk about my journey with intermittent fasting, and I plan to deliver.
What is intermittent fasting (IF)? The basic premise is that you go for a certain period of time without eating any food. You can drink water (and it’s strongly recommended) and coffee/tea as long as you forego cream, milk and sweeteners.
At this point people usually freak out and say something smart like “so you starve yourself?” Wrong. Starvation is very different from fasting for one main reason: it’s a conscious decision. Many people suffer from starvation throughout the world each day, and that is absolutely not the same as making a choice to put your body into a fasted state.
In fact, fasting has been practiced by our ancestors for ages. According to Dr. Jason Fung (who is my go-to resource on all things IF), fasting is any time you are NOT eating food, and there is no official window of “fasting.” It is simply the absence of food.
Yet, there are three types of fasting that are widely recognized today.
This is one of the more popular and approachable methods, and it’s when you restrict your eating window to a certain amount of hours a day, usually anywhere from 4-8 hours so that you are in a fasted state for about 16-20 hours.
This is the type of fasting I do. I stop eating my last meal of the day between 7-7:30 p.m. and I usually don’t eat again until 12 p.m. the next day. Sometimes, depending on my workout that morning or how my body feels that day, I eat earlier or later than that. There’s no hard fast rule and at the end of the day, if you listen to your body, you can’t go wrong. Maybe you picked up on this, but yes, I do my workouts in a fasted state, which is actually optimal for tapping into fast stores more easily and burning fat faster and more efficiently.
While there is an adjustment period when you first start fasting (yes, you will be hungry in the beginning) your body usually adapts, and lifting weights in a fasted state will not inhibit your gains and ability to put on muscle mass. Keep on flexin!
The next type of fasting is where you eat as you normally would five days of the week and fast for the remaining two. These fasting days should be nonconsecutive and during them you consume only water, plus 500 calories. It’s recommended that 200 of those calories be from protein, and you can decide if you want to eat all at once or space it out throughout the day. You can also do one day of fasting a week — dealer’s choice.
I typically do this type of fasting whenever I just start to feel “off” or need a reset. I deviate a bit here in that I consume bone broth throughout the day in addition to drinking tons of water (with lemon!), and I do it consecutively. By drinking the bone broth, you get your 500 calories in and your protein, and you also get all of your daily nutrients. Bone broth is the real superfood MVP in my opinion. Sorry avocado and acai.
Similar to the above, your fasting window is 24 hours, and you alternate between eating and non-eating (fasting) days. During your fasting days you consume water and 500 calories (200 of those being protein), any time throughout the day.
There is a lot of research that shows the longer you fast, the better the benefits to your body are, so this would be the “ideal” form of intermittent fasting, but it may not be right for everyone. I’ve never done this. Actually the thought of doing it terrifies me! It’s more of a mental barrier than anything else. Your body will be fine, you will not starve.
So glad you asked! I’ll turn to my good friend (just kidding — he doesn’t know me) Dr. Fung for this, since he has more credibility than I do. If you want to read more about IF, I highly recommend you visit his website (linked below).
Weight loss is the biggest benefit, as is detoxication. You naturally start to lose weight when you start IF because (in theory) you should be eating less food. When you restrict your eating window, there’s less time throughout the day for random or bored snacking. I mean think about trying to fit 2,000 calories into a six hour feeding window. You would feel uncomfortably full if you ate three hearty meals every two hours.
Eating less = less calories = weight loss.
Also, when you aren’t eating food, your body has time to clean itself out, enter the “detoxification stage.”
Here are all of the benefits that Dr. Fung lists on his website (as well as their sources in case you want to read up):
That last one is so important. Inflammation is often the root cause of most diseases and illnesses and is largely a result of the standard American diet (SAD) we eat which is loaded with processed foods full of chemicals and preservatives, sugars, dairy and bad fats (like vegetable/hydrogenated oils). I think a blog on inflammation in the body is in the near future….
I wanted to talk about IF and Keto in the same post because they are a natural pairing and many people that follow a Keto diet also practice some method of intermittent fasting. This is because combined, you can achieve maximum fat burn, increased energy, and more.
While it seems that this is the current style of eating making its rounds throughout the country, eating a high fat, low carb and moderate protein diet that puts your body into something called a state of “ketosis” is nothing new.
I’ve been aware of the Keto diet for years, but just recently started to take an active interest in it. Why? Partially because I was tired of veganism and felt that it was not the ideal eating style for my body to reach peak performance and fat burn, but also partly because I started following Dr. Josh Axe and his wife, Dr. Chelsea Axe on Instagram. They are big advocates of eating a Keto diet, and with their backgrounds in health, fitness and nutrition, they are very credible and authoritative voices on the matter.
Dr. Axe has an amazing line of Keto proteins and supplements, as well as a bunch of other herbal supplements that saved my life from digestive issues. OK, I’ll stop fan girling over this buff and beautiful power couple.
The Keto diet, as I mentioned, is a high fat, low carb and moderate protein style of eating, that is backed by physiology and nutrition science. According to Dr. Axe, it was originally designed in the 1920s for patients with epilepsy by researchers working at Johns Hopkins Medical Center. Cool. The idea is that by eating a very low carb diet, you deprive your body of an influx of insulin (sugars), and so instead of burning carbohydrates, which is broken down in the body as a sugar, your body starts to burn “ketones.” This is known as the state of ketosis and it occurs when the glucose (sugar) from starchy/carb-heavy foods (think grains, natural and processed sugars, including fruits, and starchy root vegetables like sweet potatoes) is reduced and that means your body needs to find a different fuel source….fat!
If you want an in-depth breakdown of what the keto diet is, look no further than my boy Dr. Axe: https://draxe.com/hub/keto-diet/
You actually alter the way your body burns energy and in return, this speeds up your metabolism.
We can all agree that long-term fasting is not sustainable, and ketosis is actually a way to mimic the effects of fasting to achieve the same results: optimum fat burn and increased metabolic rate. When paired together you basically become a fat-burning super hero.
Cheer up buttercup, it’s actually not that bad. I’ve been on the Keto diet for about a month now, and it’s been nothing short of amazing. I am using Dr. Axe’s Keto Protein powder (chocolate) and Keto Fire supplements, which help aid in the ketosis process. They include a bunch of herbs and adaptogens like ashwagandha root, reishi mushroom, black pepper extract, etc. — all known to help boost the metabolism and heal the gut. (Note: I am not officially endorsing these products nor am I receiving any royalties).
While it has been a challenge for me to cut out fruit (I am hardcore missing bananas), I like to think about it in terms of all the delicious fat sources, veggies, seeds/nuts and poultry/meat I get to eat every day.
According to the experts, 75 percent of your daily calories must come from good fat sources (think avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, coconut milk/cream, and fattier cuts of meat), 20 percent from protein and 5 percent from carbohydrates.
In case you were wondering, 5 percent carbohydrates comes out to be around 20-35 net carbs a day. On the Keto diet you count net carbs, which is the amount of carbohydrates minus the amount of fiber per serving (in grams). Fruits like bananas, mango, watermelon, etc. are all very high in carbs and only moderately high in fiber.
You can enjoy 1-2 servings of any type of berry (raspberry, strawberry, blueberry, blackberry), half an apple or half a grapefruit, as long as you stay within your daily carb limit.
For example, a serving of grapefruit (one half) has approx. 10.3 grams of carbs and 1.4 grams of fiber. Subtract that and you end up with 8.9 net carbs. You can see how quickly things like that add up when you can only consume 20-35 net carbs a day.
It’s a lot of label reading (and unfortunately, math!), but you shouldn’t count your calories on Keto. Eat as much healthy delicious high fat, moderate protein foods you want as long as it’s whole, organic and not processed 🙂
The Keto plan I am following has me in ketosis for a month, and then, I will move to carb cycling, which can vary slightly, but essentially I will cycle through a keto day and a carb day. Will this be my forever food style? I can’t say for sure.
I will likely continue to practice intermittent fasting throughout my entire lifetime. I started this four years ago, and haven’t regretted it in the slightest.
But in terms of “food diets” what I’ve learned is that 1. I hate the word “diet” and 2. I don’t like to put myself into one narrowly defined bucket.
For example, many people following Keto enjoy dairy, however, I know that dairy is not for me, so I work around it. I will likely continue to avoid gluten, soy and processed sugars. But my biggest takeaway from this 26 year long journey is that I am happiest when I listen to my body and when I do what feels right.
For me, that’s some hybrid lifestyle between Paleo, Raw, Vegan and Keto with a focus on eating whole, organic foods that come from the earth, not a factory. Food is medicine. It has the power to heal our bodies, nourish us and also bring us joy….(chocolate!).