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March 09, 2022 16 min read
Q: What did Mr. Spock say when Captain Kirk told him he wasn't eating today?
"Fast" is an interesting word. Usually referring to speed, there are actually about three dozen definitions in the Merriam-Webster.com entry for "fast". One of those definitions is "to abstain from food." It's a meaning of the word that hid right under our noses when we were children. Do you remember that "Ah-ha" moment the first time you realized that the first meal of the day is called "breakfast?" Break-fast?
When we fast, we willingly abstain from some or all food and/or drink for some period of time. It is often done for religious or spiritual reasons, for example during Lent for Christians or during Ramadan for Muslims. However, short-term fasting can also offer excellent health benefits. Fasting is becoming widely accepted as a legitimate means of managing weight and preventing disease. When done properly and purposefully, fasting cleanses our body of toxins and forces cells into processes that are not usually stimulated when a steady stream of fuel from food is always present.
When you fast, your body does not have its normal supply of glucose. This forces your cells to switch to other pathways to produce energy. One such pathway, gluconeogenesis, is when the liver converts non-carbohydrates like lactate, amino acids, or fats into glucose. Because your body conserves energy during fasting, your basal metabolic rate (the amount of energy your body uses while resting) becomes more efficient, lowering your heart rate and blood pressure.
Then, after some time fasting, ketosis kicks in. During this process, your body burns stored fat as its primary power source. You know you're in a ketogenic state when you have "ketone breath." Some describe ketone breath as a metallic taste in your mouth that smells sweet, fruity, or similar to nail-polish remover. (Nail-polish remover contains a ketone called acetone.) Ketosis is the ideal mode for weight loss and balancing blood sugar levels. After an overnight fast, about 5% of your energy comes from fat burning. This increases to 30 to 40% after a three-day fast!
Fasting puts the body under mild stress, which makes your cells adapt by enhancing their ability to cope. In other words, they become stronger. This process is similar to what happens when we stress our muscles and cardiovascular system during exercise. As with exercise, your body requires adequate time to rest and recover. That’s why short-term fasting is generally recommended and why getting medical advice from your health-care provider is prudent.
This is the process of limiting calorie intake to a specific "eating window" that aligns with your circadian rhythm. Often referred to as your “body clock”, your circadian rhythm is your natural, internal cycle that tells your body when to rise, sleep, eat, etc. In time-restricted eating, people typically eat their normal diet but only within a specified time period each day. This can range from 6 to 12 hours.
A popular example is the 16/8 method: fasting for 16 hours with an 8-hour eating window. During this 8-hour window, you would eat your normal two or three meals. This avoids late-night snacking when your body is winding down which throws your rhythm out of whack. Body systems work better when synchronized with one another and keeps your natural repair system in sync.
Eating is unrestricted every other day with no or minimal calories being consumed on the days in between. The most common version of this diet involves eating around 500 calories on fasting days. That's not a whole lot to go on and depending on your lifestyle, may not be enough. You may choose to eat 1000 calories on fasting days. One reason this approach is popular is because it's relatively easy to keep track of which day you're on!
Also called "Intermittent Calorie Restriction," this pattern of eating is unrestricted for five straight days each week, followed by two days of restricted caloric intake. For instance, research has focused on a diet where calories are reduced in half and carbohydrates are very limited for the two-day fasting window. This approach puts the body through short and intensive therapy.
For some folks, it makes sense to eat "normally" for the five work days, then fast on the weekends. Again, your lifestyle and work schedule are going to affect this approach. It works well for those who have a tranquil home life and/or demanding job. If you have a busy weekend social calendar, young children, or are a Weekend Warrior, fasting on the weekend might not be a good choice!
You also don't need to have the two fasting days back to back; maybe one day during the week and one day on the weekend. An article from The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Intermittent Calorie Restriction—A More Effective Approach To Weight Loss?, says that one of the reasons the 5:2 fasting diet is popular is because it improves the chances of sticking to the diet. The authors also note that studies show that the 5:2 fasting diet has greater success in reducing body weight, improving metabolic risk factors, and slowing the aging process than other types of fasting.
Periodic Fasting (Fasting Mimicking Diet)
This means limiting calorie intake for three or more days, prompting the cells to deplete glycogen stores and enter ketosis. While this can be done without eating food, it isn’t considered the safest option. But significantly reducing the number of calories eaten in a day will make your body think it's fasting.
These Fasting Mimicking Diets (FMDs) are becoming very popular. A specific five-day calorie-limited diet, say 1,000 calories per day, is sufficient to stay in ketosis without overly depleting nutrients. Many believe that this method is superior to the two-day fast, allowing the body to stay ketogenic thus losing weight and clearing out the bad stuff.
It may sound dreadful, but autophagy is actually a good thing. Autophagy is the process of cleaning out damaged cells, so that they may be replaced by newer, healthier cells. “Auto” means "self" and “phagy” means to eat. So the literal meaning of autophagy is “self-eating.” Come to think of it, that actually does sound dreadful!
Whether it makes you squirm or not, you're "autophaging" right now. This house-cleaning of your body’s cells is constantly going on. Every moment of the day your cells are working and producing waste in the process. All this work produces junk that needs to be cleared out. Increasing this clearing out process makes you feel better and reduces the risk of future health problems. Periodic fasting or following a fasting mimicking diet (FMD) speeds up the autophagy process.
An article from the Center for Healing Neurology, Stimulate Autophagy, states that intermittent fasting increases autophagy. The authors point to studies that demonstrate that this "upregulation" of autophagy occurs in the liver, brain, and muscles while increasing fat loss and promoting longer, healthier lifespans. "This is thought to be due to increased availability of substrates and precursors for other essential biochemical reactions."
Here are some ways they say you can optimize autophagy:
Chances are that if you've been on a weight loss program, you've dealt with "metabolic adaptation." Remember the frustration of the scale "getting stuck" on a certain number, no matter how much you reduced your number of calories? When you experience significant weight loss, your body starts trying to conserve energy by reducing the number of calories it burns.
A prolonged fasting state with significant calorie deficit can put your hormones, mood, mental health, metabolism, and general well-being out of whack. It can make you feel "hangry" (hungry/angry), have less energy, and increase your food cravings. These effects can cause you to stop losing weight and may make you feel miserable, and as mentioned above, kill your motivation to stick with your plan.
Intermittent fasting recognizes that the human body is not designed to be in a diet mode forever. By strategically alternating fasting periods with weight maintenance phases metabolic adaptation will be decreased. Maintenance is just as important, if not more crucial than being in a deficit to provide the proper nutrition and fueling for daily activities.
In the Healthline.com article, 10 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting, the authors state that, "Numerous studies show that it can have powerful benefits for your body and brain." Some of those benefits include:
Just in case you've forgotten, here is a short review of protein:
Protein is one of the three "macronutrients," along with fats and carbs. All three provide energy to power the body, but proteins are the ones that are also essential to building more protein. They're commonly found in animal products, although they are also present in other sources, such as nuts, seeds, beans, veggies, legumes, and some fruits.
The human body makes more than 100,000 unique proteins. Muscles, connective tissues, hair, skin, hormones, and countless bio-chemicals are made of protein. They help repair and build your body’s tissues, allow metabolic reactions to take place, and coordinate bodily functions. They provide your body with its structural framework, help balance your many bodily fluids, transport and store nutrients, and keep your immune system strong.
Chemically, proteins are polymers like plastic or rubber. They are, generally, enormously long molecules found in all living systems. However, unlike plastic or rubber, the building blocks of proteins are small molecules called amino acids. Out of the hundreds of amino acids found in nature, only twenty are used by the human body. These twenty amino acids are arranged in various amounts and in different patterns to form distinct protein chains. Just as 26 letters in the English alphabet can be arranged to form an almost infinite variety of words, so too these twenty amino acids can form a nearly infinite number of proteins. In fact, see this article from the National Institutes of Health on Biochemistry, Essential Amino Acids for a more in-depth look.
Collagen is one type of protein. About one-fifth of the human body is protein and collagen protein makes up about a third of it, making it our most abundant protein. It is a fibrous protein found in bones, muscle, skin, blood vessels, and connective tissues such as tendons and ligaments. There are many different types of collagen, but most belong to type I, type II, and type III. These different types of collagen molecules have different structures and functions.
Collagen uses nineteen of the twenty amino acids used by humans, the three most abundant of which are glycine, proline, and lysine. The only human protein that contains proline and lysine is collagen. Proline is not an essential amino acid because your body can make it from the amino acid glutamate, but lysine is essential, meaning that it must be ingested. Meat, seafood, and dairy are all high in lysine. If you're a vegetarian or vegan, don't worry, many non-animal sources of lysine exist. Beans, lentils, chickpeas, and soy products are high in lysine, as are many fruits and vegetables. Check out this article from Healthline: 40 sources of Lysine to Add to Your Plate.
The body can’t absorb collagen in its whole form; rather, the protein must be broken down during the digestive process before absorption into the bloodstream. To increase collagen’s bioavailability, collagen supplements typically are hydrolyzed, meaning that collagen’s long amino acid chains are broken down via a chemical or enzymatic process into peptides consisting of just two or three amino acids together. These peptides are then easily absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract.
Collagen peptides have a myriad of other functions besides serving as the building blocks for the production of collagen or other proteins in the body. The amino acids and peptides also function as antioxidants, helping to protect the body from oxidative stresses. They are involved in making enzymes, vitamins, hormones, and neurotransmitters as well as participating in many bodily functions such as metabolism, disease fighting, wound healing, mood regulation, and sexual function among others. Collagen is what gives your skin its elasticity, and it’s used to help maintain your hair, nails, and muscle mass. It can reduce joint pain and some users have even reported benefits as diverse as improving heart health or preventing the degradation of bones.
Most collagen supplements do not contain cysteine or tryptophan. High cysteine foods include pork, beef, chicken, fish, lentils, oats, eggs, low-fat yogurt, sunflower seeds, and cheese. Many of these same foods are also high in tryptophan, especially tuna. High tryptophan foods include turkey, chicken, oats, nuts, seeds, cheese, bread, chocolate, and some fruits.
(Prerequisites: Fasting 201 and Protein 201)
Will a collagen breakfast break your fast? Collagen is food, so yes if you are doing a zero-calorie fast. However, as we've been discussing, intermittent fasting with food of some type is recommended. This means that you are getting some calories, albeit in a reduced amount.
Collagen CoffeeA scoop of collagen has about 35 calories. So if you're doing a 1000 calorie day, or even a 500 calorie day, that scoop of collagen is not going to break the bank, so to speak. However, as mentioned above, it is going to provide some of the nutrients you need in the form of amino acids. Adding a scoop of collagen powder to a cup of morning coffee, which has about five calories, will perk you up and give you a good dose of amino acids. If you drink it while having a serving of oatmeal, you'll add in tryptophan and cysteine. One cup of oatmeal has about 150 calories along with 27 grams of carbs and 4 g of fiber. So for about 190 calories, five from the black coffee, 35 from the collagen, and 150 from the oatmeal, you’ll receive the benefits of fasting, cover all 20 amino acids, and have a banging start to your day!
In addition to the "autophagic" benefits of fasting, those who use collagen during a fast will see some other benefits as well. For those who fast to lose weight, collagen can help. Ingesting collagen can trigger the production of hunger-suppressing hormones, making you feel fuller longer. By adding a scoop of collagen to your morning coffee, you can limit your appetite and make it easier to stick to your fast since you will not have hunger pangs. In this way, collagen supplements can actually complement your fast.
Bulletproof Coffee This is an increasingly popular drink, especially among paleo and low carb dieters. Bulletproof coffee consists of 2 cups (470 mL) of black coffee, 2 tablespoons (28 grams) of unsalted grass-fed butter, and 1–2 tablespoons (15–30 mL) of medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil. It can be purchased as a prepackaged mix or made at home in a blender. It is ideal for people who are following a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet. According to an article from The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, MCTs are metabolized quickly. This makes them an effective weight loss tool. Additionally, grass-fed butter has high levels of omega-3s, whose anti-inflammatory properties can improve energy levels, brain function, and gut health.
Many people use bulletproof coffee as their main breakfast item and say that it keeps them feeling full until their next meal. However, a Healthline.com article, 3 Potential Downsides of Bulletproof Coffee, states that, "Although drinking Bulletproof coffee on occasion is probably harmless, it’s not advisable to make it a routine." So it's probably better to have a scoop of collagen peptides with your morning coffee or on your coffee break.
Bone Broth Only collagen contains lysine and lysine is essential to making collagen. By eating foods that contain collagen, you get all the building blocks needed for making collagen. The most famous of these is bone broth. This highly nutritious stock is made by simmering animal bones and connective tissue. Using acid, such as vinegar or lemon juice, breaks down the collagen and connective tissue. This leaves you with a tasty, nutritious liquid commonly used in soups and sauces. According to a Healthline article, Bone Broth: How to Make It and 6 Reasons Why You Should,there is a wealth of anecdotal evidence that suggests it has potent health benefits. Below is Healthline's recipe:
You can also add vegetables, herbs, or spices to your broth to enhance the flavor. Common additions include garlic, onion, celery, carrot, parsley, and thyme. These can be added right away in step one.
Gelatin That's right, Jello! Gelatin may be a natural way to boost collagen, improve the skin's appearance, and build/repair cartilage which eases joint pain. A 2016 study found that consuming collagen improved facial moisture and reduced wrinkles. The most common amino acids in gelatin include glycine, proline, lysine, and valine. As mentioned earlier, lysine is an essential amino acid, but so is valine. The kids don't have to have all the fun! In fact, check out this article 36 Old-School Jell-O Recipes for some ideas for grown-ups.
Intermittent fasting is focused more on when you eat, rather than what you eat, it’s generally easy to implement in conjunction with your current diet. Since, as mentioned above, excess protein and saturated fats require more cellular energy to digest, impairing autophagy and increasing the presence of free radicals, collagen peptide supplements really make sense.
(Prerequisites: Cultural Studies 301 and Fasting 201)
With the rise of social media, celebrities and influencers are having a major impact on people's health regimens. Many have embraced intermittent fasting, including Jennifer Aniston, who is a recent star to publicly promote the diet. The 50-year-old actress revealed that she uses a time-restricted fasting method called "day fasting," meaning her fasting window is during the day. She eschews breakfast and only consumes liquids like coffee and celery juice in the mornings. Her eating window is in the evening, consolidating the majority of her eating into the final part of the day.
Kourtney Kardashian has revealed that she's a believer in intermittent fasting. Kardashian, founder of the health and lifestyle website Poosh, uses 16/8 time-restricted fasting. Her fasting window is from 7:00 pm until 11:00 am the next day. She does her workout routine, including lots of cardio, in the morning. This means that she is exercising in a fasted state which forces the body to burn fat for fuel.
Celebrities who use the 5:2 diet include Jennifer Lopez, comedian Jimmy Kimmel, and British actress Jennifer Metcalfe. For five days a week they follow their regular diet, while restricting their calories to 500 – 600 per day the other two. Jimmy Kimmel says that the secret to maintaining his 182 lbs weight is his intermittent fasting schedule of Monday and Thursday being his fasting windows and the other days eating normally" This way, he says, you keep your body guessing!
Thomas Delauer is a YouTube Influencer who promotes the Alternate-Day Fasting version of intermittent fasting. The nutrition and business performance coach has nearly three-million subscribers and has published several books and cookbooks on the subject. His YouTube video, Alternate Day Fasting - The Basics, has over 380,000 views and cites scientific studies and tips on how to be successful with this diet.
Celebrities didn’t start the ketogenic, or “keto,” diet trend, but they’ve certainly added fuel to the fat-burning fire. The eating plan has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years, and that could be due in part to its being embraced by several actors, sports stars, and reality TV stars.
The ketogenic diet is low-carb to the extreme. Followers of a common version of the plan source 75 percent of their daily calories from fat, 20 percent from protein, and just 5 percent from carbohydrates. All it takes is a few days of eating this way for the body to enter ketosis, which essentially means the body starts burning fat instead of glucose (carbohydrates) for fuel.
A Healthline.com article, Intermittent Fasting and Keto: Should You Combine the Two? says that intermittent fasting may help your body reach ketosis quicker than the keto diet alone. When in a fasted state, your body shifts its fuel source from carbs to fats which is the exact premise of the keto diet. If you struggle to reach ketosis while on a keto diet, adding intermittent fasting may jumpstart your process.
Combining the diet and the fast may help you burn more fat than the diet alone. The authors say that several studies reveal that intermittent fasting and a keto diet can powerfully and safely drop excess body fat. Intermittent fasting helps preserve muscle mass during weight loss and improves energy levels, which may be helpful for keto dieters looking to improve athletic performance and improve fat loss.
And just who is a proponent of the keto diet? Perhaps the most famous of all influencers, the Kardashians!
Intermittent fasting is generally considered safe. However, it is best to use caution when beginning or following the eating routine.
Restricting your calorie intake for an extended period of time could be dangerous for:
Before embarking on intermittent fasting or making any other drastic changes to your diet, get medical advice from a trusted healthcare professional to help you get started safely.
When you fast, your body does not have its normal supply of glucose. This forces your cells to switch to other pathways to produce energy
Autophagy is the process of cleaning out damaged cells, so that they may be replaced by newer, healthier cells.
By strategically alternating fasting periods with weight maintenance phases metabolic adaptation will be decreased.
Collagen peptides have a myriad of other functions besides serving as the building blocks for the production of collagen or other proteins in the body.
Ingesting collagen can trigger the production of hunger-suppressing hormones, making you feel fuller longer.
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