If you are following us on Instagram you might have noticed already; we are @casavayu in Central Portugal and started with intermittent fasting some days ago.
So I got some questions from people. What is this intermittent fasting all about? Why am I doing this and is it something for you too? Is it just a hype or is there real science behind it? In this post I’ll share some experience and insight on the topic.
What is intermittent fasting?
I got to know all about intermittent fasting during my studies orthomolecular and evolutionary science. This term refers to a system where one eats only within a restricted timeframe or an ‘eating window’ of 12 to 4 hours. Some people like to add a whole day of fasting too. Physical high intensity exercise is done before meals.
The metabolic swith
The main idea is to make your metabolism flexible and resetting the body’s ability to move from glucose as fuel to fatty acids and fatty acid-derived ketones. This is called ‘the metabolic switch’ . This switch occurs when glycogen stores in the liver and muscles are depleted, about 12h after the last food intake. Ketones are the main fuel for the brain and body during fasting, resulting in less desire for food, high concentration and motivation. This mechanism is how humans are genetically designed to overcome periods with less food resources due to weather or other external circumstances.
In paleolithic times we also had to move our bodies in search for food before we could enjoy a meal. Nowadays we are so comfortable with full food storages, that our body loses the ability to switch into fat burning state. A pandemic obesity as a consequence. It’s an evolutionary mismatch causing chronic diseases and high economic costs for society.
Types of intermittent fasting
I won’t go in to details here. All systems can be combined. I think everyone can find a system that works for them, preferably under the guidance of a health caretaker. We do the 16/8 method, as it is easy to stick to in combination with our family life and breastfeeding.
- 16/8 method: In this type of fasting meals are taken in the 8 hours eating window.
- Spontaneous meal skipping: randomly leave out several meals per week.
- Alternate fasting day: 1 day of normal eating, 1 day of fasting or only 500cal
- 20/4 warrior diet: All food intake is done within a 4 hours window.
- 5/2 restricted calories or water fasting days: 5 days a week normal eating and two days of fasting, spread over a week.
What are the benefits
- insulin sensitivity increases: many people show signs of prediabetes or insulin resistance because of high frequency of food intake, high carb intake and little physical exercise.
- diabetes mellitus type 2: under the guidance of a health therapist good results are seen for people diagnosed with diabetes and other chronic inflammatory diseases
- longer life: a study shows that alternate fasting and restricting calorie intake give longer lifespan for a broad variety of species.
- weight loss: in most cases intermittent fasting mimics calorie restriction with weight loss from adipose tissue as a result.
- cardiovasculair health: high insulin levels cause fluid retention and the risk of cardovascular events. Intermittent fasting reduces insulin levels and more physical exercise is promoted.
- lower inflammation: intermittent fasting improves anti-inflammatory and metabolic pathways.
Note: It is always best to seek advice of a professional health caretaker before making drastic changes to your diet and lifestyle.
How to start and what to eat
I can devote several blogposts on that, but in short:
Start with decreasing the frequency of food intakes. Every calorie rich beverage also counts as ‘food intake’. When you can manage to stick to 3 meals without problems, start with prolonging the period of fasting.
Kick off with 12/12 for a few days or with 14/10 and gradually build up to 16/8. You can first keep your 3 meals, but gradually go to only 2 meals. There is no need to restrict in daily calorie intake.
What to eat?
Try to eat as diverse as possible with mainly vegetables, spices, seeds and nuts, healthy fats like ghee, coconut oil and olive oil. Eat less carbohydrates, especially from highly processed grains. Lots of tuberous plants and roots as a healthy carb source. Proteins from legumes, fatty fish or organic poultry and eggs.
Use an app to calculate your food intake and excercise
I came across this app to help you calculate the ratio off carbs, fats and proteins on different exercise days.
It’s more about intermittent living
The intermittent fasting is best seen as part of a lifestyle instead of a diet which is done in a certain timeframe. Intermittent living is a way to reintegrate different stimuli that human beings always have encountered in their natural environment. We are genetically programmed for survival. Intermittent living reactivates our survival mode, by exposing ourselves regularly to hormetic stress stimuli like cold, hunger, heat, high intensity movement and breath. As a result we feel healthy humans again. You can read more about cold therapy in this post
Why did we start doing this?
Whenever I learn some new scientific theory, my brain almost automatically starts to compare and analyze if it fits in with ancient Eastern knowledge.
Does it match a yogic lifestyle?
As a yogi, especially an Ashtanga practitioner, you get up early morning, drink some water with lemon, maybe a cup of coffee and start yoga practice. We take breakfast after the 1,5 – 2 hours practice. Dinner is ideally a light meal around 17-18 o’clock, so your digestion isn’t upset during practice the next morning. This is actually intermittent fasting with a 15:7 or 16:8 eating window. The health benefits of this kind of lifestyle have proven itself for many decades, even centuries.
What does Ayurveda say about this?
Ayurveda says to eat only when hungry and the previous meal is digested. This means we need to avoid snacks in between meals. Dinner around 17u-18 gives digestion a nice break until breakfast after yoga practice or other types of exercise. This is exactly what intermittent fasting is. Ayurveda prioritizes warm meals with appropriate spices over raw and cold foods. I integrate this part in our diet too.
Why did we start?
I am a pitta type of person, so I gain weight quite easily. After my pregnancy I hoped breastfeeding would use up the fat reserve of my body, like it is supposed to. Unfortunately that isn’t happening. I figured something is wrong with my sugar/fatmetabolism and it needs a reset.
Anyway, I need to get my body back into a flexible and lean state. Getting rid of addictions or food cravings makes the mind balanced, strong and peaceful. It’s not just about looking good, but about treating yourself the best way possible. My husband has an innate sensitive skin and is very curious to see the effects on his body.
Our project in Portugal Casa Vayu is all about promoting an intermittent natural lifestyle with less chronic stress and more hormetic stress stimuli. This awakens our body and mind to a higher energy level.
In my online detox program 2.0 I integrate these therapies to boost the immune system and get your detoxifying system to work better. Stay tuned to get discount!
Are you already doing the intermittent fasting? Share your experience in the comments or follow us on instagram