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The ketogenic diet has been in mainstream media for some time now, but the latest buzz is all about intermittent fasting, and when these two diet methods are done in tandem the results are greatly amplified.
If you’re wanting a fat-burning surge to your keto lifestyle, intermittent fasting might be just what you need.
Intermittent fasting and the ketogenic diet are well known for their weight loss benefits, and others too, if followed correctly. Intermittent fasting leads to a number of changes in the body making it easier to burn fat and to help boost your metabolism.
When you consume food, your body uses the energy from these foods as fuel. During fasting periods your body is not consuming foods, so it will resort to using your stored fat as fuel.
This effect results in fat burning and weight loss.
In recent studies it has been shown that 84% of people who participate in any type of intermittent fasting not only lose weight, but they lose weight faster than the people who go on a low carbohydrate diet.
While participating in fasting regimes there is also some evidence that you will hold onto more muscle mass than you would whilst following most weight loss diets.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Fasting has been around for centuries. Greek philosophers advocated fasting for medical purposes. Spiritual fasting is said to enhance purification and act as a form of soul cleansing. And metabolically speaking, your body has two phases: fed and fasted.
If you are one of the millions who tends to skip breakfast, you’re already fasting and probably didn’t even realize it.
The main concept behind intermittent fasting is when you eat and not necessarily what you eat. There are several methods for this way of eating, the most common being a daily window, or timeframe, where eating is allowed.
If your “feeding” window is a 6-hour timeframe from noon to 6pm, your intermittent fasting ratio would be 18/6. The window is adjustable to suit your needs and typically somewhere between three to eight hours.
During the fasting phase, don’t freak out! You won’t starve. In fact, drinking things like bone broth, water, plain tea and plain coffee are permissible in the fasting phase, and are great to avoid dehydration. Avoid snacking though. The idea is to fast until feeding time.
When it’s time to eat, there is a little planning necessary. The goal is to consume all of your daily calories in whatever window of time you’ve chosen for the feeding phase of your intermittent fast.
What is Ketosis?
When glucose is available, the body will draw on it first to provide the fuel for its energy requirements. Glucose which is excess to needs will eventually be converted to fat storage, so the body can draw on these reserves in time of prolonged food shortage.
In our modern, civilized environment, this is a fairly rare occurrence.
Ketosis is a completely normal metabolic state that happens when immediate reserves of glucose have been depleted, ideally (for the purpose of bodyfat reduction and blood glucose balancing) as a result of reduced carbohydrate intake.
When you are fasting or restricting carbs your body naturally moves to the next available source of energy, which are ketones, derived from stored fats. In the absence of glucose, the body switches over to burning fat for energy.
For someone wanting to reduce bodyfat, or to help reduce blood glucose levels, this is a desirable state for the body to be in.
Due to our physiology, the body is reluctant to burn bodyfat, as we have evolved to be prepared for some possible future dearth or famine. This means that simply missing out on a meal here and there will not cause your body to enter a state of ketosis and start burning fat.
If have entered a ketonic state, consuming too many carbohydrates, or virtually any simple carbohydrates, which are excess to the body’s immediate energy requirements, will ‘switch off’ ketosis and put the body back into fat storage mode.
Anyone who is trying to attain and maintain a state of ketosis needs to become aware of their macronutrient (fats, proteins and carbs) requirements. This is to enable ketosis, and also to ensure essential nutrition needs are met.
This can vary from person to person depending on both lifestyle (such as work and exercise) and physiological factors (such as metabolic rates) Each person may need some experimentation to determine the ideal ratio for their goals and health status.
As a starting point, the generally recommended macronutrient percentages are:
5-10% of daily calories from carbohydrates
15-30% of daily calories from protein
60% or more of daily calories from fat
For the great many individuals who have for decades been led to believe that dietary fat is evil, the recommended fat levels can be confronting. Just remember, dietary fat is not the same as bodyfat, and the body converts simple carbohydrates to bodyfat far more easily.
So, no more wasted time looking for ‘97% fat-free’ products, in fact these are almost always to be avoided when trying to achieve ketosis.
Three Popular Intermittent Fasting Methods for Weight Loss
One of the most popular versions of intermittent fasting is the ‘16/8’ method.
There are two other popular intermittent fasting methods, the ‘Eat-Stop-Eat’ and the ‘5:2 Diet’.
16/8 Fasting Method
The ‘16/8’ method is a non-fasting (eating permitted) period of 8 hours followed by 16 hours of fasting. Generally non-fasting is undertaken between the hours of 11am – 7pm.
This is partly to make it easier to align mealtimes with non-dieting others, but also due to this being the higher energy requirement time. Nocturnal eating is not conducive to helping achieve reduced bodyfat levels.
Eat-Stop-Eat Fasting Method
The ‘Eat-Stop-Eat’ method consists of doing one or two 24-hour periods of complete fasting each week, for example in the one x 24-hour period, you would eat breakfast one day and then eat nothing until breakfast again the next day.
In the two x 24 period scenario, you would eat breakfast, refrain from eating the rest of that day and all the next, and then eat breakfast the following (third) day.
5:2 Fasting Method
The 5:2 diet involves eating 500 – 600 calories two days of the week and eating normally the other 5 days. As long as healthy foods are consumed during the non-fasting periods weight loss should be achieved.
Can You Intermittently Fast and Follow the Keto Diet at The Same Time?
The short answer is yes. Both are diets. Both are extremely effective. And both share one major component – ketosis.
If intermittent fasting and the ketogenic diet are teamed up and used in tandem, they create quite a powerful duo.
To get the big picture and fully understand how both diets work even better together, it’s important to know the basics on how they work on a solo level.
Intermittent Fasting as a Way of Eating
From a metabolic standpoint, the human body has two states: fed and fasted. Intermittent fasting, in the most basic sense, is centered on when you eat instead of what you eat. At first glance, it sounds like a fluke.
There’s no way that could work to lose weight or improve health! You would be starving yourself!
Untrue. Intermittent fasting actually pushes the body into a state of ketosis, which, if you’re not yet on the keto-wagon, enables the body to use stored fat for energy versus using carbohydrates. There are all sorts of ways to engage in intermittent fasting, but we will just look at the three most common:
Fasting for a Meal – Regularly skip a meal, any meal. It doesn’t matter what meal, but for an overnight fast you’d probably choose skipping dinner or breakfast.
Fasting for Hours – Eat only during a specific window of time. You could fast for 20 hours and have a 4-hour window of opportunity to eat.
Fasting for Days – No eating for a specified number of days during the week and then resume eating normally for the remaining days.
When food is restricted glucose availability declines. Your body has to find an alternate fuel. This is when ketosis begins. Ketones will now be the source of energy.
Another, often unexpected, benefit of intermittent fasting is smaller portions needed to achieve ‘feeling full’. You might feel as hungry as a baseball team of teenage boys in a buffet line, but you’re more likely to stop eating when you’re sated.
The Keto Diet as a Way of Eating
For the ketogenic diet to be effective, carbohydrates are restricted while fats and proteins are increased. Again, the purpose here is to force the body into a state of ketosis so stored fats are used for energy instead of sugars/glucose, which is the reason for the strict carb limit.
It’s important, especially at first, to weigh your foods and keep track of your macronutrients (carbs, fats and proteins) so you can be sure you get into a state of ketosis. Although you can purchase test strips over the counter, they haven’t proven to be very accurate, and there are other ways to reasonably determine if you are in ketosis such as the KetoBM Ketone Blood Meter.
Why Follow Both Diets at The Same Time?
Both these diets go hand-in-hand and amplify your results when done together. First of all, it will help you avoid some of the side effects of ketosis, like the “keto flu” which can happen when your body is shifting from glucose to ketone production. (This isn’t really a flu or infectious illness – just the symptoms can make it feel like it is).
It’s a great way to kickstart your keto diet as a way of eating and really get into the swing of things.
When you change your way of eating to keto-approved foods, when your window to eat on intermittent fasting comes around, you have plenty of foods to eat and don’t feel like you aren’t going to get enough to eat. In fact, you may even have trouble getting in all your macros in the beginning.
Another huge reason people might opt for both is when you are eating keto friendly foods, you get full and stay full, thus snacking isn’t a real issue. When you are fasting, it’s easier to forget about eating because you aren’t even hungry.
Your mental clarity is on point, your body feels sated and your energy levels are high – all while losing weight and feeling great!
It’s crucial to consider your overall health and discuss your thoughts with your primary care provider before making any drastic changes to your way of eating.
The benefits of intermittent fasting and the ketogenic diet are incredible alone and magnified when combined. It takes a little discipline in the beginning, but the results far outweigh any sacrifices!
Will Ketosis Happen Faster with Intermittent Fasting?
You bet it will! Think about it. If you are restricting carbs, you are already “fasting” on a metabolic level. This forces the ketone production because you’re going to need energy, and if this can be supplied from your unwanted fat stores, yahoo!
It basically mirrors an intermittent fasting routine, but on a higher level. When your body runs out of available glucose, there’s no choice but to switch over to the better, more efficiently modulated fuel – stored fat.
And because it’s going to be quite a few hours before you eat, your body turns into a fat-burning factory. While you are fasting, your body is busily pushing ketones so fatty acids can be broken down and used to power all of your organs, especially the super-hungry human brain.
It’s an incredible cycle on a cellular level, but because this isn’t an anatomy and physiology lesson, we will keep it simple. When you start an intermittent fast you are going whole-hog, all at once, and your body responds quickly.
You aren’t going to feed your body every 4-6 hours like a normal diet so it has to counter your play by engaging in ketone production. Using the ketogenic diet alone, we generally reach ketosis in 48 hours, sometimes longer.
Intermittent fasting essentially jump-starts the commencement of ketosis.
Of note, glucose will forever be the preferred source of fuel for your body. If you slip up, and it happens to everyone at one time or another, and go over your carb limit for the day, you might throw your body out of ketosis.
Don’t lose heart. Get back up, dust yourself off and start over.
The good news is if you’re using intermittent fasting to get back into ketosis, it’s not going to take long!
Other Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting can have many health benefits besides weight loss. Research has shown that intermittent fasting can improve your risks, and also help to prevent, against multiple diseases, including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular issues.
Fasting has also been shown to slow down the aging process, which usually excites a lot of people. It has also been shown that fasting may help improve mental health, cognitive function and reduce oxidative stress.
There are plenty of tips and tricks to use when participating in any type of fast. Staying hydrated is one of the most important factors of getting through your fast. Just because you don’t eat, doesn’t mean you don’t drink! It is the only thing that you should and must consume during the fasting period.
Focusing on the quality of your food and not consuming high carb, calorie-laden foods is vital if you want to stay in ketosis and therefore lose weight, and also to help stay at your target weight when you decide to stop fasting.
Finding a ratio of fasting that works for you is the best way to achieving your weight loss goals. Learn and recognize your limits and when enough is enough, stop.
Overall, fasting can be a lot simpler and easier to stay on than your average calorie counting diet. It’s still good to watch what you eat, and high calorie foods are pretty easy to spot and avoid. They’re usually the processed foods or sugar-laden ones.
Simply keep clear of those types of foods and shop in the healthy aisles. Then you won’t have the need to record the calories and be constantly checking the nutritional labels.
Intermittent fasting is not for everyone although it is a great diet for weight loss and highly beneficial for many people. If you want to start fasting but are not sure if it is suitable for you, first speak to your doctor or nutritionist.
When you do, they may be able to steer you to the fasting method that will most improve your chances of success.
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