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Intermittent fasting (IF) has many health benefits independent of fat loss and weight management. That’s why I use IF.
There are two main reasons why some people may have difficulty fasting.
1. Wildly fluctuating blood sugar from carbs in the last meal
2. Ghrelin, the hunger hormone released at habitual mealtimes
Fluctuating Blood Sugar
A meal that includes heavy carbohydrates (>40% of total calories) can increase blood sugar, which stimulates excessive insulin release, potentially resulting in hypoglycemia — or low blood sugar. This makes the fast difficult, as energy is depleted and hunger is stimulated.
Also, if you’re eating that much carbohydrates, then chances are that you’re eating easily-digestible carbohydrates like potatoes, grains, or grain-based foods. While they’re not necessarily the unhealthiest foods for you, they still provide more empty calories for the amount of nutrients they contain. The result is wildly fluctuating blood sugar for, what, a few grams of fibers and a small amount of micronutrients?
Better to eat fibrous vegetables with an abundance of micronutrients and far fewer empty calories, so that your blood sugar stays stable.
This way, when you enter the fasting period, your blood sugar is already stable and hunger won’t be drastic.
Ghrelin, the Hunger Hormone
Ghrelin is a hormone released by the cells of your stomach before meal times, signaling the brain that it’s time to eat, inducing hunger.
If you’ve been following meal patterns, like most Americans with the 3 square meals (or worse, 5 or 6 small meals) a day, then you’ve trained ghrelin to release at these intervals. Most people are already familiar with the fierce hunger whenever they inadvertently miss a meal. This hunger is likely psychological but is strongly influenced by the “habitual” release of ghrelin.
For this reason, those who want to start IF’ing for the first time should allow a period of adaptation, so that ghrelin production can follow the new eating pattern — which is a longer period between meals before it gets released. Remember, ghrelin signals to the brain that it’s time to eat, resulting in the feeling of hunger; so through this period of adaptation, the sense of hunger is natural and should be ignored. Once adapted, the feeling of hunger should diminish.
Paleolithic Diet and Intermittent Fasting
I believe that the Paleo diet and IF go hand-in-hand. Either alone is fine, but together the resultant health benefits, fat metabolism, and nutrient uptake are maximized. Whether you want to lose body fat, or manage your body composition, or optimize your health, you should give the Paleo diet and IF a genuine test drive for at least two months, and see how you feel. (I say 2 months because I feel that a little time is necessary for ghrelin adaptation, and for your body to learn how to switch on — or turn up — its fat metabolism.)