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Intermittent Fasting


I wish I could say I don’t often think of food.  I can’t say that.  I enjoy eating, but I’ve been blessed with a fairly decent metabolism…at least until I reached my 40’s and even worse in my 50’s.  Like all women, I’ve seen the pounds creep up as I age.  And my love handles have become a bit too much to love.  It seems that menopause changes everything.


I reigned in my eating and I was able to lose some weight.  Then I thought my scales were broken.  The number didn’t budge.  No matter what.


What is Intermittent Fasting?

I heard about intermittent fasting.  Intermittent fasting involves a brief fast, for 12-18 hours or more, where you don’t consume anything except water, black unsweetened coffee or tea.  More an eating pattern than a diet, researchers say it not only can help you lose weight but it’s linked to many health benefits.  Clinical data suggests it may provide increased energy, a decreased risk of many diseases and cancers, an improvement in blood insulin levels, an elevation of mood and memory and it might help ward off neuro-degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.


We’ve all been trained to eat several mini-meals a day to ‘keep our metabolism up.’  Medical studies, however, tell us that intermittent fasting will NOT slow our metabolism.  It’s actually ancient practice (i.e. our hunter/gatherer ancestors).  I’m not sure at what time and on what basis our society decided on three meals a day (but that’s a topic for another blog).


It sounds terribly difficult to fast for at least 12 hours, but when you think about it, you may already be fasting for close to that amount of time and not realize it.  Say you eat your last meal around 7 pm and you ‘break your fast’ the next morning between 7 am & 10 am, you have already fasted for 12 or more hours if you’ve not had anything in between except black coffee or unsweetened tea.


How does Intermittent Fasting Work?

Simply stated, you only burn stored body fat while you’re in a fasted state.  You only store body fat while in the fed state.  The body is either in a fed state or a fasted state.  In the fed state, your body elevates insulin and in the presence of insulin, the body halts the burning of fat.  We don’t enter the fasted state until 12 hours after our last meal, snack or caloric beverage.


Modified Intermittent Fasting necessary for Women: Crescendo Fasting

Dr. Amy Shah, https://draxe.com/nutrition/intermittent-fasting-women/, a Phoenix-based physician specializing in Wellness Medicine, tells us that women respond differently to fasting than men. She explains that women are especially sensitive to signals of starvation.  In response to starvation signals, women’s bodies ramp up the production of hunger hormones which often lead to binge eating (after fasting).  To avoid this starvation/binge cycle, Dr. Shah warns that women must follow different rules than men. She calls this Crescendo Fasting, and sets forth these 6 rules.


The 6 Rules of Crescendo Fasting

  1. Do not fast every day. Fast only 2-3 non-consecutive days a week.  (i.e. Monday, Wednesday, Saturday);
  2. Limit your fast to 12-16 hours;
  3. On fasting days, do light yoga or light activity such as walking;
  4. On non-fasting days, do strength training or more intense workouts like an Elliptical Machine;
  5. Drink plenty of water every day, half your body weight in ounces of water (i.e. if you weigh 140 pounds, drink 70 ounces of water every day); and
  6. After 2 weeks without problems, you may try adding one additional day of fast each week.


Does Research suggest Intermittent Fasting slows aging?

Since the 1930’s, researchers have hypothesized the anti-aging benefits of fasting.  In 1945, University of Chicago scientists wrote, intermittent fasting “seems to delay the development of disorders that lead to death.”  More recently, Mark Mattson, a neuroscientist and colleagues have found in studies on mice that intermittent fasting protects against stroke damage, protects against damage caused by Parkinson’s disease and slows the type of cognitive decline seen in Alzheimer’s.  Mattson believes what he has seen; he has practiced intermittent fasting for years.  He skips breakfast and lunch every day except weekends and says it makes him feel more productive.


Will Intermittent Fasting lead to burning muscle instead of fat?

We’ve been told to eat protein frequently throughout the day to build muscle.  This is simply not evidence-based, says Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, a Swedish medical doctor who devotes his practice to educating people about obestiy worldwide with his health blog, www.dietdoctor.com.  Dr. Eenfeldt says:

Many people are concerned that if they start fasting they will either stop making muscle or maybe even burn muscle.  This is not true.  If this were true, humans would not be here today.  In fact, growth hormone is increased during fasted states (both during sleep and after a period of fasting).  Growth hormone might as well be called “fasting hormone,” as it rises by as much as 2,000% after 24 hours of fasting.

Dr. Eenfeldt explains further:

In our hunter-gatherer ancestors, if fasting and going without food made you weaker and slower you would never catch or find any food and you would die and humans would become extinct.  In fact the opposite is true; while fasting, muscle is preserved or can even grow if you are doing resistance training (highly recommended).

You do need to eat an adequate amount of protein each day to build muscle.  Women should eat 0.54 grams protein per pound of body weight per day.   So if you weigh 140 pounds, you should eat 75 grams of protein daily.  Dr. Eenfeldt believes eating it all at once is fine.


My experience with Intermittent Fasting

I took Dr. Shah’s advice (Crescendo Fasting) and fasted just 2 days a week – Mondays and Wednesdays.  I never did believe that breakfast was the most important meal of the day.  I never woke up hungry so that was easy.  I did, however, try to eat frequently to ‘boost my metabolism.’  And was I ever used to eating frequently!  I now understand that a constant supply of carbs circulating through my system prevents it from burning fat.   What were my first couple of fasting days like?  My mind obsessed with thoughts of food and I couldn’t stop thinking to myself,  I’m hungry, I’m hungry, I’m so totally starving, maybe I should eat just a little something.  But I did it and it became surprisingly easy.  It’s been only a couple of weeks.  I feel more energetic and focused.  I no longer put food in my mouth unconsciously.  I savor every bite.  And I’ve lost 2 pounds!


As with anything regarding your health, consult your physician or a physician knowledgeable in diet and wellness before starting intermittent fasting.


For more information about intermittent fasting, contact the body shaping experts at Sculpt Away in San Antonio at 210-227-3051 or learn more at www.SculptAway.com.

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