Fasting FAQ’s

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Following on from my previous two posts Fasting 101 and My Top Ten Fasting Tips, here are a few of the most frequently asked questions from my clients with regards to fasting…

Should I consult my doctor before doing a fast?
Yes you should. Like any new endeavour, please make sure you check with your doctor if exercise, fasting or nutrition is right for you. I am not a doctor and don’t claim to have all the answers to fasting, nutrition or weight loss so please consult them first.

Will I get hungry?
More than likely yes. If you are quite fat adapted (see my blog post here) you body will prefer fat as its primary fuel source. It will be much easy to get through a fast if you have spent several months eliminating refined carbs (grains, wheat, flour, anything processed) and replacing them with a higher amount of good fats for meat, fish, eggs chicken and coconut oil, butter, heavy cream, avocados etc etc. This will help the body chose fat as its fuel source. If you are still concerned about hunger, ride it out it does not last. Use is as an act of self discipline, knowing that you can and will get through it and you will be better for it as you have refrained from breaking the fast!
If you need some extra tips or tools to get through get out my last blog post here, but you can have some black coffee or tea as they act as an appetite suppressant. Drink as much water as you would like. Have some home made bone broth which is full of minerals that help the immune system as well as reduce inflammation and heal the gut. Bone broth has minimal calories so you are technically not breaking your fast.

Can I still exercise?
Absolutely! Training in an aerobic heart rate zone will help to train your body to prefer fat as its fuel source, as whilst you are working in that low heart rate, steady state exercise zone you are burning predominately fat- this zone of approximately 180 minus your age gives you your maximum aerobic heart rate. Stay under this zone and you will increase you fat burn during a fast. Try to avoid any exercise that is too high an intensity and plan that for days when you are not fasting.
The benefits of exercising in a fasted state are:
*Recover quicker due to an increase in human growth hormone
*Burn more fat due to the higher fat oxidation rate
*Train harder due to increased adrenaline
*Wont bonk or run of energy if you stay in the aerobic or fat burning zone as you have an abundance or stored energy in you fat cells

How should I break my fast?
Do it gently, the longer the fast the more gentlier you should be! I would recommend breaking the fast with a small snack/appetiser then eat a small meal 30-60 minutes after that. Take your time, chew your food and enjoy the experience. Have smaller portions and break drink. Try salad, soup, nuts or almond or peanut butter.

What are the problems to watch for?
Low blood pressure:- often when standing up after squatting down or picking something up of the ground causes dizziness which can be due to low blood pressure or low electrolyte balance. Check with your doctor first if you have low blood pressure before starting and if experienced during the fast consider eating a small meal.
Electrolyte management: as above if you experience dizziness when standing up this could be due to an electrolyte imbalance. Try a magnesium supplement with a 250ml glass of water and a teaspoon of Himilayan rock salt to correct the imbalance.
Headaches: could be withdrawal types symptoms for a lack of sugar, refined carbs or coffee! Could also be a sign of dehydration. Drink more water, it if persists take some curcumin, if it continues stop the fast with a small meal and consult your doctor.
Constipation: it is not uncommon to see slight constipation or at least a decrease in bowel movements- especially due to the fact you are eating less!
Muscle Cramps: again supplement with bone broth and or magnesium tablets.

Will I be cranky?
Maybe- see question 1 to fix the hangry

Will my stomach always grumble?
No. Hunger passes-ride the wave . See my top ten tips here.

Will I be confused?
No you shouldn’t. As fat is a clean buring fuel people are often surprised that during fasting you have clear focus, mental clarity and have a more awareness and concertratrion. This could be due to that fact that your body can now focus on cleaning up cells and getting rid of celluar debris and not have to worry about being constalty focused on metabolism, digusting and processing food and making new cells. oss so please consult them first.

 

My Top Ten Fasting Tips

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Top Ten Fasting Tips:
1. Drink Water– drink plenty of water, stay hydrated and use it as a satiating mechanism to cope with any hunger.

2. Stay Busy– you will find that not having to make, think, worry about and prepare food is liberating. It frees up a lot of time (and money). This does have a drawback, however, it that if you don’t busy yourself at work, home or with some tasks you may find yourself bored and thinking of food (See point 10). It might be a good idea to fit into your life when you are busier but not stressed or over worked and lacking sleep. Stay active, go for a long walk in the bush or spend time at the beach but make sure you keep busy, especially around meal time.

3. Drink Coffee- black coffee acts as a mild appetite suppressant and is full of beneficial anti-oxidants.

4. Drink a home-made bone broth– bone broth has minimal calories and chock full of minerals that help the immune system, like collagen, glutamine, glycine and proline. These helps the gut lining and reduce inflammation.

5. Ride the hunger waves- hunger won’t last, tough it out and see it as an act of self-discipline. It will make you stronger. I find that I get hunger between 950-10am every time I do an intermittent or 24-48 hour fast. Strange but I can tell the time by when I am hungry. Hunger pangs, must be 10am! That being said ghrelin, the hormone responsible for hunger or telling us when we are hungry has its own circadian rhythm, or 24 hour cycle, like everything else in our body!

6. Don’t tell people you are fasting- with telling people you are fasting comes the questions and the judgement. Why would you want to do that? You have to eat something or you will go into starvation mode? You’ll breakdown muscle. All untrue. However, if you plan on telling people you are fasting or you have a party and you don’t want to eat, think of an excuse that won’t having the judgement of others. I often say I have already eaten if it’s an afternoon thing or say I am not hungry.

7. Give it time– give yourself a month at least to try intermittent fasting or day long fasts. Don’t be discouraged or feel guilty if you give in to your hunger just try again another time. Being more of a fat burner helps (check my blog on burning fat for fuel here) as your body will prefer the clean burning energy and will switch to burning the abundant stores of fat on your body (over 40,000 calories!!!)

8. Follow a nutritious diet on non-fasting days– don’t eat poorly (high sugar, refined carbs, industrial oils) on your non fasting days, it really defeats the purpose. Stick with good nutritious non processed whole foods like meats, eggs, fish, chicken, vegetables and fruits and when breaking a fast do not chose junk food. Eat a small, nutrient dense meal. If you are hungry have a larger meal a bit later (1-2 hours) as you don’t want to make yourself ill by bingeing on food.

9. Don’t binge- either breaking the fast or on non fasting days.

10. Fit fasting into your own life– don’t try and be un realistic about it or do it on days of high intensity exercise or stressful periods of the week or month. Fit it about your schedule and you are more likely to succeed!

Does Christmas Really Make you Fat?

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Do we gain kilos of fat after two day binges over the holiday period?

The answer is probably not! You’re likely to have an effect on your stomach microbiota, but not on fat stores.

How is this possible? Let me explain…

Studies have shown that over the holiday period the average weight gain is only 500 grams. Not a lot of weight, but it could be a problem if you continued to eat in the same way all year round.

Having said that, a small amount of binging over the Christmas period my only result in a small weight gain if your binges are only on a couple of days a few days apart. Continued over eating results in weight gain.

There are a limited amount of stored calories our bodies can handle. If we consume more than we can handle, some will be burned off as heat through thermogenesis and some will end up in the toilet.

And then there’s water. Blood volume, and total body water in general, can vary quite a bit with exercise, medications, salt intake, and carb intake. I have talked about the Carb Cycle in not one but two previous blog posts but to recap… ingesting any carbs forces the body to use some for immediate energy and the rest is sent to storage. To store the carbs you ingest in your liver or muscles (an adult weighting 70 kg can store around 100 g of glycogen in the liver and 400 g in the muscles), your body must transform them into glycogen, then attach the glycogen molecules to water molecules: 3–4 grams of water per gram of glycogen. So if you eat enough carbs to top out your glycogen stores, you’ll be carrying an extra 1.5–2 kilograms in water weight. “Incidentally, that’s why “detox diets” appear to be so effective: they make you lose a lot of (water) weight in a short amount of time. So this could also account for small amounts of weight gain, water molecules attaching to the glycogen molecule after a meal high in carbohydrates.”

According to examine.com…

 The holiday period “means eating a lot … and gaining a lot of weight; but little of that weight is fat. Most of it is water and soon-to-be-poop. Overeating for a day, even by one or two thousand extra calories, won’t cause much fat gain. (Not to mention that many overeaters won’t eat as much as usual the next day.)”

Obviously what you eat matters, but the biggest contributor to weight gain over the holiday period is alcohol consumption. When we consume alcohol the body identifies this as a toxin and acts to convert it to energy to help remove the toxin from the body. What this also does is it give preferential treatment to the alcohol as the energy source as it needs to get it out of the body as soon as possible. This preferential treatment puts the burning of fat, protein and carbohydrates as the fuel source on the back burner (so to speak) and aims to get rid of the toxic alcohol. Protein can support fat loss, notably by suppressing appetite and boosting thermogenesis. As for fat, it doesn’t have any benefits with regard to fat storage, but it still beats alcohol with regard to fat gain, not because your body will store alcohol as fat, but because your body readily burns alcohol for energy (to avoid toxicity), thus dampening the oxidation of fat and other fuel sources. Not only that, but alcohol can increase your appetite in the short term.

Examine.com again…

“Overfeeding on protein (e.g., turkey) will cause less fat storage than overfeeding on alcohol (e.g., wine) or fat (as is plentiful in delicious pumpkin pies, not in the low-fat abominations). If you’re prone to overeating on Thanksgiving, it may be wise to load up on a bunch of turkey first, to help with appetite suppression.”

In Summary…

Significant body fat is gained in weeks or months, not in hours or even in days. On the other hand, water weight can vary rapidly with salt and carbohydrate intake, exercise, and other factors. Eating a typical Christmas meal can easily increase your body fluids, tricking you into thinking you’ve gained lots of fat. Even over the holiday season, however, not everyone gains fat, and feeling like you’ve gained weight doesn’t always mean you have.

 

Primal and the Ketogenic Diet

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Welcome to Part 3 of my 3 part series on the ketogenic diet, you can find part 1 and part 2 here…

Why the Ketogenic Diet and Primal Go hand in Hand…

You have probably heard of Paleo more so than Primal as it has been a trending topic for several years now. You may have heard it called the Caveman diet or ancestral diet. Eating Paleo is a lot like eating Primal (I have a post on the small differences here) but simply put primal and paleo eating is about choosing real, whole foods the our hunter gather ancestors would recognise as food. We don’t even have to go back that far, stuff our grand parents would recognise as good wholesome foods, nothing processed with high amounts of sugars, refined grains and industrial vegetable oils. Things like meat from cows who eat grass on a farm, organic eggs from chicken allowed to roam, graze and forage, natural fats like butter, lard and ghee. We have become far removed from this way of eating. It is possible to ketogenic without being primal/paleo and you can follow primal/paleo without being ketogenic, but marrying keto with primal is like a “match made in Heaven” for your overall health.

The ketogenic diet is an excellent way to keep you carbs down and your insulin in check. Following basic keto/primal/paleo principles fits how our bodies are designed to work. For our Primal ancestors, they ate all parts of the animals they hunted along with fish, fowl, eggs, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds and one of the biggest sources of energy was from the animal fats they consumed. When food was scarce or they caught a big animal and ate a lot of animal fat, the thing that sustained their energy needs was ketones! Hunter gathers, due to their high consumption of animal meats and often long periods of fasting would have constantly been in a state of ketosis.

A state of nutritional ketosis occurs by increasing good fats, eating moderate protein and reducing carbohydrates. Backing this with a Primal philosophy for eating real, wholesome, nourishing foods will give your body overall health benefits that have been well documented on this blog as well as others including mental clarity, sharper focus and more vitality.

Why Grains Are Bad

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There several reasons grains are bad…

Reason 1: It perpetuates a reliance on Carbohydrate for Energy.

 All forms of ingested carbohydrates convert to glucose and spike insulin production.

 Insulin is a mater hormone and released from the pancreas. It facilitates metabolic and hormone functions by transporting nutrients through the blood to cells and organs.

 Grains are a cheap, quick and easy source of glucose but the constant consumption of grains and carbohydrates cause what I like to call a “carb cycle”. Grains, once ingested are quickly converted to glucose. Those carbs not used for immediate energy are stored in the liver or the muscles as glycogen. Once glucose stores in the liver and muscles are full the excess is sent to fat storage. This, in turn increase cortisol (the hormone responsible for the fight or flight response), which taxes the adrenal and immune systems, pancreas and promotes systemic inflammation.

 In a short space of time, the body has ingested energy in the form of carbohydrates, used what it needed for immediate energy, stored the excess in the liver, muscles and fat and now believes it has no energy again. This sends a signal to the brain via a hormone called ghrelin to say we are hungry again. So we eat more carbs and the cycle continues every few hours.

 The human body has used fat as its primary source of energy for thousands, maybe millions of years of evolution. If we can train our body to rely on fat as a fuel source again, we will never be hungry, due to the millions of calories of energy stored in fat on our body. If we can eliminate grains as a source of immediate energy and shift our body to prefer fat as our energy source, we will have less inflammation, better immune function and less gastrointestinal issues.

The amount of insulin you produce influences if you store or burn fat, if we can reduce the spike of insulin, we can control our hunger and fat storage.

An increase in insulin results in accelerated cell division, which is said to increase ageing and the deregulation of healthy cell division, which is linked to an increase in cancer risk and perpetuates the “carb cycle”.

Reason 2: Anti-Nutrients!

 Anti-nutrients are agents present in grains that compromise health.

Lectins: are a natural phytochemical toxin that plants manufacture to defend against UV radiation, predators and microorganisms and are found in higher concentrations in the seeds of plants.

They have a toxic effect when ingested, decrease immune function and gut barriers (causing leaky gut syndrome) and increase inflammation.

They also bind with insulin receptors and deregulate both fat storage and appetite meaning they spike insulin and increase fat storage.

Lectins contain prolamin and agglutinins, which clump red blood cells together. This damages the microvilli or the brush borders of your small intestine, causing undigested particles of food (effectively poop) to leak through the lining of the SI out into your body causing irritability and inflammation.

 

Gluten: is a prolamin form of lectin. It triggers a mild to severe inflammation in the body. It compromises digestion and immune function.

Oats, (avenin) Rice (orzenin) and corn (zein), all contain lectins that contribute to leaky gut.

 

Phytates: are undigestable compounds found in whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes. They bind to important minerals and make it difficult for those minerals to be absorbed. They do contain some anti oxidants and can be helpful in small amounts.

Saponins: are anti nutrients found in legumes. They are a chemical defense for plants. They permeate the gut cell membrane, causing leaky gut. Soy is especially high in these type of lectins which also contain phyto estrogens which disrupt sex hormones in males and females.

Overall, there is no real reason for us to consume grains. They contribute to elevated levels of insulin and blood glucose, two factors which have been heavily linked to issues with our immune system, metabolic syndromes such as diabetes, inflammation, ageing and increased free radicals. They also contain anti nutrients and plant phytochemicals which are responsible for damaging the tight junctions in our stomach and small intestine lining.