Intermittent fasting (by having only one or two meals a day, or limiting food intake a few days a week) has attracted attention lately, including in several recent diet books. The Always Hungry? program can support intermittent fasting and, in principle, enhance its benefits. Once fat cells have been “retrained” to release stored calories, the transition from fed to fasting becomes easy and doesn’t precipitate the starvation response — involving extreme hunger, release of stress hormones and slowing metabolism.
For those who can tolerate it, intermittent fasting may provide significant metabolic benefits, such as improved insulin sensitivity. In addition, fasting results in the production of ketones, considered by some a sort of superfuel for brain and body. Of course, intermittent fasting can also save time, since you’ll make fewer meals.
However, the evidence basis to support intermittent fasting is very limited, with virtually no long-term trials. And people differ greatly in their ability to tolerate fasting, so it’s critical to pay attention to your body’s responses.
In a classic feeding study, volunteers were given the same calories either as many small meals (Nibbling) or as a few big meals (Gorging) each day. The Nibbling group showed better blood lipid and glucose levels, and lower stress hormone production. So at least under some conditions (especially, a high carbohydrate diet), restricting calorie intake to just a few hours a day can have negative effects.
If you want to explore intermittent fasting on the Always Hungry? program, wait until Phase 2 or 3. (The purpose of Phase 1 is to take the body out of starvation mode with regular meals and snacks containing the right balance of nutrients). Try skipping breakfast, have your first meal at 1–2 pm, and have your last meal by 8pm. If you feel good all morning and don’t wind up overeating later in the day, then intermittent fasting might be a reasonable option for you. Another variant is to restrict food intake to 500 calories or (or not eat at all) one or two days a week.
But remember, intermittent fasting is an “advanced practice” that won’t work for everyone. Ultimately, many of the benefits of fasting can be obtained simply by reducing intake of total carbohydrate and/or fast-digesting carbohydrates — including processed grains, potato products and added sugars.
Exported from Medium on July 6, 2016.