Diets and weight loss are always hot topics, but in the last few years ketogenic diets and intermittent fasting have become increasingly popular. So what’s the deal? How do you know if you should try fasting or if you should avoid it altogether?
Previously all dieting dogma was calories in, calories out. But, we have all come to realize this is not the case, there are so many factors that come into play when we think about weight loss.
Serving size is still important, as is food quality; 100 calories from an oreo cookie is not the same as 100 calories from meat. Eating fruit all day because it’s healthy is also not right.
But, should you avoid carbs altogether, or if you time your meals properly, can eating carbs be okay?
Intermittent Fasting or IF, is eating within a restricted period of time, say an eight hour window, and then not eating for 16 hours. This ratio can be modified, but usually the fasting period is at least 12-16 hours. Often this looks like, eating dinner at 6 pm and then not eating anything else until 10 am the next morning. Some people will include a black coffee during this time to help curb appetite and in some scenarios, there are also “fatty lattes” that can be incorporated before the fasting time ends.
Modified fasting windows are sometimes more helpful for people that have blood sugar regulation issues, thyroid problems or live a very high stress lifestyle (where calorie restriction may make you feel even more stressed).
It is important to work within the framework of your body and listen to your hunger cues, pushing the fasting window only when you feel ready. Fasting for longer periods can lead to increased hunger during the feeding window and then portion sizes go crazy. It is better to eat sooner than to cause binge eating later.
In general, a 12 hour window is easiest for most people to follow, and is a great starting point.
This style of eating, basically eliminates night-time snacking and should encourage the consumption of a good portion of healthy fat, protein and a bit of carbohydrates at the evening meal.
Intermittent Fasting also tends to lend itself more towards individuals with insulin resistance, or those who are pre-diabetic or diabetic. Fasting is helpful to reset the metabolism and by essentially, skipping a meal, it also cuts down on food intake.
Caloric restriction is focused on reducing meal sizes and portion sizes. Often people are encouraged to eat small frequent meals throughout the day in order to keep energy up when calories go down. This can look like eating 3 regular sized meals daily with 2 snacks in between.
Depending on what works for your schedule and energy, it is best to spread your meals out by 4 hours to allow enough time for digestion. Ensure that you are eating enough so that you are not hungry one or two hours after your meal.
You may need to check your hydration to ensure that you are drinking enough water throughout the day so your body is not confusing thirst for hunger.
Some diet plans suggest very low caloric intake in a day or even alternating days, however, we find this type of restriction will ultimately cause a rebound and will lead to overeating.
Never eat below 1,200 calories daily, this is the minimum for an elderly, sedentary person. If you are more active, you require more calories to keep muscle mass and to have enough energy for daily tasks. If you are on a specialized, cleansing fast where you are resting, this may be a different story.
What is a serving size?
● Meat and Seafood – the size of your palm
● Eggs – 1 egg
● Milk – 4 ounces
● Cheese – 1-3 ounces
● Ghee and Butter – ½ tsp
● Nuts and Seeds – quarter cup
● Nut Butters – 1 Tbsp
● Fats and Oils – 1 Tbsp
● Carbohydrates – grains and cereal: quarter cup; baked goods: ½ muffin, 1 slice of bread
● Vegetables – 1 cup
● Fruits – ½ cup or 1 small/medium sized fruit
● Beverages – 6-8 ounces
Ideally, we recommend eating protein with every meal, this ensures your body is getting the building blocks it requires for healthy muscles.
Breakfasts should be protein with a low carbohydrate intake, then add in more carbs with your lunch and dinner. Adding carbs helps with blood sugar regulation throughout the day as cortisol (your stress hormone) is highest in the morning when you wake up, so is your blood sugar. You want to add more carbohydrates into your diet as the day goes on and your cortisol and blood sugar naturally drop.
Struggling with meal planning? Need someone to be accountable to? Feel like hormones are getting in your way? As Naturopathic Doctors, we can help you figure this out. Be sure to come in to discuss your unique situation and how we can help simplify eating for you!
Dr. Rebecca Sagan, ND and Dr. Pinter, ND