Sometimes we will come across people who have been doing IF for a while, yet they experience very slow weight loss or even no weight loss at all. They may think that IF “isn’t working.” While it’s true that they may not yet be seeing the weight loss they were hoping for, is IF “working”? And, if so, what is happening?
Let’s take a look at some of the latest research into what may be happening in our bodies when we fast. After reading about these new and exciting studies, you will realize that weight loss is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fasting! And, the benefits that we can’t see on the outside are actually the most important for our health and longevity.
For each of these titles, click on the title itself to go directly to the article that reports the research. I have given you a brief summary of each, but to learn more, you can (and should) go straight to the source. I am not a research scientist, nor do I play one on TV.
Are there any proven benefits to fasting?
Johns Hopkins, Spring/Summer 2016
Dr. Mark Mattson's research shows that fasting improves neural connections in the hippocampus and also protects our brains against the accumulation of amyloid plaques. Benefits of fasting include fewer signs of depression, improved memory, and an increased ability for our brains to ward off neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
In pursuit of healthy aging: Intermittent fasting may be center of increasing lifespan
Harvard, October 2017
As we get older, the mitochondria of our cells lose the ability "to process energy over time, which leads to aging and age-related disease." Researchers from Harvard are beginning to understand how intermittent fasting promotes healthy aging by enhancing the plasticity of our mitochondrial networks. This should lead to a reduced likelihood of developing age-related diseases, which would increase lifespan.
Intermittent fasting leads to significant weight loss, slows aging
University of Florida, April 2018
Researchers at the University of Florida performed a comprehensive review of the scientific literature on fasting. In their paper, they examine both time-restricted eating (the eating window approach) and various alternate daily fasting strategies (the up/down day approach). In their analysis, they describe how fasting allows our bodies to shift from burning glucose for energy to obtaining energy from fatty acids and their byproducts, ketones. When the body flips this metabolic switch, we are able to access fat stores while preserving lean muscle mass. Also, fasting "may optimize physiological functioning, enhance performance, and slow the aging and disease processes."
Fasting boosts stem cells' regenerative capacity
MIT, May 2018
As we age, our intestinal stem cells lose their regenerative abilities, and it takes longer for the intestines to recover from infection or injury. Biologists at MIT found that a 24-hour fast can reverse age-related loss of intestinal stem cell function. In this study, they found evidence that "fasting induces a metabolic switch in the intestinal stem cells, from utilizing carbohydrates to burning fat." As a result of the metabolic changes, they saw enhanced function and cellular regeneration.
Longer daily fasting times improve health and longevity in mice
National Institute on Aging, September 2018
Scientists found that "health and longevity improved with increased fasting time, regardless of what the mice ate or how many calories they consumed." This study was performed on mice, and the mice who ate one meal a day, which was the longest fasting period examined, "seemed to have a longer lifespan and better outcomes for common age-related liver disease and metabolic disorders." Yes, these were mice, but the researchers are hoping to expand the research to other animals and then eventually to humans.
Researchers identify molecule with anti-aging effects on vascular system
Georgia State University, September 2018
We know that as we age, we become more susceptible to diseases such as cardiovascular disease. Vascular aging plays a significant role in this process, as the vessels become sensitive and more subject to damage over time. Researchers at Georgia State University found that the body produces a molecule during fasting called beta-hydroxybutyrate (involved in ketogenesis) that promotes cell division and prevents cellular aging within the blood vessels and lymphatic vessels of our vascular system. They believe this may help us keep our blood vessels young.
Fasting boosts metabolism and fights aging
Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, January 2019
This study is exciting, because it wasn't done on rats or mice...but was actually conducted with humans. In this study, four volunteers participated in a 58 hour fast, and researchers took blood samples at specific intervals: 10, 34, and 58 hours into the fast. (Yes, this is a small sample size. Yes, it is still exciting.) Over time, and in all four subjects, scientists were able to identify "44 metabolites that increased during fasting, some of which increased 60-fold." Overall, they found a boost in metabolic activity, increased mitochondrial activation, and higher levels of antioxidants, which they expect would reverse some of the effects of aging. Next steps will include repeating this study with a larger sample.
Exercise, fasting help cells shed defective proteins
Harvard, February 2019
As we age, our cells lose the ability to dispose of "junk proteins," and this can lead to the accumulation of "misfolded proteins, which clog up the cell, interfere with its functions, and, over time," lead to "the development of diseases, including neurodegenerative diseases such as amytrophic lateral sclerosis and Alzheimer's." Researchers at Harvard found that both exercise and fasting (even for brief periods) enhanced the cells' ability to dispose of these junky proteins that cause diseases.
So, if you are one of the people who started IF for the weight loss (Gin raises hand), you should now understand that fasting is so much more than a way to drop pounds and sizes. I genuinely believe that almost all adults could benefit from some sort of intermittent fasting regimen. Remember: at the core, fasting truly is the health plan with a side effect of weight loss. Even when we can’t yet see the results outwardly, the latest research on fasting, health, and longevity should thrill us, as we begin to understand that amazing things are likely going on within our bodies. Not everyone who does intermittent fasting will be a size 2 or fit back into their jeans from high school, but everyone can benefit from the time our bodies spend in the fasted state.
And, here’s something else to think about. Once you truly embrace IF as your healthy forever-lifestyle, and disconnect from the thought that it’s a temporary diet to help you lose a certain number of pounds, you can exhale and relax into it. Once you do, you realize you have the rest of your life to tweak your IF regimen to find approaches that will allow you to eventually release the excess weight you may be holding onto. And, as you do, never lose sight of the fact that you’re reaping all of the health benefits along the way.
Fast on, friends!
You are probably reading this because you are an intermittent faster, you are interested in intermittent fasting, or because someone you know and love has suggested that you look into intermittent fasting as a lifestyle. Good news! You are on the cutting-edge of the biggest health and weight loss trend to come along in decades. If you want to know more about the science behind intermittent fasting and some of the amazing health benefits related to intermittent fasting, check out my 2017 blog post and this follow up 2018 blog post. In fact, intermittent fasting is the health plan with a side effect of weight loss, and you can be confident that it is not only healthy, it's total FREEDOM from all of those "diets" you may have tried and quit over the years. Intermittent fasting is NOT a diet, in fact: it is a lifestyle.
So? Why do I say that in 2019 intermittent fasting is mainstream? Keep reading!
I first began dabbling in intermittent fasting ten years ago in 2009. Unfortunately, I was VERY intermittent in my approach, so I didn't really ever give it time to work before I quit and raced on to something else. Ten years ago, I'm not even sure people were calling it "intermittent fasting." I read Brad Pilon's "Eat Stop Eat" and Dr. Bert Herring's free Fast-5 ebook, but that was pretty much it. I was still in my "try all of the crazy diets" phase, and intermittent fasting seemed to fit the bill. Whenever I tried to explain the concept to anyone, they looked at me like I had lost my mind. The world wasn't ready. *I* wasn't ready. So, it's not a surprise that I never did find success with intermittent fasting in those early days. I also hadn't discovered the life-changing magic of implementing a clean fast (explained in this blog post), so it all just seemed SO. HARD. and also a little bit nuts.
Fast forward to 2014. I topped the scale at 210 pounds, which was obese for a 5' 5" woman.
Thankfully, I gave intermittent fasting one more shot in 2014. My whole story is in my #1 Amazon best-seller, Delay, Don't Deny: Living an Intermittent Fasting Lifestyle. In that book, I explain how you can design an intermittent fasting lifestyle that will change YOUR life, the way intermittent fasting changed my life and the lives of tens-of-thousands of intermittent fasters from around the world.
I lost over 80 pounds by using various intermittent fasting techniques, and I have kept off the weight (and continued to get leaner) over the years. I started a few different Facebook intermittent fasting support groups (as of today, the last day of 2018, we have about 140,000 combined members from around the world) and began mentoring others as they changed their lives by adopting an intermittent fasting lifestyle for themselves. To hear some of their amazing stories, you can listen to my podcast, Intermittent Fasting Stories, on the website linked here, or through your favorite podcast app.
As people changed their lives with intermittent fasting, one concern still rose to the forefront for many: how do we explain to others what we are doing? What will people think?
Good news! Over time, the tide has turned. As you can imagine, I LOVE to talk to people about intermittent fasting. These days I have noticed that more and more people have heard about it when I bring it up. Most people have seen a magazine article, or a news snippet, or perhaps they have a friend who has had great success. Now when I mention it, more people have heard of intermittent fasting than have NOT heard of it.
And, if that weren't enough, I have two pieces of evidence that will convince you that intermittent fasting is, indeed, mainstream.
First, it's the rise of "intermittent fasting" products. Remember the low-fat craze of the 1990s? We knew it was big-time when every food product boasted that it was "fat free". Well, yesterday I was scrolling through Facebook, and I saw an ad for a new bar that you can "eat" while you are doing intermittent "fasting." After I stopped laughing (How gullible do they think we are? Eating isn't fasting.) I realized that the rise of these products is a very good sign! You can always follow the money to see what is on-trend. So, when they start making "food" for "fasting" you know there's a large market. (Side note: promise me you won't fall for it. Repeat after me.... Eating isn't fasting. Eating isn't fasting. Eating isn't fasting.)
The second exciting piece of evidence is more scientific, and it should thrill you. In the 2018 "Food and Health Survey" (linked here) conducted by the International Food Information Council Foundation, they reported that 36% of consumers claim that they follow an "eating pattern" of some sort. Of those following an eating pattern, guess what the TOP self-reported eating pattern was? If you guessed "intermittent fasting," you are a winner! (Side note: you're still a winner even if you didn't guess that, because you are here learning about intermittent fasting. And, if that doesn't make you a winner, I don't know what does.)
On page 26 of that survey report (linked here), there is a graphic showing all of the most-reported eating patterns. You can see intermittent fasting there at the top. A full TEN PERCENT of the participants following a structured eating plan reported that they were doing intermittent fasting, more than any other diet/eating pattern. It's higher than Paleo. Higher than gluten-free. Higher than vegetarian/vegan. Higher than Keto. Whoa! Mainstream, baby.
So! Now you know: intermittent fasting is no longer in the shadows. It's so mainstream that it's the #1 self-reported "eating pattern" of the past year and the marketers are ready to sell you fasting bars for your fast (promise me... NO!... eating isn't fasting). For those reasons, you can live the lifestyle with confidence. You don't need to hide what you are doing or lie about it. You don't need to feel embarrassed or like you need to keep it to yourself. Say the words "intermittent fasting" to others with pride. If they react critically, look at them with a surprised look and tell them that you can't believe they haven't heard of it yet, since it is everywhere. No need to feel defensive or nervous.
And, remember that if people have questions, you don't need to have all of the answers, and you certainly do NOT have to spend your time defending what you do. Nope. If you find that someone is still giving you a hard time about intermittent fasting, or if they say it isn't "healthy," lend them your copy of Delay, Don't Deny and tell them you'll be happy to discuss it with them once they have read the book. I'm happy to explain it to them on your behalf. And, if they aren't willing to learn, you can release their thoughts from your mind. YOU know what you are doing. YOU know intermittent fasting is the health plan with a side effect of weight loss, and YOU are confidently living the intermittent fasting lifestyle.
So! Bring it on, 2019. We, the intermittent fasters of the world, are mainstream. We know it, and you know it. We are ready to #ShareWithoutFear and #ChangeTheWorld.
This post is all about the question: does a sweet taste really cause an insulin release? What does the science say? I have some links at the end of this blog post that you can go to in order to draw your own conclusions. Please do, in fact. I will always believe that it is best to examine the science yourself rather than blindly believe what I say about it.
If this is the first you are hearing about this concept, and you aren't sure why it matters, check out my blog post about the importance of a clean fast. It is located here. Personally, I believe the key to long-term intermittent fasting success is the clean fast. I've experienced it both ways, and the difference is night and day.
The “sweet taste and insulin” debate is one of the biggest sticking points for many people, and there are people out there who ridicule the concept completely. I actually got a comment today on my coffee blog post from a guy who tried to prove to me that the science shows sucralose (Splenda) is actually fine during the fast, because it doesn’t raise insulin. He had a study (his study is linked here) that “proved it”. Well, I went to his link and read his study, and the sucralose was administered through something called “intragastric infusion.”
What does that mean? The sucralose was inserted DIRECTLY INTO THE STOMACH. That is what “intragastric infusion” means.
So, what did we learn from that study? If you would like to insert sucralose directly into your stomach through intragastric infusion, this study shows it’s absolutely fine to do that. Indeed, it does not appear that will cause you to secrete insulin.
The elephant in the room is that in real life, we are NOT inserting anything directly into our stomachs. We drink beverages through our mouths, and we taste them. In the insulin response theory, it’s the TASTE of the sweetness that is the problem. All of the studies that I link in my books and blog posts about insulin release relate to the sweet TASTE of something you ingest tricking the brain into thinking that you need insulin to handle whatever sweet thing you are consuming. According to the sweetness/insulin response theory, the body doesn’t understand that it’s actually a zero calorie sweet taste. The body is ready for the calories it associates with sweetness, hence the insulin release. Clearly, inserting something directly into the stomach bypasses the taste receptors, which is what the study about intragastric infusion illustrates.
This is such a confusing topic for many, and this is why: as with MANY topics, you can find studies (and resulting opinions) that contradict one another. That’s right! You can find studies that show there IS an insulin response to sweet tastes, and you can also find studies that show there is NOT an insulin response to sweet tastes! I could “prove” there is NOT an insulin response to you by referencing some studies that came to that conclusion, but I could also “prove” there IS an insulin response by selecting other studies that determined the opposite to be the case. This is called “cherry picking” data: only looking at information that agrees with what you believe to be true, and ignoring any that don’t match what you believe.
So, what do we do when faced with contradictory information? Of course, I personally want to err on the side of caution. If there is a possibility something is going to cause me to release insulin during the fast, I am going to avoid it. Trust me. NO ONE wanted to have Stevia during the fast more than I did. I searched and searched for a rationale that would allow me to keep it in my coffee. Once I decided to eliminate it, it changed the way I experienced intermittent fasting and made the process truly effortless.
Here are some links if you want to dig in for yourself. Note: “CPIR” stands for “Cephalic Phase Insulin Response”.
1. This one, from 2008, was performed on humans (not rats), and it is the one that finally convinced me to drop the stevia: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18556090
*Key takeaway: “A significant increase of plasma insulin concentration was apparent after stimulation with sucrose and saccharin. In conclusion, the current data suggest that the sweeteners sucrose and saccharin activate a CPIR even when applied to the oral cavity only.” Even if I read ten studies that had a different outcome, this one would make me stay away from anything sweet during the fast. Better safe than sorry.
*This is a rat study, but it is fascinating because: “The non-nutritive sweetener saccharine elicited CPIR. However, starch, which is nutritive but non-sweet, did not elicit CPIR although rats showed a strong preference for starch which is a source of glucose. In addition, we studied whether CPIR was related to taste receptor cell activity. We carried out the experiment in rats with bilaterally cut chorda tympani nerves, one of the gustatory nerves. After sectioning, CPIR was not observed for sweet stimulation. From these results, we conclude that sweetness information conducted by this taste nerve provides essential information for eliciting CPIR.” What that means is that when the scientists cut the nerves from the tongue to the brain, and the rats could not TASTE the sweetness, there was no insulin release. It was related to the taste only.
*Key takeaway: "The results indicate the presence of a significant CPIR in a subset of individuals with overweight or obesity after oral exposure to sucralose, especially when present in solid food form." Don’t miss this important conclusion: while the beverage form had a smaller insulin spike than the food form, there still was an insulin response to the sweet beverage.
*Key takeaway: “obese subjects exhibited significantly greater CPIR than normal-weight subjects.” This implies that when you are overweight, your body has MORE of an insulin response than someone of normal weight.
*Another rat study. Key takeaway: “We conclude that saccharin (through taste) appears to elicit parasympathetic (insulin release) and sympathetic (HGP increase) reflexes in lean and obese rats. These taste-induced changes in plasma insulin and glucose turnover are exaggerated in the obese rats and may participate in obesity and in insulin resistance of the overall syndrome.” Again, the obese animals had a HIGHER insulin response than the lean ones.
Those last 2 studies imply that if you are overweight, you need to be even more careful than others about what you ingest during your fast. I think that is important to understand.
In conclusion: you are an adult, and you are making your own decisions here. I will continue to believe that if you are looking for the best possible results from an intermittent fasting lifestyle, you want to avoid all sweet tastes during the fast. Yes, I cherry-picked the studies that support my conclusion and I didn't link to any that imply that the sweet tastes are a-okay. But, if you want to err on the side of caution, that is what you would do.
Not everyone is going to agree with my conclusions, and I’m okay with that. Remember, there are groups of people who still believe the earth is flat, and that scientists are lying to us with the whole “earth is round” nonsense. Boy, do I wish I was kidding. https://www.livescience.com/24310-flat-earth-belief.html If we can’t come to 100% consensus on the shape of the earth, then I’m pretty sure the complex issue “does a sweet taste cause an insulin response” is never going to be “settled” for everyone. (Spoiler alert: I do believe the earth is round. Thank goodness.)
And for everyone who remains unconvinced about sweet tastes and insulin: I would like to issue a challenge to you. Fast clean for at least two weeks, with nothing but black coffee and unflavored/unsweetened still and sparkling water. Then, reintroduce whatever it is that you believe is not a problem. Pay attention to how you feel. I’ll be very surprised if you don’t notice that the fast is notably easier when you fast clean. That’s what most people discover, and it is what I found personally. Try it and see! What do you have to lose?
It's that time of year again: New Year's Resolution time! After the ball drops and the confetti settles, there is one resolution that usually tops everyone's list, and I am sure you know what I mean:
THIS IS IT! This is FINALLY the year I am going to lose the excess weight and get healthy! YES! I am going to find the latest and greatest new diet, and I am going to follow it like a champion! 2018 will finally be my year!
With your resolution in mind, it's time to head to the bookstore and peruse the diet books! Of course, when you get there, you find that the NEW diet books look an awfully lot like the OLD diet books. Sure, they have been repackaged and reconfigured, but most of them tell you which foods are dietary heroes and which are dietary villains, and as long as you follow their (probably complicated) plans, you can achieve weight loss nirvana! They tell you what to eat and what NOT to eat, and they generally have phases and meal plans, with a "fabulous" recipe section. Of course, you'll be sick of these phases and meal plans in a couple of weeks, and you'll long for whatever foods you have restricted. Over time, you'll gradually drift back into your old dietary patterns, and the diet is over. Hey! There's always next year! Maybe 2019 will finally be your year!
What if it is a lot easier than that? What if, instead of the latest and greatest NEW diet, we look back in time to a practice that has been around for so long that most people have forgotten it? Let's go back to the time of Hippocrates, also known as "the father of modern medicine." He lived from around 430-360 BC, and is famous for this quote:
"Everyone has a physician inside him or her; we just have to help it in its work. The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well. Our food should be our medicine. Our medicine should be our food. But to eat when you are sick is to feed your sickness." --Hippocrates
Instead of a fancy new diet that promises to help us Lose 12 pounds in 12 days! Or Drop 3 sizes by Next Tuesday!. why don't we look to the practice that has been a part of every major religion and culture for millennia. Let's look to the natural healing force within that Hippocrates was talking about: fasting.
Did I lose you there? Stick with me. I get it: the word "FASTING" carries with it a lot of emotional baggage. You may be picturing emaciated monks or teenage girls with eating disorders. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. An intermittent fasting lifestyle is not a life of dietary restriction and eating disorders. It's actually one of the healthiest things you can do for your body, and it's a lifestyle that will bring you true FREEDOM from dietary constraints and restrictions.
It's important to understand: I'm not talking about extended water fasts where you aren't eating for days at a time. In an intermittent fasting lifestyle, you eat every day, and you get to enjoy all of your favorite foods with no guilt. Fun fact: you ALREADY fast every day! It's true! From the moment you finish eating at night to the moment you eat breakfast the next day, your body is in the fasted state. Congratulations! You are already a faster and didn't know it. All you have to do to adopt an intermittent fasting lifestyle is to extend your daily fast further into the day. You push back your "break-fast," and then, you eat without guilt. That's where the dietary freedom comes in. My first book (which explains how to live an intermittent fasting lifestyle) is called Delay, Don't Deny, after all! "Don't Deny" is a big part of it.
So: when you think of fasting, you may have certain concerns right off of the bat. Do any of these come to your mind?
"Fasting?!?!?! You are putting yourself in starvation mode!"
"Everyone knows that breakfast is the most important meal of the day!"
"You must eat 6 small meals per day to keep your metabolism from shutting down!"
Guess what? Not ONE of those statements is true!
Before beginning an intermittent fasting lifestyle, the important first step is to educate yourself on the health benefits of intermittent fasting. Read, read, and read some more, until you are confident. Watch videos. Listen to podcasts. The Intermittent Fasting Podcast is one I highly recommend, and that's probably because I am one of the co-hosts (yes, that is totally why.) Of course, I also think you should read Delay, Don't Deny, my book about Intermittent Fasting. You can order the paperback from Amazon or Barnes and Noble online, or download the e-book from any of your preferred e-book retailers or platforms. In Delay, Don't Deny, I go into all of the details about how to live an intermittent fasting lifestyle. I also tell my weight loss story: I lost 75 pounds back in 2014-2015, and I have been effortlessly maintaining the loss since March of 2015 (and even getting leaner over time...what "diet" does that for you?) Since 2015, I have also been the administrator of a Facebook intermittent fasting group, watching tens of thousands of members shed pounds and get healthier. Some of their success stories are found in Delay, Don't Deny, and others are found here on my website. Take a look and get inspired!
So, are you intrigued? Let's get educated!
Many of us begin intermittent fasting for weight loss, but IF is about so much more than just weight management. Even if you never lost a pound, I am convinced that IF is one of the healthiest things you can do for your body. One year ago, the biggest news in the intermittent fasting world was without a doubt the announcement of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Medicine. As written in the press release, Yoshinori Ohsumi "discovered and elucidated mechanisms underlying autophagy, a fundamental process for degrading and recycling cellular components." What stimulates autophagy? Fasting, of course!
Rather than try to explain all of the benefits of autophagy myself, I am going to share some links that will take you to videos and/or well-written and easy to understand discussions about autophagy, so you can learn about it yourself. Click here to view a video that explains the process and benefits of autophagy, even though it is a bit dry and science-y. The article available here explains many of the benefits of autophagy in straightfoward terms, and this is a powerful quote from that article: "Autophagy is a process of cellular recycling that effectively removes old, damaged, and faulty equipment in our body, potentially stopping cancer, insulin resistance, diabetes, infections, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, inflammation, and even aging." WOW. Who wouldn't want those benefits? With a list like that, I think you would have to be crazy NOT to try intermittent fasting, personally. You can read Dr. Jason Fung's take on autophagy here, on his blog at Intensive Dietary Management. (His explanations are always my favorite.)
Notice that I led with the health benefits of intermittent fasting, because I want you to have that first and foremost in your mind. IF is healthy, and fasting has powerful anti-cancer, anti-Alzheimer's, anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging benefits. Even if you never lost a pound, it is worth doing for the health benefits alone. BUT--is it crashing your metabolism, as critics warn? Are you putting yourself in danger of slowing your metabolic rate, resulting in long-term damage to your metabolism and eventual weight gain? Fortunately, the answer is NO.
This study is often cited by intermittent fasting experts, and I included it in Delay, Don't Deny, as well. From the study: "Resting metabolic rate (kJ/min) was significantly increased after 36 h of starvation...but was not significantly different from the 12 h value after 72 h." Don't be alarmed by the use of the word "starvation" in that quote, because they are referring to periods of intermittent fasting from 12 to 72 hours in length. Nobody ever starved to death in 12-72 hours. When you analyze that quote from the study, you see that they found that metabolic rate INCREASED after 36 hours of fasting, and at 72 hours, the metabolic rate wasn't lower than the metabolic rate measured after 12 hours. Metabolic shutdown? Clearly not! On the contrary--at the 36 hour mark, metabolic rate was UP. Take that, "you're going to shut down your metabolism" naysayers!
This article does a nice job summarizing much of the thinking surrounding intermittent fasting and metabolism. Of course, as usual, the most entertaining analysis of intermittent fasting and metabolism can be found on Dr. Fung's blog at Intensive Dietary Management. His classic post is found here (with an accompanying photo of George Constanza, in all of his glory), and Dr. Fung explains how IF not only protects your metabolism, but it can also help reverse metabolic damage brought on by following calorie-restricted diets in the past. This is really important to understand: not only are you NOT tanking your metabolism through IF, you can actually repair damage brought on through other dietary approaches. Keep in mind--this isn't always a fast process (fasting pun, right there...) If you have been following a restrictive diet long-term prior to starting an IF regimen, expect weight loss to be slow or nonexistent for awhile. You could even gain weight at first, until your body has a chance to heal metabolically. No one wants to hear that, but you should be aware of the possibility if you are a long-term dieter.
1. Fasting is one of the healthiest things you can do for your body! As I shared, fasting stimulates autophagy. This is how your body naturally takes out the cellular trash, and the more I read about it, the more I believe that it's one of the most powerful things you can do for your health.
2. Intermittent fasting is great for your body metabolically. Rather than slowing your metabolism, which we find in diets that promote long-term calorie restriction, IF has metabolic benefits you miss out on when you follow typical diet recommendations. (I'm looking at YOU, "eat less/move more"...) You can even repair metabolic damage brought about by long term restrictive dieting through fasting, though it takes time.
It's important for you to realize that intermittent fasting is not some radical new fad diet that is here today, and gone tomorrow. It's an ancient practice that is seen all around the world and in every major religion. In intermittent fasting, you're not being asked to go 40 days and 40 nights without food; with most intermittent fasting plans, you are eating until you are satisfied every day, and most people find that it's a lot more enjoyable than trying to eat tiny meals spread throughout the day. Once you adjust, it's actually easier than typical diet plans. This is one of those things that most people don't believe until they try it for themselves.
There's also one more exciting benefit to intermittent fasting that seems to be universally true: over time, your body will direct you to eat "healthier" foods, and many of your junk-food favorites actually lose their appeal. It's pretty magical, and I discuss it in the blog post found here. No one tells you what to eat or avoid, but you naturally gravitate to healthier choices. Win-win! If you do want to make better food choices but aren't sure what foods are "good" and what foods are "bad," you may be interested in my second book: Feast Without Fear. In it, I explain how our bodies are all different, and that there really are no one-size-fits-all dietary plans. Instead of ME telling you what you should eat, you learn how to figure it out for yourself. The foods that work best for me may not be the foods that work best for you, and vice versa. It's pretty empowering to know that YOU are in charge, rather than some sort of diet guru who doesn't live in your unique body.
As we enter 2018, I hope you will embrace my mindset: no sparkly new diet needed! Instead, discover the practice that is as old as time and yet still as effective today as it always has been: intermittent fasting. Learn how to Delay, Don't Deny and then Feast Without Fear! When you do, you will truly reach the dietary freedom you have been searching for!
I have probably answered the “what should I drink while fasting” question seventy-bazillion times by now. And, I honestly don’t mind answering it over and over again. My years of teaching elementary students have taught me patience when it comes to answering these types of questions.
You know what I AM tired of, though?
I am sick of hearing the the idea that there is one true way of eating that works universally.
Yes, I am frustrated by this every day, when I see members of the support groups tell other people what they should or shouldn’t eat.
This is the whole reason why I wrote Feast Without Fear, in fact.
Look, I completely understand that once you find a way of eating that works for you, you want to shout it from the rooftops.
You eat only meat and have never felt better? Yay! I believe you!
You never eat meat or animal products and you have never felt better? Yay! I believe you!
Your life changed for the better once you embraced a LCHF eating style? Yay! I believe you!
You are amazed by the positive changes that occurred once you adopted a whole food plant based diet? Yay! I believe you!
Get it? People feel great eating all kinds of ways. Many of these ways won’t be the way YOU feel best. The end.
As an example, I feel great when I eat 100% of the foods that a newly popular “diet” book tells you to AVOID. Yep. The entire “don’t ever eat these foods because they are the worst ever” list reads like my personal list of “these are the foods that my body feels best eating.” Am I mistaken? Are these foods destroying my health? Well, I’ve never felt better, or been leaner, so I doubt it.
So. What can we do about this issue? I have an idea, actually.
How about keep your eyes on your own plate, and stop telling people what they should be eating? Can we start there?
If you don’t understand why, read Feast Without Fear. I’m not just trying to sell you a book here. I’m trying to FREE you from the prison of dietary dogma.
Look, y’all. Knowing what I know now, it sounds silly when you tell other people what foods they should be eating.
We are all different. We really are. Fast clean, and then eat the foods that make YOU feel great.
Feast Without Fear, Y’all.
Note from Gin: Barbara Mudd is a member of the Delay, Don't Deny: Intermittent Fasting Support community on Facebook. Barbara is brilliant when it comes to encouraging others, and we can't get enough of her wisdom in the group. Now, with no further ado, let's hear from Barbara!
We understand where you’re coming from. We lived there too.
The constant measuring. The counting of calories. Obsessing over macros. Dissecting recipes. Analyzing labels. The fervent journaling. The stress. The cheating. Feeling like a failure. Self-loathing. Binging. Despair. Building up the strength to TRY it again.
And that was your LIFE.
Your insulin was out of whack, your cortisol was through the roof, but your weight was steady as a rock.
Yep. Its enough to make you justifiably nuts.
THEN you end up in the DDD group. And it’s different. Everyone’s hanging loose, laughing, evidently shrinking away as they speak, posting pics of food you haven’t allowed yourself to eat since 1972, and they’re telling you to CHILL. Be at peace.
And maybe you even forgot how.
How can you relax?? What if you eat too many calories and gain 18,000 pounds?
What if you eat too few and go into (gasp) starvation mode?
What if you don’t eat enough protein and your muscles start wasting…?
What if you eat too much fat and have to go directly to jail, do not pass GO, and do not collect $200?
What if your window is too long? What if its too short? What if you just don’t like black coffee, dammit?
What if you get (double gasp) HANGRY????
What if ….what if….what if….. ???
Its enough to KEEP you nuts. And it will if you let it.
But here’s a thought:
What if all that worrying, attention, obsessing is a BIG part of the problem?
**What if us trying to micromanage what is supposed to be an easy, natural process, is the biggest reason for its very malfunction?**
Not just because it keeps your cortisol elevated which is going to make it harder to lose weight….but because it is literally counter-productive.
People were of normal sizes until the government (don’t get me started on snack food and pharmaceutical lobbyists) started stepping in and telling everyone HOW and WHAT to eat. People were healthier then. Stronger. Less food obsessed. More in tune with their bodies.
I want to be like them.
I have lost 55 pounds in 5 months and I truly believe that the biggest part of WHY is that I made the decision to do this and RELAX; to relinquish control back to my body. I keep it loose and easy peazy.
I follow only one simple principle: I fast clean until I decide to eat. That's IT.
My decision to eat is dictated by the events in my life. If it’s a regular day, I eat once around noon. If there’s a party, celebration, special occasion—then there’s no restrictions, I simply enjoy the event. Guilt has no seat at my table.
I don’t count hours. Couldn’t care less if I fasted 22 hours yesterday and only 20 today. I don’t watch a clock and white knuckle it 30 more minutes until my window opens. My body unmistakably TELLS me when my window is open; it’s when my thoughts suddenly turn strongly to food.
I don’t count calories. I truly don’t believe that they have much to do with weight loss as evidenced by my own journey. I eat until my body tells me it’s had enough. Some days that seems to be a lot. Sometimes, its ridiculously little. That’s OK.
I don’t count macros and dictate to my body how much of what its going to have. Who am I to decide that? It has different requirements, different days. I have NO idea what my body is doing that day and what it needs--- it could be healing, it could be rebuilding, it could be eliminating unwanted structures, it could be breaking down a tumor…. I let my body tell me what it NEEDS and I feed it accordingly.
Adopting that one simple principle has set me free from food obsession and endless hours of guilt and uncertainty and worry. It’s taken huge loads off my mind. It has unbowed my shoulders and straightened my back with relief from that heavy load of erroneous Western Medicine Guideline data that led me to obesity in the first place.
I am finding balance in life from refusing to micromanage my body any longer. My body is in charge of fuel regulation now. I can already tell you that it’s doing a MUCH better job of it than I ever did. I should have retired that position LONG ago.
So please, consider stepping out in trust.
I KNOW, you’ve been mislead, so many times before…..but this isn’t a diet. There are no supplements. We’re not trying to sell you a damn thing. These aren’t nutritional guidelines. We won't make you get a club tattoo. We have no ulterior motives.
<3 This is an invitation to initiate the healing process that will bring you back into alignment with your body, and will hopefully lead to your decision to Get Out Of Your Body’s Way and let it lead its OWN fuel regulatory process. <3
They say “misery loves company”. That may be true. I don’t know.
But Peace and Freedom definitely love company and WE INVITE YOU TO JOIN US. <3
Spoiler alert: Yes.
I genuinely believe that a clean fast is the key to successful intermittent fasting, based on everything I understand about IF. After I explain why this is true, you are going to want to read all of the anecdotal stories from members of our intermittent fasting support groups, which are below my explanation of what it means to have a "clean fast". Their stories are even more powerful than any of the scientific reasoning I am going to share with you in this blog post. In fact, you may want to scroll down and start with their stories, and then read the part written by me. Their stories are that compelling.
I need to confess: this blog post has been long overdue, and I can't believe it has taken me so long to realize that I needed to officially address the concept of a "clean fast." It's discussed in Delay, Don't Deny, though I didn't call it a "clean fast" in the book. If you read the chapter called "Keeping the fast: What can I have when I am fasting," you should get a basic idea of what is allowed, and why. I have also addressed the concept in greater detail in a couple of my blog posts: can-i-have-_______-while-fasting.html and coffee-coffee-coffeehow-do-i-love-thee.html. Both of those posts address some of the most common questions about what may or may not be a problem during the fast, and how to know.
Even if you have read my book and my prior blog posts, however, I think it is important to briefly revisit some of the science behind the clean fast, which I am going to discuss here. Before I get started explaining the science behind a clean fast, you may wonder: where did the term "clean fast" come from? That's a great question. I am not completely sure, but I think we made it up in our Facebook support groups. I believe that one day, someone (it might have been me, but it could have been someone else) described the ideal fast as "clean", and the term stuck. Maybe one of us read it somewhere else, but regardless of where the term originated, I think it is a beautiful way of describing what we are looking for during the fast.
So--what IS a "clean fast"? To understand that, think about WHY we are actually fasting. Believe it or not, intermittent fasting is much more powerful than just being a means to eat fewer calories each day, and there's a lot more to it than the simple fact that we may be eating less food than we used to. It's important to understand that during a clean fast, our bodies are able to do many things that don't happen when we are in the fed state. We can access our stored body fat more efficiently and we are more likely to experience certain body processes such as ketosis and autophagy, which do many amazing things within our bodies related to health and longevity. To read more about autophagy, check out my prior blog post: 2017-the-year-of-intermittent-fasting.html.
Keeping in mind that we want our bodies to have the optimum conditions for both fat burning and autophagy, it makes sense that we want to limit anything that would disrupt any of those processes. The question is: what actually DOES disrupt these processes?
First of all, it is important to understand that we don't want to spike insulin during the fast, because insulin is a storage hormone. During the fast, we want to BURN fat from our bodies. To do so, we want insulin to be as low as possible during the fasting time. Click here for an absolutely brilliant and simple explanation of how this works, with the key being: LOWER INSULIN=GREATER FAT LOSS. From that article: "even small increases in insulin, within the normal range, virtually abolish lipolysis, or the breakdown of fat." WOW. Do you want to "abolish lipolysis?" Not me! BRING ON THE LIPOLYSIS! #BurnBabyBurn
Dr. Jason Fung also has a great blog post that explains how insulin works at this link, which will take you to his website Intensive Dietary Management. In fact, he has several great posts about insulin on his website. You can search within his blog if you want to read more of the posts that he has written about this topic, and others.
With this concept in mind--excess circulating insulin will hinder or stop fat burning--doesn't it make sense that we don't want to risk spiking insulin during the fast? As soon as I understood that concept, it radically changed my whole approach to fasting.
What spikes insulin release? Eating, of course; but sweet tastes also can cause your body to release insulin, since the sweet taste primes your body to expect food with calories. Your brain doesn't understand that you are actually drinking a zero calorie diet soda. The sweet taste tells your brain: CALORIES ARE COMING! RELEASE INSULIN NOW! Click here to go to a scientific study abstract that discusses how an insulin spike was caused when human study participants swished around an artificially sweetened beverage in their mouths--they didn't even fully ingest it--they just swished it around! I explain this fully in Delay, Don't Deny, so read (or reread) that chapter in the book for more information.
Hopefully, you now understand that your goal should be to do whatever you can to avoid causing an insulin release during the fasting time. This is why I would never drink anything that was sweetened (artificially or naturally), chew gum, or use commercial breath mints or breath sprays. I avoid any flavored products (teas, sparkling waters) that have added "natural flavors", particularly if they are fruity (which means my brain may perceive them as sweet). Bottom line: I don't want to risk causing an insulin spike. (Note: I do brush my teeth during the fast, because that is of very short duration, and I only do it once in the morning and once before bed.)
Besides spiking insulin, we want to avoid protein during the fast, because protein has been shown to stop autophagy. Click here for a link to a blog post about that topic, also written by Dr. Jason Fung. From that post: "What turns off autophagy? Eating. Glucose, insulin (or decreased glucagon) and proteins all turn off this self-cleaning process. And it doesn’t take much. Even a small amount of amino acid (leucine) could stop autophagy cold." Once you understand that protein stops autophagy, you would never want to include anything with protein during the fast. This includes supplements that are often recommended by bodybuilders, such as BCAA's (Branched Chain Amino Acids). What are BCAA's? They are made up of leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Wait, didn't we just read the leucine can "stop autophagy cold"? Based on that information, if you are interested in autophagy, it's clear that you don't want BCAA's (or any protein source) during your fast. This also includes bone broth, which some intermittent fasters want to include during the fasting time. Remember: bone broth contains protein. As I already mentioned, if your goal is autophagy, you don't want to ingest protein, so avoid the bone broth. (Note: if you are following a multi-day fasting protocol, bone broth may have benefits. That is not what I am discussing here--I am focusing on intermittent fasting rather than extended fasts.)
What about fat? Can we have fat during a clean fast? That is often a sticking point for many people, because even Dr. Jason Fung "allows" his patients to have a small amount of heavy cream during the fast. If he "allows" it, isn't it okay? I discuss both heavy cream and coconut/MCT oil in my blog post: coffee-coffee-coffeehow-do-i-love-thee.html. Yes, Dr. Fung (who I consider to be an intermittent fasting superstar) allows a SMALL AMOUNT of cream in coffee. Why? I have heard him say that it is for the purpose of "increased compliance." I don't know about you, but I am more interested in the benefits of a clean fast than anything else. Also, even if cream doesn't spike your insulin very much, or have much protein (it does have some protein, by the way), it's still a source of energy that your body needs to utilize before accessing your stored fat. Do you want to burn the fat from your body, or the fat from your coffee cup? I know my answer. Plus, heavy cream makes me ravenous. Clearly, it makes my body think that it's time to eat, and I have heard others report this, as well.
So: what can you have during a clean fast? A clean fast includes plain (unflavored) water, unflavored sparkling water and mineral water, black coffee, and plain (unflavored) teas. There are some things (such as a slice of lemon in your water, cinnamon in your coffee, apple cider vinegar, etc.) that fall into what we call the "grey area," and these are addressed here: can-i-have-_______-while-fasting.html.
In a clean fast, stick to plain and boring beverages. The fasting time isn't supposed to be a flavor adventure.
During the fast, avoid any artificially or naturally sweetened products, including all beverages, water or coffee additives, gum, mints, or breath sprays. Avoid anything that is "naturally flavored". Avoid flavored coffee. Also, avoid anything with sweet or fruity flavors. This includes anything that may be marketed as "zero calorie" or "doesn't raise blood glucose" or "low glycemic." Don't forget: we aren't worried about the glycemic or blood glucose response here; we are working to prevent INSULIN release. Don't use any protein-containing supplements such as BCAAs, or drink bone broth. Also, avoid adding fat during the fast (particularly to your coffee), since your goal is to burn the fat from your body.
Bottom line: the clean fast is much more important than some people in the intermittent fasting community realize. Whenever you hear someone say that sweet tastes don't spike insulin, or that diet sodas "worked for them", or when someone says that they say that they use heavy cream every day and have great results, ask yourself this: WHY are you fasting?
If you are after maximum health benefits and fat loss results, you want a clean fast. Period.
Don't just take it from me. I posted a question in one of my Facebook support groups a few days ago, asking if anyone had anything to share regarding the importance of a clean fast. Even though I understand the importance of a clean fast, the comments still BLEW ME AWAY. So, with no further ado, I am going to share these comments with you.
If these amazing stories don't convince you to make sure you have a clean fast, then nothing will, and you'll just have to stay dirty.
RENNAE: Clean fasting was a revelation for me. Previously, I had used cream & stevia in coffee,
dilute fruit juices, and breath mints. I felt restless and thought of food constantly, and just had to "push through" the fasting period. Clean fasting made all the difference in a hunger free and mentally peaceful fast, with accelerated weight loss! Now my fasting times flow in an unforced rhythm. I had to get out of my old comfort zone to achieve IF's full benefit; I have a new comfort zone!
SUSAN: Hi, I was one of the "believers" that Bullet Proof Coffee was ok during the fast... and finally went clean to black coffee with just cinnamon, I have my coconut oil in my green tea when I open my window and the butter on my corn...I definitely have noticed a difference now in my work clothes getting larger. Gave up my scale 6/4/17 (also clung to that old notion) so can't quote weight difference. Thanks Gin! Sorry it took me so long to "listen".
MARY: I was a diet soda addict for years and I was always hungry. I actually thought I was just the type of person that would never experience appetite suppression. I tried intermittent fasting using the Fast 5 method back in 2012 and I was drinking diet soda during the fast because it was calorie free. I couldn't stick with the fasting because the hunger never settled down. I tried to give up diet soda but I never lasted long enough (just a few days before I would break down and have one) for me to see any benefits. Finally when I read about clean fasting in DDD, I gave up the diet soda but only in my fasting hours. I noticed a slight difference in hunger. My fitness trainer challenged me to give it up entirely for 30 days. Two weeks in, I couldn't believe the drop in hunger. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't experienced it myself. I no longer feel like someone with a broken appetite. I get the normal waves of hunger and am not in a constant state of waiting for the next meal.
STEPHANIE: I was addicted to flavored La Croix! I had tried fasting, with some success, but I was always hungry, and gave up after a month or two. After reading DDD, I ditched the flavors, and it has been much smoother sailing. I was so hesitant to believe my favorite non sweetened beverage was hurting me so much, but now I enjoy it even more during my window. Three months in, and still going stronger than ever.
JENNY: I can't believe I drank coffee with milk for years when right under my nose my mum was drinking it black. She is 85 this year and perfect health and ideal weight, sharp as a tack and my goal. I now also drink black coffee. I'm a slow learner but I feel so good now and am hardly ever hungry.
SARAH: If I break fast or fast incorrectly, my stomach lets me know immediately and my energy levels plummet. Immediately after I started IF, only drinking water or black coffee, my energy levels improved. This was the first thing I noticed. My body now lets me know what it prefers, and truly it prefers to fast all day.
LILY: Initially, I struggled BIG time (hated black coffee with a passion) and did not give up heavy cream in my coffee. Though I gave up my bulletproof coffee (butter, coconut oil, MCT oil, heavy cream and Splenda... which was VERRRY difficult to do...) I kept the heavy cream (a little black coffee in my heavy cream was more my roll)... I chewed sugar free gum like a chain smoker does cigarettes... I lost weight... BUT my eczema, cravings and appetite went nowhere... and though my weight dropped... my measurements, exhaustion and inflammation didn't improve much. I quit the heavy cream, embraced black coffee one careful swig at a time and replaced gum with organic peppermint oil... and VOILA... the weight AND inches dropped. No more crazy cravings or struggling with waiting to eat... I started to enjoy my coffee black (hot and iced). I started to feel and look lighter. I had less pain - inflammation was very obviously reduced... and (drum roll, please...) my eczema went away... even my rosacea calmed down significantly. My body is changing in ways I love. My weight and measurements are dropping. My energy is great and I am not obsessing on food. Clean fasting 20-24 hours (occasionally 16-8 or 18-6) is what works for me.
ANGIE: I understood a clean fast, or so I thought! The 2nd week I developed a cold and didn't think twice about using cough drops to help, I was so hungry and couldn't figure out why until I saw someone mention them as breaking your fast! It's true, I stopped and things returned to normal. I also on a couple of occasions...getting my haircut and teaching at my co-op, felt I needed a mint to cut the nasty breath and both times I struggled fasting and barely made it to my window. I don't have those problems when I do a completely clean fast. It's the only thing I worry about and it hasn't let me down yet!
KELLI: For nearly three weeks, I was fasting "dirty" (before reading DDD) with my diet soda with no success. The same week I quit my addiction I lost about 4 lbs. Since fasting clean I have consistently lost weight and haven't felt better. I haven't missed my diet soda nor those first 4lbs.
MARILYN: Gin said apple cider vinegar is in the gray area of a clean fast. Since I started IF I only drink black coffee during fasting period and it works- no hunger pain until my eating window. Out of curiosity since I miss taking apple cider vinegar, especially in the morning, I tried it during my fast..and after a while it only makes me feel like eating earlier before my window opens because of "hunger pain" like before when I haven't discovered clean fast yet.
INGRID: For the first month of IF I was doing 16:8 but having a bit of milk in my coffee. I was always so hungry. Since I began fasting clean a month ago I'm often able to go much longer without eating and any hunger pains pass quickly.
VINUTHA: I am from India, and I love my tea with milk and sugar. I thought how much harm could a little cup of tea do, since I wasn't eating anything else and limited myself to one cup of milk tea in the morning. But with this I used to be ravenous entire day and I would stuff myself with food once the window opens. But one fine day I thought of giving that up, and now I can sail through my fast easily . My fast is of at least 20 hours and I eat because I was missing food. Not because I am ravenous.
KELA: When I was only a few weeks in to IF, I attended a professional development that included a boxed lunch. I sat with my colleagues but didn't eat the lunch, intending to save it for later. During the very last work session, my swamp breath got out of control. I'd not finished reading Gin's book yet and didn't know that gum was a big no no. Not 5 seconds after I started chewing the gum, I went from easily delaying/clean fasting to dizzy, lightheaded, and ravenous...which I now know was because of the insulin response caused by the minty sugar-free gum. It was so bad I broke open my box of food right there in the session and ate like it was my last meal. That I night I read the section on gum and never again have I fasted unclean.
AMY: I started out drinking lime sparkling water during my fast because I was sure that unflavored would be unbearable. It made me ravenously hungry and I was sure sparkling water just made me hungry! I couldn't get why and nearly gave up on it. There was NO WAY the lime was making any difference! Lime isn't sweet at all! One day I tried an unflavored sparkling water and magic happened! Hunger quenched completely. Easiest Fast Ever. I've never looked back.
MALLORY: I used to HATE plain water, and I do mean HATE it. Diet soda and water enhancers were my go-to beverages. Finally, enough was enough. After 4 days of 20:4 followed by a 41 hour fast (all of them clean) I woke up and had a glass of water. It was so good. I literally thought to myself, "So this is what water is supposed to taste like!"
LAURIE: I used to drink diet soda (1978 - 2015) thinking it was OK, zero calories. When I started doing zero calorie down days, diet soda suddenly tasted sickeningly sweet with a strong chemical aftertaste. Revolting. Ugh. So I bought some Perrier and it tasted perfect and quenched my desire for "intake" as well as my thirst. It also torpedoed a plateau, so I realized that aspartame was interfering with my Kreb's cycle and tripping my blood sugar settings in those little mitochondrial factories in there. I have dispensed with Perrier. Too expensive. Now I drink the cheap stuff, just as good: Canada Dry Seltzer Water.
ROSALIND: I started IF with a 18/6 window and drank my two usual morning coffees with half and half and stevia instead of sugar. Basically skipped breakfast. I ate lunch and dinner. No snacking and no problems, including hunger, with this regimen. After 3 months I wanted to go to OMAD (One Meal a Day) with a 22/2 window, but found my hunger too extreme to wait so long to eat. I was really hungry by 4 pm when my window opened and I over ate. I was determined to do 22/2 OMAD, so started experimenting. I cut out the stevia in the two morning coffees, but continued to use the cream. Rest of the day I only drink water. This seemed easy enough, but still no real change in the hunger I experienced. Mid-June, after reading Gin's book DDD, I knew I had to try going to black coffee only. I don't like tea. This was the key to stopping the extreme hunger issue. Black coffee only resulted in NO cravings, NO extreme hunger or hangry (hangry=so hungry you become angry). I sailed into my 4 pm window opening and ate a meal comfortably without eating so fast, like I had been or over eating. I could relax and enjoy my food. Some days I'm not very hungry and other days I am, but either way, I eat until I'm full and enjoy meal time.
CLAIRE: Clean fasting is a complete game changer. I've been diligently measuring milk to be under 50 calories for my coffee. I struggled to fast past 16 hours and lost no weight. Started clean fasting and lost 2 lb the first day and now have no issues with hunger pangs at all.
MICHELLE: I was popping tic tacs all day at work and experiencing increased hunger...stopped and all's good, fasting at least 20 hours a day, very little (if any) hunger. I also stopped the flavored, artificially sweetened water except occasionally in my eating window. I'm still barely slogging down the black coffee after 2 weeks though. (Note from Gin: the black coffee is an acquired taste!)
DEBBIE: I thought gum chewing and sipping diet soda throughout the day would save me from the feeling of deprivation I thought fasting would bring. But I found out, in reality, it was just stimulating my hunger all day. By tasting the sweetness of the artificial flavors, my body was anticipating digestion. I believe this inhibited appetite correction. The act of chewing gum continually released enzymes and saliva, preparing my body for eating. My digestive tract was in a perpetual state of anticipating digestion. It wasn't until I gave up gum and diet soda and went to clean fasting with black coffee, unsweetened tea and water that I achieved appetite correction and was no longer reacting like Pavlov's theory. I then entered a different world of clean fasting. One I never thought possible where I was no longer hungry all day long.
MARY BETH: Clean fasting for me meant giving up diet soda. I was committed and determined to try this and was stunned at the results. Did it help with weight loss, yes. But the thing it surprisingly had a huge impact on were my migraines. They became almost non existent. No longer having them every week to having them only rarely. It was freeing in ways I never dreamed possible.
MINDY: I was fasting clean (black coffee, tea, plain sparkling water) for a couple weeks and felt really good, but missed cream in my coffee. Last week, knowing that some other groups say it's fine to add full cream, I added it to my coffee and loved it. ....until I didn't. That day was so much harder! I was so much hungrier than I am when I fast clean. That little bit of cream tasted great but my fast was 10 times harder. I am sure now that fasting clean is what enables me to fast with any pleasure at all.
HEATHER: I did LCHF (low carb high fat) since June 2015. Started IF in April 2016, but always with heavy whipping cream in my coffee. I lost 16 lb and stalled June 2016. I went dairy free, nut free, paleo, still with something in my coffee. Nothing moved. Started seeing a functional medicine doctor in February 2017. I saw her June 10, 2017 and she had no clue why I was not losing: labs good, diet on point. I even gained inches in my hips and thighs, so she gave my a prescription appetite suppressant. It made me hungry 30 min after taking it. I read DDD on July 1st. I started clean fasting. 14 days out of 25, I did 19+ hours CLEAN fasts. I lost 5 lbs of fat and no muscle. I measured on July 10th, and on July 25th before my doctor's appointment. I measured and lost 2.5 total inches in 15 days. Fasting clean now and I eat what I want....no more low carb!!! Loving this!!!
BARBARA: I have always fasted clean but have since learned that in addition to that, you have to learn to listen to your particular body. For example, I bought some cold-brewed coffee concentrate. Coffee was the only ingredient so I thought it was fine. It was delicious! Drank it in the mornings three mornings in a row and for three days I felt like I was starving, restless, unable to focus. FINALLY made the connection and skipped it the 4th morning-- and I was back in Fasting Nirvana. Easy, satisfied, clean energy. Apparently the coffee was so smooth and so good, almost sweet that it trigger insulin spikes for me. The differences between trying to fast with low insulin and trying to fast with higher insulin are like night and day. If everyone would take the time to experience that then NO ONE would choose to fast dirty. Its just not worth it.
MELIA: I didn't think using my "go to" calorie free flavor packets would hurt. I also would drink fruit flavored calorie free sparkling water too during my fasting window. I was still in the "DIET MINDSET". I thought I was doing it right, until I posted about it and to my surprise I was so wrong. That is when I couldn't wait for Gin's first book to be done so I could do it right. I had already read the Obesity Code and kind of got lost in it but understood the concept. Then there was my coffee. NO CREAMER, are you mad? It took me a good week or so to get to drinking it black. I tried it with creamer other day in my window and I don't even like it anymore, it was too sweet. It is truly amazing that these little changes could make such a difference.
SHERI: I lost and maintained without clean fasting. I was using stevia in my coffee and stevia sweetened drink mix in my sparkling water. However I struggled to fast for longer than 16 or 17 hours without being ravenously hungry after 14 hours or so. Since fasting clean I can easily fast 19 or 20 hours without feeling hunger pains and I've lost 2 lbs in 2 weeks. I have changed my goal weight as a result. Before I took the highest end of normal and went with it. Now I'm motivated to move fully into the "normal zone."
KRISTAL: I started 16/8 and would have zero calorie diet drinks. I was always sooooooo ready for my window to open. I would lose a little weight, but more non-scale victories. After reading DDD, I switched to only black coffee (totally sucked at first), tea and water. The very next day, I looked at the clock and had gone 20 hours. I now do 22 or 23 hours and OMAD (One Meal a Day). I have lost 10 pounds since the beginning of July, thanks to giving up my zero calorie diet drinks. Currently I'm on hour 23, sipping my black coffee and getting ready to hike 4 miles in my fasted state.
VICTORIA: Clean fasting has allowed me to fast so much longer with much more ease. It severely lessened hunger pains and the overall constant thoughts of food.
TRICIA: I thought I was fasting clean. I thought I was perfect, ha ha. But my weight loss had stalled for months. I was frustrated. I started reading more on clean fasting and I came across an article that suggested that even zero calorie sweeteners in soft drink could break a fast. Well, I was perfect-- I was only drinking water (don't like coffee). Then the next line terrified me, also chewing sugar free gum could have the same affect. What! I chewed that all day, everyday. That was how I succeeded to fast so well. I thought, I'll change nothing this week except stop chewing the gum and I'll see if it affects me. I secretly hoped it wouldn't have an effect, as the gum was my safety scaffolding. So I stopped chewing the gum, changed absolutely nothing else, nothing. I stepped on the scales, the same scales that had been going up and down by about 500 grams for the last few months and they were down 2.1 kg in a week. WOW. I can't believe that all that time I'd been chewing gum so as to keep me on track, it was actually the thing that was secretly derailing me. I actually look daggers at chewing gum in the supermarket aisles. I think I'll hold a forever grudge against it.
TRES: When I was drinking diet soda I was hungry all the time, when I started to fast clean not only did the hunger subside so did the bloating.
CYNDI: When I started drinking my coffee black it was gross but eventually I got to where I preferred it black. It kept me from being hungry which I didn't know it would do. Made fasting a lot easier.
RONDA: While I was drinking diet soda, I'd get hungry 20 to 30 minutes later. I never connected the hunger pains to drinking diet soda until I read the books!
BEV: I started drinking diet soda during my fast, also coffee with cream and sweetener, I read DDD and decided to clean fast. I did that about 3-4 weeks and decided it was too hard, so I got sloppy again, and went back to my other habits again. I was looking at some comments the other day, and something clicked. I am clean fasting again, and also not that interested in food. Doing 17-18 hr. fasts now. It seems easier this time, not sure what else is happening.
ASHLEY: Reading your book and identifying "clean fast" was a complete game changer for me. I have never met anyone who drank as much aspartame as I did... diet soda, sugar free coffee flavors, only flavored waters... at one point I was randomly dumping a sweetener packet in my mouth. Ashamed but honest... it was that bad. Clean fasting was a game changer for me and made the entire experience different. Black coffee and water for me.
MARYELLEN: I was doing 16:8 when I decided to do OMAD (One Meal a Day) after much research on OMAD. Found Gin's book Delay, Don't Deny and read it which brought me to her Facebook groups. I always wondered why if I"m eating 2 small meals (possibly less than my mother who doesn't have a weight problem) I was gaining and she wasn't. It was the fact that I was drinking my coffee with cream and the fasting time before OMAD was not clean. 2 days after I came to these groups I decided to leave the coffee with cream for my window and it was life changing. I didn't feel the hunger or the pains of GERD. It was only after the 3rd week of nothing but water and sparking water during my fast that I introduced black coffee into my fast. I drank my coffee black for 30 years and gave it up in my 40s by adding cream to neutralize my GERD. So going back to black wasn't that difficult. At first I thought the coffee was making me hungry but it was the added cream that was causing the hunger, not the coffee itself.
Aren't these stories incredible?
Does a "Clean Fast" REALLY matter?
I believe that the answer is absolutely, undoubtedly, YES.
Let's talk about food! Many people ask for guidance about what they "should" be eating, and my mantra is "Delay, Don't Deny," as you know. That being said, is there a "best" way for all of us to eat? That is the question that haunts many people.
If you ever want to have a HUGE argument, start talking to people about what we "should" all be eating. The Keto people have one view, and the vegans another. Should humans eat dairy? Grains? Are carbs, in fact, Satan? When did food become so complicated?
On the other side of the coin, I've also found that people can get really mad when we DON'T tell others how they should eat. Yes, it's true. Some people desperately want us to impose our food beliefs on others, whatever they are, and people have actually left my Facebook support groups because we don't make people eat "clean enough" for them, or some-such nonsense. (Note: my Facebook groups are not tied to any style of eating, and all types of eaters are welcome. But we aren't going to tell you how to eat, and we don't want you to tell US how to eat, either, thankyouverymuch.)
So? Does food quality matter, or doesn't it?
Well, OF COURSE QUALITY MATTERS. I want to add "DUH" after that, but it might be rude, so I won't. You're welcome.
So--if we agree that quality matters, why don't we tell everyone exactly how they should be eating from day one?
There really is a method to my madness. And here it is:
I believe it is empowering to make your own food choices.
I think it's a HUGE part of the process to learn how your body responds to food, in fact. We tell you: eat whatever YOU want. And we mean it.
That being said, It can be easy to misinterpret "you can eat whatever you want" and think it means that "food quality doesn't matter and you should eat junk food."
Newsflash: fast food is not going to be ideal for anyone, health-wise. But--don't we all know that, anyway?
The power of intermittent fasting is that over time, it guides us to make healthier choices...NATURALLY. I have seen it happen over and over. People realize they don't enjoy the foods they used to eat. They start craving healthier foods and low quality foods lose their appeal. We call it becoming a food snob. Now, if you tried to make me eat fast food for dinner, I would get mad at you. I don't want to waste my eating window on fast food! I didn't start out that way, and I ate a LOT of fast food as I lost weight, but now I just don't like it anymore. Nobody made me give up fast food. It happened naturally, over time.
Now think about this. If I told you what you should be eating, it would be just another diet, now wouldn't it? However, if you naturally learn what foods make YOU feel best, who is in charge?
YOU. You are in charge. Not me. Not some random stranger on the internet who doesn't know the first thing about you. YOU are the boss of yourself. #Powerful
How does this look for me? Over time, my body has let me know that I feel best when I eat high quality foods. Lots of veggies, plenty of carbs, high quality fat, whole grains, and not much meat. This is pretty much the exact opposite of how I used to eat when I was obese. Did someone tell me to eat this way? Am I doing it to be "good"? Nope. I like to feel good, so I eat what helps me feel good. It's not difficult to know how foods make me feel, since I'm fasting for the majority of the day. I can quickly tell if a food doesn't work well for my body.
Here's an example of that from my real life. Last week, we went to a restaurant that my son chose. I had a delicious patty melt and fries, and I enjoyed eating it...at the time. It wasn't technically fast food, but it was not the type of food I usually eat now. My stomach started to hurt soon after I ate. The next morning, my stomach was still upset. I got definite signals that my body didn't like that food, and in fact "rejected" that food completely, if you know what I mean. I'll remember that feeling. The next day, I ate a huge plate of veggies with my meal--not to atone for my patty melt sins, but because that's what I was craving.
Live your life. Eat food that is delicious and makes you feel good. Trust yourself to figure that out, over time. And most importantly: realize that your plate doesn't have to look like my plate, or anyone else's plate, for that matter. Sometimes you'll eat the patty melt, and one day you may realize you no longer want to eat it after all.
You are in charge.
First, before I get into the nuts and bolts of how to break a plateau or speed up weight loss, I want to mention that there are three groups of people who tend to get off to a really slow start when it comes to weight loss while following an intermittent fasting plan. I have seen it time and time again in weight loss support groups: someone complains that they aren't losing weight, or are even gaining weight, and upon further questioning, common patterns can be detected. If you fit into one of these groups, you are going to need more patience than others:
Now that I have gotten that out of the way, let's discuss plateaus and what we can do to speed up our weight loss!
Anyone who has ever attempted to lose weight has faced it: a period of time where the scale stops moving. The dreaded plateau has arrived! It is one of the most-discussed topics in any weight loss group that I have ever been a part of. Eventually, weight loss seems to come to a halt, even for many intermittent fasters. Does that mean the plan has stopped working for you, and that you are doomed to be stuck forever? No!
First, make sure you really are at a plateau.
If you have read Delay, Don't Deny, you recall that my suggestion is to either stop weighing completely or weigh daily, and take a weekly average once per week. Because weight can fluctuate a great deal from day to day, only compare your weekly averages to gauge your progress. There are many weight tracking apps that do this for you. Day-to-day weight fluctuations are not important; all we should care about is the overall trend. Weight loss is not linear, and usually looks more like a zig-zag. You may feel like you are not making progress because of the day-to-day fluctuations, but the overall trend is slowly moving downward. If you are making progress, even slow progress, you are not actually at a plateau.
What can we do when our weight loss seems to have stopped, or if it is much slower than we would like?
So--you have been tracking your weekly average for some time now, and you have confirmed that you aren't losing weight at all, or it is much slower than you would like. If you are losing at a rate of approximately a pound per week average (or more), then STOP WORRYING! That is a great pace, and you don't need to tweak anything. But if your loss is much slower than that, there are most definitely some strategies you can use in order to get your body moving in the right direction again.
But first, let's talk about calories for a minute. When I encourage you to eat to satiety without counting calories and to learn to listen to your appetite signals, and I tell you that trying to calculate calories day after day is not an effective strategy (because all foods are not treated the same in the body, and you also can't control what your body does with the calories you consume), that may give you the impression that the volume of food you eat doesn't matter. That's actually not true.
Yes. Even though counting calories is an ineffective strategy overall, the volume of food you eat does matter. You absolutely can overeat, especially in the beginning. Let me explain.
Fasting properly during the day provides a metabolic advantage because you are able to tap into your body's fat stores. Once your body adjusts to burning fat during the fast, your body doesn't perceive that you're in an energy deficit because it has plenty of fuel. Over time, your hormones--insulin, leptin, ghrelin, and others--begin to work together as they should. You find that your appetite gets into balance with your body's energy needs, just as nature intended. You get full and satisfied and stop eating after an appropriate amount of food. This doesn't happen overnight.
Before your satiety cues get back into focus, you may tend to overeat in your window. This can lead to initial weight gain rather than weight loss, because you are taking in more food than your body needs.
Even though fasting gives us a metabolic advantage, it's not magical. You CAN eat so much that you gain weight. Volume of food does matter.
Until you reach the state where your satiety cues are normalized, you may need coping strategies to prevent overeating. After you eat a plate of food, consider walking away from all food until your brain can recognize that you are full. Give yourself 20-30 minutes. Set a timer if you have to. Don't eat anything else during that period. When 20-30 minutes have passed, ask yourself if you're truly hungry before you eat again. Never eat just because your "window is still open." Don't eat more just because you want to make sure you ate "enough" to get you through the next fasting period. If you are satisfied, that means you should stop eating.
Intermittent fasting is magical in many ways (hormonal magic, if you will), but it's not so magical that you can eat a larger volume of food than your body requires day after day. Work on eating a satisfying amount of food, and then stop. Pay attention to how your body feels. Stop when you're pleasantly full and never eat more just because it's in your window. In time, you should reach the point where appetite signals are working together and it will get easier.
Now--for some plateau-busting and/or weight-loss boosting tips.
While I would argue that intermittent fasting is really more about health than weight loss, and once our bodies are healthy we are more likely to lose the weight we want to lose, I understand that most of us start this lifestyle because we want to lose the excess fat from our bodies. It's certainly why I began intermittent fasting. If we are working so hard to fast every day, we want to be rewarded with measurable weight loss. I get it.
The good news is that you absolutely can make some tweaks that get the fat loss started up again.
Pick and choose from the suggestions below--there are many ways to make this work for you.
First, check your fast. Are you REALLY fasting clean?
Go back to the basics: only black and unflavored coffee, plain boring teas, plain water, and unflavored sparkling waters. Have you been using just a bit of coconut oil or cream in your coffee? Are you drinking flavored waters? Are you adding ANYTHING to your plain coffee, tea, or water? Are you chewing gum, using breath mints, or breath strips? Perhaps it's making more of a difference than you thought. (YES, IT IS! I promise!) I can't overemphasize the importance of a clean fast.
(Side note: WHY do we long for mouth entertainment so badly during the fast? Fasting is supposed to be boring for your taste buds, not a magical flavor adventure.)
Next, consider your food quality.
Yes, I have often said "Delay, Don't Deny," but there is no doubt that all foods are not treated the same in your body. Highly processed foods are not your best friend if you are having difficulty losing weight. (This includes highly processed carbs, highly processed protein sources, and highly processed fats.) The last thing I want you to do is get stuck in diet mentality, where there are lists of "good" foods and "bad" foods, but consider adding more high quality foods and limiting overly processed foods. I include processed foods to some degree daily, but high quality foods are the basis of my diet--and I am also not trying to lose any more weight. If you read Delay, Don't Deny, you may recall that I eliminated highly processed foods for a period of time in order to get to my goal weight more quickly. I don't want to live that way forever, because I want the freedom to enjoy a variety of foods with no guilt (and bread is delicious), but it seemed to make a difference in the speed of my weight loss. One of my favorite books on the subject is The Science of Skinny. I don't agree with her recommendations to eat frequently throughout the day, but I think her food recommendations are spot-on. Food quality matters more to your body than some arbitrary number of "calories". When you eat a healthy and balanced diet made up of mostly high quality foods, there are many benefits for your body. One is that your gut bacteria are happier and your overall levels of inflammation go down, which can lead to easier weight loss. This is the same article I linked to above (click here), so you can tell I really want you to read it.
Consider switching-up (or tightening up) your fasting regimen.
There are many ways to live an intermittent fasting lifestyle. After much experimentation, I prefer a daily eating window approach, but that doesn't mean it's the best approach for you. You may need to try some different strategies to get the scale moving.
If you use the daily eating window approach but weight loss is slow, consider tightening it up. I couldn't lose weight with anything longer than a 5 hour window, and even a 5 hour window is too long for many people. Shorten your eating window for awhile and see if that helps. My suggestion would be to use a one hour window on weekdays and give yourself a longer window (up to 5 hours) on weekends. As I have said before, specifically in this blog post--it can be helpful to mix things up, rather than get into a consistent daily routine that encourages your body to adapt.
Another idea is to incorporate the up/down day approach into the daily eating window approach. I would suggest that you start with 5:2. That means that 2 days per week, eat 500 calories in one meal, and the other 5 days, continue with your daily eating window, as if the lower calorie days never happened. (This is the ONE time that I am ever going to recommend counting calories.) It's important to make sure you aren't over-restricting on the up days, in order to keep your metabolic rate from dropping. Fast, and then feast!
You can also add one longer fast per week, if you are really motivated. I have seen many people who add a 36-hour or 48-hour full fast once per week and finally start to see results on the scale. Continue with your daily eating window approach on the other days, but add that one longer fast per week and see what happens.
What if you are doing everything right, and the scale is STILL not moving?
For some people, particularly the three groups I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post, your body is going to be more resistant to weight loss. You may need one thing, more than any other:
Yes, you need to give it time.
If you are in an intermittent fasting support group, you may see others dropping weight like crazy, while you sit there, week after week, seeing ZERO progress. It may feel like your body is broken, and beyond repair.
Your body didn't put on the excess weight overnight, and the hormonal changes that need to occur behind the scenes also aren't going to happen overnight. Keep on fasting consistently, keep the fasting time clean, and eat quality foods. Let your body heal. Pay attention to how various foods make you feel, and select foods that make you feel good. Focus on the other positive benefits you can detect, and trust the process.
There really are people who live an intermittent fasting lifestyle for MONTHS before seeing scale movement. Trust that once your body is ready, you should begin to see progress.
I highly encourage you to take body measurements if you are someone who is struggling to lose weight. Even though you may not see weight loss on the scale, you may see your measurements decreasing. That means that fat loss IS occurring. Many things can mask fat loss on the scale, and even though it looks like you aren't losing weight, you are, indeed, losing fat.
Never forget: over time, even slow progress adds up. A pound here, a pound there--eventually, you should lose the excess fat at the speed that is right for YOUR body.
Oh, coffee. (By the way...if you are not a coffee drinker, but you drink tea and wonder what you can add to it, you can substitute the word "tea" for "coffee" throughout this blog post and it still applies to you. You're welcome.)
Is there anything that inspires more affection from the intermittent faster than coffee?
Coffee wakes us up in the morning. Coffee is there for us when we are fasting. Coffee is that friend we can always count on. Coffee may even stimulate autophagy! Click here to read more. That is seriously the best news I have heard all day.
BUT--coffee is also one of the biggest stumbling blocks to living an intermittent fasting lifestyle for many people. In fact, one of the hottest topics on any intermittent fasting support group is this:
"How should I take my coffee?"
The answer is simple: BLACK. Period.
But, but, but.....
People do NOT want to hear that they need to switch to black coffee. For many, it's like they just heard the worst news of their lives and we are asking them to do something that is against their moral code. It is at that point that people start to search for reasons why it's "okay" to add "just a little" something into their coffee.
Why do we so desperately want to add something to our coffee?
Well, I'll be honest: black coffee is not something that tickles and amuses your taste buds. If you are used to a creamy and/or sweet concoction that passes for coffee--your daily "hot milkshake", if you will--then black coffee is going to taste like poison at first. Trust me--I've been there. When I first realized that I was going to have to switch my coffee to black in order to fully benefit from an intermittent fasting lifestyle, I decided that I would rather skip coffee altogether than drink it black. I went cold turkey, and the headache I got from the caffeine withdrawal was definitely not pleasant! But the longer I went without coffee, the more I realized it wasn't just the hit of caffeine that I enjoy. I really missed coffee. So--I added it back, and I knew it was going to have to be black. (Anyone else thinking of the AC/DC song, Back in Black, right now, or is just me?) The first day, I choked down that black coffee...and I didn't die. Over the next week or two, I started to actually enjoy it without wincing. Now, I can't believe what a baby I was about switching to black coffee. Drum roll: I actually prefer it black now.
You may think that there is NO WAY you will ever be able to switch to black coffee.
"It's okay for YOU, Gin, but I REALLY hate black coffee. I just can't do it."
If I had $1 for every person who told me that, I would have a big pile of dollars. Yes, YOU can. So many people start out just like me--grimacing through the black coffee. Then, they don't hate it anymore. After that, something funny happens. They'll try coffee the old hot-milkshake way that they used to drink it--only to discover that miraculously, they now PREFER it black. Then--another miracle--people realize how much easier it is to fast now that they are drinking their coffee black. It's very common for someone to post something like this:
"I can't believe I am now drinking black coffee...and I actually enjoy it! AND--fasting is so much easier now that I have switched! I didn't believe you, but it's true!"
You can thank me later. I'll look forward to it, in fact.
So--why is it important to have it black? Isn't there something we can add to the coffee so that it is more delicious, that is compatible with an intermittent fasting lifestyle? The answer is no.
Believe me, I've heard it all when it comes to our beloved coffee additives. People REALLY want to add something to coffee. There are so many ways to rationalize adding things to your coffee, but here are the most popular. (By the way, everyone always adds the disclaimer, "It works for me!", so I am going to add it to each statement, below, to make it more realistic):
Let's address those one by one.
My favorite artificial or natural sweetener doesn't add any calories to my coffee, so it is fine.
This is a big one. We have been trained for so long that "calories" are the dieter's enemy, right? Avoid calories and you will be fine! Following that logic, anything with zero calories must, therefore, be the dieter's best friend. However, the more we understand about how the body works, the more we realize that there is so much more to weight loss and maintenance than calories in/calories out. In fact, there is so much to this topic that it is beyond the scope of this blog post. Someone should write a book. Oh, wait. I did. And if you don't yet understand the role that insulin plays in fat storage, then you need to click here immediately and get my book, Delay, Don't Deny. In it, you will learn in detail why any kind of sweetener (or sweet taste) is a no-no during your fast. For now, remember this: anything that spikes your insulin, such as your preferred artificial sweetener, or even that innocent-sounding "natural" sweetener, is a bad idea if you are fasting. When you fast, your goal is for your body to dig down into your fat stores for energy. Since insulin is a hormone related to fat storage, the last thing you want to do is spike insulin during the fast. It's not the calories that are the problem: it's the insulin release. Sweet tastes cause insulin release. Just remember this: sweet=no. As I said, there is a much more detailed explanation in Delay, Don't Deny, so look for it there.
I only add a little creamer/milk/cream, and I'm still losing weight.
First of all, there are big differences between creamer and milk/cream. Let's break them down.
Creamer is absolutely a no-no. When we say "creamer," we are usually referring to a chemical concoction that has been developed in a lab. Now there are even some "natural" creamers, but these still contain something sweet. Refer to point #1, above--sweet=no. Creamer is never going to be a good idea.
What about milk and/or cream? Isn't that okay? To make matters even more confusing, one fasting expert (who I greatly respect and may even have a slight crush on...don't tell anyone) "allows" a small amount of heavy cream or milk in your coffee, so I see people clinging to that recommendation like a life raft. He "allows" it, so it's fine, right? Well, why does he "allow" it? Is it because adding a little cream or milk doesn't break the fast? No, it absolutely does break the fast. So, why would it be "allowed"? The answer: compliance. People are more likely to fast if they don't have to give up that creamy coffee. Just like with the sweeteners, though--you are not fully fasting if you are having milk and/or cream. You may be able to "get away with it," but you may also never know how you are cheating yourself out of the full benefits of a clean fast. Suck it up, buttercup: leave out the milk/cream. Give clean fasting a chance. You might just be surprised at the difference you notice!
Fat doesn't spike insulin, so I can add it to my coffee. Plus, some fats boost your metabolic rate!
That's a big one. We hear it all the time from promoters of "Bulletproof" coffee. So, what is Bulletproof Coffee, also known as BPC? Legend has it in the intermittent fasting world that if you add certain things to your coffee, such as coconut oil and/or butter, then your metabolism will be boosted to such a degree that you will burn more fat over the course of the day than you normally would. Who doesn't love a good metabolic boost, am I right? But is it true?
If you ask Uncle Google, you will find all sorts of claims about coconut oil. First of all, let me say that I have no doubt that coconut oil has many fabulous health benefits. I believe it is a wonderfully healthy food, and you can benefit from adding it to your diet. I have some in my pantry right now. However, I do not believe that it has magical properties that will result in your metabolism being boosted to such a degree that you are burning more energy than the energy contained in the coconut oil you just consumed. Let's do some math, and see what we can discover.
Coconut oil is rich in Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs), among other things. Of course, coconut oil isn't 100% MCT oil, but let's analyze MCT oil on its own, because many BPC proponents suggest that the MCT oil is the "magical" ingredient in the BPC (in fact, some BPC recipes recommend that you use pure MCT oil rather than coconut oil to get maximum benefits.) Does MCT oil really boost your metabolism? The answer is yes! In a study, found here, researchers found out that participants who were fed MCTs (30 g per day, divided among 3 meals) had an increase of energy expenditure (EE) of 500 kj per day. That sounds substantial, until you realize that 500 kj equals 119 calories. MCT oil has approximately 8.3 calories per gram, so that means that adding 30 grams of pure MCT oil (coming in at approximately 250 calories) caused an increased metabolic rate of 119 calories per day! Oops. According to that study, you have to consume 250 calories of MCT oil to boost your metabolism by 119 calories per day. Is that some sort of Common Core Math? (Sorry, that's a teacher joke.) Either way, we see that the math just doesn't work out in your favor.
I love Dr. Jason Fung's take on it. Click here to go to his blog post about adding extra fat to your diet. Basically, he says what I just did: if you are trying to lose body fat, do you really think that you will lose MORE body fat by adding fat to your day during the fast? It's common sense. Do you want to run on the fat from your body or the fat from your coffee cup? I know my answer to that question.
Is it ever a good idea to add fat to your coffee during the fast? My answer may surprise you, because the answer could be yes, depending on your situation. Within the fasting adjustment period, BPC might help you adjust to fasting by encouraging your body to switch to fat burning. Of course, you are going to be burning the fat from the coconut oil, rather than your own fat, but it absolutely can help you make the transition. For that reason, you may want to include it during the adjustment period and then gradually wean yourself off of it as your body adapts to burning your own fat. Just don't forget to wean yourself off of it. Also, be careful, because coconut oil can send you VERY QUICKLY to the restroom if you ingest it on an empty stomach. Don't ask me how I know this.
One final question people sometimes ask about coffee:
Is coffee REQUIRED? Do I HAVE TO drink coffee to live an intermittent fasting lifestyle?
The answer is: NO! Of course not. If you don't drink coffee, then why are you still here reading this blog post??? Coffee is not a required part of this lifestyle. Go on about your coffee-free life, and forget you ever saw this blog post.
But--if it is a required part of YOUR life, make the transition to black. You can thank me later.
Plus, you'll feel like such a grown up when you drink it.
Gin Stephens lives in Augusta, Georgia, where she has been following an intermittent fasting lifestyle since 2014. In addition to writing the #1 Amazon best-seller Delay, Don't Deny and the follow-up book Feast Without Fear, Gin is host of the Intermittent Fasting Stories podcast and co-host of The Intermittent Fasting Podcast, along with fellow intermittent faster and author, Melanie Avalon. Check out www.intermittentfastingstories.com and www.ifpodcast.com or search for the podcasts through your favorite podcast app.