Is Intermittent Fasting for You? A Practitioner's Experience -- By Amy Bousman
We are biologically designed for fasting, which can enhance our health significantly. Since we are pretty much the same cellular structure as our hunter-gatherer ancestors, our biological needs are still similar. As hunter-gatherers, we would not have been in a constant, round the clock feasted state. As seasons changed, we would bear stretches without much food, and at other times, we would consume large quantities of (healthy, natural) calories whenever given the chance. We can learn a lot from our ancestors when it comes to balancing our macronutrients and eating in healthy ways.
At Atma, we work with a portion of the community suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of cognitive decline through the Bredesen Protocol. This protocol is a comprehensive, whole-person approach to brain health. One of the important practices in this protocol includes a fasting method titled 16/8. In this practice, you fast for 16 (half of which are spent sleeping for many of us) hours, and consume all calories over an 8 hour period. In order to optimize digestion and detoxification, you should stop eating 3 hours before going to bed.
I tried this out, and it worked pretty easily for me although some people find it better to start with 12 hours of fasting as well as avoiding night-time snacking. If I learned anything about fasting, it’s that some people need to ease into it and work up a tolerance to longer stretches of going without caloric input.
After adjusting to a 16/8 routine, I was able to implement two non-consecutive, full (24-hour) days of fasting each week. My 24-hour fasts were not caloric-restricted as I often consumed bone broth and healthy fats throughout the day. My calories were certainly reduced, but I was able to tolerate easy-to-digest liquid proteins and fats, which helped to support me.
I found this practice, while keeping up with the daily 16/8 method, was fairly convenient. One of my fasting days was when I was working, so I no longer had to worry about preparing and packing snacks and lunch at my prescribed breaks. But please keep in mind that it took me a long time to discover the right fit for my body, and fasting is certainly not a one-size-fits-all practice.
Last month I did a preventative SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) elimination diet and transitioned out into a low carb high fat template. The increase of healthy fats helps to extend my fasting window, which has helped me to reach a fasting goal that I’ve wanted to try for years, titled OMAD (One Meal A Day). In OMAD, you consume your day’s worth of calories in a one-to-four hour period. Again, this isn’t about calorie restriction; with longer fasts, it’s about fueling your body with higher amounts of calorie-dense, healthy fats. These fats burn low and slow and should give you a sustainable, long-lasting source of energy.
I thought that there was no way I could successfully pull off OMAD, but I’ve worked my way up to it and it’s been the best fit for my body thus far. With my particular type of OMAD, I start my day off with what’s called “fat fasting.” Through a combo of pasture-raised butter blended into my decaf coffee, plus a side of fish oil, and olive oil, I get a 45-gram hit of healthy fats first thing in the morning. This fuels me until my fast ends, typically around 3 p.m. Initially, I had to eat several small meals or snacks spread throughout a four-hour period, but through flexibility and experimentation, I have discovered my personal macronutrient sweet-spot, and am typically able to consume all of my remaining calories within a a few hours.
The benefits of this practice have been abundant for me: enhanced mental clarity, reduced anxiety, improved sleep, significant inflammation diminishment, weight loss (especially in my mid-section) and improved digestion.
Though fasting is something that we’re biologically intended for, it’s not a good fit for everybody. Our modern lifestyles, which include high amounts of stress from multiple sources, combined with our highly processed, carb-dense diets, has led to an abundance of lifestyle and diet-caused diseases. Many of these lifestyle diseases, such as Type II Diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, inflammation, and obesity, can greatly benefit from a personalized fasting plan. However, it's important to seek professional guidance when considering fasting if you're underweight, chronically stressed, have a history of disordered eating, or if you're pregnant or a nursing mother.
If you have questions or concerns about fasting, want to optimize your fasting practice, or want to discuss how to incorporate healthy eating habits into a fasting protocol, I’m here to help. Please call the clinic so we can schedule a chat to determine your personal fasting plan.
Contact Amy Bousman, our Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, is happy to meet with you to talk about your best path toward better health. Contact us at 785/760-0695 (your first appointment is free) to see her or any of our other practitioners.