Ketogenic Diet and Intermittent Fasting – A Winning Formula to Achieve Better Health
by Taranum Sultana
The ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting (IF) have gained popularity in recent years as proven strategies to lose unhealthy weight, in a sustainable and healthy manner, and improve overall health.
It is important to understand that the ketogenic diet focuses on a specific ratio of macronutrients, while intermittent fasting is an eating pattern—not a diet.
Despite the sharp distinction between the two approaches, the two methods share the same weight loss mechanism. Therefore, the two approaches, when used collectively, complement each other and synergistically work together to accelerate fat loss and improve overall metabolic health.
What is Intermittent Fasting (IF)?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a pattern of time restricted eating where you avoid food for a certain amount of time and eat only during a certain window of time every day. Thus, IF limits eating for an extended period of time.
It simply means that you eat healthy meals only during a specified window of time each day and avoid all types of foods the rest of the time.
What are the Benefits?
Intermittent fasting is a safe, easy, and highly effective approach for losing weight in a safe, sustainable, and healthy manner, resulting in overall health improvement. It actually saves time because you eat between a specific window of time, instead of cooking and eating three times a day. It also eliminates counting calories, macros, or focusing on food prep.
Intermittent fasting offers many potential long-term health benefits. Therefore, many health experts recommend intermittent fasting for the following:
- To lose weight
- To boost longevity
- To improve cognition
- To increase immunity
- To reduce inflammation
- To activate autophagy
- To lower the risk of type-2 diabetes
- To increase insulin sensitivity in people with type-2 diabetes
How Does Research Support Intermittent Fasting (IF)?
Research shows that IF may improve insulin sensitivity in people with type-2 diabetes.
Dr. Jason Fung, a Canadian nephrologist, is a world-renowned expert on intermittent fasting and the low carb diet. He uses fasting for weight loss and type-2 diabetes control using his Intensive Dietary Management (IDM) program in Toronto. He’s also a best-selling author of The Obesity Code.
Research published in Rejuvenation Research finds that the study participants had increased expression of a gene, known as SIRT 3, linked with boosting longevity after following a specific intermittent fasting routine.
Research also shows that fasting activates autophagy, a process the body uses to clean out damaged cells in order to regenerate newer, healthier cells.
It is important to mention that both intermittent fasting and the ketogenic diet trigger autophagy. In fact, fasting, high-intensity interval training, and the low carb diet help the body to activate autophagy.
What’s the Role of Insulin and Glucagon?
The amount of two very important hormones, insulin and glucagon, vary in our bodies throughout the day. For instance, insulin level goes up when we eat while glucagon level goes down. In contrast, insulin level drops and glucagon level goes up during fasting.
The body converts the carbohydrates in our food into a simple sugar called glucose, a primary source of energy, which enters the bloodstream. It spikes blood sugar level. Thus, the body releases insulin, a hormone which reduces blood sugar by shuttling glucose into our cells, where it is utilized for energy and performs different vital functions. However, surplus glucose is stored by the liver as glycogen for later use, and the rest is stored as body fat.
Both hormones, insulin and glucagon, regulate blood sugar levels. The pancreas secretes more insulin to counter blood sugar spikes. On the other hand, when the blood glucose drops, the pancreas releases glucagon to raise blood sugar to a normal level.
What Happens During Intermittent Fasting (IF)?
As mentioned above, every time we eat carb-rich food, it releases insulin to counter high blood sugar. And high insulin levels restrict fat burning.
However, during fasting, insulin level goes down and the body burns fat as a fuel instead of glucose.
Intermittent fasting keeps the insulin levels low for longer periods, which allows the body to mobilize our fat deposits and convert them into ketones, an alternative fuel source.
In a nutshell, intermittent fasting turns the body into a fat-burning machine.
How Does the Keto Diet Support IF?
The ketogenic diet is a very low carb, moderate protein and high fat diet. Due to low carbohydrate and high fat intake, the body converts fat into ketones, as happens during fasting, too. Actually, the keto diet mimics intermittent fasting.
The high fat content of the keto diet keeps you full and satisfied for a longer period. Hence, it suppresses hunger and appetite and helps you stay without food for an extended period. Therefore, the keto diet makes it easy to practice intermittent fasting.
In fact, the keto lifestyle and intermittent fasting make a perfect combo to achieve desired health.
Who Should Not Try IF?
It’s very important to discuss it with your doctor before starting intermittent fasting and the ketogenic diet. As stated above, both fasting and the keto diet lower insulin levels, and it can pose serious risks for people with certain metabolic conditions such as type-2 diabetes.
It is important to seek professional help from a certified ketogenic nutrition specialist. Most people who seek help achieve lifelong success and desired results in a safe and efficient manner.
Dr. Sultana is a Certified Ketogenic Nutrition SpecialistSM (CKNS) from the American Nutrition Association. She has extensive international research and teaching experience in biochemistry and molecular biology. She practices as a keto coach in Regina and regularly writes in WHOLifE Journal to raise awareness of the benefits of ketogenic nutrition and intermittent fasting. For more information see the display ad on page 12 of the 25.4 November/December issue of the WHOLifE Journal.