Intermittent Fasting in the Carnivore Diet
Intermittent fasting is a strategy used to lose weight without affecting muscle mass; it is also one of the best ways of improving your health. Intermittent fasting is a healthy lifestyle that prompts your body to be much more self-protective and efficient than it’s used to being in modern times.
What’s Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. It isn’t a diet and doesn’t specify the type of foods to eat, but rather the time you should eat them. Intermittent fasting has been around throughout human evolution.
Our ancestors didn’t have food available year-round. Instead, they had to work for their food and spent all day fasting while they hunted and gathered. Sometimes they couldn’t find anything to eat and had to fast till the next day. As a result, humans evolved to be able to function without food for extended periods. Fasting is more natural than the standard pattern of eating 3 to 4 meals a day.
Intermittent Fasting Methods
There are various ways of following intermittent fasting. All of these methods involve splitting your day or week into eating and fasting periods. During the fasting periods, you eat nothing or very little.
Here’re the most popular methods of intermittent fasting:
- The 16/8 method: involves missing breakfast and restricting your meals to 8 hours, then you fast for 16 hours. Most people skip breakfast and take advantage of the 8-hour sleeping window to make the fast easier. So they only eat lunch and dinner. For example, if you eat lunch at noon and eat dinner at 8 pm, you’ll have fasted for 16 hours.
- One meal a day (OMAD): This involves fasting for 23 hours and eating for only one hour. Most people on OMAD eat dinner as their only meal and fast again until dinner the next night. While this may seem extreme, it aligns perfectly from an evolutionary perspective. Our ancestors hunted for a large kill throughout the day and feasted at night.
Fed Vs. Fasted States
Your body relies on energy to function, and you can only get energy from two sources; food or body fat. However, you can never get energy from both sources at the same time. The fed state is when you’re getting your energy from food, while the fasted state is when you’re getting your energy from body fat.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting on the Carnivore Diet
The carnivore diet is the ultimate elimination diet where you only eat animal products, add salt, and drink water. This nutrient-dense diet has many benefits, including weight loss, better heart health, lower inflammation, higher testosterone, fewer digestive problems, increased mental clarity, and simpler dieting.
Practicing intermittent fasting on the carnivore diet allows you to experience tremendous benefits of fasting and eliminating carbs from your diet. Let’s look at these benefits.
1. Intermittent Fasting Reduces Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance is related to nearly every chronic condition, including heart disease, cancer, obesity, metabolic syndrome, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), Alzheimer’s disease, and cardiovascular disease. Insulin resistance is also often associated with a diagnosis of pre-diabetes and type-2 diabetes.
Insulin resistance is when the cells in your muscles, liver, and fat don’t respond to insulin and can’t use glucose from your blood for energy. This causes your blood sugar levels to remain elevated, and as a result, the pancreas produces more insulin. Over time, your body fails to respond to insulin and becomes resistant.
Intermittent fasting and the carnivore diet help reduce your insulin resistance. By eliminating carbs from your diet, your blood sugar levels will decline, resulting in decreased insulin production. Over time, your blood sugar levels stabilize, and your insulin resistance lessens.
Studies indicate that intermittent fasting has significant benefits for insulin resistance. For example, a study found that fasting blood sugar reduces by 3-6% while fasting insulin levels decreased by 20-31% when fasting. Another study on diabetic rats showed that intermittent fasting protects against kidney damage, a common complication of diabetes.
2. Reduces Inflammation and Oxidative Stress
One of the significant benefits of the carnivore diet is reduced inflammation. By eliminating carbs and other plant food, you limit exposure to compounds that cause inflammation. Inflammation is strongly linked to aging and chronic conditions like heart disease, cancer, and autoimmune disorders. Intermittent fasting has been shown to reduce inflammation by suppressing pro-inflammatory cytokine expression.
Additionally, intermittent fasting may enhance your body’s resistance to oxidative stress, caused when unstable molecules called free radicals react with other vital molecules like DNA and protein, damaging them. Studies show that intermittent fasting can reduce oxidative stress, and as a result, protect against aging and the development of numerous diseases.
3. Promotes Fat Loss and Increases Lean Muscle Mass
Generally, intermittent fasting will make you eat fewer meals. And unless you compensate by overeating during your feeding window, you’ll be in a constant caloric deficit. Your body also enters a fat-burning mode during fasting.
During this state, your body starts to break down and burn fat. The liver uses some of this fat to produce ketone bodies, which serve as an alternative energy source for your brain, heart, and skeletal muscle. This is what’s known as ketosis. In addition to helping you burn body fat, ketosis can also make you feel less hungry and help maintain your muscles.
Research shows that intermittent fasting increases your metabolic rate by 3.6-14%, helping you burn even more calories. It can also cause a 3-8% weight loss over a 3-24 week period and reduces waist circumference by 4-7%. In essence, intermittent fasting works on both sides of the calorie equation. It reduces the amount of food you eat (reduces calories) and boosts your metabolic rate (increases calories out). It also causes less muscle loss than continuous calorie restriction.
Intermittent fasting also increases the production of the human growth hormone by as much as five times. An increased level of this hormone promotes fat burning and muscle gain. So if you’re looking to lose fat and gain muscle mass, the carnivore diet, intermittent fasting, and exercise are your best bet.
4. Increases Autophagy
Autophagy is an essential process for tissue and cellular rejuvenation. It’s a natural cellular recycling system that removes damaged cellular components, including misfolded proteins. Over time, your body accumulates damaged proteins and mitochondria (energy powerhouses), and as a result, you lose the ability to clear out old ones and generate new proteins and mitochondria.
The old, damaged cells don’t function properly and release free radicals causing inflammation and other chronic diseases. When you’re younger, autophagy occurs naturally, but as you age, your body slowly down-regulates this vital process, leaving you with damaged cells and reduced ability to clear them out.
Autophagy is regulated by hormones like insulin and glucagon, nutrients, and enzymes. mTOR, or the mechanistic target of rapamycin, is the most prominent regulator of autophagy. When mTOR is activated, cells are in growth mode, but when down-regulated, mTOR promotes autophagy.
Insulin activates mTOR, so if you’re regularly eating, your insulin levels will be continually elevated, and you’re never activating autophagy. Apart from reducing insulin levels, intermittent fasting also activates the AMPK pathway, inhibiting mTOR, therefore activating autophagy. Increased autophagy protects against several diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.
5. Intermittent Fasting is Good for Your Brain Health
When you fast, you signal your body that there’s no food available. As a result, your body pushes stored energy into your system for energy, and the sympathetic nervous system activates. Your body releases cortisol, adrenaline, and growth hormone, which prime you for action. That’s why many people report increased awareness and heightened cognition when fasting. This study found that intermittent fasting increases the levels of orexin, a neurotransmitter that promotes alertness.
Intermittent fasting also increases a brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a brain growth hormone that maintains and improves cognitive function. It’s responsible for creating new neurons, and when your body releases this hormone, your brain forms new connections. High BDNF levels are associated with increased intelligence and memory. It also protects against the effects of depression, slows cognitive decline in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, and promotes good cognitive functioning in people with bipolar disorder.
The carnivore diet is pretty simple, but intermittent fasting takes it a notch higher in simplicity. Most people plan their days around food, but you’ll only have to plan for one or two meals every day by fasting. You’ll spend less time searching and preparing food, cooking, and cleaning up afterward. You also don’t have to count calories; you just eat to satiation. With fewer meals to cater to, you’ll also save some money.
Intermittent fasting and the carnivore diet is the perfect combination for better health. It can help you lose weight, gain muscle mass, reduce inflammation, promote autophagy, reduce insulin resistance, improve your brain health, and help you avoid several chronic diseases. Overall, the carnivore diet and intermittent fasting improve your health while simplifying your life at the same time. Before starting intermittent fasting, consult with your doctor, especially if you have an underlying health issue.