The ketogenic diet is based on a generous consumption of fats. Approximately 70% of your daily calories should come from healthy fats during this diet. In addition, about 25% of calories come from proteins and only 5% should come from carbohydrates.
During the ketogenic diet, you protect your body from carbohydrates, which is the main source of glucose . The consequence of this is that your body does not have enough glucose available to provide the body with energy. It then switches to the burning of fatty acids as fuel.
When you adhere to a ketogenic diet, your body switches to using fat and ketones as fuel. Fat and ketones burn efficiently and have been the preferred fuel in our bodies for more than 2.5 million years since we inhabit this world as hunter-gatherers.
The reason that your body can switch to a ketogenic metabolism is to ensure that it can continue to function while it has no access to carbohydrates.
It is a survival mechanism of your body.
The great adaptability of your body ensures that you as a person are not dependent on one energy source. An impressive piece of engineering work from mother nature!
This is good news for our brains in particular. The fact is that ketones are made from fat that is broken down in the liver into fatty acid molecules and glycerol. Fatty acids and glycerol can be used as fuel by many cells in our body, but not by our brains.
Ketones, on the other hand, can be used by our brains as an energy source. If this had not been the case, then our brains would stimulate the body into the process of gluconeogenesis during a glucose deficiency . During this process our muscles would be broken down rapidly to be able to form glucose from the broken down proteins.
Without ketones, our ancestors could never have survived during food scarcity. They had to reproduce and survive in an environment that offered much less certainty in the area of food. After all, in prehistoric times there were no 24-hour gas pumps where you could score a Pringles bus in cases of acute food shortage and despair !
By removing carbohydrates from your diet, you can use this diet to simulate a kind of food shortage without suffering from hunger. After all, you replace the carbohydrates that you scrape from your daily diet with healthy fats.
In addition, there is also another tactic with which you can simulate the effect of food scarcity. The typically Dutch term for this is ‘fasting’ , but in health magazines and on the internet you come across it under the slightly hip ‘ Intermittent Fasting ‘.
Intermittent Fasting is actually just fasting and it is an age-old phenomenon that has recently gained popularity again as an instrument to boost your health in various ways. Fasting means voluntarily abstaining yourself in whole or in part from (certain) food.
Fasting has always had a special meaning as a ritual in the history of humanity. Various religions such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam have a role for fasting as a spiritual and religious tradition. Consider, for example, the Lent of Christians and Ramadan among Muslims .
We also know the principle of fasting of hunger strikes. Individuals use the principle of fasting as a way to show their willingness to suffer for a higher purpose.
Nelson Mandela, for example, has taken a hunger strike to enforce better living conditions on Robben Island. Mahatma Ghandi went on hunger strike countless times during his life to draw attention to political issues.
Such historical and religious stories concerning fasting have ensured that fasting is primarily seen as a process in which people are more or less voluntarily hurting themselves. Fasting is therefore not seen as a healthy activity.
For many people it is therefore quite unbelievable that ‘eating nothing for a day’ can have health benefits. However, various scientific studies have shown that there are health benefits associated with applying Intermittend Fasting. And it is the renewed interest in these health benefits that have put Intermittent Fasting on the map as a “health booster”.
Applying Intermittent Fasting can therefore have various positive effects on your body. In this article we will discuss these possible effects.
Intermittent Fasting, what is it?
Intermittent Fasting is a form of fasting where you are allowed to eat on a regular basis (every day or several times a week) during a few hours a day and the rest of the day starts fasting . There are different variations ranging from a 16-hour fast to a few days of a fast (which is already pretty extreme)
Intermittent fasting gives your body a healthy dose of stress, making it fall back into survival mode, just like it did during prehistoric times. This is how it works: if your body thinks there is an energy shortage, you must be fit and able to make good decisions.
From this primordial survival mode , your body prepares for the hunt for food. In the past, hunting for food took a lot of energy (nowadays all food is immediately available, of course). But your body doesn’t know that, so it uses energy from your fat reserves.
Because when hunting you also have no pain or injuries, your body will also make an effort to resolve inflammation quickly. We will explore how this works later in this article.
Intermittent Fasting is primarily focused on the timing of your meals . So: when do you eat and when do you not eat. It does not say what you should eat, but when.
That is why Intermittent Fasting cannot really be called a diet, but rather a eating strategy. And you can apply this strategy through various methods. We will now discuss these different methods.
Different Intermittent Fasting Methods
So there are different ways to apply Intermittent Fasting. All methods have their own way in which you alternate the periods of eating and fasting.
So during the fasting periods you eat (almost) nothing.
There are a number of methods that are most commonly used as a way to boost your health:
The 16: 8 method
This method means that you hold 16 hours and in addition use a time frame of 8 hours within which you eat your meals . Often this means that you skip your breakfast.
Now you may think:
“But isn’t breakfast the most important meal of the day ?!”
No, not necessarily. You can easily start the day without breakfast. The most important thing during the day is that you get your daily requirement of calories, fats, proteins and carbohydrates.
The conclusion? Breakfast is certainly not more important than lunch or dinner, as long as your total daily calories are kept under control. But if you notice that skipping breakfast only leads to crazy food outlets later in the day, then it might be a good idea for you to start the day with breakfast.
For most of us, however, it is more than OK to start the day without breakfast without losing control of our appetite. In this way you even strengthen the hunger and satiety signals of your body so that you will not eat as quickly. An additional advantage of skipping breakfast is that you can sleep a little longer straight away. And yes, getting enough sleep is also very important to lose weight quickly.
A win-win situation!
The 24-hour method
This method means that you are stuck for 24 hours. So suppose you eat your last meal on Tuesday evening at 7 p.m., then your next meal is on Wednesday evening at 7 p.m.
The 5: 2 method
Where in the 16: 8 method the figures relate to the division of hours during which you eat and eat, the figures 5: 2 relate to the division into days.
With this method you eat your normal diet for 5 days, but on 2 days during the week you reduce your calorie consumption to around 500 to 600 calories.
The Physiological Effects of Intermittent Fasting
When you get stuck different things happen in your body at the cell and molecular level.
The following processes take place in your body when you apply Intermittent Fasting:
- Production of growth hormones
When you get stuck, your body produces growth hormones. The production of growth hormones can even increase fivefold! This has advantages for, among other things, fat loss and for the production of muscle mass (1) (2) (3) (4)
- Improved insulin sensitivity Insulin
sensitivity improves and the insulin level also decreases. A lower insulin level makes it easy for the body to use fat reserves as fuel (5)
- Cell repair
When you get stuck, your body cells start different repair processes. These processes include a process called autophagy . During this process, body cells digest and remove old and damaged proteins that accumulate in cells. It is therefore a kind of cleaning process for your body at the cellular level! (6) (7) .
- Gene expression
This means that certain genes are expressed in your body cells, this means that they become more active. Fasting can help activate certain genes that have a positive influence on your immune system and on the aging process of cells.
The above processes therefore have a positive influence on all aspects of your health. Therefore, let’s discuss the 7 proven health benefits of Intermittent Fasting.
The 7 Proven Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
In general, when you use Intermittent Fasting, you eat fewer calories. As a result, you will also lose weight, provided that you do not over-compensate during the other meals.
In addition, Intermittent Fasting also stimulates hormonal functions that make weight loss possible. A lower insulin level, a higher production of growth hormones and also an increase in noradrenaline ensure that your body can convert fat into fuel more easily. By fasting you increase your capacity as a fat-burning machine!
Thus Intermittent Fasting is a sword that cuts on two sides:
- It lowers your calorie intake
- It simultaneously increases your calorie burn
A major scientific study from 2014 showed that Intermittent Fasting can lead to a significant weight loss of 3 to 8% over a period of 3 to 24 weeks (12) .
The people in this study also lost 4 to 7% of their waist size. This indicates a clear decrease in belly fat . Belly fat is the type of fat that you want to lose because it nestles between the organs and can cause inflammation here.
A study also showed that with Intermittent Fasting less muscle mass was lost than with structural calorie restriction. Structural calorie restriction occurs when you sit a certain amount below your calorie requirement every day for a certain period.
Insulin resistance is prevented
Intermittent Fasting can reduce insulin resistance because it can lower blood sugar by around 3 to 6% . In addition, it can also lower the insulin level in the blood by 20 to 31%. This improves insulin sensitivity and also works as a protection against type 2 diabetes . (13)
In addition, a laboratory study showed that rats with diabetes who were subjected to an Intermittent Fasting diet were also protected against kidney damage. Kidney damage is one of the most serious complications of diabetes (14) .
And of course this is an experiment with mice, but the research does show the potential of Intermittent Fasting as a weapon against diabetes.
However, what should be noted is that there may be a difference between men and women in the area of monitoring blood sugar levels. A study among women showed that blood sugar levels were regulated less well after following an Intermittent Fasting eating pattern (15) .
An important cause of inflammation in the body is the formation of free radicals in the body. These arise as a result of so-called oxidative stress. Intermittent Fasting can make the body less sensitive to oxidative stress, and thus also prevent the formation of harmful free radicals (19) (20) .
Possibly good for the health of the heart and blood vessels
Intermittent Fasting has shown itself in various studies as a positive influence on various parts of the body that are related to the health of the heart and blood vessels.
For example, it has been shown that Intermittent Fasting has a positive influence on blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides (fat particles in the blood), inflammatory factors and blood sugar levels (21) (22) (23) (24) .
It should be noted, however, that part of the above results stem from studies conducted with animals. More studies with people are needed to draw definitive conclusions. But the research material there points to positive effects of Intermittent Fasting with regard to the health of the cardiovascular system.
As we discussed earlier, a process takes place during fasting called autophagy.
You could compare this process to cleaning the hard disk on your computer, where your computer deletes or repairs damaged files, but then at the cell level in your body. Your body removes damaged protein molecules. It is therefore a clean-up process (25) (26) .
So if you want to do a real deep detox, put your aloe vera drink with nettle extract aside and fast!
Good for brain function
We have already discussed that Intermittent Fasting can contribute to a reduced production of free radicals in the body. This also has a protective effect on the brain.
In addition, Intermittent Fasting can increase the concentration of BDNF. This abbreviation stands for the English term Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor. It is a substance that occurs in the brain, a so-called neurotrophin. It stimulates the production of nerve cells in the brain (29) (30) (31) .
If you compare the benefits of Intermittent Fasting and the effect of the ketogenic diet, there are many overlaps.
The health benefits of the ketogenic diet also relate to improved brain function, ketones contribute to the recovery of nerve cells, they have an effect comparable to antioxidants. You can read more about this in our article What is Ketosis and How does it work?
In addition, the ketogenic diet has proven to be a very good way to lose weight efficiently. By applying Intermittent Fasting during the ketogenic diet you can also boost the fat-burning capacities of the ketogenic diet.
The ketogenic diet can also help to make Intermittent Fasting easier. When you are fat-adapted and your body is very efficient in using fatty acids as a fuel, it is easier to fast during an Intermittent Fasting diet.