Fasting Benefits

Before my attempt at fasting, I would have said, “Why bother?” Eat well and stop looking for a miracle cure. Now, maybe not.

I will explain my new found reason for not completely dismissing fasting, but first a little about last week. If you follow Evolution Coaching on Facebook you would have seen my videos and daily diet posts, and if you don’t, you can view it here.

I did okay with the calories, by okay I mean I ate a little more than 1,100 calories based on my Fitbit tracker. I used Fitbit to track my calories because they seemed to have the best nutrition database, but it is American so practically everything is a processed food. It was almost impossible to find real food, not mass produced food, listed in the choices. However, I also tried to use the Canadian Dietitian’s site eatracker. ca. I use this when I want to find the nutritional content of a recipe, put in the ingredients and it gives you the nutrients, but it is SO LIMITED it feels like it is from another century.

My week based the Fitbit food tracker. I didn’t put a calorie goal in, so Fitbit made up the goals and the X made out of a knife and fork. Personally, I think that is messed up in so many different ways.

I had the same amount of protein as the study, but the carbohydrates and fats should have been closer to 50% carbohydrates and 40% fat if I wanted to be equivalent to the study.  We only need 10% of our daily diet to come from protein so that was healthy but 40% fat is extremely high. We should eat less than 25% fat, but most North American’s diet is about 40% fat.

I ate pretty much the same thing every day. I know that making decisions about food when you are hungry is not a great idea and so do you if you have ever gone grocery shopping while hungry.

Breakfast was 1/2 cup of oatmeal with 1 tbsp flaxseeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp hearts and peanut butter and 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk. 

Lunch was a green salad with carrots, 1/4 tomato, cucumber, red pepper and 1/4 avocado and balsamic vinaigrette.

Dinner was home made Three Grain Vegetable Soup which I often make when I want to use up leftovers or vegetables. 

It is easier to eat the same thing, fewer decisions made it easier.  It would have been easier to follow if I had eaten food supplements like they did in the original study – that also would have been unbearable – ugh. No, thanks. Eating real food made this bearable.

I also exercised 4 out of the 5 days. Monday, Tuesday, and Friday I went cross country skiing for 90 minutes each day. Thursday I did 30-minute resistance training circuit workout. Wednesday – my non-workout day was the only day I was really hungry.

I did not lose weight.

On Wednesday I also had to do a presentation with a pharmacist about Exercise and Medicine, so I ate a snack because I wanted my brain to work.

Your brain works better with complex carbohydrates.

Our brain is only about 2% of our body weight but consumes 20% of our daily calorie total. The preferred fuel source for your brain is carbohydrates. Which is one good reason to not make food decisions when you are trying to eat less. Your brain is a carbohydrate consuming machine. The preferred food is vegetables, fruits, whole grains. If you start eating high sugar foods this can impact the health of your brain and excess food is treated like a pathogen in the brain, which may explain how overeating could lead to cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Before this experiment, I would and did say, why fast when you could just eat well and have all the benefits, all the time? This is still true. Eat well to be healthy, but most people don’t eat well and almost everyone eats too much. If nothing else this reminded me that I am guilty of eating too much, eating while distracted, eating without need. 

Not once in a week did I eat while distracted. I did not eat for entertainment or because I liked it or because it was available. That would have used up my calorie total and it wasn’t worth it. I ate mindfully, with appreciation and slowly. That would be enough good reasons to do this, but there is one more.

A new study published Friday changed my mind about the benefits of fasting and it might cause the need for some textbook revisions. It reveals a  pathway of energy regulation in the body that we never understood before. Not just in humans, but in all mammals. 

This is a UT Southwestern study determined that the metabolite uridine helps the body regulate glucose. This graphic depicts how the body’s fat cell-liver-uridine axis works to maintain energy balance. Credit: UT Southwestern

Researchers found that the metabolite uridine helps the body regulate glucose. Metabolites are substances produced by metabolic processes, such as amino acids from protein, glucose from carbohydrates.

Dr. Philipp Scherer, senior author of the study and Director of UT Southwestern’s Touchstone Center for Diabetes Research says, 

“Like glucose, every cell in the body needs uridine to stay alive. Glucose is needed for energy, particularly in the brain’s neurons. Uridine is a basic building block for a lot of things inside the cell. 

We thought that liver was the primary producer of uridine, but that this only occurs in a fed state. In a fasting state, fat cells produce uridine. Uridine has more than one function, and this new study is the first to find that fat cells make uridine during fasting and that the cell-liver-uridine axis regulates the body’s energy balance. Uridine made by fat cells also reduces body temperature explaining why you feel cold while fasting. explaining why you feel cold while fasting. While fasting the liver takes over glucose production and fat cells take over uridine production for the bloodstream. Uridine helps regulate blood glucose in a fasting state.

Eating a high-fat diet for long periods of time reduces uridine production when you reduce calorie intake making glucose regulation more difficult for those who are overweight. Eat too much fat regularly and you mess up the fine balance of energy regulation when you try to reduce your calorie intake, like dieting.

Add increased uridine production from fat cells as another benefit to short term reduced calorie diets. Maybe periods of eating less can improve your health and it may improve glucose regulation too. An important factor in diabetes, cancer and some neurological disorders.

Maybe there is a benefit to fasting after all.

Change your mind, change your health,

Shayla

 

 

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