Intermittent Fasting and Artificial Sweeteners, Bulletproof Coffee, Weight Loss, and More…

Is intermittent fasting (IF) good for you?

Does it work?

What are some tips for success?

My readers are aware that I have written about diets and nutrition in the past. Our family completed the Whole30 diet in October of 2019 and my wife and I were successful in sticking to the rules for the entire month. The kids couldn’t stick with it. They needed more carbohydrates and got very tired of stir fry’s and curry. Although we aren’t currently eating such a restrictive diet, much was learned during that month with regards to eating and how your body can feel differently when only whole foods are consumed.

Intermittent fasting (IF) was introduced to me by a pharmacist colleague a couple of years ago. He sent me some information via email and I decided to give it a try.

IF is a pattern of normal food intake combined with extended periods where little to no food is consumed. Restricting food intake to a time window of eight hours or less per day is also known as time-restricted feeding (TRF). As you can probably imagine, there are many ways to achieve this.

Alternate Day Fasting

During this plan, you can eat normally on even days and fast on odd days. During your fasting days you may drink non-calorie beverages such as coffee, tea or water. There are many books explaining this method. Probably the most popular is “The Every Other Day Diet” by Krista Varaday. The premise is you can eat all you want, half the time, and lose weight.

The 5:2 Diet

The 5:2 method involves eating normally for five days of the week and consuming only 500-600 calories on two consecutive days after that. I am unable to do this. Eating a few calories makes me hungry.

Lean Gains Protocol

This is also called the 16/8 method. This plan involves restricting your calorie intake to an eight hour period. In my opinion, this is a great place to start. Just pick an eight hour period during the day where you are allowed to eat, and fast for the rest of the day. You could eat from noon until 8:00 PM, for example.

The 20:4 Plan

This is the plan I follow. It is the most restrictive single day fast. This regimen allows for one meal per day. Many find this best for weight loss, ketone production, and mental sharpness. I do not recommend starting here, but you can work your way towards this goal. I suggest starting with the 16/8 method as mentioned above.

There are many more possibilities to choose from. Just google “intermittent fasting” and you will find many ideas. There are also several apps available for the iPhone to help you. Some of these include:

  • BodyFast Intermittent Fasting
  • Zero-Fasting Tracker
  • Simple: Fasting & Meal Tracker
  •  MyFast Intermittent Fasting

If you own an iPhone and want to try IF, I strongly suggest downloading one of these apps. It makes the process much easier. These apps also contain a ton of useful information on the subject.

I have been an “intermittent faster” my whole life. I very rarely eat breakfast because it tends to make me sluggish and hungry, and I find it causes unwanted GI symptoms, dizziness and increases my sugar cravings.

I have always read that you shouldn’t skip breakfast, but this strategy has never worked for my body. I have started using the intermittent fasting plan during the last couple of years where I only eat during a four hour window on weekdays. I do not do this on weekends because I find it too hard to accomplish.

I decided to write a post about the IFD because I wanted to report the available research to my readers. There are many benefits to this diet and I find it to be an effective method to keep my weight stable.

The Basis For Intermittent Fasting

It is no secret that, as a society, we overeat. Most of us eat at least three meals per day and snacks in between. This often leads to the consumption of too many calories predisposing our bodies to metabolic complications such as excessive visceral fat accumulation and insulin resistance. Lack of exercise makes these conditions even worse. The truth is, we are perfectly capable of surviving by eating less food, less often. There are many ways to practice IF. The benefits of these diets include:

  • Depletion or reduction of glycogen stores.
  • Mobilization of fatty acids.
  • Maintaining blood glucose levels in the low-normal range.
  • Reduced leptin and elevation of adiponectin levels.

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Behavioral effects are also possible and include increased alertness and improved mental acuity.4

Intermittent Fasting and Diabetes

The popularity of IF has revolved around losing or maintaining weight. This is what initially piqued my interest. It makes sense that if you eat for only a small portion of the day, you will likely consume less calories. Less calories means less weight. There are other benefits, however, which I have listed above. What do the studies say about IF and weight loss?

Most of the studies performed on intermittent fasting and weight loss are done during Ramadan. One such study, published in 2019, looked at the effects of intermittent fasting on individuals with metabolic syndrome (MetS).5

Metabolic syndrome is characterized by insulin resistance, hypertension, abdominal obesity, and poor lipid profiles. Most countries have a 20-30% prevalence of MetS among their adult population.6

It is important to point out that there are three general approaches most commonly investigated in studies of fasting.

  • Dietary restriction – One or more macronutrients are restricted with or without a total calorie reduction.
  • Intermittent fasting – Whole-day fasting or time-restricted feeding (TRF).
  • Daily caloric restriction – cutting 20-40% of daily caloric intake.

The 2019 study cited above showed a significant positive association between weight loss and the number of fasting days. The reduction of fat and body weight were achieved during the Ramadan fast while retaining lean mass. The non-fasting group showed no changes in weight. The fasting group experienced a decrease in both daily calorie intake, and physical activity. This led to a weight loss of 1.5 kg. This loss was 76% fat mass, 17% body fluid loss, and only 6% protein loss. The loss of body fat occurring in this study is higher than that reported from calorie restriction alone.7

A meta-analysis was published in February of 2018 reviewing intermittent fasting interventions for treatment of overweight and obese adults.8

This analysis included 400 subjects ranging in age from 37 years to 49 years. All participants were overweight or obese with a BMI range of (26.0 kg/m2 to 35.6 kg/m2). The studies contained in this analysis used different methods of IF. All but one study used self-reporting through food diaries to monitor compliance to the various protocols.

This meta-analysis found that intermittent fasting is as effective as the current clinical practice utilized for weight loss in overweight and obese individuals. Only a few studies met criteria to be included in this analysis, and most participants were women. These studies were of short duration and follow-up was very poor. Compliance was measured almost exclusively by diaries obtained by the subjects. Due to these issues, the researchers concluded that there was insufficient evidence at this time to recommend routine use of IF for weight loss in overweight and obese individuals. I did consult my personal physician and his take was that IF likely not cause harm and may indeed lead to weight loss. He stated that many of his patients utilize IF, especially athletes.

What to Drink During Fasting Periods

A common question people ask is “what can I drink during the fasting period?” My suggestions are listed below. If you ask several people about this, you will get many different answers. Always remember that no two people are the same. Find a plan that works for you and stick to it!

1. Water – This is my number one choice. Water is very good for your body and you need to remain hydrated. You should drink plenty of water daily whether or not you are fasting. You may add lemon slices to the water if you desire.

2. Bulletproof Coffee – This is one of my favorites. There are different ways to make this but I just use black coffee and add MCT oil to it. Others use butter and some add butter and MCT oil. The MCT oil I use is pictured below. I only drink one cup of coffee per day that contains one tablespoonful of MCT oil because the oil contains saturated fat. This special coffee helps curb hunger. You can also try one of our keto supplements if you find you are getting hungry or are low on energy.

3. Apple Cider Vinegar – I occasionally add 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to my water for taste and health reasons. I wrote an entire article on this. Click the link above to read more about the benefits.

4. Tea – Tea is fair game as long as you don’t add sugar. I also advise against artificial sweeteners (see below.)

Intermittent Fasting and Artificial Sweeteners

I do not recommend using any artificial sweeteners during IF. These products are not good for your body and, in many cases, can cause sugar cravings. This means no diet sodas or sweet coffee. At least one study showed that these substances actually lead to glucose intolerance by altering the intestinal micro biota.9

If you must utilize artificial sweeteners, I recommend Stevia. I just prefer the brand you use does not contain glucose or sugar alcohols.

Risks of Intermittent Fasting

  1. Dehydration.  Be sure to hydrate especially during your fasting periods10

2. Increased afternoon urine osmolality.

This can also be avoided by adequate hydration. Remember to drink plenty of water during the day.11

3. Increased cortisol levels.

Fasting causes stress to our bodies. This leads to a release of cortisol which is our primary stress hormone. This may lead to an increase in fat storage although, as stated above, studies show that IF actually decreases fat.12

4. Increased guilt.

Inability to stick to the fasting regimen may cause one to feel guilty. I don’t put much stake in this as any diet may have this effect.

5. Decreased alertness.

Even though IF is known to improve alertness and concentration in the short term, it is possible that if enough calories are not consumed, one may actually become less alert and fatigued. Dizziness may also result. This can be easily rectified by simply eating more calories during your eating window.

I have been using the 20:4 intermittent fasting plan off and on for a couple of years. For me it was a fairly easy transition as I rarely eat breakfast. I just had to train myself to skip lunch. It was difficult at first, but I found the bulletproof coffee and drinking a lot of water helped me get through the day. I also only do this during the work week so I eat whatever I desire on weekends. I do not lose weight on this diet unless I am exercising regularly, but I don’t gain weight, either. It is a perfect solution for me.

My recommendation is to also check with a physician prior to initiating a diet, especially if you have diabetes or take medications. You should have routine check-ups with your physician and you may discuss diets at that time. Although IF is not for everyone, I do believe it can help most people achieve weight loss safely.

Some other pointers are:

  • Be sure to have healthy food available to eat during your feeding period. You do not want to fill up on junk food and empty calories.
  • Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water will help you feel less hungry and keep you from getting headaches and becoming lethargic.
  • Have a plan. Try different approaches to IF and pick the one that is right for you. Remember, we are all different.
  • Utilize an iPhone IF app. There are many to choose from. These apps are great for tracking your food intake, weight, and they contain valuable information to help you succeed.

I hope you have gained something positive from this post. My goal is always to help my readers live a happy, healthy life. If you have any topics you would like covered or have any questions for me, please reach out by email. I am always here to help.

Have a great week!

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

Undereating Weight Loss, Intermittent Fasting, And Other Tips for Slimming Your Body

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How can I lose weight quickly?

Are there any tricks?

Nothing ever works for me!

This week I am going to give you some solid advice on losing weight. I went from 240lbs to around 180lbs and have kept it off for several years by using many of the tactics discussed in this post. These are not all my ideas. I have learned them from personal trainers and health coaches throughout my adult life. 

We are coming into the holiday season which makes dieting very difficult. Someone is always bringing goodies to work, the kids will have way too much Halloween candy, and Thanksgiving will surely come with way too many calories. 

The following ideas are certainly not the only options available to keep looking your best, but they are the ones that have worked for me. Everyone is different so if another plan is working for you, stick to it.

So how do we keep looking our best year-round?

Remember, looking good and feeling good go hand in hand!

Exercise

I put exercise first because it is the most important. We all know the importance of keeping active but don’t always do it. Like many of you, I need to get back into the routine myself. 

Getting up early and exercising, even for thirty minutes, makes a huge difference. If you can do this the first thing in the morning, it will jump-start your metabolism for the rest of the day. It will also make you feel better.

Don’t try to kill yourself. Especially when first starting, go slow! 

I suggest checking in with your doctor if it has been a while since you have exercised. Be sure to stretch before and after, and drink plenty of water.

It is better to do light exercise than none at all. Try to pick something you enjoy. If you hate it, you probably won’t continue. If you can find a friend to join you, it can be much more enjoyable.

An early morning daily walk is a good start. Getting outside will also improve your mood. I once worked with a psychiatrist who prescribed outdoor morning walks for all of his depressed patients.

If you make exercise part of your daily routine, it will become a habit. 

There are no shortcuts here!  If you want to lose weight and keep it off, exercise is the best single weapon you have.

Drink a Lot of Water

There are numerous benefits to drinking a lot of water. Most of us do not drink enough. When my patients complain of constipation, the first thing I recommend is more water! This isn’t always what they want to hear, but it is beneficial. 

Water is also the best expectorant. If you have mucus building up in your airways, water will help alleviate the problem.

Drinking water helps you feel full. If the water is cold, your body needs to expend calories to heat it. Cold water can also keep your core temperature lower during exercise, which prevents overheating.

Water helps flush toxins from your body. It also helps your skin look younger by decreasing wrinkles. Drinking water keeps the mouth clean and can help prevent tooth decay. 

Water helps regulate body temperature by producing sweat. This is especially important in hot climates. It can also keep you from becoming dehydrated, which can cause headaches.

 Drinking water daily should become one of your healthy habits. 

Don’t Drink Alcohol!

I am going to continue to write about this subject. There is absolutely no legitimate reason to consume alcohol. When it comes to dieting, alcohol contains empty calories and impairs judgment.  If you are a person who can have one glass of wine at dinner and stop, then skip to the next subject.

If you are like I used to be and love beer, especially the high alcohol-laden microbrews, then you should take a look at the number of calories you are consuming. They don’t call it a “beer belly” for nothing.

I know you will all do what you believe makes you happy.

If you want to look good, alcohol will not help you achieve that goal, especially if you are over forty. It will not make you more healthy, and will not solve any of your problems.

Take it from someone who hasn’t had a drink of alcohol in ten years. You will feel better without it! 

Limit Salty And Sugary Snacks

This has always been my biggest hurdle. If you can stop snacking on junk food, you will lose weight much faster. Cake, candy, chips, ice cream, and pastries are all delicious, but they can be hard to stop eating once you start. 

These foods are loaded with carbs and “bad” fat. We all know what the culprits are. Almost always, they are the things we enjoy the most. If you don’t have the willpower, keep them out of your house.

Stay Far Away From Fast Food

I know it is fast and convenient. You had a hard day and didn’t want to cook. It is so easy to go through the drive-through and pick something up for dinner. 

The problem is a Big Mac has 540 calories, and 260 of those come from fat. Almost half of those calories are fat! If you add a large order of french fries, that’s another 500 calories of which 220 calories are from fat. So even if you drink water or a diet coke, you have just consumed 1040 total calories with 480 calories coming from fat. 

I don’t mean to pick on McDonald’s, most “fast food” joints will overdose you with calories. Skip the drive-through. Go home and make a healthy salad!

What To Eat

I’m going to share my rules with you.  Again, I don’t always follow them, but when I do, the weight always comes off. This is what I have learned:

Stay away from processed foods. This includes energy bars, boxed dinners, granola bars, and anything that is prepared in advance that has a long shelf life. These foods are full of salt, sugar, and preservatives. 

If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it! 

If it won’t spoil, don’t eat it! 

If there are seventy-two ingredients listed on the label, don’t eat it!

Pay close attention to food labels. You may think yogurt is healthy, but many flavored yogurts are full of sugar. It is much better to eat fresh fruit and plain yogurt. Try to find foods with high protein and low carbs. 

Here are some snack suggestions:

  • Peanut butter mixed with plain yogurt.
  • Almonds with blueberries, raspberries or blackberries.
  • Apple slices with peanut butter.
  • Celery sticks with cream cheese.
  • Cottage cheese sprinkled with cinnamon.
  • Bell peppers dipped in guacamole.
  • Cucumber slices with hummus.

Undereating Weight Loss

If you eat fewer calories than you burn, you will lose weight. If you plan on undereating, it is best to do this for a short period of time. Your body needs sufficient fuel to operate efficiently. 

 Undereating for too long can make you sick and negatively affect mood. I only recommend undereating for a brief period to help jump-start your weight loss and get you into a proper mindset. 

Losing weight quickly at first can give you more energy to keep working toward your goal. It is a great feeling to step on a scale and see a lower number pop up!

I once went on a diet where I didn’t eat any meat, no alcohol, no dairy, and no sugar. I survived on mostly broccoli and rice for six weeks. 

During this time, I went to the gym daily and worked out with a trainer. I lost weight so quickly that I had to change my workouts to three times a week. 

I do not recommend eating only broccoli and rice. It is too hard to stick to, it is boring, and it makes you grumpy. If you plan to under eat for a short period, stick to a balanced diet but eat less.

There are plenty of apps for your phone that can help you track your calories. I use MyFitnessPal. 

I want to emphasize that under-eating should only occur for a brief period. If you don’t eat enough calories, your body will go into starvation mode, and your metabolism will decrease. This is our body’s way of maintaining weight during starvation. When this happens, it will be harder to lose weight.

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting has become a popular weight-loss method. This is where you eat all of your daily calories during a short period. I was introduced to this by a pharmacist colleague. There are many different versions, but I will explain how I have used this method.

I usually skip breakfast anyway, so I skip lunch as well and then eat a large dinner. I did this for several weeks and was able to keep my weight steady without spending a lot of time exercising. I did buy some MCT oil and added it to my coffee in the morning.

MCT oil is a medium-chain triglyceride that is extracted from coconut oil. This oil is promoted to help with weight loss by making you feel full. It can be added to smoothies and coffee. 

MCT oil is also used in those utilizing the ketogenic diet. This is because it is low in carbs and high in fat. Intermittent fasting works for some people, but I have better luck with just skipping breakfast. When I skip breakfast and lunch, I tend to eat more unhealthy foods in the evening.

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Ketogenic Diet

The ketogenic diet is a high fat, low carb diet. It is similar to the Atkins diet. The goal is to put your body into ketosis. This is a metabolic state which makes the body more efficient at utilizing fat for energy. 

This diet works for several people I know personally. I tried it but was unable to limit my carbs to the levels needed to succeed. If you can live on fat and protein, this isn’t a bad solution.

Although it is probably more work, I prefer the next diet.

Mediterranean Diet

This is the diet recommended by my physician. The Mediterranean diet comes from the food consumed by those living in the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. It is more of a cultural way of life than a diet. It was discovered that this population had a lower death rate caused by coronary artery disease.

This diet consists of daily consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats. Red meat is limited to a few times a month, and beans, eggs, poultry, and fish are consumed weekly. Dairy products are also limited to a few times a week. 

Olive oil is the predominant fat consumed in the Mediterranean Diet. If you want to give this diet a try, here are some pointers:

  • Eat more seafood. Consuming fish such as salmon, trout, or tuna twice weekly is sufficient.
  • Use healthy fats such as olive oil. Avocados are also a great healthy fat source.
  • Use spices to improve the flavor of your food. Turmeric, cayenne, cinnamon, etc. all have added benefits.
  • Use whole grains for cereal, bread, and pasta.
  • Make fruits and vegetables your primary food source. It is best if you can consume seven to ten servings daily.
  • Consume raw or roasted cashews, almonds, and walnuts.

If you want an inexpensive cookbook to get you started, I recommend The Mediterranean Diet for Beginners: The Complete Guide. 

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Visit The Sunshine Store For Your Vitamins And Supplements

I hope I have given you some useful information to help you shed some pounds and keep it off. 

There are many ways to lose weight. Some are healthy, and some are not. It boils down to planning, portion control, and willpower. 

Most of us know what foods are good for us and which foods to avoid. The problem is it becomes easy to fall into a lazy, comfortable routine.

If you plan your day to fit in some exercise and eat healthy food along with lots of water, it will pay huge dividends. I didn’t mention soda, but it is a weight loss killer.

 I enjoy my Diet Coke, but the evidence shows it leads to weight gain. Water is always the best beverage to enjoy.

Eat right, exercise, feel good about yourself, and have fun! You only get to live your life once. 

Please contact me with any questions or comments.

Live a Happy, Healthy, Healing Life!

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.