For those new to fasting, the idea of skipping a meal seems like an impossible feat. People have told me, that’s great you can do this intermittent fasting thing, but there’s no way I could. Intermittent fasting would make me too tired to function. That’s impossible!
So many of us think we can’t function without at least 3 meals a day. It’s conditioned in our brain. Skipping a meal is pure blasphemy to many. After all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day! Or so they say.
I remember thinking this way myself. I always assumed that skipping a meal would leave me feeling hungry and exhausted.
There’s no way I could work or do anything productive. I never actually tested it, but that’s what I assumed.
There’s a false notion out there that food helps us feel more awake and energized. People will say they need food to keep their energy up.
The food industry has pushed this. After all, their main motivation is to sell as much as food as possible.
Not only do we need breakfast, lunch, and dinner but we need snacks – lots and lots of snacks!
Blood Sugar and Energy
If you take a deeper dive, you might hear some boast that food is necessary to regulate blood sugar. Now there might be serious truth with this for someone with hypoglycemia or other health condition, but for most of us, it’s not necessary.
For the average person, blood sugars remain within a normal range while fasting. Hence the idea of needing snacks to keep up your energy isn’t true.
In fact, snacking can drain your energy and result in more ups and downs in blood sugar levels. This is especially true if you’re eating snacks that are high in refined carbohydrates. A granola bar is a good example because it’s typically full of added sugar.
Eating any type of refined carb results in a quick spike and then a rapid decrease in blood sugar. Your body rapidly takes the food and converts it to glucose.
Your body responds to the sugar rush by producing insulin to lower the spike in blood sugar. The quick spike results in a quick increase in blood sugar, followed by a rapid fall. The increase in insulin also tells your body to go into fat storage mode.
Uneven blood sugar levels increase your hunger, fatigue, and desire to snack. After the quick surge of energy, you’ll experience the inevitable sugar crash.
The rapid blood sugar drop will leave you tired, hungry, and looking for more quick carbs. If you indulge in another snack, the process starts again. This can become a vicious cycle of quick ups and downs.
Ketosis and Energy
On the flip side, fasting often helps regulate blood sugar and ketosis plays a big role. One of the very happy side effects of fasting is the increased energy levels you experience as a result. Thank you, ketosis!
What exactly is ketosis?
Ketosis is a metabolic state in the body. It occurs when the body stops running off of recently consumed and stored carbohydrates. When the body is in ketosis, it runs off of stored body fat instead. In other words, it runs off those donuts you ate this time last year!
The body’s stored carbohydrates are also known as glycogen. Any carbohydrate we eat converts to glycogen. This is the reason glycogen, carbohydrates, and sugar are often used interchangeably.
To illustrate, let’s say you eat an apple. Your body will take that apple and convert the non-fibrous part of the apple into glycogen.
Side note, the fiber in the meantime does wonderful things for your body. Among other things, it binds to food and toxins in your intestines and keeps your gut microbiome extra happy. I digress though, more on this at another time.
The average person’s glycogen store can hold around 1800 to 2000 calories. Once the body’s glycogen stores are full then any remaining carbohydrates store as body fat.
Ketosis occurs when the glycogen stores run on empty and there is no more glycogen left as fuel. As a result, your body has to look for alternative sources of fuel.
Why does ketosis increase energy?
Once your body runs out of glycogen, it will start running off of body fat instead.
The liver responds by burning stored body fat and converting them into ketones. This is where the term ketosis comes from.
Your body does a great job at efficiently producing ketones for fuel. Ketones allow for a bountiful supply of fuel to the brain. This consistent flow of fuel to the brain results in great energy. Once glycogen is no longer necessary, blood sugars can remain steady.
How does intermittent fasting encourage ketosis?
Ketosis can be achieved through diet or through fasting. Both methods deplete glycogen which allows the body to run off of body fat.
The ketogenic diet is one way to get the body into a nutritional state of ketosis. By limiting carbohydrates, very little glycogen is available as energy. Glycogen stores are no longer maxed out, so the body runs off of ketones.
Fasting works in a similar manner by depleting any glycogen stores in the body. The fewer carbohydrates you consume, the less glycogen you have to burn, and the faster you can move into ketosis.
Both fasting and keto shift the body from burning glycogen to stored body fat. This is one of the reasons that many pair the keto diet with intermittent fasting. It’s a one two punch.
Do you have to pair intermittent fasting with keto?
At the same time, you do not have to follow a ketogenic diet if you’re doing intermittent fasting. The keto diet is simply an enhancement for ketosis.
Many find an intermittent fasting regimen easier to stick with when they’re doing keto. When doing both keto and intermittent fasting, your body isn’t moving in and out of ketosis as frequently. Remaining in the
Personally, I do not follow a ketogenic diet. Instead, I strive to limit the amount of sugar and refined carbohydrates in my diet. A moderate approach works well for me.
I like to enjoy a larger variety of food types, including a wider assortment of fruit and vegetables. More fruits and vegetables equate to more fiber and micronutrients in my diet. From a health and longevity perspective, I think this is important.
Digestion and Energy
While even blood sugar levels and ketosis both play a role in energy levels, so does digestion. In a prior article we discussed how fasting gives the body a break from insulin. In a similar manner, fasting also gives the body a break from digestion.
Digestion is a lot of work for the body. In fact, about 25% of the calories in the food we eat goes towards digestion. It’s a major process, and the energy required to digest your food prevents your body from doing other things.
At Thanksgiving we’re quick to blame the tryptophan in the turkey, but there are other factors. Our fatigue is more likely a result of the massive amount of food (and likely lots of carbs) that we just ate.
More frequent and larger amounts of food requires time and energy. The more you digest, the harder your body has to work to process all that food. When your body is busy processing food, it has less resources to focus on others tasks.
Abstaining from food for a period of time can give your body a much needed break and boost energy.
Intermittent Feasting vs. Constant Snacking
No one can deny that food is necessary for life. Food is a beautiful thing and a wonderful way to replenish and nourish the body.
The problem is that like so many things, we take things to an extreme. Food is good, therefore we must eat all the time. Nope, not so fast!
The body has natural ebbs and flows, and intermittent fasting allows that to happen. Intermittent period of feasting, followed by deliberate periods of fasting, will do wonders for your body and energy.
Instead of making you tired, intermittent fasting will increase your energy. Once again, this shows that intermittent fasting has so many more benefits than just weight loss. It’s a health regimen with the happy side effect of weight loss.