Intermittent fasting: is it the fountain of youth?

Two years ago, on a Mother’s Day at Peli Peli Galleria, I ran into Brian Chou, an old fraternity brother of mine and good friend. We ended up chatting about our hobbies, and I remember complaining to him that no matter how many marathons or triathlons I did, I could never lose any weight.

While I’ve never been fat fat, I have carried my fair share of pudge. Imagine being a skinny guy and all of the weight gain just going to your waist. Super annoying! Being an endocrinologist, Brian mentioned that he got all of his patients onto an Intermittent Fasting program. My first thought was, “hell no”, I can’t starve myself!

After he explained Intermittent Fasting to me and after personally having tried almost every diet out there the previous few years, I gave it a try. Over the course of the next six months, eating two meals a day between the hours of 12pm and 9pm, I lost 28 pounds while maintaining my muscle mass. More importantly, my A1C sugar level was reduced to the lowest it had been in over 10 years (I had been borderline pre-diabetic for many years and was beginning to worry that it was hereditary).

Fast forward to present day, and I am still happily intermittent fasting. I have been able to maintain my preferred weight and still able to eat what I want within reason. Intermittent fasting has enabled me to do something as crazy as eating at Peli Peli Kitchen for 30 days and actually lose weight (or will I!)

I’m not a health expert, so I reached out to Brian so that he can better explain intermittent fasting to those who are interested in losing weight and improving their health. I asked him 5 basic questions about Intermittent Fasting. Hope it helps you on your journey!

In addition, for more info on low carb meals that fit into a healthy lifestyle, you can follow Brian on Facebook at Chou Down at the Endo Doc.

What exactly is IF and what are the benefits?

Intermittent fasting is a way an individual may modify their dietary intake based on the concept of time of intake.  There are many methods to do so, but one of the easiest and most common is to do a 16/8 which is 16 hours of fasting and 8 hour window of which all calories for the day are consumed.  As you grow comfortable with longer windows of fasting, you can eventually extend the fast to 18/6, and 23/1 or "OMAD", one meal a day!  Doing so allows the body builds "metabolic flexibility" with the ability to utilize both forms of energy, glucose and fats with more efficiency.  Studies have shown this practice promotes a plethora of benefits including increased energy/focus, weight loss, reduction of inflammation, extension of life, reduction for the risk of chronic metabolic disease i.e. diabetes, prevention of cancer, and the list goes on.

Do you recommend IF to your patients?  If so, why?

Of course! Especially patients with metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.  I have seen IF improve these disease states and in some cases where patients are 100% adherent, reverse them!

What has IF meant to you in your own personal life?

When I first started IF, the first benefit I noted was a decrease in appetite along with loss of unwanted fat.  Most weekdays, I'll do OMAD, and I have found my energy and concentration at work to be optimal.  No more tired weekday afternoons for me.  I have also noticed that working out in the fasted state to be quite enjoyable and just as intense if not more than in the "fed state".  This is carried to Brazilian jiu-jitsu competitions as well, I make sure to compete on an empty stomach with just coffee to get the best performance.

What are some potential side effects of IF?  Anything to be cautious of?

Initially, as one begins their journey, it is more of a mental challenge than anything else.  I would suggest keeping a low carbohydrate/sugar diet prior to jumping into IF because these substrates tend to increase appetite making fasting tough to stick with.  Keeping busy with work, hobbies, and or errands can help pass the time without effort.  If your tempted to break fast prior to your designated time to eat, I would recommend chewing gum, drinking water, unsweetened tea, coffee, or sparkling water to get you by.  When breaking your fast, it is best to stick with whole foods, mostly plant based.

Are there any body types or health types that should NOT consider IF?

IF should not be done by children, young teens, or pregnant women.  Those with previous or ongoing eating disorders should consult with a healthcare professional prior to embarking on IF.

Dr. Brian Chou and his family!

Dr. Brian Chou and his family!