Keto and Intermittent Fasting: A Beginner's GuidePopular on CamTrader
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The ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting have more in common than you may believe. When combining the two practices, they may be able to synergistically work together toward common goals of fat loss and improved metabolic health.
Despite the differences in the diets, they have two big similarities: both increase ketone production and can also burn the body’s fat stores. In tandem they may help to expedite your weight loss goals.
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But where do they fit in together? Practicers of intermittent fasting are using the technique to improve weight loss, insulin sensitivity and other health biomarkers.1 The keto diet targets many of the same goals, like helping to reshape metabolism and improve body composition.
If you’re trying to decide between one or the other, why not try both at the same time? Let’s look at some of the benefits of each, and how they can work together to encourage a healthy lifestyle.
The ketogenic diet has been around for several decades, but has gained increasing popularity over the last several years.2 While some diets encourage consumption of fewer calories, the ketogenic diet is based on low carbohydrate intake rather than focusing on calorie intake. Keto can be described as a low-carb, high-fat diet which induces production of ketones from fat, leading to a state of ketosis: the presence of ketones in the blood at greater than 0.5mM. This is much different than the traditional western high-carb diet.
Our bodies are biologically programed to run on a mix of carbohydrate and fat depending on what’s available.
Dietary carbohydrate gets taken up and used as energy via blood glucose (blood sugar), or it is stored as a molecule called glycogen in the liver. Glycogen is slowly released between meals to keep blood glucose energy levels stable. Once carbs are removed from the equation, the body eventually learns to use alternative fuel sources for energy as glycogen stores are depleted.
There are two ways to induce ketosis. The first, called endogenous ketosis, is when ketosis is triggered through diet or fasting. In this case, the body is making its own ketones, meaning the body is ketogenic. It can take days of fasting or weeks of dieting to achieve endogenous ketosis.
The ketogenic diet is often misconstrued by the masses as a high-fat diet that features bacon, butter, and oil as its main components. While you may choose to indulge in these particular types of foods, the main attribute of keto is that it requires dieters to consume little to no net carbs. If you’re on keto, you should aim for a carb intake around 50g per day—a really low amount.
The second was to induce ketosis is called exogenous ketosis. This means that ketones are introduced to the body from an external source, from ketone supplements like HVMN Ketone. This body is still in ketosis (because its blood ketone levels are elevated) but it’s not ketogenic (because the body isn’t producing its own ketones).
Increasing Ketone Levels
Several supplements exist on the market to raise blood ketones through exogenous means. The goal with these types of products is to spur a faster, deeper ketosis without the need to diet or fast.
There are medium chain triglycerides, or MCT oils, which are a special type of fat found naturally in coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and butterfat. They do not contain ketones, instead possessing a fat that’s readily converted to ketones. While there are many MCTs on the market, it’s best to find one without artificial ingredients, and one that’s low-carb (to help you maintain ketosis). HVMN MCT Oil Powder is pure C8—the world’s most ketogenic fat. It’s 100% natural with no additives, no artificial ingredients, and zero net-carbs.
Then there are ketone salts. Ketone levels rise marginally after using salts, from about 0.6mM – 1mm.3,4 And often, a high mineral intake is necessary to raise ketone levels, leading to GI issues and concern around the safety of long term high salt intake.
Finally, there are exogenous ketone esters. HVMN Ketone is the world’s first exogenous ketone ester drink, and can raise blood ketone levels up to 3mM – 6mM.3,5,6,7 It’s used by professional athletes, the US military and was even used to break a cycling world record.
The choice between relying on exogenous or endogenous ketosis depends on your health and performance goals.
- Improved mental focus10
- Better satiation11
- Ability to control diabetes12
- Better cholesterol readings13
Interestingly, the body and brain can both use ketones as energy (like glucose). That’s why there are subjective reports of increased focus and less brain fog from keto dieters and people using exogenous ketones.
These are also some of the subjective feelings reported by intermittent fasters, likely due to the increased ketone levels from carb-depletion.
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Intermittent fasting is exactly what it sounds like: not eating for a certain period of time. On the surface, cutting out meals for a set period of time seems beautifully simple. But new research is advancing our knowledge of the best timing for meals and the helpful changes to our biology that occur during fasting.
Science Behind Intermittent Fasting
When you consume carbohydrates, the pancreas begins to release insulin-triggering carb uptake and storage.
Virtually every meal we eat triggers a metabolic response in our body.
Carbohydrates in our food (and to a lesser extent, protein) trigger the release of the hormone. The insulin in turn tells the body to store any excess energy as glycogen or as fat for later use. Some of the fat is stored in the liver, but most of it becomes fat deposits in the body. Insulin also switches off the processes that release fat from fat deposits, meaning that fat is going into storage and not used as fuel.
When you practice intermittent fasting on the other hand, energy intake is lower, insulin levels begin to fall and fat burning increases.
By increasing the amount of time the body is in a fasted state, there will be more time to for the body to tap into stored energy. Across evolution, most species would regularly enter a fasted state. Predators tend to eat larger portions at one given time and may not consume food for several days. There is nothing wrong with occasionally fasting for longer periods of time and it actually has several health benefits (but of course, consult your doctor before doing this).
Simply put, restricting the amount of calories you consume will put the body into a fasted state.
There is a common belief that skipping a meal is bad for your metabolism or overall health. Truth is, we’re seeing more data support the idea of restricted eating. The three-meals-a-day convention has been standard in American diets for decades. But obesity has increased. Diabetes and pre-diabetes have also increased.
Obviously, something isn’t working.
In studies performed on animals,14 those in a fasted state had longer lifespans compared to those that did not fast. It seems the benefits of fasting can not only be seen short term, but over the course of a lifetime as well.
An interesting diet that mimics fasting is called the Prolon Diet. The idea is to really decrease insulin release while still providing nutrients. It’s a low-protein, low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet with calorie intake ranging from 770 – 1,100 calories per day. Studies have shown a fast-mimicking diet can improve biomarkers for aging, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.15,16
Advantages of Intermittent Fasting
Besides benefits for body composition or weight loss, there are a number of advantages that accompany intermittent fasting.
- Easier to manage than traditional dieting: Preparing a single (or a couple, depending on your feeding window) meals per day is logistically easier than preparing several meals from a time management standpoint. Plus, intermittent fasting saves you the headache of rigorous meal prepping, or finding foods that comply with a specific diet
- Decrease in fat mass: Individuals who practiced intermittent fasting showed a decrease in fat mass while maintaining muscle mass and strength15
- Longevity: Studies have shown that populations who fast on a regular basis can appear to have increased longevity.17 A study was performed on rats that ate only once per day and it found that compared to other groups, those rats had a longer lifespan regardless of the amount of food consumed17,18
- Improved health and metabolism: Metabolic health may be improved with fasting by way of circadian biology, the gut microbiome, and modifiable lifestyle behaviors, such as sleep. Research has shown that intermittent fasting may help improve blood lipids, glycemic control, control insulin levels, decrease blood pressure, and decrease inflammation19,20
- Boost brain health: Fasting robustly is a strong trigger for neurogenesis and beta-hydroxybutyrate (or BHB, one of the three ketone bodies), which can trigger the release of brain growth factors21
- Speed up endurance adaptation: Fasting promotes pathways involved in fat metabolism, which may help endurance performance—for example, growth of new mitochondria
- Reduced risk of diabetes: Through intermittent fasting, reduced insulin resistance can help those with type 2 diabetes lower blood glucose levels and improve blood sugar. Intermittent fasting can also decrease inflammation