We’ve all been taught the importance of eating three meals a day. On the typical high-carb, low-fat American diet, eating throughout the day is essential to avoiding hunger pains and spikes in insulin levels.
But that’s not the only way to eat. What if you could eat 2 meals a day and still feel energized?
A growing body of research supports the practice of intermittent fasting to support proper bodily functioning. Here’s a look at what this method offers.
First, the Facts on Eating Three Meals a Day
Mark Mattson is a professor of neuroscience and chief of the laboratory of neuroscience for the National Institute on Aging, and he’s studied the benefits of intermittent fasting for years. Mattson’s research found consistent benefits to fasting, including reduced oxidative stress, improved learning and memory functioning, and of course, weight loss.
Mattson’s findings have been borne out by numerous studies spearheaded by researchers such as Brad Pilon, Andy Morgan, and Ori Hofmekler. One of the most interesting has come from Martin Berkhan, who recently published an investigation into the effects of intermittent fasting on subjects who lift weights. After 8 weeks, the study found that intermittent fasting could be beneficial in improving a variety of health-related biomarkers and decreasing fat mass.
Why does it work? Theorists propose that putting a small amount of stress on cells produces an adaptive reaction. Like exercise, fasting can kick-start regenerative processes. But that’s not all.
You can’t eat a typical American diet if you want to cut a meal each day. Carbohydrates just aren’t a sufficient energy source for that sort of program. Luckily, there is an alternative energy source, and that’s fat.
Before the advent of agriculture, humans got the majority of their energy from fat, which naturally occurs in meat, fish, and nuts. This fat was broken down by the liver into molecules known as ketones. Ketones provide a higher-quality energy source than their alternative, ATP, which comes from carbohydrates.
Luckily, the human body hasn’t changed much in the 10,000 years since the invention of agriculture: ketones are still the best form of energy that our body can use, and ketosis (the state of burning fat for energy) is still attainable, with the right diet. That’s where intermittent fasting comes in.
Space it Out
Our ancestors didn’t have grocery stores – they ate when they gathered or caught food. It’s kind of silly to suppose that our bodies need to eat regularly if our ancestors got along fine without doing so. As it turns out, your body will adjust to eating less food.
If you want to enter ketosis, you need to let your body’s supply of glucose (the simple sugar that carbohydrates are digested into) run out. Intermittent fasting is a great way to do this. By limiting your carb intake and eating fewer meals, you’ll set your body into high gear.
One suggestion, the 16-hour fast, isn’t too hard to follow. Just don’t eat from 6 PM to 10 AM and you’ll hit it – think of skipping breakfast, or dinner, but not both. Then, build your meal plan around your fast and try to extend ketosis as long as possible.
When You Eat, Eat This
As stated earlier, a meal plan built around intermittent fasting can’t follow the typical American diet. The only way to ensure that you have all the energy you need to get through your day on just two large meals is to give your body the fuel it needs with naturally occurring fats and proteins.
If you’re able to cut out carbs from your diet, you’ll stay in ketosis far beyond the end of your fast. The fats you consume during your meals will be transformed into ketones by your liver. They’ll keep you going throughout the evening and morning until your next meal.
Why eat protein? Well, if your body runs out of fat to burn, it’ll burn muscle instead. Most people want to avoid this (although those looking to lose weight may be ok with it). That’s why a moderate amount of protein will ensure that this new meal plan burns fat as you continue to build muscle through exercise.
As with any lifestyle change, a 2-meal a day ketogenic diet takes some getting used to. If you’re looking to make the switch, give yourself a few days to adjust. Eating optimally will transform your life and with the right tools it can be a really easy transition. The key to sticking to your new lifestyle depends on your ability to plan – and plan well. Meal planning is without a doubt, the best method to reach your ketosis dieting goals. With the right ingredients and weekly meal prep, your new keto diet will be easy to maintain.