The question at hand today is whether alternate-day fasting is a viable, perhaps even preferable, option for folks who want to experiment with intermittent fasting. I’ve written about fasting many times here on the blog because it’s one of my favorite tools for managing insulin, blood sugar, appetite, and (possibly) promoting longevity, but I’ve never dedicated a post to alternate-day fasting per se. Time to remedy that.
I call it a tool, but fasting—having regular, distinct periods of little or no food—is the natural human condition. Or at least it should be. As I like to say, physiologically speaking, some of the best stuff happens when we aren’t eating. Fasting triggers desirable hormonal responses, reduces oxidative damage, promotes autophagy, and offers a mental challenge. Of course, in today’s food-rich environment, most people eat regularly for upwards of 16 or 18 hours every day. Eating in a 6- or 8-hour window, much less going 24 hours or more without food, is rare.
For the most part, I’m agnostic about the optimal fasting schedule. Whether someone prefers time-restricted eating like the popular 16:8 or 18:6 protocols, a weekly 24-hour fast, semi-annual prolonged fasting of three days or longer, or eating WHEN (when hunger ensues naturally) is a matter of personal taste. They each have pros and cons, but none so compelling that I’d say one is clearly best for everyone. Since a lot of people seem inclined to try alternate-day fasting, it deserves a closer look here.
Greetings, readers! I’ve been so heartened over the past year with the great response to the book Two Meals A Day, which we launched in March, 2021. It’s particularly interesting to note how many new people have been welcomed into the fold of ancestral living via the portal of a mainstream-appeal book about healthy living. My writing partner Brad Kearns and I intended for this book to reach a broader audience outside the existing spheres of Primal/paleo and keto, so we placed the focus on ditching processed foods, emphasizing nutrient-dense ancestral foods, and eating less frequently—pretty simple! We’ve received great comments from readers who then discovered Marks Daily Apple, the many Primal Blueprint book titles, and generally became further captivated by Primal living.
It was also great to hear from many die-hard followers about how this book tied many insights and nuances of Primal living together nicely. It has become a popular gift for family and friends to gently introduce a new and sustainable way of ancestral-inspired eating and living.
Buoyed by this success, we are pleased to announce the launch of the Two Meals A Day Cookbook, filled with over 100 delicious recipes of incredible variety to appeal to a broad audience.
Hey folks! This week, Erin Power is back to answer your questions about when you should be eating. If you’re wondering if you should be having breakfast, how to avoid being ravenous after a cross-country flight, or the best way to navigate summer BBQs, you won’t want to miss this post. Keep sharing your questions on our Mark’s Daily Apple Facebook page or in the comments below. Rachel asked: “I’m not typically a breakfast eater. Should I force myself to have breakfast even if I’m not hungry in the morning?” I’m a front loader when it comes to eating. That means I put the most emphasis on my first meal of the day. And you should too if you want to avoid the grazing, eating-every-three hours mentality that, in my opinion, is totally contradictory to the way we were meant to feed ourselves. Assuming you work a first shift job, it makes sense to fuel the day ahead of you. Plan on having your most nutrient-dense meal in the morning – or whenever your first meal of the day is. Remember, breakfast is when you BREAK YOUR FAST. It doesn’t have to be at 6am when you wake up. It could be at 8am or 11am or 2pm. But What If You’re Not Hungry? If you’re not hungry when you wake up, you’re not alone. Most people’s daily food intake looks something like this: Eat as little as possible throughout the day, constantly thinking about what you’re going to eat and when you can eat it Decide you can’t take it anymore and binge on a huge evening meal Feel unsatiated, so you continue to snack until bedtime Wake up still feeling full, likely with undigested food in your system Breaking the Late-Night Eating Cycle As a health coach, I help my clients break old habits that no longer serve them. When you eat a large dinner late at night, it not only prevents you from being hungry in the morning, it also interrupts your sleep cycle and prevents you from becoming metabolically flexible. I typically recommend that my clients do *force* a morning meal loaded with protein and fat. I’m not saying to eat past your satiation level, but if you usually start your day with a quick protein bar and coffee, or a yogurt and banana, honor your body by sitting down for a full meal of eggs, bacon, and veggies, and then taper from there. How To Be Hungry at Breakfast Time By the time you get to dinner, you’ll naturally want a smaller dinner (and feel like eating it earlier). And you won’t be tempted to snack all night to make up for the calories and nutrients you missed out on earlier in the day. You’ll also be more apt to get a great night of undisturbed sleep because you’re not working on digesting that late night bag of trail mix or waking up because your cortisol has spiked. Research shows that habitual breakfast … Continue reading “Ask a Health Coach: When Should I Be Eating?”
As you probably know, I’ve been working with Brad Kearns for the past dozen years to promote the Primal Blueprint lifestyle and crank out books, online courses, and even that great binge of PrimalCon retreats from 2010-2014. After we finished books like the updated and expanded Primal Blueprint 4th edition, The Keto Reset Diet, and Keto For Life, we had a sense there was nothing more to say about healthy eating and supportive lifestyle practices. Alas, as the ancestral health movement and the science and user experiences continue to grow and refine, there always seems to be more to say! Even the most devoted primal enthusiasts have room to optimize, and all of us who have taken personal responsibility for our health have more potential to influence and role model for family and friends. Two Meals A Day seems like a true breakthrough because it transcends niche dietary strategies like primal, paleo, keto and even plant-based to expand the focus beyond food choices and macros to simply eating less frequently and allowing stored body fat to become your primary source of energy. The program is simple, sustainable, stress-free, and appealing to anyone regardless of dietary preferences. The timing is great because market research reveals that “intermittent fasting” has surpassed the red hot “keto” as the top search term, and for good reason. You see, a revolution is afoot in the world of diet and metabolism. Emerging science is validating some shocking insights that will once and for all topple the long-standing conventional stupidity of the calories in-calories out model, and the resultant decades of epic fail that has been the mainstream approach to weight loss. As we roll into 2021, a confluence of great work from science leaders like Robb Wolf (author of Wired To Eat), Dr. Satchin Panda (author of The Circadian Code and promoter of the Time Restricted Feeding concept), Dr. Herman Pontzer (author of Burn and promoter of the Total Energy Expenditure theory) and Dr. Jason Fung (author of The Obesity Code, which cites dozens of studies revealing the folly of calories in-calories out), and Dr. Tommy Wood (“eat more healthy food!”) is pointing us in an empowering new direction. We now have an excellent understanding on how the body really works and can finally chart an accurate direction to achieve and maintain ideal body composition and escape from the epidemic disease patterns driven by carbohydrate dependency. Here are some bullet points to summarize the emerging science: Calories in-calories out is a myth. Fat loss is about hormone optimization, mainly through avoiding the epidemic disease pattern of hyperinsulinemia. When you eat is just as important as what you eat. Too many meals and snacks—even when choosing the healthiest foods or following ketogenic macros—will compromise fat reduction goals. Fasting is the centerpiece of a healthy dietary strategy. Immune function, inflammation control, internal antioxidant production, cognitive function, and cell repair (autophagy and apoptosisare all optimized when you are in a fasted state. Eating fewer calories and burning more workout … Continue reading “Two Meals A Day – The Diet Book To End All Diet Books”
I’m a huge fan of fasted training. It feels right, it feels “Primal.” And it jibes with my sense of how life was back in the hunting and gathering days: if you wanted to eat, you had to go hunt, and you had to hunt on an empty stomach (because you didn’t have much food laying around, let alone a refrigerator full of it). This is the natural state of animal life in the wild—get hungry, perform physical tasks to obtain food, eat—and it always made intuitive sense that following that pattern when working out as a modern human would confer special benefits. Our big disconnect nowadays is that food is separate from physical labor. You no longer earn your meal on a visceral, physical level. There are social benefits to this new setup, but there are also metabolic, health, and fitness consequences.
Fasted training could be a way to correct that disconnect and restore the ancient relationship between food and movement. It’s plausible. But what does the research say?
Today we’re taking a peek under the hood and looking at some of the hormones involved in hunger and satiety, a.k.a. appetite hormones.
You might think of hunger as a gnawing feeling in your stomach and satiety as that feeling of fullness when you’ve eaten enough… or maybe too much. That’s how we experience the feelings we call hunger and satiety, true; but I’m talking today about the physiological drives to eat or stop eating that is driven by hormones.
Eating behavior is coordinated mostly in the brain by the hypothalamus, which acts as the control center for appetite. Hunger and satiety hormones deliver information from the body about how much energy you are taking in and whether you need more. The overarching goal here is energy homeostasis—balancing the energy coming in (via food) with the energy needed for the everyday functions of being alive.
When you have sufficient energy, your body is free to invest in growth, repair, and reproduction. Taking in more energy than you need can lead to excess fat storage and issues like hyperinsulinemia, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome. Energy deficits result in adaptations designed to conserve energy. In the long run, energy deficits might increase longevity, but they can also seriously undermine health and, for example, impair fertility.
Today I’m going to cover some of the key hormones that are involved in this delicate dance. This is by no means a complete list. Let me know in the comments if you have a burning desire to learn more about one of the hormones not covered here.