Episode 202: Caffeine Metabolism, Slow Eating, Hydration, Protein Intake, Insulin Resistance, And More!

Intermittent Fasting


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Feb 28

Welcome to Episode 202 of The Intermittent Fasting Podcast, hosted by Melanie Avalon, author of What When Wine Diet: Lose Weight And Feel Great With Paleo-Style Meals, Intermittent Fasting, And Wine and Gin Stephens, author of Delay, Don't Deny: Living An Intermittent Fasting Lifestyle

Today's episode of The Intermittent Fasting Podcast is brought to you by:

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Listener Feedback: Samantha - Eating with family

Listener Q&A: Christina - How much black coffee

Listener Q&A: sara - Black coffee

Listener Q&A: shelley - Podcasts....how do you listen to sooooo many??

Listener Q&A: Hannah - what if I don’t “Just Know”

The Melanie Avalon Podcast Episode #74 - Benjamin Bikman, Ph.D.

Listener Q&A: jessica - Q&A

The Melanie Avalon Podcast Episode #57 - Robb Wolf


Melanie Avalon: Welcome to Episode 202 of The Intermittent Fasting Podcast. If you want to burn fat, gain energy, and enhance your health by changing when you eat, not what you eat with no calorie counting, then this show is for you. I'm Melanie Avalon, author of What When Wine: Lose Weight and Feel Great with Paleo-Style Meals, Intermittent Fasting, and Wine. And I'm here with my cohost, Gin Stephens, author of Delay, Don't Deny: Living an Intermittent Fasting Lifestyle. For more on us, check out ifpodcast.com, melanieavalon.com, and ginstephens.com. Please remember, the thoughts and opinions on this podcast do not constitute medical advice or treatment. So, pour yourself a cup of black coffee, a mug of tea or even a glass of wine, if it's that time, and get ready for The Intermittent Fasting Podcast.

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Hi everybody and welcome. This is Episode number 202 of the Intermittent Fasting podcast. I'm Melanie Avalon and I'm here Gin Stephens.

Gin Stephens: Hi, everybody.

Melanie Avalon: How are you today, Gin?

Gin Stephens: [sighs] I'm in the stage of book writing, where one minute I'm like, “This is the best book I've ever written.” The next minute, I'm like, “This book is the worst book I've ever seen.” You know what I mean?

Melanie Avalon: Yes.

Gin Stephens: It's the love-hate relationship of the writing process. It makes you question everything, and then you find something-- You find things people are saying. Then, you're like, “Alright, let me find something in PubMed that backs it up” and that's not what PubMed says, you're like, “What? Are we all wrong about this?” Then you start digging some more. Anyway.

Melanie Avalon: I feel it's the perfect example of can't see the forest for the trees, because you've been writing it for so long, and it's all your words, and you can't get a perspective of what it looks like from the outside.

Gin Stephens: Right now, it's a big ol’ hot mess, but it's getting there. I'm getting there.

Melanie Avalon: A lot of trees.

Gin Stephens: Yeah. I like to just throw everything in a pile and then sort it. That's what I'm writing, like, it's a big, giant pile, and then I'm sorting it as I go.

Melanie Avalon: That's what I do. I like word vomit, write.

Gin Stephens: That's what I'm doing. I'm in the word vomit stage. That's a really good way of explaining it. Then you clean it up and make it tell a story and make sense. Right now, it feels like word vomit. I'm like, “How am I going to put that--” Anyway, I have the organizational structure obviously figured out, but it's a lot. You forget. It's like childbirth. Once you've had kids, you forget about the process. You're like, “Where’s my baby? My baby’s so pretty,” but you forget about all the hard parts. [laughs]

Melanie Avalon: I guess for me, it'd be like my septoplasty surgery.

Gin Stephens: There you go. It's worth it now, but going through it, you're like, “Why am I doing this again? I like my other book. That's enough.” [laughs]

Melanie Avalon: I used to think I was original in saying this quote, and then I realized, I feel this is a really famous quote by somebody about writing with wine and then editing with caffeine.

Gin Stephens: I don't know if I've ever heard that.

Melanie Avalon: I always used to say I write with wine, and then I edit it with caffeine, but that's like a quote. Wait, let me look it up.

Gin Stephens: Well, it makes sense because you have to be in the flow. When you're writing and when you're in the creative process, you're in the flow, and you just let loose and you get out of your way. There's that word vomit that you talked about where you just put it all in there. Then, you go back, you're like, “What did I say?” That's when you need to focus and try to make it make sense.

Melanie Avalon: Yes, exactly. I'm sorry that you're off the wine train.

Gin Stephens: No, it's okay. Oh, sorry that I'm off the wine. Well, I am still a little bit salty about that. I must admit. The other night, I had a tiny micro-dose of wine. Chad can go through a bottle of Dry Farm Wines in two weeks. He drinks really slow. He's an original microdoser. He had some, so I poured a tiny little bit in my glass and had a little microdose, a little Melanie Microdose, and I was fine. Then, the next night I was like, “Well, I'm just going to have like an inch, an inch of wine. That's hardly anything.” Then I tossed and turned all night. [exhales] I know it really affects me.

Melanie Avalon: I've definitely learned with my Oura ring when wine does or does not affect my sleep and heart rate variability.

Gin Stephens: Oh, when does it?

Melanie Avalon: Normally, I usually have probably a glass, if that, before my one-meal-a-day dinner. If I do all that, I'm completely fine. Surprisingly, if I am at properly socially distanced gatherings where I'm drinking more, and even if it's not Dry Farm Wines, as long as it's earlier in the evening, and that's all I'm doing and then I come back, I'm actually still fine. It's only when I am drinking a lot more and I'm at home, so I think it's too close to going to bed, it's like the Oura ring knows, it's crazy.

Gin Stephens: Yeah, it's interesting. I didn't realize it again, like I said before, until I started with my bed tracking. I'd be like, “Oh my gosh, look at how little I slept last night.” Just like the Oura ring, it let me know, it tells me my heart rate variability and all of that. The point of it is it's hard to undo the association that my brain has with, “Hey, it's Friday night and I'm going to unwind with a glass of wine.” Even just one glass I feel like, “No, I don't need to unwind with wine.” That's a tongue twister.

Melanie Avalon: I know. My dad actually texted me yesterday because I got him Dry Farm Wines for Christmas. He's been texting me every time he opens the bottle, like, “Love the Dry Farm Wines.” Finally, yesterday, I was like dad he could sign up for a subscription, and so he is doing that.

Gin Stephens: Oh, yay, Dad.

Melanie Avalon: I know my sneaky Christmas present maneuver because I want him drinking it because I think it's so much healthier. For listeners, if you'd like to get your own Dry Farm Wines, even if you just want to microdose it, like Gin, have a little tablespoon. Our link is dryfarmwines.com/ifpodcast and at that link, you will get a bottle for a penny.

Gin Stephens: I'm sure listeners are laughing because how many of the things that you say that you do. I'm like, “I'm never going to do that.” Then I'm like, “Guess what I'm doing now?” [laughs] Oh, that's funny.

Melanie Avalon: I have a really fun story.

Gin Stephens: Okay, I love fun stories.

Melanie Avalon: I was going to tell you this after we talked, but I just realized I could just tell it on the podcast. My new obsession is-- not my new obsession, but my new research obsession is deuterium-depleted water. I think I've been talking--

Gin Stephens: See, I don't even know what that is. You said, and I'm like, “Yeah, I don't know what that is.”

Melanie Avalon: I'm really shocked that people don't know more about it. In the past week, I have talked to basically two of the main figures in that-- it's not even a movement because people aren't really aware of it, but in that sphere, and talking to them and doing research, I am blown away, how we're not thinking about this more. Basically, what it is like really long story short-- and you can ask Chad this, since this is about molecules.

Gin Stephens: I'm sure, yeah.

Melanie Avalon: Apparently there are three types of hydrogen. There's hydrogen, like hydrogen bombs that doesn't really exist anymore. There's proteome, which is the type of hydrogen found in normal water. Then there's deuterium, which is hydrogen with an extra neutron on it, so it's heavier than normal hydrogen, and so water can be made of both types of hydrogen. The heavier type, the deuterium-- because water goes into our mitochondria and is used for energy, the deuterium literally wrecks our mitochondria. It gunks up, which for listeners, if you're not familiar, our mitochondria are the part of our cells that generate energy in our body. When we take in high levels of deuterium, it literally slows down and impedes the entirety of our body's energy processes. I'm just blown away.

Gin Stephens: Was water naturally deuterium depleted or didn't have it? How's this happened?

Melanie Avalon: Like, why is it worse now?

Gin Stephens: Yeah.

Melanie Avalon: Well, yes, the water changes. It has changed throughout time. We naturally deplete it through healthy practices. What's interesting is one of the guys that I interviewed this week, which has to do with the story, he said he thinks basically, the reason everything is helping the way it helps us, fasting and cold exposure, sauna, exercise, is because it's depleting deuterium. He thinks it's the common factor. He actually thinks it's the common factor in cancer. Yeah, so fasting depletes deuterium. A lot of the lifestyle things that we do that are considered to be unhealthy encourage deuterium buildup. The story is, I first heard about this-- Gin, I think you were on the interview, because it was our interview with Joovv, or I don't know if it was my interview, or the one that we both did. Do you remember it coming up ever?

Gin Stephens: Well, it's been so long.

Melanie Avalon: Yeah. When I interviewed Scott at Joovv, because I've interviewed him twice, and one of them was on this show. That's the first time I'd ever heard of deuterium. It was because I remember us both-- like I can see in my head, us both listening to him, talk about it. He had mentioned Dr. Que Collins, and this was literally like two years ago. I was like, “I’ve got to track down this guy, and bring him on my show.” A few months ago, I didn't reach out to him, his agents or his people reached out to me and asked if he could come on the show. I was so excited because I've been wanting to interview him for two years. We had the interview this past week. Gin-- Okay, so I got on the call and he started, freaking out, fanboying saying that he just realized this week that he was interviewing with me and how he's been a fan of me.

Gin Stephens: Oh, wow.

Melanie Avalon: For a long time.

Gin Stephens: That's so awesome.

Melanie Avalon: It was crazy. I was like, “What? People know about me?” People I really look up to and respect, but it was just really, really exciting because I always feel I'm looking from the outside in through a window into the biohacking world. So, it's really exciting to know that people consider me--

Gin Stephens: You're inside the house.

Melanie Avalon: Yes. [laughs] I always feel I'm like looking in the window.

Gin Stephens: I know. Me, too. I know exactly what you mean. “What do you mean you've heard of me? What? Huh?”

Melanie Avalon: What? He was legitimately excited, and I was like, “This is so wonderful.” I'm really happy. For listeners, I will report back because, not him, but the other deuterium figure that I talked to, they're going to send me two months of deuterium-depleted water. So, I'm going to do a deuterium depletion protocol and test my levels before and after, and see if it changes my life.

Gin Stephens: How do you test them?

Melanie Avalon: I'm not sure what the test is. I know there's a saliva test, a breath test, might be a blood test. I'm not sure.

Gin Stephens: Well, that's so interesting. I can't wait to hear. I'm not going to say I want to do that, as long as you don't have to do it while you're in the cold shower.

Melanie Avalon: No, the cold shower would help though. You do have to make all of your coffee with the deuterium-depleted water.

Gin Stephens: Yeah, that makes sense.

Melanie Avalon: Yeah. Right now, what I'm doing is they want me to figure out how much water I drink per day so they can know how much.

Gin Stephens: Oh, that would be tricky, because I have no idea. I'm really bad at tracking and measuring things.

Melanie Avalon: Drink out of the Whole Foods liter, so I'm just seeing how many I drink per day.

Gin Stephens: Right now, I'm drinking a mug of hot water.

Melanie Avalon: You and your hot water, I don't think I'm ever going to do that.

Gin Stephens: I know, because I'm freezing. I'm so cold. It's so good, though.

Melanie Avalon: But I like being cold.

Gin Stephens: I don't.

Melanie Avalon: It's just hot water.

Gin Stephens: It's so good. I promise you. It's delicious.

Melanie Avalon: So is cold water. [laughs]

Gin Stephens: Yeah, I drink that too. It just makes me feel soothed from the inside out.

Melanie Avalon: Cold water on your body.

Gin Stephens: Hot water from the inside out.

Melanie Avalon: Yep. All right. Shall we jump into everything for today?

Gin Stephens: Yes, we have some feedback from Samantha and the subject is “Eating with Family.” She says, “I keep hearing about moms who are trying to IF having issues with family meals. That's definitely an issue for many of us. Today's question partially had to do with the family having to wait around while mom finishes her meal. One of my children and I had this discussion yesterday. Kids are conditioned to eat quickly at school. We need to teach them to eat slowly at home and away from school. It's healthier in the long run to eat slowly and hear your body's cues and savor your food. Let's encourage moms to teach this. It helps everyone with the dilemma.” Man, I love that that is so true, as somebody who was a teacher for 28 years. They have, in Georgia, I don't know what it is everywhere else, but in Georgia, at our school, where I worked, they had 30 minutes, these were elementary kids, 30 minutes in and out of the cafeteria. That didn't mean 30 minutes at the table, because if you were running a little late to the cafeteria, or if the person who was before you in the lunch line [clears throat] teachers who are always late, that's my pet peeve because I was always on time. They were late and they would get there and they would hold you up or the lunch line, if it was pizza day. Your class might take eight minutes to get through the lunch line. Then, by the time they're seated that eats into their 30 minutes, maybe that 10 minutes is gone. You only have 20 minutes, and maybe they get up 30 minutes early, so they're really cramming in the food.

Melanie Avalon: Yeah, I remember that from the entirety of my school. I remember it being very distressing to me, because I like to have plenty of time. I don't like being just, in general, I don't like being rushed. Yeah, by the time you get your food, it was very, very brief that you actually had to eat. I think that's a huge problem. I think kids having to go to school so early, the sleep deprivation and everything.

Gin Stephens: Right, and that might not be their typical circadian rhythm of stage of their life of when they would want to get up or eat. Yeah, I love that idea. Instead of feeling like you have to keep up with their fast pace, teach them to learn from you and slow down.

Melanie Avalon: We don't talk about it much. I think it's one of my favorite things about intermittent fasting one meal a day is just how incredibly long I take to eat my meal. I love it. I love savoring it. I don't miss rushing meals.

Gin Stephens: Yeah, I don't like to be in a rush either. Absolutely not.

Melanie Avalon: All right, so now we have two questions about coffee that I'm going to read. The first one is from Christina, the subject is “How much black coffee?” Christina says, “Is there a limit to how much coffee you can drink? I'm in my second week of the clean fast. I'm not very good with water, so drinking a few cups of coffee in the morning. Thanks.”

Gin Stephens: Okay, you want me to answer that one now?

Melanie Avalon: Sure.

Gin Stephens: Okay, there really isn't an answer to that that would be universal. I've talked before about being a slow alcohol metabolizer. Meaning that the rule of thumb that we hear is that it takes an hour to metabolize one unit of alcohol, whatever that might be in terms of whether it's wine or beer, whatever. Well, that's not true for my body. My body clears alcohol more slowly, so I have to drink less alcohol than someone else. Then, you can also be a slow caffeine metabolizer. That's the thing. My DNA indicated I was not a slow caffeine metabolizer, thank goodness. So, I can handle caffeine better. Thank the Lord, I'd be so sad if I metabolized everything slowly, but coffee is not a problem for me. Wine is. I think you know when you're having too much, you can feel it. If you feel like it's affecting your sleep negatively, cut back on it. Our bodies tell us when we're having too much of something generally. When we look at long-term research on coffee, there is an association between longevity and coffee consumption. So, I wouldn't worry about, like, “Oh my gosh, is this bad for me?” If you feel great, you're probably fine.

Melanie Avalon: That was exactly what I was going to say was its individual, the caffeine metabolism rate. The half-life of caffeine-- I was thinking about this actually last night, because I was reading Shawn Stevenson's new book, Eat Smarter. He had a whole section on the half-life of caffeine and slow and fast caffeine metabolizers. He was saying the half-life of caffeine is about six hours, which means after you drink coffee, six hours later, half of the caffeine is gone. But that would completely depend, I think, on if you're a slow or fast metabolizer. In any case, I feel like just finding the amount that supports the best energy level for you without creating a slump or a drop, and also, which doesn't interfere with your sleep-

Gin Stephens: Yeah, I think that's great advice.

Melanie Avalon: -I think is huge, and that can be really different amounts for different people.

Gin Stephens: You know what really freaked me out when I realized I was a slow alcohol metabolizer, was the idea that maybe I accidentally did drunk driving the next day, without even meaning to. I would sleep all night and wake up. Let's say I'd been at the beach and then I had to drive home, was there enough alcohol in my system because I would never drive after drinking. Never, never, never. If I had one glass of wine, I wouldn't drive. But it's the next day, you're thinking, “I've been sleeping. It's 12 hours later, it must be fine.” Maybe I wasn't. Anyway, that freaks me out to think about because I'm such a law-abiding person. I would never-- I was like, the Uber girl, I would Uber everywhere the night of, but anyway.

Melanie Avalon: I do want to throw out there. I do think in general though, I go back and forth. I do a lot of research. Sometimes, I'm like, I want to drink no coffee, I want to be like no stimulants, no depressants, no, nothing, just water and fasting. The studies pretty consistently show that moderate coffee consumption tends to correlate pretty well to so many health benefits.

Gin Stephens: It's those polyphenols.

Melanie Avalon: Mm-hmm. I feel like it's that thing that if you like it, it makes you feel good, you should embrace it because it has benefits. Then maybe, occasionally, if you want to do a coffee fast where you're not drinking coffee to see how you feel, the self-experimentation that can be fun. I think this is just me speaking to my own insecurities. If it works for you, keep drinking it.

Gin Stephens: I also want to point out one thing that Christina said, she said, “I'm not very good with water.” I want to point out that there's a lot of guilt associated with water consumption these days. It's like a spin that's out there in society that you must force yourself to chug water all the time. Think back, Melanie, you follow the paleo lifestyle back in paleo days, were they carrying around jugs of water all the time?

Melanie Avalon: I highly doubt it.

Gin Stephens: Doubtful. We don't need to think of water consumption as guilt. There's also a mistaken truth, which means it's not true. It's a mistaken truth that people will repeat over and over-- because you know how when people just say things over and over again, you begin to accept it as it must be true, because I've heard so many people say it. They say, “Coffee doesn't count as your water.” I've looked into that, I've researched it, that is not true. Coffee is mostly water. The reason that whole thought comes from the fact that coffee maybe slightly dehydrating, but it's not more dehydrating than the amount of the water that you had with it. It doesn't make you have negative water balance. Let's say you have a cup of coffee, it doesn't suck out more than a cup of water from your body. You're still on the plus side. Would you be more hydrated if it were 100% water instead of coffee? Maybe. It's not going to be like negative hydration. Stop with that guilt.

Melanie Avalon: That's what I had heard as well, what you just said. Now I'm just thinking-- okay, follow this train of thought, let me know what your thoughts are on this. I wonder, however, that aside-- because one of the things I talked about in the deuterium interview was the potential ability of a given water substance to hydrate ourselves. There are a lot of factors that affect whether or not water actually is taken up by ourselves and hydrates us. I wonder if depending on context, it could be possible that coffee is dehydrating if the caffeine acts as a diuretic, so it pulls water out of the cells but because of the nature of water or your body or whatever, you're not necessarily getting the hydration benefits from the water.

Gin Stephens: Everything I've read says that it does not have a net dehydrating effect. You know what I'm saying? It doesn't deplete you. It adds water to your body.

Melanie Avalon: Yeah, I have to revisit all of that.

Gin Stephens: I've researched that because people ask that all the time, and so I'll be like, “Let me look again, see what I see.” It always reinforces that everything I've found.

Melanie Avalon: What do they measure?

Gin Stephens: I don't know.

Melanie Avalon: I'm wondering if they're measuring your-- I don't know the answer to this, I'm just thinking, is it they're measuring your total body water because that might not necessarily indicate hydration within the cell.

Gin Stephens: Well, here's the thing. We know that there are people out there that don't ever drink pure water by itself. Never. They always are drinking a fluid with something else. They don't drink water, they drink juice, they drink tea, they drink coffee, they drink soda. Those things are mostly water. They are liquids and they count. When you eat soup-- Actually, I've even read about-- you can actually get so much of your fluid intake through your foods, like that counts too. Like eating a carrot. Obviously, we're fasting during the day so that we would not be getting carrot fluid during your fast. But even just eating vegetation gives your body fluids.

Melanie Avalon: Most whole foods are mostly water, compared to processed foods which have no water. Even meat is extremely high in water. Which people, I think, find very shocking.

Gin Stephens: Well, our whole body is mostly water.

Melanie Avalon: Yep, exactly. I think we're 98% water.

Gin Stephens: I'm not sure, I can't remember. The point is, is that fluids are fluids. Don't be guilty about what your fluid is, whether it's coffee, whether it's tea, whether it's pure water. We're not that fragile. Some people have found that, “Hey, when I up my water intake, I do seem to have better weight loss.” All right, well, then nothing wrong with that, but stop with the guilt over it.

Melanie Avalon: I was just looking it up because I don't know why I have 98 in my head, something from our water conversation was 98% I the deuterium thing-- we're up to-- on average about 60%.

Gin Stephens: That's what I thought. I was thinking it was more like two-thirds.

Melanie Avalon: Muscles can be up to 79%.

Gin Stephens: It's been a long time since I've taught that lesson in the elementary science class but in my head, I was thinking two-thirds.

Melanie Avalon: Brain up to 85. I don't know what that 98 number was.

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Melanie Avalon: Shall we read our next coffee question?

Gin Stephens: Yes.

Melanie Avalon: We have a question from Sarah. The subject is “Black Coffee.” She says, “Hi ladies, I'm about two weeks into IF. I'm trying to stick to 20:4. A couple times a week I end up at more like 16:8. I have found when I drink black coffee in the morning, I end up feeling so hungry, but when I skip it, I feel great. I love the taste and routine. So, I'm hoping that this is just part of the transition. Should I continue to skip it a few weeks, then try to introduce it again? I'm not adding anything to it. I grind my own whole beans, whole two shots of espresso, and add hot water to it. On a side note, I've been walking two to four miles each day while fasting and I love it. I listened to your podcast while I walk and it makes the time fly.”

Gin Stephens: All right. that's a great question. You're only about two weeks in. So, it's really, really hard to say whether it's the coffee or not, but you are right on target, Sarah, when you say that you need to experiment and see. You'll just need to try fasting without it. But give a solid try, a week, see what happens. Even maybe wait till your body adjusts because that is another factor the adjustment period. you'll just have to try it and see. Some people are awfully confused about coffee and whether it breaks a fast or not. Here are some of the common misconceptions people have. First of all, people think that when they drink coffee and then their stomach growls, that means it broke the fast. No. Stomach growling is a mechanical action that does not indicate your fast is broken. Also, some people think-- they'll test their blood glucose, and they'll say, “Oh gosh, every time I drink coffee, my blood glucose goes up. Coffee is breaking my fast.” Again, no, that's not what that means.

Coffee stimulates the liver to release stored glycogen. The glycogen is coming from inside you and being released into your bloodstream. Then, your body uses that glucose, that glycogen that was released and then your blood glucose goes back down. But remember, we want to stimulate or we want to deplete the glycogen in our liver over time, that's not a bad thing. Because once your body doesn't have that source of fuel from the liver, the glycogen, you can tap into your fat stores. Don't feel that blood glucose going up is a bad thing. Don't feel a stomach growl is a bad thing. Now, if you feel shaky or nauseous after coffee, that would be an indication that it's making you hungry, it might be dropping your blood glucose. Keep that in mind, keep those distinctions. A lot of people just are confused about all those concepts. What would you like to add, Melanie?

Melanie Avalon: I thought that was great. I just put on my-- I don't even know what number continuous glucose monitor we're on now, but I just put a new one on. For listeners, if you have a continuous glucose monitor, it can be really fascinating to see how your blood sugar responds to things like coffee and how it responds throughout the fast and all of that. But yes, I agree.

Gin Stephens: Totally fascinating. It really, really is.

Melanie Avalon: I wonder if it's both caffeinated and decaf coffee that makes her feel hungry.

Gin Stephens: Yeah, I don't know that. She said--

Melanie Avalon: Oh, wait, it's espresso.

Gin Stephens: You could have decaf espresso.

Melanie Avalon: Oh, true. I always associate espresso with caffeine. That just might be something to try, one or the other. The opposite of whatever you're doing.

Gin Stephens: Yep. We are very much an experiment of one. All right. We have a question from Shelley, and this is subject, “Podcasts. How do you listen to so many?” Therefore, we know this was for Melanie.

Melanie Avalon: [laughs] Because Gin does not listen to podcasts.

Gin Stephens: Even if people send them to me, they're like, “Please listen to them.” I don't want to listen to that one. I don’t have time.” Shelley says, “I started IF at the beginning of 2020, and pretty much stuck with the program for the entire year. This was the bright spot of my 2020. I lost 30 pounds and felt in control of my eating. I still have about 15 pounds to lose, but I'm confident that I can do it. My question, every time I hear Melanie say, ‘I listened to that on a podcast,’ which she says all the time. I always wonder what does she do when she's listening to all those hundreds of podcasts? I listen while I do my stretching, strength training, and while I do housework. If I sit down at night to listen, I fall asleep. It really is a burning question. What are you doing while you listen, Melanie? Thanks for all you ladies are doing in the IF world.”

Melanie Avalon: Thanks, Shelley, for your question. I basically have an audiobook or podcast going-- I'm just thinking about the phrase 24/7 because the phrase 24/7 means constantly, but technically, it's not 24/7, because we don't do anything 24/7 except be alive or breathe. I basically listen 24/7 and whenever I'm doing something that doesn't require concentration, so something I can multitask with, I just have it playing in the background all the time. Driving, exercising, working on website, blogs, it's just always playing. It's like the soundtrack of my life. If I need to focus, I listened to music instead.

Gin Stephens: Yeah, I always listen to music, except for if I'm trying to focus, then I can't even listen to music.

Melanie Avalon: If it's something where I can't be distracted, I listen to instrumental music, movie scores.

Gin Stephens: I have to have quiet. I do much better with quiet.

Melanie Avalon: Have you ever tried the focus music with the specific binaural beats are like--

Gin Stephens: I've tried it even in my classroom with students. Yeah.

Melanie Avalon: Does that work for you, or no?

Gin Stephens: I do better in quiet. I just do. I do better in quiet.

Melanie Avalon: I go to the grocery store every single day because I must go to the grocery store every single day. On the way there and then while shopping and all that, I listen. There's so much to listen to. One of the most freeing decisions I made-- I feel this was right around the beginning of when the pandemic started, but I just had a moment where I was like you don't have to try to listen to every single podcast ever. If I saw any podcasts remotely related to something I wanted to know about, I would put it in this to-listen list, and it was getting so long and I was getting so overwhelmed. Then, finally, I just let it go and I was like, “It's okay. You don't have to listen to everything. You can listen to what you want to listen to.” That has been very freeing. I encourage listeners, if you have that trait at all, where you think you have to do all the things, you don't have to do all things.

Gin Stephens: That's very true.

Melanie Avalon: All right, so the next question comes from Hannah. The subject is, “What if I don't just know?” Hannah says, “Hi, Gin and Melanie. You always say that if something breaks your fast, you'll know. My question is that if I don't have a reaction to my fast being accidentally broken, does that somehow indicate that my body isn't really getting into the fat-burning state? I've been doing IF for nine months with an average one meal a day of 21:3, and an occasional meal-less Monday, thanks, Roxy.”

Gin Stephens: Roxy is one of my amazing moderators. She leads a thread called meal-less Monday, where people who are doing an alternate daily fasting approach and fasting on Monday, they fast together in the thread and cheer each other on one. Then, Tuesday is their up day.

Melanie Avalon: Very cool.

Gin Stephens: She's pretty awesome. She's also been on Intermittent Fasting Stories, and I consider her to be a great friend.

Melanie Avalon: Awesome. Well, thank you, Roxy. She says, “I lost 20 pounds in the first four months that I am maintaining, which I am just delighted about. However, I still have at least 50 pounds to go and I've been stalled for several months. I know I'm insulin resistant because I was diagnosed with PCOS five years ago. Luckily, I was still able to have my two little ones. I recently had my fasting insulin tested and it was at 10. I keep telling myself that this plateau is just my body healing on the inside, but as I listened to your podcast, I'm also realizing that I don't have the same sensitivity to a broken fast that other IFers experience.

I've never felt shaky or hungry by accidentally licking a finger while cooking. I've had a sip of sweet tea before thinking it was unsweet and had no reaction. I've also tested myself by sipping something flavored on purpose and nothing happens. What could this mean? Am I not getting into the fasted or fat-burning state in the first place, and this is causing my plateau? Is my insulin resistance so severe that this is just going to be a very long road for me? Would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you so much for continuing to devote yourselves to spreading the word about IF. You two are truly a blessing to so many people.”

Gin Stephens: This is such a great question because it gets into the physiology of insulin resistance, high levels of insulin, and you've got the data there, which makes it, Hannah, your data shows beautifully what I'm going to explain. We've talked about chronic high levels of insulin, hyperinsulinemia are not good for our bodies. You've got PCOS, which is linked to high levels of insulin. Your insulin was tested, and it was at 10, which is higher than you want to have it when you're really metabolically in a good place. You know that you're insulin resistant. Hand in hand with high levels of insulin, we typically have high levels of blood glucose over time as well, because insulin resistance, it's that whole path you go down. Your insulin goes up, up, up, up, up over time. Then people generally start having more trouble with their blood glucose swinging up and being chronically high. Your A1c may be high when you have it tested. Then eventually, you may end up diagnosed as type 2 diabetic with the high blood glucose that's chronic.

Let's think about what would happen if we tasted something sweet and we were normal. My blood glucose is at normal levels during the fast. Melanie sees that with her CGM, I saw that when I wore mine for the Zoe test, my blood glucose was at a normal level. It ranged up and down a little bit, but it wasn't high, it wasn't low, it was just in that normal range up and down. Here it goes. If I had had something sweet, like a sip of sweet tea, and my body released insulin in response to that, the insulin would have cleared away some of my blood glucose and I would have had a crash. I would have felt shaky, I would have felt hungry. In fact, that's what happens to me when I have for example, Starbucks, that Nitro Cold Brew. It apparently tricks my brain into thinking that something sweet and creamy is coming, so I have a cephalic phase insulin response. I always get shaky and starving after having it. I think it makes my blood sugar crash because I've had an insulin response.

However, if my blood glucose was already high, and then I had whatever that is, the sweet tea, that Nitro Cold Brew, the sweet whatever it is, the licking your finger, my body can pump out a little insulin and bring down my blood glucose, but not enough for me to feel it as a low. I'm not going to be shaky because my blood glucose didn't go down into that shaky range. It just went down, maybe now it's a little more normal, if my blood glucose had been high before now it's normal, but I don't feel it. That's why you can't use the you'll know a thing. I actually don't always say that you'll know. In Fast. Feast. Repeat., I actually say this is not a foolproof way of telling. It just depends on what your blood glucose is doing. Did I explain that well enough, Melanie, did that make sense?

Melanie Avalon: That was beautiful.

Gin Stephens: I need people to be able to see me because I'm doing all these hand motions. [laughs]

Melanie Avalon: That's funny, and just a reference for listeners for insulin levels, because Hannah said that her fasting insulin was at 10. If you'd like to learn all about insulin, like a deep, deep, deep dive, check out-- I'll put a link in the show notes to the interview that I did with Dr. Benjamin Bikman for his book, Why We Get Sick, really, really fascinating. That was actually I think, my first episode of the New Year and people just loved it. He talks about insulin in deep depth, and he recommends-- is it less than a 6, I think, insulin levels?

Gin Stephens: Yeah, I think 6 is really good for metabolic health. 10, I was going to say this, and I'm glad that you mentioned it, because I forgot. 10 is “normal.” If you got a 10 and somebody was looking at it, who didn't really understand ideal. They might say, “Oh, 10, that's normal, you're fine.” Well, also, insulin resistance is sadly normal these days. Just because you're in that normal range, doesn't mean you're at an optimal, healthy level. Yes, 6 is a good something to aim for, or below.

Melanie Avalon: He said, ideally, your blood insulin levels should be less than 6 micronutrients per milliliter of blood. 8 to 9 is the average for men and women, but it's not good to be average. In this case, a person with 8 actually has-- this is interesting, a person with 8 actually has double the risk of developing type 2 diabetes as a person with 5. He recommends less than 6, the technical average is 7 to 17. Greater than 18 is considered conventionally an issue. But like he said, less than 6.

Gin Stephens: Mine was less than 5.

Melanie Avalon: Yeah, mine was, I think, 4 or something when I got it tested, which made me really happy. I was like, “What if it's really high?” I just want to echo what Gin said about really fabulous that Hannah has done this testing and actually has these markers. Just out of curiosity, Gin, so let's see, we got this question from somebody else. They actually didn't have PCOS and their insulin was really good. They had this experience-- I don't know, have you come across have people have this experience where they don't perceive being insulin resistant?

Gin Stephens: We're all different in so many ways. We all probably are likely to have a personalized insulin response as well. My husband has very low levels of insulin. They were in the twos. That is very low. Here's something about Chad that I've said before, he's never struggled with his weight. He's always been very, very thin, the biggest his waist ever got was 32, for a man that's really small. Having low, low levels of insulin, could he drink diet soda all day long and probably be fine? I don't know, but he probably pumps out less insulin than I do. I think that we're all different when it comes to how much insulin we pump out. He might be able to “get away with it.” Obviously, that wouldn't be recommended, because I think over time, it's not going to have a good effect long term. But it would explain why people have different responses because we really do pump out different levels of, I mean, everything.

Melanie Avalon: Yeah, with insulin resistance, one of the main issues is your baseline insulin basically has to be higher to keep everything at the same place that another person would be at. That person's body who's insulin resistant, in a way, they are experiencing the same effect and the same body processes as a person with lower insulin levels, but just the bar is all set up way higher.

Gin Stephens: It inches its way up over time.

Melanie Avalon: Yes, it definitely does, slowly. Dr. Benjamin Bikman talks about that. It doesn't happen overnight. It's not like you wake up insulin resistant and you were fine the day before. It's a slow, insidious creep, which is nice, because that means there's a lot of time to reverse that.

Gin Stephens: Well, one of the best articles I ever read was the one that talked about how are we testing the wrong thing with A1c. I can't remember the name of the article, but it was written, I think, by a nurse practitioner, I can't remember, but it was, we're measuring A1c and it would be much better if we measured insulin levels, fasted insulin levels, because that's the precursor to A1c going up. So, if we tested fasting insulin levels, if someone had high fasted insulin, but a normal A1c, we know that's, like, “Well, we're on the rise up.” Eventually it follows along.

Melanie Avalon: For listeners, A1c, it's a longer-term picture of how long and how often the extent to which your blood sugar levels are elevated, because when your blood sugars are elevated, it glycates your blood protein, so it's looking at how glycated are your blood proteins. The turnover for those is three months. It shows you in the past three months what has your overall blood sugar-- you don't get a blood sugar number, obviously, but it's showing how severe was your elevated blood sugar levels.

Gin Stephens: When you start fasting, it isn't going to affect your A1c that day, it takes time.

Melanie Avalon: Right, because like I just said, three months is how long it takes to-- I don't know if that's the half-life or the turnover. I'm not sure. I wish they did test insulin instead.

Gin Stephens: I want to get back to what Hannah said, “Is this just going to be a long road for me?” Well, yeah, it is more likely to be a long road, which I know is not what you want to hear. But if you know you have PCOS, you know you're insulin resistant, that is where strategy, more alternate daily fasting than one meal a day is what I would recommend. I would recommend more down days, maybe a 5:2 hybrid approach. Instead of just meal-less Monday, have Monday and Thursday. You're coming up with a hybrid approach, unless you want to do straight ADF, which is every other day, but that's pretty intense and it was a lot when I tried it. Of course, it's been years, five years ago since I did that. What I would probably start with for you is maybe Mondays and Thursdays, as meal-less days, you can also experiment with them as a down day with the 500-calorie down day approach, reread that chapter of Fast. Feast. Repeat. to remember, you know why to do it like that if you want or how to do it. Monday and Thursday down days, that would mean that Tuesday and Friday would be up days, those are metabolic boost days where you need at least two meals, three is also fine. Then you could do one meal a day the other days if you like it, that would be okay. Having those two longer fasts a week, that Monday and then that Thursday fast, 36 to 42 hours, two of those a week would really help bring down your insulin even more.

Melanie Avalon: One other thing I will draw attention to is-- this made me happy that she realized this, she said she knows she's insulin resistant because of her PCOS diagnosis. PCOS is considered-- definitely within the holistic health world, it's pretty much considered that insulin resistance is usually a, if not the primary cause of it. Actually, when I had Dr. Bikman on, I asked him, like, “Is it accepted now that that's basically the cause?” He said not conventionally, but usually basically that's the cause. I know a lot of women struggle with that. There’s been so many studies on-- I think when it comes to females and fertility and hormones and fasting, a lot of the studies on fasting females is often looking at PCOS. It's usually very beneficial, which does not come as a surprise, since we know how fasting affects our insulin sensitivity. It's very exciting.

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Gin Stephens: We have a question from Jessica. The subject is “Q and A.” She says, “Hi, Gin and Melanie. I love your podcasts. Thanks for everything that you do. I was just listening to an interview with Robb Wolf on another podcast and he was talking about how important it is to get enough protein. He was basically saying that while it is really important that we don't eat around the clock, so maintaining some sort of daily fasting protocol, it's also really important to get enough protein in and it's not easy to do that if you fast too much. He specifically called out one meal a day as being incompatible with sufficient protein intake.”

Melanie Avalon: He hasn't met me. [laughs] Wait, he has met me. Oh, my goodness, he has met me. Never mind.

Gin Stephens: Well, he also doesn't follow my definition of one meal a day. Hmm. [laughs] I'm sure he probably is thinking it's 23:1 because that's what people are nowadays, that just has become the definition of it. Even though back in 2015, when I started my one meal a day group, we were the very first one meal a day group on Facebook. We've never considered it to be 23:1. Ideas take root and now pretty much the idea is one meal a day is 23:1. It's hard to get that out of everybody's minds if they're using that terminology everywhere. I will never consider it to be 23:1. I know you don't do 23:1. I bet you, he's talking about 23:1. I have never one time in my life suggested that everybody do 23:1. I just want to say that.

Melanie Avalon: I feel this happens too often where ideas get crystallized about certain things and then they they're just spit out as fact. We were talking about this earlier in the show. Just today in my group, somebody was asking about one meal a day and then somebody commented and was like, they said, “You can't lose weight on one meal a day. It's just for maintenance.” Then they quoted somebody. I'm just like, “I don't know.”

Gin Stephens: That's just suddenly spouted out as truth. [laughs]

Melanie Avalon: That's why actually one of the only rules of our group is phrase everything as opinions. It's so important with all of this that we say, I think it's the case that this is the way it is, because we realize we don't know anything and it's so easy to just spit out something as a fact and then once one person hears it, everybody hears it.

Gin Stephens: All those tens of thousands of people that have been in my groups that have lost weight with one meal a day, they didn't really lose weight. Okay. No, they did. They did lose weight. [laughs]

Melanie Avalon: I do not all like censorship or anything like that, but I do debate if somebody says something as a like straight-up fact, even if it's a fact I agree with, it's really important to me that we add, “I think,” because all it takes is people reading things as facts and then they run with it. It's like the telephone game where you whisper one thing, and then it changes. So, tangents. Shall we finish her question?

Gin Stephens: Yes. She goes on to say, “I found this a bit concerning as I have been fasting for almost a year now. For the last several months, I've been doing 20:4, which is pretty much one meal a day.” Well, yeah, as Melanie and I define it, yes. Maybe not as Robb Wolf defines it, that would be really important to know, maybe he was talking about 23:1, and I suspect he was. “I know you both follow a loose one meal a day protocol and I, of course, know how much Melanie appreciates the paleo lifestyle and Robb Wolf is a proponent of it. I thought you guys might have some helpful insights. Thanks again and keep up the awesome work you do. Jessica from Portland.”

Melanie Avalon: All right, Jessica. Thank you for the question. Yes, I'm a Robb Wolf fangirl, if there ever was one. For those who are not familiar, he wrote the New York Times bestselling which Gin is also a New York Times bestseller. He wrote The New York Times bestselling book, The Paleo Solution. He also wrote Wired to Eat. His most recent book called Sacred Cow, which is actually-- I had him on the Melanie Avalon Biohacking Podcast for that show. I'll put a link to it in the show notes. Yes, he is basically one of the founding father figures of the paleo movement. He is big, big, big on the role of protein and the importance of protein and diet. We actually talked about this in that interview that I did, I brought him on for Sacred Cow. The interview was about the environmental impacts, and the implications of having or not having animals and regenerative agriculture and the future of our environment. One of the most fascinating conversations and books I've ever read.

If I had them on the show, I obviously going to ask them all the other things. We did talk a lot about protein. It's funny, because, yes, a lot of people will say that you can't get enough protein in a short eating window. Actually, when I had Cynthia Thurlow on the show, she as well said, especially for women, that she finds this often to be a problem. I actually do think this might be a problem for a lot of women, because they don't have the problem that I have, which is I could eat-- I have the opposite problem. I can eat so much protein, animal protein which is the most complete form and dense. I can eat pounds and pounds of it easily. I don't have the experience of struggling to eat enough of it. When I aired the episode with Cynthia Thurlow-- listeners, if you're interested in this, also listen to that episode because we dive even deeper into protein. We did talk about this how much protein especially women need and how it might be a problem with fasting.

When I posted that episode, I was actually really surprised that that was the thing that my audience seemed to identify with, or it really hit home with him the most because I do a weekly giveaway in my Facebook group where you can comment what you learned from the episode and so many people said that hearing that about protein intake was a really big thing for them. I think we already said this, but no, I do not think one meal a day is incompatible with sufficient protein. I don't think that at all.

That said, I think there's nuances to it. I think some people if you're struggling to eat enough protein, which I recommend probably one gram per pound of body weight and that's on the high side compared to the conventional recommendations, because the conventional recommendations, the standard American recommendations, I think it's one gram, I could be wrong-- but I think it's one gram per pound of lean body mass, which ends up being less, but I like to aim for one gram per pound of body weight. I personally have no problem achieving that. If you do find that you can't really get enough protein in your one meal a day, I think there's nothing wrong with having a longer eating window to accommodate for that.

Also, if you're specifically looking to build muscle, you don't have to have protein throughout the day to build muscle to support muscle. Not at all. We talked about this so many times on the show. That said, if you're looking to make substantial muscle gains, I think there is a benefit to having punctuated times a protein intake set apart, because there is a cap to the amount of muscle growth that you can do at any one time. If you want to get a growth stimulus twice throughout the day, you'd probably need to have two separate protein meals, that might be more accommodated by a 16:8 approach.

Long story short, I think protein intake is key, key, key. Emphasizing it is super important for health, for bone health even. For weight loss, it's a highly thermogenic food. It supports body composition, it supports health, we need protein. Yes, I think you can get it in one meal a day, but if you're not, definitely be open to lengthening the window.

Gin Stephens: Yeah, I think that's great. Also, don't forget our bodies are recycling protein during the clean fast. That's one of the things that happens with autophagy. Not all of our protein intake has to come from food you're putting into your mouth, just keep that in mind. One thing I love, and I actually learned it from you, Melanie, since you read more about it is Ted Neiman’s protein leverage hypothesis, which makes so much sense, because I don't listen to podcasts. I've never heard him on a podcast say it, but I've read about it since you mentioned it.

Anybody that's read anything I've written or listened to me on this podcast knows that I'm a big believer that our bodies communicate with us and want us to have what we need. We get signals like hunger, when we're not sending what we need to our bodies, if we're not sending enough nutrients down. The protein leverage hypothesis is that basically, protein is a need that we will meet and our bodies will say keep eating, keep eating, keep eating until you've met that need. I think that's true. Just with myself, I think it's really true. I think it's true for lots of nutrients, but protein specifically, because it's something we really, really need. I don't always eat meat. I had meat last night, let me think, am I going to have meat tonight? Yes, I'm going to have meat tonight, then the next night I won’t because I'm thinking about the meals I have in my kitchen, with my Green Chef meals.

Anyway, with the meals that I have coming up that I have in my kitchen, I'm not going to have meat every night. But if I go several nights in a row, and I don't have meat, maybe a week with no meat, my body is like have some meat. I think my body lets me know when I need more protein. Or maybe I'll feel like throwing eggs on something, or I'm just not satisfied. I really think it's true for me. My body lets me know when I need more meat or more protein, I also get a lot of protein through beans. I wouldn't worry about it. Unless you feel like you're hungry, if you are not satisfied, it might be that you don't have enough protein and consider having more.

Melanie Avalon: I 100% agree with the protein leverage hypothesis theory. I am not full in my one meal day until my body I think has received the protein that it needs. It's so interesting people often posit fat as being super key for satiety, but it doesn't create the same satiety effects that protein does, for example, it doesn't encourage longtime satiety. According to at least Ted's book, protein is the only macronutrient that encourages both short term and long-term satiety, sorry, that's a tangent, but I think we think protein is very important. It all comes back to what we always say, which is N of 1 and find what works for you. I'd be really interested to know what interview, Jessica that you were listening to where he said that, I just would like to hear what he said. Feel free to send it.

Gin Stephens: Yeah, that would be great to know.

Melanie Avalon: Well, this has been absolutely wonderful. A few things for listeners before we go. If you would like to submit your own questions to the podcast, you can directly email questions@ifpodcast.com or you can go to ifpodcast.com and you can submit questions there. You can follow us on Instagram. I got sad because I checked to see when this was airing and I thought maybe this would have aired before Valentine's Day, but this will be after Valentine's Day. Friends, if you're not on my Instagram, get on it, because on Valentine's Day, I'm giving away so many epic things on Instagram.

This week we're doing a signed book giveaway for Dr. Alan Christianson’s The Thyroid Rest Diet. Yesterday, I put up a giveaway for $3,000 worth of blood tests from InsideTracker give away completely free. Then on Valentine's Day, Apollo Neuro, the sound wave therapy device that I have, that I'm obsessed with, they asked if I wanted to give away two on Valentine's Day.

Gin Stephens: Like for a couple?

Melanie Avalon: Because they were like, “Do you want to do giveaway?” I was like, “Sure,” they're like, “Do you want to do for Valentine's Day?” I was like, “Sure.” They're like, “Do you want to give away two?” I was like, “Sure.” [laughs] Basically, friends get it on my Instagram, because there're so many things.

Gin Stephens: If people, they're going to miss it, no, it's too late, because this will already come out, but you join today because you never know what's coming out tomorrow.

Melanie Avalon: I know. I'm on the giveaway rollercoaster now.

Gin Stephens: I'm not going to give you anything, you can look at my cat.

Melanie Avalon: [laughs] I know. Gin is not the giveaway. [laughs] You could give away signed copies of your book.

Gin Stephens: I could.

Melanie Avalon: I give away a lot of Beautycounter on my Instagram.

Gin Stephens: I'm going to show you my cat, and if I do something fun with beans, [laughs] and that's pretty much it.

Melanie Avalon: I think it's so fun. Check us out on Instagram. You can find all the stuff that we like at ifpodcast.com/stuffwelike. All right. Well, this has been absolutely wonderful. Anything from you, Gin, before we go?

Gin Stephens: No, I think that's it.

Melanie Avalon: All right. Well, I will talk to you next week.

Gin Stephens: All right. Bye-bye.

Melanie Avalon: Bye.

Thank you so much for listening to The Intermittent Fasting Podcast. Please remember that everything discussed on the show is not medical advice. We're not doctors. You can also check out our other podcasts, Intermittent Fasting Stories and the Melanie Avalon Biohacking Podcast. Theme music was composed by Leland Cox. See you next week.


Check out the Stuff We Like page for links to any of the books/supplements/products etc. mentioned on the podcast that we like!

More on Gin: GinStephens.com

Theme Music Composed By Leland Cox: LelandCox.com

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