Welcome to Episode 223 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.
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18:55 - Listener Q&A: Emma - The Longer The Better?
33:45 - Listener Q&A: Alison - How often should i change up my fasting window?
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Melanie Avalon: Welcome to Episode 223 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 Fast, Feast, Repeat. The Comprehensive Guide to Delay, Don't Deny: Intermittent Fasting. 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 223 of The Intermittent Fasting Podcast. I'm Melanie Avalon and I'm here with Gin Stephens.
Gin Stephens: Hi, everybody.
Melanie Avalon: How are you today, Gin?
Gin Stephens: I am doing fabulous. How about you?
Melanie Avalon: Good. Happy Fourth of July.
Gin Stephens: Yep. Happy Fourth of July to you, although the listeners will have celebrated that way in the past. [laughs] We're recording on the Fourth of July.
Melanie Avalon: This is true. I feel like we record on a lot of holidays.
Gin Stephens: Well, we tend to record on Sunday afternoon. Holidays happen on Sunday. Yeah. [laughs]
Melanie Avalon: We're always like, “It's a holiday. Do you mind?” We're like, “No.”
Gin Stephens: I don't mind. We record in the middle of the afternoon. I'm not often doing anything in the middle of the afternoon.
Melanie Avalon: Yes, so true. I have some things to share.
Gin Stephens: All right. Well, I can't wait to hear.
Melanie Avalon: First one is, I just finished reading-- his name is Dr. Jonathan Lieurance, and I heard him on Ben Greenfield. He has an entire book about melatonin, like an entire book about melatonin. Not so much-- Well, yes, it's rolling sleep, but basically, it's rolling a ton of processes in our body. But he pointed out something that had never occurred to me when it comes to eating windows in the evening or the morning. You know how we have this whole debate about is it better to eat in the morning or evening?
Gin Stephens: Yes.
Melanie Avalon: Did you know the pancreas has receptors for melatonin. Melatonin tends to be inversely correlated to insulin. Basically, at night, when in theory, our melatonin should be higher, our insulin is lower, which could be a reason that late night eating is less than ideal, because there's not as much insulin to deal with the glucose load, but glucose levels might stay elevated more at night, which is like-- I'd read that a lot, but I was not aware that the pancreas had melatonin receptors.
Gin Stephens: Although I will say once you're metabolically healthy, like, just, for example, from people that we've heard about who've had their insulin tested, the wide range of fasting insulin levels, for example. It's going to be so different from person to person. Maybe that's why it varies, why an evening eating one day might be more of a problem for someone who's super insulin resistant, but not as much of a problem for someone who's healthy.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. I mean, I still eat really late at night, and I'm not changing that.
Gin Stephens: I can't sleep when I eat in the morning and don't eat at night. I can't wrap my head around why that would be better.
Melanie Avalon: I feel like it just goes back to, if all things are controlled, it's probably better to eat early, but it doesn't practically manifest for a lot of people.
Gin Stephens: I still don't think we can make that generalization. Just based on the way that people have tried different things and the way they feel the best. Most people have not found they felt the best with the morning eating window. Some people do, but I don't think we can make any sweeping generalizations. I almost wish we didn't even have all that research. Instead, the only thing that mattered was the study of one and how you feel.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, I'm not trying to make an argument either way, because I think people should do what they want to do, but I was just fascinated because I was like, is it just the studies not taking into account the fact that most people who do an intermittent fasting late night eating window haven't eaten during the day, so they might be more insulin sensitive, but I never come across this third factor, which seems to be completely independent of insulin sensitivity, and that regardless of your insulin sensitivity baseline, melatonin is going to compete with insulin at night. It could be different if you had high melatonin during the day, so I just found that interesting information.
Gin Stephens: It is interesting. My only fear is that then people try to force themselves into trying to do this-- what they have now perceived as now ideal, you know what I mean? They're like, “Oh, well, this is better. So, I'm going to do it,” and then it doesn't work out. Then, they quit completely, because they're like, “I just couldn't do that.” I don't know. But don't let striving for some kind of a theoretical perfection, make you do things that don't feel the best for your body. There are a lot of people who do though. They're like, “Well, I read it, I heard that blah, blah, blah is better, so I'm trying to force myself to do it.” Then, it didn't feel natural.
Melanie Avalon: Do you think a lot of people do that? Where they try early because they think it's better and then they stop?
Gin Stephens: I think you'd be surprised at how many people do.
Melanie Avalon: They stop intermittent fasting?
Gin Stephens: Well, I think a lot of people stop when things are hard. There are people who try to do what they think is the best thing to do. Then, they're like, “Well, I can't do it. If I can't do it the right way, I'm just not going to do it.”
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. I feel very comfortable and being open to lots of ideas. I try really hard to not be wedded to any one idea, even if it works for me. I thought about that a lot with the diet example. I think the reason it works with a diet example, like vegan versus carnivore and stuff like that, is that low carb works really well for me. I think carnivore in theory works really well for me. I so desperately want to be vegan in theory, that keeps me very open to everything. I think it's the same situation with this. Late night eating works well, for me, so well. That said, I feel like the ideal approach is not what I'm doing. So, I don't have to ever worry about confirmation bias because I literally think the other [laughs] thing might be better. I was just thinking about it. Gary Taubes was talking about in an interview with Peter Attia.
Gin Stephens: I just think we try so hard to define better, and forget that there is no universal better. We're assuming there is, I think there's not.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, I think there's the better for the individual. Any individual probably has something that will at that point in time work better for them.
Gin Stephens: Right. Which is why I want people to not look for theories necessarily, work on yourself as a study of one, like I was saying. Anyway, it is also very interesting theoretically to consider.
Melanie Avalon: I don't think we should be scared of the science though.
Gin Stephens: I hope I'm not sounding scared of the science. I just don't think there's science that confirms here is what is better. I haven't seen it. [laughs] I haven't seen that science yet. Anything that made me convinced that, “Oh, gosh, they're right, that is universally better.”
Melanie Avalon: Well, I haven't seen any science showing that late night eating is better, and I've seen a lot.
Gin Stephens: I've never said late night eating is better either. See, I've never defined ‘better.’ For me, actually, late night eating is not what I do. That's not better for me. I tend to be more late afternoon, early evening, because I probably am done eating before you're starting, truthfully. I'm usually done by 7:00 PM.
Melanie Avalon: Are you typically done before it gets dark?
Gin Stephens: I usually am.
Melanie Avalon: What you're doing would probably fit very well into this paradigm of melatonin and pancreas receptors.
Gin Stephens: Unless it's the winter. I will rephrase that. In the summer, I'm usually done eating before it gets dark. In the winter, I am not. I'm usually done by 7:00 or 8:00. So, you can tell by the seasons, some seasons that’s dark and some seasons it isn't.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, I feel like it's light out so late.
Gin Stephens: Well, it is in the summer. [laughs]
Melanie Avalon: Other quick update. I'm still working on developing a serrapeptase supplement.
Gin Stephens: How's that going?
Melanie Avalon: It's going well. I'm really, really torn about the exact formulation to use, which speaks to the ongoing debate about all the serrapeptases out there currently on the market. My biggest question is, should the enteric coating be on the capsule or on the individual serrapeptase itself? These are the things.
Gin Stephens: [laughs] The debate goes on.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, listeners can stay tuned, because when I do move forward with it, I think we're probably going to do like a preorder special, where we're going to make it the lowest price it will ever be. It's just special for the preorders just for my audience. I'm really excited. I can't wait to actually move forward with all that.
Gin Stephens: Yeah. Again, I will not be producing a supplement. [laughs] Even a magnesium supplement, even though I take that daily.
Melanie Avalon: Depending on how the serrapeptase does, I could eventually-- the supplements that I take personally anyways, I can make my own version of them. Like I take a vitamin D, so I could make a vitamin D.
Gin Stephens: Right. Well, that makes sense, because you'd be more certain about the origin. I get it.
Melanie Avalon: Anything else new with you?
Gin Stephens: No. I'm back home from the beach. It's very quiet in Augusta compared to being at the ocean. Two weeks by the ocean, literally by the ocean all the time, I come home and like, “Why is it so quiet?” [laughs]
Melanie Avalon: It's really quiet in my apartment.
Gin Stephens: Yeah, it's quiet at my house. I like it.
Melanie Avalon: I like quiet.
Gin Stephens: Yeah. Me too. Although I do love the sound of that ocean. That's a noise I can get behind.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, I haven't heard that in a long time actually.
Gin Stephens: What, the sound of the ocean?
Melanie Avalon: Mm-hmm.
Gin Stephens: When's the last time you went to the beach?
Melanie Avalon: Probably almost a decade.
Gin Stephens: Oh my gosh. Get to the ocean.
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Shall we jump into everything for today?
Gin Stephens: Yes. All right, so we've got a question from Emma, and the subject is “The longer the better?” Without even reading it, I'm going to say the answer is no. [laughs]
Melanie Avalon: There's that word ‘better’ again.
Gin Stephens: Whatever this is going to be about, there's never going to be a case where the longer is always going to be the better. Sometimes the longer is too long of anything. Here we go. She says, “Hi, Gin and Melanie. I started intermittent fasting three months ago and recently found out about your podcast. I really enjoy listening to it and found this as a great support resource. Thank you both so much. I am 5’6” and my starting weight was 150 pounds. I had been losing 15 pounds. I hope to lose another 10 pounds.” Let me do some math there. She started at 150, she's lost 15 pounds, so that means she's right around 135. She wants to lose another 10 putting her at 125 is her goal. Is that how you're interpreting that, Melanie?
Melanie Avalon: Yes.
Gin Stephens: Okay. All right. She said, “I first adopted 16:8 and then gradually went to 20:4. Finally, one meal a day eventually, because I did not feel hungry. However, two weeks ago, I started using an IF app to track my fasting time, and I became very competitive. I developed the mindset that the longer the better, and only 28-hourlong fasting can trigger autophagy, the app indicated this. Shoutout for, ‘I would like to punch that in the face.’” [laughs] I don't like apps that make it so cut and dried like that, that make people think-- that's just an example of that.
Melanie Avalon: That's not even a true statement.
Gin Stephens: No, it's not true. That makes me so frustrated that now someone's got an idea that, “Oh, I can only get this if I do that.” Now, it's messing up her happy fasting. She said, “I can fast for 48 hours, and only have a one-hour eating window. I might have started to develop--” Of course, I'm not a fan of that. I keep putting in my own words there, sorry, instead of just reading the question, let me keep going. “I might have started to develop an unhealthy relationship with IF and want to change back to one meal a day, but I am very afraid that I will gain the weight back. Scale moves like crazy with long fasting. Have you experienced or seen someone with a similar mindset? Is it a good strategy to go longer to boost more weight loss, and gradually move back to a more sustainable schedule? Thank you so much for your time.” Ooh, so many thoughts. [laughs]
Melanie Avalon: Actually, this reminded me of something that has happened since our last recording, Gin. I interviewed Dr. Longo. So, that ties a lot into this because I've mentioned him a lot before, Dr. Valter Longo, He's the one at USC who studies fasting a lot. He has the fasting mimicking diet, which is a five day fast that is supposed to create the effects of an extended fast, like Emma is talking about except you do eat a little bit during it. To start, so many things here. First of all, we talked about this before. Autophagy, and for listeners who are not familiar with autophagy, it is a process in our bodies where the body goes down and breaks down old protein buildups and recycles them to make things anew. And it's kind of like cleaning house. It's a really, really great cellular process, happens in the entirety of our body. And mind-blown fact, it actually is happening all the time. Yes, all the time. Well, I don't like to say absolute, but according to the science, the research that I've read, some form of autophagy is happening somewhere in your body all the time. Granted, there are things that ramp it up considerably, so that would be exercise, coffee, fasting, but it's still always happening.
Gin Stephens: Yep, and also decreased autophagy is so linked to diseases of aging. As our bodies start to slow down autophagy, the things that we do like eating all the time or overeating, that makes our bodies downregulate autophagy and leads to, like I said, increased aging. So, we want to have increased autophagy. That's the key.
Melanie Avalon: Interviewing Dr. Longo with his extended fasts, it is true one of the key benefits of extended fasting is you do really, really ramp up autophagy. Doing longer fasts, yes, you are going to really, really ramp up autophagy. That said, for longer fasts, and this is just my personal opinion, I would not go to them for weight loss. I would go to them more for, like she said, wanting autophagy, but not as like a daily thing, like I just want more autophagy, I would do it as a concentrated thing with a goal in mind. But as far as the actual weight loss, I know she's seeing a lot of results with her longer fasting, and that's probably very exciting, and it makes sense because she's asking about people who have this similar mindset. It's a dangerous slope, though, because seeing those really intense results from a longer fast on the weight loss side of things can make you perceive-- not that you're addicted, but think that that's the only way or make you crave those really quick results. It's not sustainable, which is a word that she used.
I actually personally don't think that it's the best way to go about weight loss, because the amazing thing about one meal a day or a daily intermittent fasting is that you get the weight loss benefits, but you also get daily signaling to your body with your eating window that the body is not in a state of intense fasting or famine. So, you don't get the potential downsides of the metabolism dropping or what's the word, the body compensating for the long fasts.
Gin Stephens: Like panicking.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. You're mitigating all of that. It's very sustainable and it is supporting weight loss without the potential negative effects that might come with weight loss from longer fast. I know she's worried about gaining weight by switching back, going back to a meal a day. I wouldn't be worried about that, because one meal a day as a start tends to-- well, depending on who you are, but especially if you have weight to lose, and especially depending on what you're eating, it tends to promote weight loss or weight maintenance. Weight gain is less likely, for most people, I think, compared to those two options. Two, the weight might slow down, because you've been doing really long fast, and now you're not doing really long, fast. Or, you may perceive that you're gaining weight just because of food volume, and water retention and things like that. But it's very, very sustainable, and it can still lead to weight loss. Also, don't underestimate the power of food choices. If you're making concentrated food choices that in and of themselves, macronutrient wise, are just unlikely to create weight gain. On top of that, coupled with one meal a day, you can put your body in a situation where it would be very unlikely to gain weight. Those macronutrients would be high carb, low fat or low carb, high fat, but with the low being actually low, not sort of low, so, 10%, I have more thoughts, but Gin, would you like to jump in?
Gin Stephens: Yeah, I'm having a hard time figuring out where to start with my answer. First of all, Emma, I would stop using the app, because if you're starting to feel like you've got to do more and more and more, that starts to get into what to me feels like a red flag for disordered eating. For example, in Fast. Feast. Repeat., I talked about fasting red flags, where you need to start becoming concerned. One is when you start feeling, like you said, very competitive, and that you need to fast longer for whatever reason. It seemed like that you got triggered with the app, making you think that you only were successful when you reached what the app told you was successful. Again, these apps that say, “Now you have ketosis, now you have autophagy,” they're just estimate based on big, broad ideas.
The whole idea that autophagy, like Melanie already discussed this, autophagy doesn't start at a certain time. It does get upregulated over time as you're fasting, but we don't need to be at this Mach level, turbo autophagy all the time. We don't want to assume that more and more and more is going to be better, better, better. Cleaning our house, for example, we don't want to never clean our house, our house will get really messy. But you don't want to only clean your house all the time, that's what people do when they have OCD, that's not good either. There's a happy medium where you're doing the right amount of house cleaning that your house needs. The same with your body. And that's where the daily eating window approach, as Melanie already said, is so great, because we have time every day where you do one thing, the autophagy is upregulated because we're fasting. And then, we have time during the day where we're doing the opposite end of the spectrum, we're eating, we're nourishing our bodies.
Like with sleep, we have an amount of sleep that's good for us. Sleeping a lot less than that is not good. Sleeping a lot more than that is also not good. You're like, “Well, sleep is good. I'm going to sleep for 20 hours a day,” that is not good for you. So, you’ve got to find the balance of what feels right. Already, this is not feeling right to you, because you're turning it into, “Gosh, I got to meet this, what this app tells me.” I would delete that app from your phone right now. Also, I want to talk about something you said, you're fasting for 48 hours and then eating one meal, or having a one-hour eating window. Then, I guess you're getting into another fast. That to me is really worrisome, because for some reason, we know or we've gotten the idea that fasting cannot lead to lowered metabolism, and it absolutely can I talk about this in Fast. Feast. Repeat. Now, do we know the amount of fasting that will make your metabolism suffer? No, we don't have research on that. We do know from that one study I talk about all the time, where they tracked people for a 72-hour fast. We know that metabolic rate went up over time, and then it started to go back down again, so that by the time they got to hour 72, the trajectory was downward. This was with one 72-hour fast. You can't assume that fast after fast after fast, it's going to do that exact same thing.
If you did 72-hour fast, then a one-hour eating window, then another 72-hour fast, for example, you wouldn't expect it to have that same exact curve that it had in the first one. Eventually, your body is going to think, “Gosh, there's really not anything coming in, I’ve got to slow down my metabolism.” Fasting for 48 hours and having a one-hour eating window, if you keep doing that, your body is going to slow your metabolic rate, it's going to try to conserve energy because it wants to save you. It doesn't know that you're like trying to beat this app or whatever, trying to get to increased autophagy, because your app told you, that was a good thing, which is why I really don't like those apps, like I said, because they're giving people a false picture of what to even shoot for. You need to really think about nourishing your body, and that is equally as important. That's so important, putting in the right nutrients for your body.
I would also like you to really think about your weight loss goals, because at 5’6”, if you started at 150, and you've lost 15 pounds, it sounds like you're right in the middle of your healthy weight range right this minute. So, trying to lose an excessive amount of weight is not what I would recommend. I would let your body slowly and surely do some body composition. You may find you don't ever lose another pound. You might even go up five pounds, especially if you've been really over restricting with a lot of fasting, and then you're like, “Okay, I'm going to go back to one meal a day.” Also, I don't want you to define one meal a day as one hour, because it sounds almost like you might be doing that. Because you said you went from 20:4 to one meal a day. I consider 20:4 to be a great one meal a day paradigm because I don't really know anybody who's getting two full meals in a four-hour eating window. Our bodies really aren't going to let us do that without a lot of discomfort. I would think about 20:4, or even if you felt great at 16:8, try to find, maybe it's a six-hour eating window, maybe it's a five-hour eating window, maybe it varies from day to day.
Focus on instead of what the scale is doing and what your app is telling you and how fast your weight’s going down. I would focus on honesty pants, photos, your goal body because you sound, like I said, you're at a healthy weight for your body right now, and you want to get into a healthy pattern that feels good to you. I guarantee if you've been doing longer and longer fasts and fasting for 48 hours, then having a one hour eating window and then doing another one like that, you're going to see some weight regain, and your metabolism probably has little slowed. That doesn't mean you've like permanently ruined it. Long term, we can heal our metabolisms by nourishing our bodies well, and helping our bodies see that we're not in a restrictive paradigm anymore. I'm glad you reached out now, because you don't want this to go on long term. Do you have anything to add to that, Melanie?
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. I thought that was great. I liked your analogy about the OCD cleaning. I never thought about it that way. Just a last thought, just to echo something I already said, which is I think a lot of people just look at the fasting as the avenue to weight loss. When you're just looking at the fasting, the only option that you might perceive for increased weight loss would be more fasting, but the food portion of it is so, so huge. So, so huge, and you can make huge gains, if you look at the fasting and the food, and that doesn't require any more fasting than you're already doing if you're doing a one meal a day. I would look more at that than fasting and fasting and fasting.
Gin Stephens: Yeah. There's going to be a point where you've fasted so much that your body is going to rebel. Some people don't acknowledge that, but I think it's true. Our bodies want us to stay alive.
Melanie Avalon: Yep. All right. Shall we go on to our next question?
Gin Stephens: Yes.
Melanie Avalon: This question is from Allison. The subject is, “How often should I change up my eating window?” Allison says, “Hi, wonderful humans. I'm Allison and I'm a month into my IF lifestyle, and I'm hooked. I started at 177 pounds at 5’4”. I'm two years postpartum with a goal of 135. I'm already down to 163 and feeling great. I've been playing with my windows, and this week, I'm trying a different window each day. 16:8, 19:5, 20:4, 21:3, 22:2, 23:1, and then back to 16:8. Am I changing things up too much? Should I be doing this differently? Thanks so much, Allie.” I don't think we've ever received this question before.
Gin Stephens: Not one exactly like this, no. It sounds to me, Allie, your eating window is going 8, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and then it sounds like you'll be going 8, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, I didn't pick up on that. You're right.
Gin Stephens: I would absolutely not do it that way [laughs] because it's too regimented. My big push, my goal is to communicate with everyone that you can learn to listen to your body. What if the day that you have 23:1 on the books, you're hungrier because you just had a two-hour window the day before, and a three-hour window the day before, and a four-hour window the day before, and now you're really hungry, and you're going to try to force yourself to do 23:1, when really, you need a seven-hour eating window, because you've restricted for the past three days? I would be more a fan if you want to switch things up. 16:8 one day, 23:1 the next, 16:8 the next day, because that's a mild up down day kind of approach. To me, every day getting more restrictive, I would feel miserable about that 23:1 day and be tempted to binge because my body would be fighting back.
I would not try to artificially construct your eating window like that. Instead, what feels good? Are you full after three hours? Stop. Maybe tomorrow, four hours has gone by and you're still hungry, eat a little bit more, respond to how your body feels. Can you change things up too much? Only if your windows get way too long over time, that slippery slope of window creep, that could happen. Or, if you get too restrictive, that would not be good. As far as changing things up from day to day, as long as you're within the period of time where you're getting enough fasting, not too much fasting, enough of an eating window, not too much of an eating window, then I don't think it's possible to change things up too much within that paradigm. What do you think?
Melanie Avalon: I really like what you said. I can think of two situations where this might work. One would be if it just so happens that Allie tries this for a week and really likes it, then keep doing it. But if you experience any of the things that Gin was mentioning about feeling restricted by it, or it doesn't feel intuitive, or it's not creating the results and the ease that you want, then I would not do it. But I don't see anything wrong with trial running it out of curiosity and seeing how it does. I feel like for a lot of people, it probably would feel too restrictive. For some people, there might be the odd soul that it works really well. They like this pattern that they came up with.
Gin Stephens: I would like switch it around more, maybe if you want to have those exact numbers, but sprinkle them.16:8 followed by 23:1, followed by 20:4. Instead of having them sequential like that, where you're eating windows shrink, shrink, shrink, shrink shrinks.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, well, that's actually the second thing I was thinking of that, this could also be a scenario where somebody is trying to get to a smaller eating window, and they just slowly are shortening it every single day, but then they wouldn't be starting all over again. If the end goal was to get to a smaller eating window, it might manifest as something like this, but I don't think it would be repetitive or cyclical. You probably stay at the shorter eating window.
Gin Stephens: Again, I've said it before, I'm not a fan of too short of an eating window over time, over and over again, because then your body will adapt. If you do 23:1 every single day, it's more likely that your body's going to adapt to what you're doing than if you do switch it up from time to time. Again, just as we said with the previous question from Emma, longer is not always better. I do think changing things up and switching things around is good. But what makes me chuckle a little bit, Melanie, is that this sounds like something I would have done a plan, I would have made years ago when I was still very much in that that regimented mentality of, like, “I need a plan and I'm going to follow it.” I would try to make a plan-- I can remember one year sitting, it was like, “Okay, let me figure out what my maintenance plan is going to be. I'm going to do this many hours on Monday and Tuesday.” I was writing it all down. It's so much more peaceful when you really get to the point where you are listening to your body, and you're able to be in tune with it. Was I in tune with my body from day one? No. I know it might sound foreign to even imagine that one day, you're not going to need to really think about it that much. But you really won't. Do you know exactly how long your eating window was yesterday, Melanie?
Melanie Avalon: No.
Gin Stephens: Me neither. Or the day before?
Melanie Avalon: Um-hmm.
Gin Stephens: Me neither.
Melanie Avalon: I just don't want to give the impression that that means that you should jump straight into “intuitive fasting.”
Gin Stephens: No, and I even talked about that in Fast. Feast. Repeat., the whole 28-day FAST Start, it's more regimented and it's to train your body to become fat adapted. You're not going to be ready on day one. But the goal is to become intuitive with it. Again, this sounds like something I would have been like all over at the beginning. Even the first couple years, I wasn't comfortable with the idea that I could trust my body.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. I think especially in the beginning when you're not fat adapted and everything, and we just talked about this but just to make it even more clear, having a plan is a really great thing. It can be a really great thing, because you're probably not going to be intuitive at the beginning.
Gin Stephens: Yep. I would be cautious with an overly restrictive plan. If you say my plan is, I'm going to do 23:1 every single day for a month, I would be cautious about that. Give yourself a plan within something like a 19:5 or a 20:4 kind of thing and be flexible within either side of that, perhaps. Just my two cents.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. Thinking back to when I first started, I was rigid on one side and flexible on the other, and we've talked about this a lot before, but basically my rigidity, my plan was fasting a minimum amount of hours, but then I was flexible on the eating window. So, I didn't put an end cap to the eating.
Gin Stephens: See, I was the opposite. I didn't count my fast at all. My goal was to keep my eating window at five hours or less. It's all about what feels right to you. I've just heard people will be like, “Wow, I never thought of doing it that way.” Whatever the other way is. Whatever you're doing now, think about doing it the other way and see if you like that better. There are people who like both ways, and there is no better way. It's whatever feels good, and it might change for you from time to time.
Melanie Avalon: Super curious now, I think after we finished recording, I'm going to post a poll on my Facebook group and ask do people count the fasting hours or the eating hours? I'm really curious what the breakdown is. If it's like half and half or--
Gin Stephens: Yeah. What's interesting, if we go back in time, early days of intermittent fasting, really people, other than Brad Pilon, who had the Eat Stop Eat where he would go 24 hours, his goal was to go to 24 hours, a couple days a week. Other than that, everything was talked about with eating windows. We had Fast Five, which is where the five-hour window came from, or 16:8, where people were focused on that eight-hour eating window. It seems like the fasting apps that had the milestones in them really got people to focus on the fast.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, that's just what I always naturally gravitated towards.
Gin Stephens: Yeah, that's interesting.
Melanie Avalon: I feel claustrophobic in an eating window, in a restricted eating window.
Gin Stephens: It was what I needed, though. I needed that, “Now, your window is closed.”
Melanie Avalon: I guess also, when you're having a later eating window like I do, it naturally closes itself because of sleep. When you're eating up until bedtime, you can only eat so long.
Gin Stephens: That's true, because then you go to bed.
Melanie Avalon: If I had to do, for whatever reason, earlier eating window, I would probably count that eating hours.
Gin Stephens: And you would need to close it at a certain time.
Melanie Avalon: Mm-hmm. That'd be upsetting.
Gin Stephens: [laughs] The good news is you don't have to.
Melanie Avalon: I know. Thank goodness.
Gin Stephens: Yay. All right. So, we have another question, and this is from Theresa, and the subject is “Testing glucose and a long fast.” Theresa says, “Hi, Gin and Melanie. I love your show. I'm a member of your Facebook groups, have read your books, and started IF in September of 2020 after finding your podcast. I've been clean fasting since then, eight months. Mostly 16:8, but some 20:4, 22:2 etc. I've played around with my window, and I've also bought a lot of the biohacking gadgets, participated in the Zoe study, trying to figure out why I can't lose weight. I'm 39 work a desk job and not very active. I eat clean, mostly paleo/whole30 style. I don't drink much, occasionally a seltzer or a glass of wine, but not even once a week. I've put on about 25 pounds in the last year, putting me 50 pounds overweight and have struggled with energy. I am completely exhausted by 4:00 to 5:00 PM each day, which is why I'm not exercising. I have kids and it's all I can muster to get dinner going and help them with the bath, bedtime, and then I feel like I literally can't move anymore.
I was convinced it was my thyroid. I checked the box for every Hashimoto symptom, but I had a full panel and my numbers are okay. From listening to you, I knew to ask for TSH, reverse T3, T4, antibodies, etc., and they are all “in the normal range.” I realized they might not be optimal levels, but it wasn't the smoking gun I was expecting. I take serrapeptase in the morning fasted. I also take Selenium and I do think that it has helped with my energy level. I take Magnesium Breakthrough and Magnesium Calm at bedtime. I signed up for InsideTracker and my inner age is 45. They recommended I add AHA supplement, So I take the one from Thorne.
After hearing Melanie and Marty talk recently, I looked into data-driven fasting and did a test. I stopped eating at 6:30 PM on Wednesday, and on Thursday fasted clean, just black coffee, unsweetened iced tea and some LMNT Raw and tested my blood glucose and ketones with my Keto-Mojo. At 10 AM, my blood glucose was 111 and ketones 0.2, Lumen was 1. At 3:00, my blood glucose was 80, ketones 0.4, Lumen was 2. At 6:30 PM, 24 hours into the fast, my blood glucose was 91 and ketones 0.5, forgot to use the Lumen. This morning I checked at 8:30 AM, and my Lumen said 2, my blood glucose was 105, and my ketones were 0.4. Shouldn’t I have higher ketones and lower blood glucose at 38 hours of clean fasting? I'm perplexed.”
Melanie Avalon: Can I interject really quickly?
Gin Stephens: Yes.
Melanie Avalon: I probably should have said this before we read that part. For listeners, the Lumen is a device that measures if you're burning carbs or fat, primarily. When she's registering a 1 or 2, that is a fat burning mode. As you go up, 3 is carbs and fat, and 4 and 5 are carbs. It's not measuring ketones, or blood sugar, it's actually measuring levels of carbon dioxide in your breath, which they can show the source substrate of what you're burning. If you want to learn more about it, I actually have a Facebook group, I'll put a link in the show notes to it. Then you can also get a discount for Lumen if you like at melanieavalon.com/lumen. The code changes around, but I think right now it's MELANIEAVALON30 for $30 off, but we'll put a link in the show notes. Just to clarify for listeners, what's going on there.
Gin Stephens: All right. She goes on to say, “I'm perplexed. I feel like I'm doing all the things, but the weight won't budge. I've actually gained 5 to 10 pounds since starting IF. I have berberine on the way after listening to Melanie's most recent podcast with Shawn Wells. I'm a little hesitant to try longer fasting, but that really is what I haven't tried yet. This is my longest fast, but I'm apprehensive after hearing from Dave Asprey and others that women with hormonal issues shouldn't do extended fasts. I think my sleep is okay for the most part, but I have an Oura ring being delivered today. Blackout curtains changed my life. My stress level isn't anything crazy. I do wear my Apollo Neuro, I'm serious, I bought all the things and do breathing exercises. Before COVID, I was a yoga guide twice a week, so I'm sure my stress is higher than it was a year ago, but I'm pretty level most of the time. Should I try alternate day fasting? Do you think the longer fasts are what I need to start seeing weight loss? I don't usually struggle with hunger until about 20 hours into a fast but now that I'm at 38 hours and not hungry, if it's a mind game, I'm for it. Are there any other labs I should ask for?
I know something hormonal is off. I started taking birth control pills, low hormone, to help with period related migraines. I get two-to-three-day migraines right before my period and they are unbearable. I was also having terrible cystic acne despite a very clean skincare and makeup routine. I've been on clean beauty since 2014. The birth control pills immediately cleared up my skin and my migraines are still coming, but seem to last a day instead of two to three. Sorry to write you a book, but I don't want to be the listener that you can't help because I didn't give you enough info. What would you do if you were me? Thank you for all you do.”
Melanie Avalon: All right. Thank you, Theresa, for your question. I know this was a very long question and very specific to Theresa, but I think she touched on so many things that can probably help so many people, so I would love to address it. For starters, the fatigue. Fatigue often indicates that your cells are not receiving the energy that they need. It could be that you during the fast are not tapping into a fat-adapted state or a ketogenic state and that your cells are literally struggling to get the energy that they need. I know you checked your thyroid and you checked for all the things. I would do a full iron panel. When I say full, we want to make sure it has hemoglobin, iron, iron binding capacity, iron saturation, and ferritin, which a lot of the panels don't include ferritin. So, you have to ask for it specifically. Fun fact, even if you get the iron panel on the conventional list, I think with like LabCorp or something, it doesn't even include ferritin, like you have to add it on which is just shocking to me. A lot of women struggle with iron issues, and personally having had iron issues, the fatigue, you can get from it-- I'm not saying this is what you have, but it might be and for any other women or men listening, it could also be a thing. The fatigue from it is very intense. So, I would check that out.
As far as the weight loss and all of the things, I get a sense that for the weight loss, you're searching for a solution, a supplement or a lifestyle practice, like I get the sense that you're searching for the answer, and one thing outside of yourself. When I would step back-- this is for the weight loss, and I'm going to sound like a broken record, but I would look, first and foremost at the food choices. I know you said that you are doing a paleo/whole30 approach, but what are you eating in that paleo Whole30 approach. Out of all that we don't actually even know the macros that you're doing. So, are you doing low carb? Or, are you doing higher carb approach? Again, I don't know the answer, so I can't give an answer. But all of these situations may or may not be working. You could be doing low carb, and it could be that your body actually doesn't do well with low carb. Actually, you need more carbs. So, you might benefit from a fatigue level and an energy level, and even a weight loss level with more carbs, less fat, and just continuing the fasting, or might be the reverse. Maybe you have carbs, and you actually-- your body would do well with lower carbs, so you might want to try a lower carb approach.
I think people think that if they're doing fasting and Whole30 or paleo that checks all the boxes, and so that the automatically lose weight, especially if you're eating things like nuts, for example, there are a lot of foods that you can eat that actually are going to be weight promoting. Fasting is not an automatic, instant weight loss solution. It works really well for a lot of people, but it doesn't get rid of the potential for weight gain or weight maintenance or weight stagnation from food choices. Same with the food choices. Eating a paleo diet or Whole30 diet, doesn't automatically mandate or necessitate weight loss.
Gin Stephens: What you're saying is, just to summarize it for people, you can still overeat in an eating window, even if you're eating clean, paleo, Whole30, and then you won't lose weight, you might gain weight. That was what Melanie is saying.
Melanie Avalon: Perfect, thank you.
Gin Stephens: If you're overeating for your body, you're not going to lose weight, you'll gain weight.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, and I feel like a broken record, but that's why I so often suggest people trying either low carb and really low carb or low fat, and actually low fat because the tweaks you can make with the macronutrients, they set up your body, because of the nature of the macronutrients, to make it much more difficult to gain weight and much more likely to lose weight. She's gaining weight, and I get the sense that she's attributing the weight gain to the fasting, but she also mentioned a lot of other factors that happen sort of recently, they didn't all have specific dates, so it's hard to know how things lined up. How long has she been fasting? Eight months. One of them was, she went from doing teaching yoga to not, and she says she’s sedentary and doing a desktop.
Gin Stephens: There's something else out there, that's a huge red flag. She gained 25 pounds in a year. That's an indication that something's going on. She's only been doing intermittent fasting for eight months, but before starting intermittent fasting, she was gaining weight rapidly. There's some underlying something. I don't know what that is. We can't know, but something caused that to start happening in her body. I wonder if she's going through menopause.
Melanie Avalon: She's 39.
Gin Stephens: Oh, she did say 39?
Melanie Avalon: Yeah.
Gin Stephens: I doubt that's perimenopause.
Melanie Avalon: Another huge change is the birth control. That could have a major effect. The power of hormones is just so huge, and birth control is messing with the hormones. I even look back in high school for the same-- She's going on it for the migraines, and then she said it cleared up her skin. I shudder her so much about this. I went on birth control when I was 16 for acne. Just looking back, so I was never crazy overweight, but I gained a significant amount of weight really fast. I'm assuming it was most likely from the birth control.
Gin Stephens: I had that happen. I got an IUD that had hormones that it released. This is after I had both of my kids and I didn't want to have more kids. It was a hormonal IUD. I started gaining weight rapidly when I had been pretty weight stable. So, that was interesting. The InsiderTracker part is interesting because her inner age is six years older than her real age. How do they base that, is it like based on inflammation, just a wide variety? There's something up in her body.
Melanie Avalon: What they look at to determine your “inner age,” they test a lot, but the actual inner age thing looks at LDL, glucose, GGT. GGT, this is fascinating. People usually just test AST or ALT liver enzymes, but GGT is another liver enzyme, and it's actually specific to the liver. AST and ALT can be increased from exercise, but GGT is really just the liver, so it can indicate if you have elevated liver enzymes if it's the liver, or if it might be something else, like actually fasting or exercise. Sorry, so they also test DHEA, lymphocytes, triglycerides. How do you say the word? I've never said it out loud. Eosinophils?
Gin Stephens: Oh, I don't know.
Melanie Avalon: I've never said that out loud. I see it all the time on blood tests.
Gin Stephens: I do not see that all the time. Isn’t that funny?
Melanie Avalon: RDW, monocytes, basophils, total iron binding capacity, albumin, HbA1c, and BMI. That's what they test. I would be curious from her InsideTracker specifically, what were the ones that were raising her inner age. That would actually paint a better picture as well of what might be going on.
Gin Stephens: There's something going on in her body that started when she was rapidly gaining weight before she started intermittent fasting. It sounds like maybe the intermittent fasting has slowed the rapid weight gain, but it hasn't mitigated it. Now, she's slowly gaining weight instead of rapidly gaining weight. It's still you’ve got to figure out the cause, and that's so much easier said than done. I love what Dr. Jason Fung said, that always comes back to me. Obesity is a multifactorial problem, and you’ve got to find the root cause for you and address that. If it's not something fasting-- fasting might be one piece of your puzzle, but it may not be the only piece of your puzzle. Does that mean fasting doesn't work? No. But it may not be addressing the thing that is-- if your problem with energy is iron levels, fasting isn't going to fix that.
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Gin Stephens: Her main question was testing glucose in a long fast. What would you say to that part, Melanie? We haven't talked about that at all.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. I was just going to say we haven't answered that yet. I think people get really confused by this. Basically, if the body is not relying solely for whatever reason on fatty acids, the body can increase blood glucose, if it thinks it needs more sugar. Even if you are fasted a long time, even if your glycogen is depleted, well, if the glycogen is not depleted, it can pull blood sugar from your glycogen in a fasted state. If it is depleted, it can make blood sugar. The liver can make blood sugar through a process called gluconeogenesis. In the Lumen group that I mentioned earlier, my Facebook group, we have how many members? Maybe close to 5000 members, and people share their experience with Lumen a lot. A lot of people see this. They'll be in a fat burning mode, like 1 or 2 and then they fast longer, and it goes up, to 3.
Gin Stephens: Your body has introduced some blood glucose from somewhere or some glucose.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. So, so many people experience this. I think what's going on is that the longer into the fast, instead of the body being like, “Yeah, we're fasting, we're burning fats,” it actually is sensing it as a stress. So, it's upregulating blood sugar. I wouldn't be surprised that's happening. That said, she still stayed in a fat burning mode. She was asking, shouldn't I have higher ketones and lower blood sugar, I would not be surprised. For her at this point in time, a longer fast, her body is not responding with more ketones, it's responding with more blood sugar. It has that choice. We have very little consciously, very little control over this. Some people are going longer into the fast and for all of the reasons, their body is like, “Yay, we're going to rely on ketones more,” so it makes more ketones and blood sugar lowers. Some people's bodies say, “No, we're not going to rely on ketones more,” and it makes more blood sugar, and then the ketones don't go up.
Peter Attia has talked about when he went on a keto diet for a really long time and he's a doctor and testing all the things, he was saying it was shocking how long it took his body to fully keto adapt, like really, really long time. And that's with doing like a really, really stringent ketogenic diet and fasting. I think a lot of people experience this, because I think some people just never quite-- their body never quite gets to that point where they could do a 38-hour fast and not have this response. I always wonder if, like, everybody, if they just did it long enough, and by long enough, I don't mean fasting longer. I mean staying on a ketogenic diet, staying on the fasting long enough, would everybody's body eventually adapt to where they could go 38 hours and not have this response, or some people will this always be the case? I don't know the answer to that.
Gin Stephens: Yeah. We're all different when it comes to what our bodies do. I think of that normal distribution, the normal curve of everything from cat tail length to the height of a pine tree, they follow that normal distribution. There are people on either extreme of every factor, and that's going to be even how quickly your blood glucose goes down, or how well your body gets into ketosis. You might be an outlier on one end or the other. We're all just so different. Back to what I said about those apps before that treat us like we're all just carbon copies, and everybody's going to be doing bam, the same thing at the same time, that's why that make me so mad.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. Also, to answer her question, she's doing a 38-hour fast and she said that this is the longest one she's done, and she wants to know, should she do longer? Should she try alternate day fasting? I didn't plan this, but this was perfect. She asked the same question. Do you think the longer fasts are what I need to start seeing weight loss? Honestly, it goes back to the same answer I gave with Emma's question, which I would not necessarily turn to the longer fasting as the first thing to lose more weight or at all. [laughs]
Gin Stephens: I will say that an alternate day fasting approach or a hybrid approach, if you feel good doing it, that could be a great strategy. Maybe two down days a week, follow by up days, and then the other days having an eating window, that might be a sweet spot for your body. So, you can certainly experiment with that. Go back to Fast. Feast. Repeat. and look at the Intermittent Fasting Toolbox chapter and think about how you can try to experiment. But the thing that worries me, going back to the very, very beginning of Theresa's question, is that she doesn't have good energy even now eight months in. I just keep honing in on that as something's up. Even with the longer fast, I wonder did her energy-- at 38 hours, did she feel more energy? That would be interesting. If the answer is yes, when you’ve got to 38 hours, you did have more energy, then I would say maybe you do need to throw in a couple of down days a week. But if you still never got there even with 38 hours, made me think, no, that would not be the answer.
Melanie Avalon: I didn't pick up on this earlier.
Gin Stephens: There's a lot here. [laughs]
Melanie Avalon: I know. That she's 50 pounds overweight, I'm assuming that's by the conventional BMI standards, I would really look at what you're actually eating. And not physical activity to lose weight, but just because there's a lot to moving around compared to a desk job, sedentary, especially if she was doing like yoga before, so that's a big change. There's so much, the hormones, the exercise, the food, definitely check the iron panel. And I'm really, really curious if you check the iron panel, if you find something, let us know. I'd be really, really curious about that.
Gin Stephens: Yeah, me too.
Melanie Avalon: I would just say that being anemic can feel like death. It can just feel like fatigue, and you just can't move, that's what she said.
Gin Stephens: That is what it sounds like to me. I was going to say iron too, but you said it first.
Melanie Avalon: She says I feel like I literally can't move anymore, I would really check the iron. Having been there, that is exactly what it feels like. All right. Well, this has been absolutely wonderful. A few things for listeners before we go. If you'd like to submit your own questions for the show, you can directly email firstname.lastname@example.org or you can go to ifpodcast.com and you can submit questions there. The show notes will be at ifpodcast.com/episode223. The show notes will have a full transcript and they'll have links to everything that we talked about. I’ll also put links to all the stuff that Theresa talked about lumen, the Oura, the Apollo Neuro, all of the things. Magnesium Breakthrough, she really did touch on a lot of things. And yes, you can follow us on Instagram. We are @ifpodcast, I'm @melanieavalon, Gin is @ginstephens. Anything from you, Gin, before we go?
Gin Stephens: No, I think that's it.
Melanie Avalon: All right. Well, this has been absolutely wonderful and 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.
STUFF WE LIKE
Check out the Stuff We Like page for links to any of the books/supplements/products etc. mentioned on the podcast that we like!
Melanie's What When Wine Diet: Lose Weight And Feel Great With Paleo-Style Meals, Intermittent Fasting, And Wine
Gin's Delay, Don't Deny: Living an Intermittent Fasting Lifestyle
Feast Without Fear: Food and the Delay, Don't Deny Lifestyle
Fast. Feast. Repeat.: The Clean Fast Protocol for Health, Longevity, and Weight Loss--Including the 21-Day FAST Start Guide
Clean(ish): Eat (Mostly) Clean, Live (Mainly) Clean, and Unlock Your Body's Natural Ability to Self-Clean
More on Melanie: MelanieAvalon.com
More on Gin: GinStephens.com
Theme Music Composed By Leland Cox: LelandCox.com
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