003: What Goes On In Your Body During Intermittent Fasting

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There is so much more to intermittent fasting than just not eating. There are so many hormonal changes that your body goes through when you decide not to eat... that are beneficial to your overall health vs. eating. In this episode, Kay is going to unpack the biological science of how intermittent fasting works and discuss facts on how your overall lifestyle can increase your health longterm. If you've ever wanted to have your mind blown with a simple notion of not eating, you're going to want to tune in.

There is so much more to intermittent fasting than just not eating. There are so many hormonal changes that your body goes through when you decide not to eat... that are beneficial to your overall health vs. eating. In this episode, Kay is going to unpack the biological science of how intermittent fasting works and discuss facts on how your overall lifestyle can increase your health longterm. If you've ever wanted to have your mind blown with a simple notion of not eating, you're going to want to tune in.

Hey Good Girls! I hope you are having a great day today. Thank you so much for tuning in for my third episode. You all have no idea how much I appreciate and love you all. I have well over 300 listeners engaging with the Good Girl Gone OMAD podcast and I’m so happy. It’s motivation to keep providing you guys with content because that means that you all are genuinely interested. I talk to you all about my results and experience with intermittent fasting but if you were to boil it all down, you’re listening to me go on and on about not eating. Crazy right? I know… So thank you again and again! Keep listening, keep sharing and keep the comments coming.  

Over here at Good Girl Gone OMAD, we’re all about doing the minimum. In a world that’s constantly pressuring us to do more, be more, take on more, share more and eat more. I honestly think that intermittent fasting is one of the few methods in the world that encourages us to STOP! Seriously, slow the hell down, and be mindful about what you are doing. If you’re new to the podcast, definitely check out my previous episodes where I share more about myself and about incorporating intermittent fasting into your lifestyle. Ok onto the episode.

So by now I hope you’ve seen my pictures that I’ve shared on my IG page on Tuesdays, because that’s Transformation Tuesday. That’s such a good day of the week by the way and many of you all are so gracious to take the time to send me notes about how inspiring my story is … but it’s a few of you out there, SNEAK DISSING in my comments. So I’ve gotten a couple of messages in response to those photos from followers that say things like “well of course you’re losing weight doing intermittent fasting because you aren’t eating any calories”. I take that to mean that the only reason I’m able to lose weight and post pictures on Transformation Tuesday is because I’m not ingesting any calories. Let’s be real here, just because you restrict your body from calories does not mean that you’ll lose the weight. It’s not that cut and dry. Give your body a little bit more credit than that. Like seriously give God the credit that he deserves for creating such a dynamic, intelligent being. There are 7 billion people on this Earth, and they still call doctors “practitioners”. Studying the human body is a practice, not an exact science because the body is so magical. They can not figure out exactly how you are suppose to lose weight. So if it was so simple to not eat calories, I think every one would do it and no one would be complaining about how hard it is.

I’m not slighted by these comments, I’m moreso motivated to share the knowledge that I have so that you know for yourself that what we are doing here is not just calorie restriction. I want to use this episode to dispel this myth that we are only losing weight because we are not eating calories. Today we are going to dive deeper into what the heck is going on in your body during intermittent fasting? Why does it work? How does it work? We know that losing body fat is hard, whether you want to lose 50 pounds or 10 pounds, it makes no difference. We can hypothesize that eating and drinking zero calorie snacks everyday won’t get you to your goal either. But for some reason, many of us continue to buy into this gospel that weight loss is about calories in vs. calories out. We track our calories on our phone, we track our calories on our watches as if at the end of the week it’ll be POOF! magic body. When is enough going to be enough? So I am going to share with you, and break down the science on why intermittent fasting is not just about lack of calories but more about your body’s mechanical composition. It goes way beyond the consumption of calories. It’s fascinating…

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I want to go ahead and tell y’all right now that this is going to be a bit of a heady conversation. I’ll be dropping some scientific bombs on y’all so just allow me to geek out a little bit and maybe take you back to 6th grade biology because it is mind blowing how the body processes things. Don’t worry though, you’ll be able to follow along.

All of this information that I’ve gathered is from months and months of research. I’ve mentioned before that I didn’t start off knowing a lot about intermittent fasting, matter fact the only thing I cared about in the beginning of this journey were the hours that I needed to eat and the hours that I didn’t so that I could lose weight. So a funny but rather embarrassing story about what led me to read into intermittent fasting more than just the surface stuff. Honestly, I’m very embarrassed by it but want to be honest with you all. So listen, I’m about 2 months into practicing intermittent fasting and I got an invite to go out to a party. I don’t go out often so I was super excited to get dressed up, hang out and dance. Well any one that knows me, knows it takes me a good 5 hours to get ready in order to go out. There is a lot of prep work that I have to do before hand. First I gotta get mentally prepared, then I have to do hair, makeup and find an outfit… and typically I would pre-eat. Yeah, I know I’m silly. I always had to eat something before I left. So that’s about an hour per phase. An hour on hair, an hour on makeup and hour for showering and deciding what to wear and then I have to eat. That’s easily 5 hours. So, I can’t remember the exact time but let’s just say this party started at 9, which means I needed to start getting ready at 4 o’clock, well nothing that evening went according to plan and I didn’t start getting ready until about 7. Talk about speed... at this point I’m in extreme rush mode, and mid-way through trying to do my hair and put on makeup I realized I haven’t had anything to eat. I didn’t want to go to a club and not eat. I mean I anticipated having a few drinks but I didn’t want to do it on an empty stomach. I didn’t have time to get in the kitchen to make anything so I just start eating handfuls of bread. Just stuffing my face with bread. At this point I’m all carbed up! And at the time, it sounded like a novel idea. Y’know? “Eat tons of bread and it’ll help soak up the alcohol” … yeah right? Where do we get these theories from? lol, anyway…

So in a previous life I had a very high tolerance for alcohol. I mean extremely high, so high I’d make other people around me nervous. I’d be fine, sort-a-speak but based on the number of drinks they see me with they think I’m making myself sick… I’m talking like 4 strong drinks minimum, none of that fruity sweet stuff either, seriously it was very strange. I was definitely not a cheap date. … I’m talking high alcohol tolerance, ok! 

So I made it to the party and of course drinks are everywhere and I’m having a few drinks, nothing out of the norm for me. I was having so much fun, I’m dancing, laughing, cracking jokes. Everything felt all good until a few people decided to leave and go out to eat afterwards… at this point I realize, I’m drunk. Like drunk in a way really bad way. I wasn’t obnoxious or belligerent but I definitely didn’t feel in control. But food sounded like a REALLY good idea at that point. So I’m just following a friend of mine from the group and hop in the backseat to go and grab some greasy food. The embarrassing part of this story is not the drunk part, no no! The embarrassing part is that I’m in the backseat of someone’s car that I clearly don’t like. They’ve rubbed me the wrong way for YEARS! Not an arch enemy but definitely a “if I see you I don’t speak that means i don’t f*** with you” Cardi B kinda vibe. How in the world did I get into this girls car? We did go to the restaurant and I passed out sleep at the table. And what made matters worse is I had to leave my car right where it was and she took me home, like literally drove me to my doorstep and made sure I in the house. Ok y’all, I’m a Virgo there’s not a lot of things that move us, but looking back on that moment I have to acknowledge someone did something for me that others wouldn’t. I’m grateful for this girls compassion but I couldn’t believe I let myself get into this situation. The morning after, I wake up I’m not drunk at all… I spent the day feeling horrible for how crazy I might have looked, thinking what the hell just happened? There’s no way I should’ve gotten that intoxicated. The more I thought about it… doing logic and deduction, the only thing that I thought of that changed since the last time I drank that much was the fact I had been intermittent fasting. And let me just say that you may know some people, or you yourself drink like that all the time, I’m not trying to pass judgement at all but personally getting drunk to a point where you can’t drive your own car is just a level of responsibility that is not something I chose to adopt. So after that happened I started to research how your body process alcohol, how your body process food… and the effects of intermittent fasting on my metabolism. And since then I haven’t stopped learning. I am still falling down a very deep rabbit hole of biological information. Now the key take away to this whole story here is 1) I’m now an official cheap date and 2) alcohol and fasting do not mix. Period!

Of course your mileage may vary. The effects of fasting can vary depending on the method of fasting you're doing, your age and your overall health. So use this information in this episode as a guide, not the rule. So now let's jump into it. 

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What happens in your body while you are fasting? Well, the very first sensation your body is going to go through when you decide this intermittent fasting lifestyle… is hunger. There is no getting around that but until you've successfully completed a fast, you probably think that hunger is simply a stomach pain that you feel when your stomach is running low on food but it's actually all hormonal. ________________________________

One of the benefits of Intermittent Fasting is that it'll normalize your hunger levels, this is also known as the ghrelin hormone. It's the hormone that tells your brain you need to eat. You're definitely going to want this under control if your goal is to lose weight. 

The myth with fasting is that we are starving and hangry everyday. In the beginning of fasting, these hunger pains that you may be feeling are normal because your body loves exactly where it is right now. Your body doesn't want to change. It doesn't like drastic change, and it wants to maintain homeostasis. The initial days of fasting are hard because your body is sensing that you are feeding it less and will secrete more gherlin in order to get you to eat. But as you continue to make fasting apart of your lifestyle, you'll stop feeling fake hunger and your body will actually let you know when you are actually hungry. 

Actually, have you ever sat down and thought about hunger as a concept? Yes? No? Just me? Ok, I know I’m analytical like that but hunger and the gherlin hormone is your body’s mechanism for gaining weight, it increases your appetite. If you didn’t get hungry, you’d never eat. The body doesn’t want to lose the weight you are trying to shed. It will find tricky ways to make sure we aren’t doing damage to ourselves so we have these genius hormones that make us hungry. Now I’m sure when God designed our beings, he didn’t anticipate that we’d invent and hungry for Doritos and Coke Zero. He’s probably looking down on us right now, like “oh no baby, what is you doing?” 

But seriously hunger is just as much as a survival strategy as eating if you honestly think about it. When we eat, we store fat and that is honestly starvation mode. Not the other way around. I have to get that out there because of course we’ve all heard that if you don’t eat then your body goes into starvation mode. That absolutely does not happen if you’re talking about short term intermittent fasting, it is in fact, the exact opposite. So those days when you feel so hungry like you just can’t say no to food, that’s the gherlin hormone coming to either save you from yourself so that you can store fat. 

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Hormones are predominantly responsible for most of your digestive functions. They are like the FedEx for your cells. They deliver messages to and from cells to either tell them to stop or to start a function. Insulin is one of the primary hormones that is effected by intermittent fasting. If you don’t get nothing else out of this podcast, cop a squat and listen to this and get this down in your spirit because this single hormone right here is crucial to our longevity.

Insulin is a hormone that is made by the pancreas. And the reason you need it, is because it lowers blood sugar. That is it’s only function! It’s role was made to move about a teaspoon of sugar out of your body of blood.  Your body has about a gallon of blood in it. So the insulin hormone is tasked with removing just a tiny teaspoon of sugar. But you know we are consuming more than a teaspoon right?! On average, we as a people are consuming 20 teaspoons of sugar a day. That is a whole lot of sugar that moves through your system. So if your body is only supposed to handle a teaspoon of sugar that gets stored in your liver, then what happens when there is no room in the liver for the other 19 teaspoons of sugar??? Your body has no choice but to dump that extra sugar you’re eating in your body as fat. Which typically shows up in belly fat. 

So insulin attaches to the cell by binding to the receptor on the cell's surface. It's like the key to a lock, and it opens the door for glucose to enter in. Insulin is also known as our body's storage hormone, when you eat, insulin is raised and released and that is when we store glycogen and fat. When you aren't eating, your insulin goes down and you start using your stored sugar for energy. It's that simple. Kinda. 

If you’re thinking… when do we get to the fat burning part? That is a good question. This information is going to get you off of the hamster wheel of weight loss. If you were like me, always working out and always feeling hungry… If I wasn’t constantly snacking I’d become irritated because internally my sugar storage was running low, also referred to as hypoglycemia. And if you are always looking to refill your sugar storage by eating you are never going to tap into your fat stores for energy. Ever. Like Never. Ok.

So within the first couple of hours of your fasting window your blood sugar and insulin levels begin to fall and the liver starts to break down glycogen into glucose for energy. 

Glucose, which is basically sugar, is the primary source of energy for your body to burn. And by primary, I literally mean "first". I want to be 100% clear that this does not mean preferred. I always hear “your body wants to burn sugar”, no it doesn’t! Your body prefers to burn fat, it is the most efficient fuel for your body. Its the difference of saying you prefer to get your energy from a pack of Skittles vs. a steak. No offense Skittles. But Skittles are there for you, already packaged for you to eat vs. the steak that needs to be seasoned, marinated and cooked. Of course, you'll feel more content eating that steak but why go through all that hassle to prepare that steak, when you need energy RIGHT NOW and you can quickly grab that pack of Skittles. Get it? Same idea. So the perception shouldn't be that your body prefers to burn sugar but IT WILL burn the most easily accessible and abundant source of energy, which is sugar. And let's just be honest, our American diet has a lot of sugar in it. 66 pounds to be exact, according to a study done by the USDA in 2012. Oh my goodness! Remember I said that the average American consumes 20 teaspoons of sugar a day, well 1 teaspoon equals 4 grams of sugar which converts into 82 grams of sugar a day, which equates to 66 pounds of sugar a year per person. One of the easiest answers as to why we are sick and disease ridden. Any way, that is an entirely different topic for a different day. So, you are going to have to burn through your sugar stores before you can even get your body to burn your fat stores. Intermittent fasting is the most efficient way to do that. Sugar and carbs have a high glycemic index. That is basically a medical term for how food affect your blood sugar. Clearly, sugar and carbohydrates are going to metabolize into sugar the fastest and cause your blood glucose to rise, therefore causing your insulin levels to rise. 

Because insulin is that “storage hormone”, if your insulin levels remain high you are telling your body to store fat and sugar.  Low levels of insulin tell your body to burn sugar and fat therefore in order to burn fat your insulin levels have to be balanced. The best way to do this is by fasting. With no energy from food coming in, the body will start to use stored energy. First it’ll use your sugar for energy, then fat. 

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Wooo! That was a lot, if you didn’t quite get it, rewind and listen one more time. Insulin is important because when insulin is high or resistant you are not going to burn fat. Period. Ok. Next. 

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You'll also notice that you'll be able to think clearly. Once you get past obsessing about food, your mind will be able to really think. Once you are well into your fasting rhythm, you can actually create more brain cells and improve your overall brain function. Now I’m not saying you’re going to become Einstein but fasting has been shown to increase the rate of neurogenesis in the brain. That’s just another way of saying making new brain cells. The result of higher neurogenesis is high brain performance, memory and focus. Another super awesome result of intermittent fasting is the boost of production of brain derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF for short. This makes your brain more resilient to change and stress and stimulates new connections and synapses. It’ll help decrease your anxiety and your response to stress. It has been shown that BDNF increases by 50-400% while intermittent fasting. I don’t know about you but I could use a 400% growth of new brain cells right now. This longterm effect could reduce your chances of Parkinson’s disease.

In addition to the fat loss and neurological benefits, intermittent fasting has a huge anti-aging benefit, called autophagy and autophagy is just a fancy way of saying “self-eating”… that is the literal translation. So you're body also starts to detox itself. I’m not kidding. So your cells will create membranes that go out and hunt for dead, diseased, worn out, weak part of your cells and there is a little thing in your cells called a lysosome, it acts as the recycler and uses these garbage parts to make amino acids for energy to make entirely new cells. Let me pause right there… I have to repeat this because this is literally a life changing fact of intermittent fasting. Autophaghy slows down the aging process, and I’m not talking about in a Hollywood, botox way, although your skin will definitely reap the benefits. I’m talking about stoping cancer growth, preventing neurological functions like Alzheimer’s and hormonal function like diabetes, helping your immune system…shit that is actually important. 

Now the only way your body is able to eat itself is if you put it under stress. Fasting is one way to do that. So put down your kale drink and listen up girls! For those of y’all that insist that drinking green drinks 7 days straight is the way to detox, Nope. All you are doing is drinking nutrient-rich blends minus the fiber and enzymes. What goes in a green juice anyway? 2 cups of kale, 1 whole lemon, 1 ginger, 1 whole cucumber, 2 apples, 3 stalks of celery. I’m making this us but have you ever stopped to think about why you are able to down 16oz of some green juice concoction but there is no way on earth you’d be able to eat 2 whole cups of kale, a lemon, 1 ginger, 1 cucumber, 2 whole apples and 3 stalks of celery? EW. Everybody is green juice crazy now and I’m just like… why? Since when did more veggies mean more better for you? You know? Sure it is possible to get in a bunch of fruit and vegetables but what happens to your body when you extract the fiber and enzymes from your juice? Do you think you’re actually absorbing these nutrients you think that you’re getting? I know… I’m weird. I’ll cover that in another episode but getting back to autophagy, eating or ingesting anything works against autophagy. It only works if your body is experiencing healthy stress. Obviously, intermittent fasting but also working out is a “good stressor” too. I’m willing to forgo eating Krispy Kreme for breakfast if that means I’m fighting off heart disease and adding time on the back end of my life! How ‘bout you?

And the best for last, but certainly not the least, effect of intermittent fasting on your body is the increase in HGH, which is the Human Growth Hormone. As intimidating as it sounds, this is not a hormone responsible for making you look like a jacked body builder. It’s essential for building and maintaining lean muscle mass. And is responsible for helping your body burn fat and repairing cells. It’s basically the hormone of youth, as it regulates the body composition, promotes a healthy metabolism and increases skin elasticity. Insulin and HGH work like a see-saw, when insulin is high your HGH levels are low. One of the best ways to tap into increasing your HGH levels are sleep. This little secret sauce was the reason I was able to lose 4 pounds in one week no exercise. I couldn’t believe it either, all I did was go to sleep an hour and a half before my normal bedtime and I was losing more weight than I did being in the gym, day after day. Some studies show that HGH production is up by 75% when you’re sleeping. So sleeping is so much more important for me than being in the gym because I know I’m tapping into my fountain of youth.

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So the myth going around is that we are obviously starving ourselves or we have an eating disorder and that we are losing weight from eating less calories or maybe the weight loss isn’t real because if you are not eating your body is in survival mode. I hope you now know that the ‘survival mode’ theory isn’t true in the context of intermittent fasting but my response to that is, is that really a bad thing? There’s a famous hip hop lyric that says “a flower that grows in the ghetto knows more about survival than the one from fresh meadow”. How will you and your body ever know what it’s capable of if you’ve never given it the environment to prove itself? You won’t. There is no way around achieving a lot of these health benefits that we’re experience, accept from fasting. Intermittent fasting is not popular and I’m sure the pharmaceutical giants are working tirelessly to come up with a pill that you can take that will mimic the effects of fasting without having to actually fast. 

So in this episode I want you to take away that you have to decide what is right for you to maintain a healthy body & mind and food or lack of food has a much greater impact on our health than what is shared as common knowledge. It is possible for your brain to be overfed too, not just your body. More importantly, know that going without food has bigger healthy benefits that are still being studied. Sometimes I sit back and wonder, how did we arrive at eating so much? Is it learned hunger? Is it the desirability of food? I’ll save my theory for another day but the link between consumption and longevity is what truly needs to be understood not just marketed or repeated by doctors. Until next time my good people…

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Thank you all so much for hanging in there with me as I unpacked how intermittent fasting works. This is one of my first episodes where I talk about the scientific background of why intermittent fasting is more than just not eating. It’s always great to get your comments. Please let me know if you’d like to hear more episodes like this. I promise I won’t get too nerdy. I know when I started learning more about intermittent fasting, I wanted everybody I knew to do it. I don’t want any one I know to suffer with their health, especially since I know intermittent fasting is a healthy, preventative solution. I’m not telling you to use scare tactics to convert your people but perhaps if you share this with them, they may give it a second thought. I’m a believer in Intermittent Fasting for sure because I’ve seen what is possible.

Also, I’ll be rolling out with a episode really soon. It’s going to be a MINI episode on how to navigate your social world when doing IF, especially if you are doing OMAD. This topic is in response to my listeners that are looking for some advice here. This gets tricky, because so often when we gather with family and friends it’s food involved. I want to help you all so you don’t feel uncomfortable around your people and you’re still able enjoy yourself. Bye for now. 

Eat, FastingKay Williams