When thinking about intermittent fasting for type 2 diabetes, several things can come to mind. For some, the thought of going without food can seem like a daunting task. But bare with me for a few minute here, as I break down how intermittent fasting for diabetes works and some options that might be right for you.
First off, intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that alternates between times of fasting and eating.
One of the first questions that I hear with intermittent fasting is can you eat anything at all while fasting and the answer to this is Yes. But it depends.
Think of it like when you’re going for a physial exam and the doctor tells you not to eat anything after dinner or 9 o’clock except for water or tea. Or when you sleep for 8 hours per night. These are both times when you’re fasting. Which is exactly what you’re doing here. Only for longer periods with most of these plans.
With most types of intermittent fasting you can have an unsweetened beverage such as water, black coffee or tea. If you are doing the Warrior Diet. Another popular type of intermittent fasting, this one allows nuts and stuff like that. I’ll talk more about this in a second. The key here is you’ll want to limit calories during fasting hours.
The biggest challenge with intermittent fasting is the desire to eat. I talk about the concept called the inner werewolf that comes out when you take something away or are trying to make a conscious effort to avoid something.
You crave it more. It is my understanding that the longer you are doing this, your body does adjust to it and cravings go away. Just note that cravings usually happen early on.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting For Diabetes
Fasting can have a powerful effect on your blood sugar. Especially when you do it for long periods of time.
Some of the benefits include:
- weight loss
- improved digestion
- reduced bloating
- decreased inflammation
- improved mental clarity
- better sleep
- improved ability to curb your sugar cravings
- improved blood sugar control
But intermittent fasting also comes with some drawbacks…
Drawbacks of Intermittent Fasting for Diabetes
One of the major drawbacks with intermittent fasting is hypoglycemia – low blood sugar. Especially if you’re taking insulin, sulfonylureas or drugs that increase insulin secretion from the beta cells of the pancreas, it’s important that you work closely with your doctor and diabetes care team before you decide to go the intermittent fasting route.
Our body has a unique way of handling a lack of food or decreased intake in our system. One way is a hormonal response, where insulin levels stay low. Other hormonal changes during times of intermittent fasting include increased HGH (human growth hormone – a very important homrone for maintaining lean muscle mass), and increased release of the fat burning hormone norepinephrine fasting.
Intermittent Fasting For Diabetes Step-By-Step
There are a few different options when it comes to intermittent fasting. I can’t stress enough how important it is to check with your doctor before starting an intermittent fasting diet.
Intermittent fasting isn’t hard to do. It really just comes down to figuring out a plan and then executing. Will you fast for 16 hours per day, or one day per week?
So, Step One is pick one of the fasting options below…
With this plan you eat five days a week and then you will be fasting for two days. During those 2 fasting days you eat no more than 500 calories for women and -600 for men calories. These 2 days are very low calorie days.
1 Day On, 1 Day Off or Eat, Stop, Eat
During this plan you fast every other every day and limit your calories to 500 per fasting day.
With this plan you fast for 16 hours, with an eating window of 8 hours to get your meals in. During fasting, consume zero calories, no liquid calories, all calories are prohibited. You can have water, black coffee, or zero calorie unsweetened beverages. The most popular times to eat are between 9 am and 5 pm.
This is much like your personal trainers advice. No eating after 5 or 6 pm. Some people eat as late as 11 am and then get up and have a big early breakfast around 7 or 8 am. This is just setting yourself up for blood sugar swings. Especially, if that last meal is high in carbs and you eat right before bed.
If you want to get the most out of this plan, try to stick to healthy foods with carb that are rich in fiber such as green leafy vegetables.
With this plan, you’ll be fasting for 20 hours, with a 4-hour window when you can eat. And example might be your eat your last meal at 5 pm on one day and don’t eat again until 1 pm the next day. Similar guidelines as the above plan apply.
The Warrior Diet
With this plan you eat light for a 20-hour period with foods like salad, vegetables and whole grains. And then you can have a big meal during your 4-hour period when you can eat what you want.
People following this diet undereat for 20 hours per day, then consume as much food as desired at night.
During the 20-hour fasting period, dieters are encouraged to consume small amounts of dairy products, hard-boiled eggs and raw fruits and vegetables, as well as plenty of non-calorie fluids.
After 20 hours, people can essentially binge on any foods they want within a four-hour overeating window.
However, unprocessed, healthy and organic food choices are encouraged.
One 24-hour Fast Once Per Week
With this plan you might eat your regular meals for 6 days with your last meal at 8 pm on on day 6 and you wouldn’t eat again until 8 pm 24 hours later.
After you’ve selected one of the above plans, the next step is to apply it.
It’s really that simple. Make sure you have tea, coffee and water handy. For starters, I think the 16/8 plan is a realistic approach for many. When you think about it, the most effective ways to control your blood sugar is to make your last meal small and not too late, that alone can improve your fastings and blood sugar control over time.
Intermittent Fasting For Diabetes Explained
Are you hungry or insulin resistant? This is a question that I pose with type 2 diabetes. When your cells are resistant to insulin, you will feel hungry more often, which leads to incresaed food intake. The reason for this is because sugar (glucose) isn’t getting into your cells because insulin isn’t doing its job effectively.
Intermittent fasting can improve insulin sensitivity as a result of weight loss and some of the other benefits associated with it.
Another important factor in improving insulin sensitivy is eating whole foods, staying away from processed carbs, while increasing your fiber intake. One way to accomplish this is by adding more green leafy vegetables to your diet, such as one of my favorites – kale. And a tried and true way of controlling your blood sugar is keeping an eye on the carbohydrates you eat.
One of the biggest concerns with intermittent fasting and type 2 diabetes is the possibility of hypoglycemia and your medicines. I’ve said this many times in the past and it’s worth repeating. Any diet can work in the short term, but it can only work in the long-term if it’s sustainable. A part of your lifestyle.
While the sample size in some of these studies that I looked at were relatively small – 3 patients in one study, 41 in another – I did come across some promising data. But over the long-term, I did observe where patients gained more weight and weren’t able to make intermittent fasting a part of their lifestyle. So it’s important to keep this in mind.
It might also be a good idea to start on the smaller end with fasting before going all out. And last but not least – test, test, test your blood sugar. I recommend at least 3 times per day and a bare minimum of twice per day when you have good control.
With type 2 diabetes, there are so many fad diets out there these days. Some of them are helping people control type 2 diabetes like never before. With intermittent fasting becoming more popular these days, there are a few options that you can try.
Whether it be the 16/8 plan or the one day on, one day off fasting plan, it’s most important to check your blood sugar and make sure you let your doctor know you’re giving intermittent fasting a try. As I mentioned, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can be a dangerous drawback of intermittent fasting… especially if you’re on insulin or sulfonylureas.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article. Prior to using any of this information, please consult with your doctor and diabetes care team.