When it comes to diet and lifestyle, the Daily Dose is all about realistic (and delicious) eating habits with lasting results. Of course, we are always interested in learning and understanding the latest wellness trends. But we also don’t jump in just because everyone is doing it. We promote delicious food and lifestyle options that taste good, make you feel good, AND can be followed long-term.
With that in mind, it’s extra exciting that two of today’s most popular meal plans—fasting and the ketogenic diet—do have a lot of fascinating research behind their use. And unlike other trendy diets that come and go, these ones seem to be here to stay.
Interestingly, fasting and keto have a lot in common. With both, you can intentionally put your body into a state of ketosis. And this is where things get really interesting: it turns out that intentional ketosis not only extends lifespan and reduces inflammation, but it also provides an alternative fuel source when glucose stores run low during fasts or periods without food. It utilizes the body’s innate physiological response to burn your own body’s fat for fuel. Ugh – yes please! So ketosis isn’t just a life hack for turning your body into an anti-aging machine; it’s also the way we were designed to run.
But let’s take a step back and start with the basics.
What is fasting?
Fasting is the intentional abstention from all or some caloric foods for a set period. Fasts generally last anywhere between overnight up to multiple days. But we happen to love the type of fasting that still lets us eat, known as a fast mimicking protocol (you can learn all about it here).
You can fast daily, weekly, or less often as more of a metabolic reset or detox (we’ve got that covered too).
I could spend hours discussing the research-backed benefits of fasting, but some of the big reasons to consider fasting are:
- Weight loss and fat reduction: Fasting is a flexible tool for weight loss. You may take in fewer calories, but it’s more than that because even shorter fasts show incredible benefits. While the physiological mechanisms behind this are complex, it’s likely a combo of calorie restriction, hunger suppression, and increased insulin sensitivity (allowing glucose to enter your cells more effectively).
- Lowers inflammation: Fasting has been shown to bring down the heat in our bodies, reducing inflammatory markers.
- Improved metabolic health: Intermittent fasting reduces triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, which leads to lower heart disease. It’s also good for blood sugar balance (just be careful if you take any blood sugar meds).
- Mental clarity: Fasting is neuroprotective, meaning it helps keep those brain cells firing as they should. From brain fog to more severe conditions like dementia, fasting appears to help by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress.
What is the ketogenic diet?
The ketogenic (keto) diet forces us to use fat instead of carbs for energy. Glucose, the sugar from the carbs we eat, is the body’s preferred source of energy. But when you drop your carbs and up your intake of fat, your body can switch fuel sources by breaking down fat and converting it into ketones in your liver.
Ketones are water-soluble molecules that can cross the blood-brain barrier (more mental clarity!) and provide an alternative energy source for your cells. When you rely on ketones for energy, you are in ketosis. You are literally burning fat for fuel—and who doesn’t want that?
Just like fasting isn’t a new practice (it’s been used in traditional medicine and religion for thousands of years), keto isn’t a newbie to the wellness world either. It started as a specialized diet to help reduce seizures in children with epilepsy. But it became clear that the benefits don’t stop there, as keto has its own evidence-based fan club with benefits like:
- Weight loss and fat burning: Burning fat for energy is clearly a win for fat loss and supporting a healthy weight. The fat-burning benefits also extend to athletes focused on body composition and increased efficiency.
- Lowers inflammation: Eating a diet rich in omega-rich fats like avocado or fatty fish has been shown to reduce inflammation. And similar to fasting, ketosis also helps decrease the production of inflammatory compounds (called cytokines) that can cause pain, headaches, GI issues, and other inflammation-based symptoms.
- Decreased appetite & cravings: Keto often makes you feel less hungry for a few reasons. Fat is satiating, meaning it keeps you full longer after meals (versus simple sugars that are digested way too quickly). Keto may also affect the hormones that affect your appetite, so you can eat less but feel satisfied.
- Improved focus and cognition: Since keto helps with epilepsy, a neurological condition, it’s easy to bridge the connection to brain health. Mental clarity, memory, mood, focus, and even neurological diseases are some conditions supported by ketosis.
- Metabolic health: Blood sugar dysregulation, insulin resistance, and even type 2 diabetes may be a reason to try keto. All of these are improved by decreasing carb intake while helping the body burn fat efficiently.
How are keto and fasting similar?
Look at the benefits of both, and you’ll likely notice a trend. Keto and fasting help you lose weight, keep your brain healthy, and reduce inflammation in the body. So how do they do this?
Both lead to ketone production, promoting fat burning. And for some people, fasting actually helps you burn fat more quickly and efficiently.
At a cellular level, fasting and keto work by reducing oxidative stress on our cells. Oxidative stress happens when we generate more free radicals than we can clean up, damaging cells and tissues. And oxidative stress and damage is a huge root cause for aging and chronic disease, but both fasting and ketosis can play a role in reducing oxidative stress.
Free radicals are created as a regular part of our metabolism, like when we eat or exercise. It’s usually not a problem if we balance production with enough antioxidants to clean things up. But lifestyle, diet, genetics, and environment can all add up to an excess of free radicals.
Fasting gives the body a break because our cells aren’t metabolizing glucose for energy, and keto is basically doing the same thing. No carbs means insulin and glucose levels drop, and free radical generation decreases.
They also both promote autophagy. Autophagy is the body’s self-cleaning machine. It improves your cell function while reducing oxidative stress. Autophagy means “self-eating,”—so think about it as cellular cleansing for better overall performance. While fasting or following keto, the body cleans out old, damaged cells and makes way for healthy cells.
Tricia Williams is a talented Chef recognized as a leader in the fields of Nutrition and Holistic Health. Some years ago, Tricia founded Food Matters, a boutique, nutritionally-sound meal delivery service. Closely collaborating with her clients’ coaches, integrative physicians, and nutritionists, Tricia was able to successfully tailor meal plans that met both their taste preferences and their health goals.
The Longevity Fast 2.0 is a holistic program that gives you the same benefits of a water fast without the food deprivation. This 5-day vegan and gluten free program, helps ease your body into a fasting state in order to improve cellular health and longevity. more info