Ramadan & Intermittant Fasting paleo diet-min

Ramadan & Intermittant Fasting

You might be aware that the Islamic month of Ramadan has just started. Having just arrived on my travels in a Muslim country, I've been doing a lot of reading on the subject – from a Paleo perspective.

Ramadan is a month of fasting , where Muslims from all around the world start their fast at sunrise, and don’t eat or drink until sunset – for the whole month. Fasting is something I've read a lot about, and tried myself in the form of Intermittent Fasting. In the Paleo world intermittent fasting refers to the not eating part – people undertaking an intermittent fast drink water. Some people even take BCAA (Branch Chain Amino Acids) to decrease cravings and hunger signals at the level of the brain – something that wouldn't be done in Ramadan.

As so many people fast during this time, a lot of scientific studies have been conducted – with very interesting results. Whilst intermittent fasting as part of a Paleo protocol is different to fasting during Ramadan, there is still a lot of useful learning from these studies.

A number of studies concern diabetes – and have shown during Ramadan, diabetics blood glucose levels are far more stable. A study on a group of students also demonstrated that over the month weight loss was common; more significantly in overweight participants. Studies have also shown a significant decrease in markers of inflammation during the month of Ramadan, which is speculated to decrease the risk of heart disease.

Ramadan & Intermittant Fasting paleo diet-min

One area of Ramadan that is hard to reconcile to intermittent fasting, is diet. Many people will break their fast on Ramadan with the refined carbohydrates that someone breaking a Paleo intermittent fast would avoid. What impact does this have on the application of Ramadan studies to understanding the benefits of a Paleo intermittent fast? Another part of Ramadan which is hard to quantify is the peacefulness that surrounds the period – something which must surely have health benefits?

Whilst clearly limited, the studies conducted on Ramadan certainly seem to imply eating less frequently has many benefits. This is completely contrary to the conventional wisdom advice, which is often to snack frequently, and eat lots of small meals.

It’s going to be an interesting time being in the midst of Ramadan. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences of Ramadan and intermittent fasting in general. Do you think it’s beneficial to health? Have you ever fasted?

Intermittent Fasting paleo diet primal lean gains-min

Intermittent Fasting

I'm love it when people ask me about Paleo, which happens more and more often.  They are normally very interested as I explain to them why I don’t eat grains, or avoid fat.  I explain about fitness and how I don’t do chronic cardio – they’re still interested.  I explain about the importance of sleep and sunshine – they’re even more interested.  This is the point at which I've learnt to stop.

Every time I've mentioned Intermittent Fasting they look at me like I'm crazy – and I realise I've completely lost them.  To someone carbohydrate adapted the thought of not eating every few hours is unthinkable.  The response I often hear is how dangerous fasting is, as, apparently, your body will immediately go into “starvation mode”, storing fat and using muscle for fuel.  They never have any evidence to back up this belief, it’s seems to be just a repetition of conventional wisdom they once heard.  From a source they can't remember.

Intermittent Fasting paleo diet primal lean gains-min

I did a lot of research before I first tried Intermittent Fasting.  I think it’s best done on easy, stress-free days and as yet, I've not fasted on training days.  My preferred method of Intermittently Fasting is to have my evening meal and then not eat again until my evening meal the following night.  Because my diet is very low in carbohydrate (so I don’t have to worry about avoiding wild fluctuations in my blood sugar levels), and not shy in fat, I don’t feel hungry and find it easy to wait until the evening for my first meal of the day.  I also find on the day of the fast and the day after, I often have a lot more energy than usual.

I think fasting is a good exercising in learning hunger isn't something that must be feared and avoided.  It makes a lot of sense to me from an evolutionary standpoint – we haven’t always lived in times where food was constantly available.  I'm also very interested in studies suggesting fasting  appears to be very beneficial from a biological perspective.

What do you think about Intermittent Fasting?  Do you fast?  How do you explain it to people?