Essential Fatty Acids



In the late 1920’s, a husband-and-wife research team stumbled upon the discovery of essential fatty acids.  Prior to this time, it was believed that fats were only needed as a source of energy and could be substituted freely with carbohydrates. However, George and Mildred Burr discovered that when certain types of fats were left out of a diet, a deficiency occurred that lead to the death of the laboratory mice they were studying.  The Burr’s discovered the first of many of these special types of fats and coined the phrase, “essential fatty acids.”

Today we classify fatty acids based on their structure as omega-3, omega-6, or omega-9 fatty acids.  And while only certain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential (meaning they are unable to be synthesized in the body), all three types are beneficial for good health.

Deficiency of Essential Fatty Acids

While rare it is possible to develop a essential fatty acid deficiency.  This may be caused by either an unbalanced diet or poor absorption of essential fatty acids by the body.  However, a more common concern in the health and nutrition community is that most people eating a western diet are not getting the optimal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3  fatty acids.  While both are essential, they support different physiological reactions in the body.  Scientists believe that a century ago the typical diet had a omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 4:1. Today that ratio have ballooned to 16:1.  As a result of being unbalanced, it is believed that excessive inflammation can occur in the body leading to chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and even certain types of cancer.


These 7 foods are rich in essential fatty acids.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are a polyunsaturated fat that your body is unable to make.  As a result, it considered “essential” since you must get it from your diet.  While there are 11 different omega-3 fatty acids, the 3 most common are EPA, DHA, and ALA.  EPA, or eicosatetraenoic acid, plays an import role in reducing inflammation in the body.  DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, contributes to the development and function of the brain.  ALA, or alpha-linolenic acid, contributes to a healthy cardiovascular, immune, and nervous systems.

In addition to helping construct cell membranes, several studies have found numerous benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.  A 2010 study linked the role of omega-3 fatty acids and inflammation.  And the Journal of Nutrition published that adults with hypertension who consumed fish oil supplements rich in DHA and EPA saw a reduction in their blood pressure.  Omega-3 fatty acids may also help lower instances of depression, Parkinson’s disease, and other neurological issues.  It is believed this is connected to the ability of omega-3 fatty acids to work as an anti-inflammatory agent.

Foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids include various types of fish, seeds, and nuts.  For example, a serving of salmon contains 4g of DHA and EPA.  A serving of chia seeds contains almost 5g of ALA. Because many people struggle to get enough omega-3 fatty acids through their diet, the use of omega-3 supplements are frequently used.

Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Omega-6 fatty acids are also essential in that they must be consumed through food.  The most common omega-6 fatty acid, linoleic acid, is frequently converted to arachidonic acid in the body.  It can be used as both an energy source and serves as an inflammatory agent in the body.  While there are several negative effects of chronic inflammation, the body needs to create an inflammatory environment to help the immune system fight off pathogens.

While nuts and seeds contain omega-6 fatty acids, most consumed source is through the consumption of soybean and corn oil.  Corn oil is frequently used in the cooking of foods.  Soybean oil is found in most processed and packaged foods as a stabilizing agent to prolong their shelf life.  The increase in the consumption of processed foods through a western diet is believed to unbalance the ratio of omega fatty acids while resulting in the proliferation of several inflammatory-induced chronic diseases.

Omega-9 Fatty Acids

Omega-9 fatty acids are considered to be monounsaturated because they only contain a single double bond in their structure.  Even though these fatty acids can be synthesized by the body, they are frequently consumed through diet from oils, nuts, and seeds.  Olive oil is high in omega-9 fatty acids and has been touted for its health benefits in increasing insulin sensitivity and lowering inflammation.  A 2015 article in the journal Diabetes, found that omega-9 fatty acids can lower the likelihood of insulin resistance, a precursor to type 2 diabetes.

Teaching Students about Essential Fatty Acids

In my classes I like to bring up several benefits of while consuming a balanced ratio of essential fatty acids is beneficial to good health. One of the easiest ways is with my reading article summarizing them combined with the review questions I’ve attached to the assignment.  This can be used as a make up assignment, enrichment article, extra credit, or as a warm up that will lead into lecture and discussion.




Should I Be Taking Creatine Supplements?



For several years creatine has been one of the most popular supplements sold.  But it hasn’t always been this way.

While creatine was first discovered in 1832, its popularity as a nutritional supplement did not arise until 160 years later.  After winning the 100m Gold medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Linford Christie shared that he had been using creatine as part of his preparation.  Reports also surfaced that Sally Gunnell, who won the 400m gold medal in Barcelona, also had been using creatine while training for the Olympics.  Shortly after, companies began commercially producing creatine to be marketed and sold to the masses.

Where Does Creatine Come From?

Creatine is a naturally occurring compound present in most muscle tissues.  It can be synthesized by the body in the liver and kidneys before being transported to the muscle cells.  Creatine can also be consumed through various foods.  Beef, pork, and some types of fish can also be significant sources of creatine.  After digestion, creatine can be shuttled to the muscle cells via the bloodstream.   Once creatine is in the muscle cells, a phosphate molecule is added to creatine converting it into the molecule phohpocreatine (PCr).  Phosphocreatine is then available to work as an energy source for cellular metabolism.

Creatine Becomes An Energy Source For Your Muscles

Our muscle cells need ATP (energy) to contract.  Unfortunately, ATP is not able to be stored in the cells of the body. and during intense exercise, there is only enough ATP for muscle cells to work for 1 or 2 seconds before they run out of ATP.  The solution is to use other molecules to supply the cells with a constant supply of ATP.   In our muscle cells, the concentration of PCr is three to four times greater than the concentration of ATP.  This makes PCr a valuable fuel source for muscle cells and the renewal of ATP for energy.  PCr is quickly broken down to replenish ATP and prevent the immediate fatigue of our muscles.

In our muscle cells, ATP is supplied through three metabolic pathways: the phophocreatine pathway, glycolytic pathway, and the oxidative pathway.  While each pathway is continuously producing energy, at different times during exercise each pathway becomes the primary source for ATP.  The phosphocreatine pathway for energy production becomes the primary energy source for muscle cells for the first 8-15 seconds of energy as the cell ramps up the release of ATP through glycolysis, the initial breakdown of glucose to release ATP. The Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association concluded that while creatine appears to be beneficial in shorts bursts of high-intensity exercise, it may not be as useful for endurance exercise.   This is because most of the ATP produced for endurance exercise is derived from the oxidative pathway, and less from the use of PCr and glycolysis.

Creatine Supplements Can Prevent Muscle Fatigue

While high levels of stored PCr in muscle cells may reduce the need to rely on anaerobic glycolysis and lactate creation during ATP production, creatine appears to have another benefit as well.  Creatine can act as a buffer which can help stabilize the pH levels in the body.  Excessive H+ ion production from the use of ATP can lead to muscle acidosis or the “burning” feeling experienced during exercise.   Having high levels of creatine and PCr in muscle cells appears to lessen muscle acidosis allowing for muscles to perform more work before the effects of fatigue set in.

Creatine Improves Muscle Size and Strength does-creatine-work

I have been using creatine for several years as a supplement to help me get stronger.  Studies show increases in strength and mass have been seen after as little as one week of usage.  The initial increase in mass is generally between 1-3 pounds and may be the result of increases in water retention in the muscle cells, the stimulation of protein synthesis, or a decrease in muscle breakdown.  Over time, creatine can contribute to muscle fiber growth by signaling biological pathways to stimulate muscle growth.  This benefit works in conjunction with creatine’s metabolic function to allow for more ATP production during resistance and high-intensity exercise.  A 1999 study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology noted that individuals who consumed creatine during a 6-week training program gained on average 4.4 more pounds than those in the control group.

Are Creatine Supplements Safe?

With over 200 peer reviewed article and some studies lasting over 5 years, creatine is one of the most studied supplements being used today.  To date, no studies have reported that the effects of creatine can be detrimental to a person’s health.  However, many people report that consuming creatine can cause symptoms such as muscle cramping, nausea, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal issues. Because creatine tends to contribute to the retention of water in muscle cells, it is important to stay properly hydrated while consuming creatine as a supplement.

How Do I Start Using Creatine?

Adding creatine to your daily routine is simple.  It usually comes in a white powder that is both tasteless and odorless.  Personally, I add it my super-food shake or recovery protein shake each day.  Creatine can be mixed into juice or water as well.  Many people recommend a “loading phase” for creatine where 20g/day (5g servings taken 4x each day) are consumed for the first 6 days to help increase the total creatine concentration in the muscle cells.  Alternatively,  the loading phase can be skipped and individuals can simply begin adding 5g of creatine daily.  While the initial concentration in the cells isn’t as great, studies have found that by day 28, both regiments will increase the PCr concentration to the same level within a month.  You body does not build up a tolerance to creatine so there is no need to cycle on and off using it.   To make sure my body has it available when needed, I consume it on both days when I am working out and on rest days.

Which Creatine Supplements Should I Buy?

Walking into your local supplement store or shopping online will yield a wide variety of options that can be overwhelming. Supplement companies will market creatine as Creatine HCl (hydrochloride), Creatine Nitrate, Creatine Citrate, and others.  And all will come at a premium price.  However, Creatine Monohydrate is the version that has received most of the testing and has been proven to be effective for both providing energy and assisting in building strength.  So this is all I chose to consume.  Next, when you look at the ingredients label it should ONLY say one thing, creatine monohydrate. Again, supplement companies will try to boost profits by mixing in other ingredients.  I am a fan of other supplements (I’ll share those later), but I don’t need to pay extra to have them formulated with my creatine.  Artificial sweeteners, salts, and other compounds are frequently add to creatine supplements which means you are getting less creatine per serving.

A final consideration is that the FDA regulates supplements under different standards than the regulations of “conventional” food and drugs.  And several studies and lawsuits revolve around the fact that supplements and supplement companies have been shown to not be truthful when labeling their products.  This topic could be a whole article on its own, but in short, supplements are not rigorously tested to ensure that only what is on the label is in the supplement.  Other compounds have been discovered to be added to supplements and the concentrations of ingredients has been found to be inaccurate.  The solution is to ONLY BUY SUPPLEMENTS THAT ARE THIRD PARTY TESTED.  Both NSF and Informed Sport test supplements to ensure they can be trusted.  And I will only use supplements that display their labels on the packaging.

Final Thoughts

Creatine is one of the most asked about topics I get from both adults and students.  Because of this, I created an enrichment article I use in class to explain the science behind creatine and how it works.  If you are interested, you can grab a copy of my enrichment article here. 

If you’re ready to get started adding creatine to your routine, here is a link my online store where I offer the same creatine I use.  Still unsure?  You can also buy a serving a creatine as part of a supplement sampler pack to see if it’s right for you.

Simple Instant Pot Chili Recipe



Our Instant Pot chili recipe is so simple to make yet tastes so good.  It’s a favorite for our family on busy nights when we are short on time.  It also works well when we have friends over to catch a football game or fight.  It’s a savory blend of beef, beans, and spices that can be poured over chips or eaten as a meal by itself.

Serves: 8

Prep Time: 5 min    Cooking Time: 20 minutes

Instant Pot Chili Recipe Ingredients:


With the Instnt Pot, you can make chili in under 30 minutes!

2 lbs 93/7 lean ground beef

1/2  tsp salt (or Himalayan salt)

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1 chili seasoning packet

1 15oz can tomato sauce

2 15oz cans kidney beans

1 15oz can black beans

1 14oz can beef broth

Instant Pot Chili Recipe Directions:

  1. Set Instant Pot to saute setting
  2. Add ground beef and brown meat thoroughly.  Add salt, peeper, and garlic powder to desired taste
  3. If using a fattier meat than 93/7, drain the fat the meat to remove some of the fat.
  4. Once the meat has browned, add the cans of beans and tomato sauce, but DO NOT STIR.
  5. Add the can of beef broth to make sure the meat does not burn to the bottom of the Instant Pot.
  6. Seal the Instant Pot and close the vent.  Cook on manual for 10 minutes.
  7. Allow 10-20 for a natural release of the steam before opening the Instant Pot to serve.

Final Thoughts:

We are always looking for new recipes for our Instant Pot.  If you have a favorite I’d love to hear it.  Send me your favorite recipe and I’ll be sure to share it on social media and the blog!

Until next time,


Scrambled Egg Muffins


Scrambled egg muffins are a great way to turn a simple breakfast favorite into a dish that everyone will love.  They are quick to make.  They can also be personalized.  And you can make them in advance and store them for later in the week

They can be made in a variety of ways.  You can add veggies to the meat, eggs, and cheese to also sneak in some extra nutrients.  If you prefer you can skip the meat and make this a vegetarian dish.  Egg whites can also be substituted for whole eggs to lower the calories, fat, and cholesterol for the recipe.  Best of all, you can customize them several different ways and bake them all at the same time.  This way everyone in the house gets them made to their liking.


Scrambled egg muffins are a favorite for meal prepping before a busy week.

Scrambled Egg Muffins Recipe

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Precook any meat that you would like to add to your cups.
  3. Dice any veggies that you would like to add to your cups.
  4. Spray your 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray.
  5. Add your meat and veggies evenly to the bottom of each cup of the muffin pan.
  6. Scramble your eggs and add your optional seasonings.
  7. Pour your eggs evenly into each cup of the muffin pan.
  8. Evenly top the cups with the shredded cheese
  9. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until completely cooked


12 eggs

1 cup shredded cheese

Seasonings (salt, pepper, garlic powder)

Meats(sausage, bacon, ham)

Veggies (onions, peppers, tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms)

5 Ways To Boost Your Immune System



Unfortunately, our health is something that we put on the back burner.  It’s important, but it’s not usually considered urgent.  That is until there is a scare of unusual proportions that takes over our thoughts and feelings.  You know, like when we can’t get it out of our mind.  It takes over our thoughts and emotions.  It’s at the center of our conversations.  It may seem overwhelming, but what if I told you that there is a way to minimize your risks.  I want to let you in on some simple tips for you to boost your immune system.

Maybe you or someone close to you has recently been diagnosed with a life threatening condition (heart disease, cancer, etc).  Currently, we are in the middle of a global health crisis as a result of the coronavirus, COVID-19.  People are going to stores buying as many goods as possible as the fear for the worst.

While I am not an infectious disease expert (I’ll leave that for the CDC and World Health Organization), I do have more knowledge than most when it comes to staying healthy.  And while our health is something we should always make a priority, it seems now more than ever it should be a topic of discussion.

Boost Your Immune System With Adequate Sleep

Chances are you aren’t getting enough quality sleep.  In today’s busy world we are working more than ever and very few people are getting the sleep their bodies require to function optimally.

According to the Mayo clinic, “people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to virus.  Lack of sleep can effect how fast you recover if you do get sick.”

During sleep your body can prioritize the production and release of disease fighting cells and antibodies, and other proteins that can fight infection.  When you reduce the amount of sleep you get, you are reducing your ability to fight any pathogens that may be causing you to get sick.

Daily Exercise Can Help


In addition to helping reduce the likelihood of chronic diseases while strengthening our bones and muscles, several theories point to exercise to assist the immune system in fighting infectious diseases.

While we don’t exactly know how our bodies do this the U.S. National Library of Medicine points to several of the theories that scientists are working to prove.

It is believed that physical exercise will assist the body in flushing bacteria out of the lungs and airways.  Anyone who has exercised with a slight cold has experienced this firsthand.  Yes, it’s gross when you must get rid of excess phlegm and gunk but it’s better than having it linger in your body.

Another theory points to the increase in your core body temperature during exercise.  Much like how a fever works to limit the ability of bacteria and viruses to grow and reproduce in the body, when your body heats up during exercise you slow down pathogens so your cells and antibodies can fight those that currently exist.

If you are looking to for ides on how to build fitness into your daily schedule (if if you are short on time, money, energy, etc) be sure to check out this article.

Foods To Boost Your Immune System

foods-to-boost-your-immune-systemA well-balanced diet is key to helping boost your body’s ability to fight infection.  Several studies have been published promoting the fact that foods rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients can boost your immune system.

Dark green veggies such as broccoli, kale, spinach, and collard greens are a great source of key nutrients.  In addition, brightly colored veggies such as peppers, cabbage, and squash are also nutrient dense.  Berries and citrus fruits are great sources of key vitamins, antioxidants, and phytonutrients that have been shown to help fight infections.

Not sure where to get started?  Check out our 30 Day Clean Eating Challenge.

Lower Your Stress Levels

Chronic stress is something that is plaguing our society today.  When our body is under stress, our cortisol levels are increased.  From a survival standpoint this is a good thing.  Cortisol is our “fight-or-flight” hormone that increases our ability to get away from danger.  However, cortisol suppresses immune function among other systems of the body.  So, while a short dose of cortisol can be beneficial, high levels for an extended period can have a negative effect on the body.

While there isn’t a magic “off” switch in our bodies, there are ways to manage our stress levels.  Exercise (see #2) has been shown to lower our stress levels by releasing feel-good chemicals into our bloodstream.  In addition, activities such as focusing on a hobby, mediation, or even unwinding with your favorite show on Netflix will help you relax and lower your stress levels.

Fill In The Gaps With Immune Boosting Supplements

immune-boosting-supplementsIn addition to eating plenty of nutrient dense whole foods, there are several herbs and supplements that have been shown to help your body fight infection.  One powerful antiviral herb I take daily through my superfood shake is astragalous root.  It has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries to boost immune health.  A 2004 study concluded the same results.

Adding herbs to foods, shakes, teas, and essential oils have all been shown as effective ways to help boost your body’s natural defenses against infection.



With the threat of disease always looming, people are looking for ways to stay healthy.  Preventative measures such as washing your hands before eating or handling food, avoiding contact with sick individuals, and overall good hygiene should be the foundation for not getting sick.  In addition, following the above 5 recommendations will help boost your immune system to minimize the effects of pathogens.

How Intermittent Fasting Works



I frequently receive questions from people asking how intermittent fasting works.  There is a lot of buzz around the subject but most people are unsure about the specifics.  What is intermittent fasting?  How does it sustainable?   Is it even safe?

Chances are you grew up in a household where you were told the Breakfast is the “most important meal of the day.”  It was supposed to give you the energy you needed to do well at school and later at work.  It was also supposed to spike your metabolism.  If that’s the case, then what’s with the popularity of intermittent fasting?

Isn’t skipping breakfast a bad thing?

The reality is that as new studies come out, we are learning more and more about how the body truly works.  And it’s not that your mom was wrong all those years ago.  It’s just that she was working off old information (remember, the world was flat before it was round).

The truth is that Danielle and I have tons of online clients we have helped, and intermittent fasting is just one tool in our belt that works for a lot of people.

It might be just what you need.

Intermittent Fasting 101

Let me start by first telling you that Intermittent Fasting (IF) is NOT a diet plan.

Intermittent Fasting is an eating plan.

Intermittent fasting is a decision to limit the times of the day when you are eating and the times of the day when you are fasting (not eating).  It’s pretty simple.

Today we can go to our kitchens at eat whenever we want.  We can even order food and have it delivered to our doorstep with the click of an app.  But it wasn’t always this way.  It wasn’t until the past century that we’ve had round the clock access to food.

How Our Ancestors Lived

If you think back to how our ancestors lived, food wasn’t reliably available.  They were hunters and gathers who had to find (and sometimes kill) their food.  There were long stretches of time when their bodies were in a state of fasting.  It wasn’t a choice.  It was reality.

So, our bodies have evolved over generations to be very efficient at storing energy in the form of glycogen and fat just in case we have to go days (or even weeks) without much to eat.

Without having to go back to living like the Flintstones, we can bring back an eating plan more inline with how our bodies have evolved.

There are a few variations when it comes to Intermittent Fasting, but they all are along the lines of limiting eating during specific time periods.

The Intermittent Fasting 16/8 Plan

When people asking “how intermittent fasting works” they are most often talking about the 16/8 fasting plan.  This is the most common plan I have seen people follow when they switch to IF.  It’s also the least restrictive.  Basically, you limit your eating window to an 8-hour period of the day and fast the other 16 hours.  There doesn’t have to be a calorie (or food) restriction to follow this plan.  You may be still eating the same types and quantities of food as before.  You are just doing it within a specific window of time.

For example, at my school lunch begins at 11:45 am.  Skipping breakfast and an am snack, I eat my first meal of the day just before noon and I finish my last meal of the day by 8pm.

Does it matter which 8 hours of the day you eat?

No, over time it’s much more important to be consistent with your schedule.  If you want to eat at 6am and be done at 2pm that works.  Another common schedule we see teachers follow is to have their first meal at nutrition break (around 10am) and their last meal by 6pm.

You know your schedule better than me, so I would recommend a plan that fits your life versus trying to make life fit your eating plan.

The Intermittent Fasting 18/6 and 20/4 Plans

These are more restrictive variations of the 16/8 IF plan.  By shortening the eating window and fasting for longer periods of time, your body has having to make more adaptions.  I will go into more detail below on the science behind IF.  But for now, just know that the longer your body goes without food, the longer it must use the energy reserves (stored carbohydrates and fats) currently available to keep you going.

Because these are more restrictive plans, I recommend people start with the 16/8 and see how their body responds.

You might be so busy during the fasting period of the day that you don’t even know you skipped a meal.  Or you may want to eat your own hand.  It all depends.

But if going until noon before eating is a stretch of your willpower, I wouldn’t go beyond this at first.  Remember, consistency is the “secret sauce” to amazing results.

The OMAD Plan

OMAD is short for One Meal A Day.

And you guessed it.  You are limiting yourself to a single meal during a 24-hour time period.

Personally, I have never tried OMAD.  But that doesn’t mean it’s not a good plan.  My friend James (who is the IT guy at our school) has been doing OMAD for months now and it works great for him.  He is always busy putting out fires at work so there is seldom time for him to sit down and eat, even if he wanted.  After school he works out.  And then his meal doubles as a post workout feast.

Unless you are going to an all-you-can-eat buffet, OMAD goes hand in hand with reducing your daily calorie intake.  Especially if you are eating nutrient-dense whole foods.

The potential downside is that you could be spending more time each day thinking about food than eating it.  Which isn’t a healthy or sustainable lifestyle.  I know I’m a broken record on this.  But consistency is key.

The 24-Hour Intermittent Fasting Plan

For some people, completing a 24-hour fast once a week is a great way to reset the body while limiting your calorie intake.

If you finished dinner at 8pm you would go until the following day at 8pm to have your next meal.  If you currently eat 3 meals a day, you would skip breakfast and lunch during your fast.

One note of caution is that I don’t recommend people experiment with an extended fasting for 24 hours on days they are exercising.  It works great for rest day.  But trying to finish a crazy leg workout when you haven’t eating since last night’s dinner is a recipe for disaster.

Why Do We Gain Weight In The First Place

Before going into the details of Intermittent fasting, let’s do a quick review of obesity and what causes someone to gain weight.

Obesity can be defined as the “hormonal dysfunction of fat accumulation.”  We know that calories are the proximate cause of obesity, but obesity is a hormonal imbalance.  Not a caloric imbalance.

Don’t believe me?

This flies into most of the conventional wisdom that predicting weight gain or weight loss is as simple as counting “calories in” and “calories out.”  The problem is that caloric intake and expenditure are dependent of one another.  Decreasing the number or calories consumed triggers a decrease in the number of calories used.  And the end result is that while there may be some weight loss early on, the end result is very minimal weight loss over an extended period of time.

But aren’t all calories the same?

No.  Different foods will evoke different metabolic and hormonal responses.  And different foods are not likely to have an equal effect on weight gain.  Proteins, fats, and carbohydrates all provide caloric energy for the body, but are processed differently.  The result is different hormonal stimulation and release in the body.

Insulin And Obesity


We know that insulin causes obesity.  Numerous studies have concluded that insulin causes weight gain.  And the more insulin you have flowing through your bloodstream, the more obese you get.  Because high insulin levels cause weight gain, the foods you chose to eat become increasingly important if you goal is to lose weight.

So can’t I just eat foods that don’t cause a rise in insulin to lose weight?

Yes and no.  Food selection is very important.  Eating 1600 calories of a nutrient dense, whole food diet will lower your insulin levels compared to eating 1600 of Swedish Fish.  But simply lowering your insulin level through your food choices doesn’t solve the second hormonal factor that causes weight gain.

We must also solve the problem of insulin resistance.

What is Insulin Resistance

The body will begin to resist anything that it experiences in high levels for a prolonged period.  Antibiotic resistance is a perfect example of this.  Doctors know that the prolonged use of antibiotics declines in effectiveness over time.  When the body experiences a consistently high level of insulin the receptors on our cells begin to lock glucose out causing its levels to rise in the blood stream.  High blood glucose levels signal the body to release even more insulin.  Pretty soon we have a vicious cycle forming where the body protects itself by becoming resistant to insulin while the resistance itself promotes high insulin levels.

High Insulin levels causes insulin resistance.

And the longer this cycle continues, the worse it gets.  Therefore, the longer you are obese, the harder it is to lose the weight.  The longer people are stuck in the cycle of insulin resistance, the harder the cycle is to break.  Insulin resistance leads to high insulin levels, regardless of a person’s diet.  So even if you change what you eat, your insulin resistance would keep your insulin levels high.  Simply changing your diet might not lead to weight loss.

To solve both the problem of high insulin levels and insulin resistance we need to focus on three factors: what you eat, how much you eat, and when you eat.

Intermittent Fasting Benefits

The connection to Intermittent Fasting lies in the fact that insulin resistance requires the body to have consistently high insulin levels.  It’s not just what you eat or how much you eat.  But also, when you eat.

If you were to have breakfast at 6am, lunch at noon, and dinner at 6pm, your body would have 12 hours of feeding where insulin levels would be higher and 12 hours of fasting where insulin levels would be lower.  In addition, during the 6-hour gaps between meals your insulin levels would dip. Unfortunately, this is not the norm anymore.

Today we eat more frequently and have a longer feeding window compared to just a few decades ago.  And the result is that our insulin levels aren’t just high because of what we eat (added sugars, processed carbohydrates, and chemical sweeteners, etc.) but how often we eat within a 24-hour period.

Interrupting The Insulin Resistance Cycle

To lose weight we must interrupt the insulin resistance cycle we have fallen into.  And to break the cycle we must have periods in our day with very low insulin levels.  This is how intermittent fasting works to break the cycle of insulin resistance.  Since all foods will promote the release some insulin, the only way to guarantee we lower our insulin levels is to have our body in a state of fasting for an extended period.

Since Yoshinori Ohsumi won the 2016 Nobel Prize for his work understanding how cells recycle their content through the biological process of autophagy, there have been several studies explaining the connections between fasting, autophagy, and weight loss.   We are still learning how the processes work, but we do have significant evidence to say that when the body is not focusing on digesting food it can reset how the cells work.  And this includes the sensitivity to insulin.

In a nutshell, this explains why Intermittent Fasting works.  By breaking up the time you are eating with prolonged periods of fasting, you are giving your body a chance to break the cycle of insulin resistance while using the calories already consumed to power the body.

Is Intermittent Fasting Sustainable

When sharing this weight loss strategy with others the first concern I hear this the fear of being “Hangry.”  If you aren’t familiar with the term, it refers to not eating for a prolonged amount of time will lead to feeling irritable and frustrated.

If you are switching to IF from a lifestyle where you ate within an hour or so of waking up and then ate every 2-3 hours until you went to bed, then there will be some getting used to.  But generally, the reality isn’t nearly as bad as the anticipation.

I would recommend starting this plan when you are busy because I think that’s one of its key benefits.  You don’t have to worry about what you are eating every few hours.  And this frees up more time in your day to take care of work, exercise, relax with friends, and even rest.

Knowing how intermittent fasting works with my body, I start my morning with a cup of black coffee and I am ready to conquer the day.  I can workout in the am or focus on work that is at the top of my priority list with amazing focus and intensity.

Can I Exercise While Fasting?

Aside from the issue of hunger pains, this is the second most common question I get.  And my answer is usually, “it depends.”  If your body is sensitive to insulin than your workouts will be fine.  Your body will convert its reserves to fuel keeping your blood sugar level stable.  You may even find your workouts improve as you don’t feel sluggish exercising after you eat.

If you are experiencing insulin resistance, then I would stick to cardio while fasting and do your resistance training 2-3 hours after eating.   If you aren’t sure, send me a message or talk with a certified fitness professional and they and give you more individualized recommendations.

I have been following IF for years now, but I still split up my workout routines when I am following a program with heavy resistance (sets with 8 or less reps) training.  Like most things, I would experiment and see how your body responds.

Getting Started With Intermittent Fasting

Everyone may have slightly different results with IF.  The only way to know how intermittent fasting works with your body is to pick a plan and track your results (NOTE: you should always check with a doctor before trying this or any other eating plan).  You will definitely want to keep a food log and journal to determine how IF affects your results.  Mood, energy level, and body composition changes are going to be slightly unique to each person.  We just need to figure out what’s the best plan for you.

There are multiple ways to follow Intermittent Fasting.

  1. You can follow a 16/8, 20/4, or OMAD plan as detailed above. As I mentioned, I recommend people start at 16/8 and then gradually shirk the feeding window based on how your body responds.
  2. You can follow the 24-hour fasting plan. Again, I would plan when you will be skipping meals based around what works best for your daily life.
  3. You can be ‘flexible” and skip a meal here or there without following a specific plan. This falls more in line with calorie reduction so long as you don’t compensate by having double meals later in the day.  There are days I don’t get home until 8 or 9 so skipping dinner and going directly to bed becomes my default plan as opposed to eating right before I go to sleep.

It’s time to get stated.

Excessive planning can be a form of procrastination.  Too many people spend valuable time planning and NEVER act.  Don’t let this be you.

Begin by determining your starting weight and take your “before photos.”

Then track your progress over the next 4-8 weeks to using your food tracker and your journal.

Finally, evaluate your results to figure out if IF works for you and if it’s something you want to continue doing.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve read through this article and still aren’t sure how intermittent fasting works, it might be worth investing in some professional help.  We can help make sense of everything for you and guide you STEP BY STEP through the process of incorporating Intermittent Fasting into your life.

We have a few options to help you out.

  1. Our 1-on-1 Online coaching program will give you the support and accountability you need to get results. We are certified nutrition and fitness experts (who happen to also be public school teachers) and we understand the demands of the teaching profession.  Best of all, we offer a 100% MONEY BACK GUARANTEE for everyone who chooses to work with us.
  2. Join our Online Fitness Community where we offer education and inspiration on all thing’s health and fitness.
  3. Subscribe to the Fit Teacher Network Newsletter. I offer tips, recipes, and answer frequently asked questions pertaining to both fitness and my crazy busy life as a teacher, husband and dad.