4 Proven Intermittent Fasting and Low-Carb Results

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Intermittent Fasting | Low-Carb | Atkins | Keto | IF vs. LC | Glucose | Diabetes | Weight Loss | Exercise | Results | FAQ | Studies

Intermittent fasting and low-carb diets share crucial goals and benefits. They put you into ketosis, help burn fat, and lower blood sugar and insulin.

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Do health benefits and results multiply when you combine low-carb and intermittent fasting? I researched for you. Save time and find all the answers in this science-backed article.

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

During intermittent fasting (IF), you eat within a specific time window and fast during the rest of the day.

While there are several intermittent fasting forms, eating within about 8 hours is the most popular.

Therefore, as with the classic 16/8 intermittent fasting protocol, 16 hours of the day are determined to be fasting. Sensibly also sleep falls into this period, whereby only 8 hours of fasting remain.

Since there are straightforward rules, it’s simple to start with intermittent fasting:

  • Skip breakfast
  • No snacks
  • Water, tea, coffee without milk and all sweeteners

Low Carb and Intermittent Fasting

What is the difference between intermittent fasting vs. low carb?

Both dietetic approaches have a common goal: To lower the storage hormone insulin.

And this is not only target-oriented in terms of weight loss but also reduces the risk of the major diseases and causes of death in our western world, such as (Herman et al. 20171Orgel et al. 20142Ferreira et al. 20183Athauda et al. 20164):

  • Insulin Resistance
  • Obesity
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Cancer
  • Alzheimer
  • Parkinson

For decades, we have worked under the false assumption that only excessive calories cause weight gain.

Calorie restriction can lead to short-term weight loss. However, studies show that the outdated approach leads to weight gain in the long term (Fothergill et al. 20165).

Accordingly, a study of 76,704 obese men and 99,791 obese women showed that an incredible 99.5% could not successfully lose weight with calorie reduction (Flides et al. 20156).

Accordingly, obesity is not a caloric but a hormonal imbalance.

Therefore, as countless studies have shown, increasing insulin levels leads to permanent weight gain (White et al. 20017; Holmann et al. 20078).

Conversely, when insulin levels fall, people lose weight.

Look at type 1 diabetes – a fatal disease before insulin was discovered. Why?

Because the beta cells in the pancreas could no longer produce insulin, the storage hormone’s absence led to weight loss until the affected person died.

low carb meals and intermittent fasting combine well

Atkins and Intermittent Fasting

Developed in the 1960s, the Atkins diet is the classic low-carbohydrate diet.

But this is precisely where its weaknesses lie. Since nobody knew that protein strongly stimulates insulin until the 1990s, people started replacing carbohydrates with lean protein (Nuttall et al. 19919).

For this reason, classic low-carbohydrate diets such as the Atkins diet are not nearly as effective at losing weight as intermittent fasting.

In contrast, pure fats such as extra virgin olive oil cause virtually no insulin response.

Above all, lean protein can lead to solid insulin reactions without the protective effect of fat. Unfortunately, due to fat’s medical demonization, we have begun to remove fats from natural foods.

Since it is far more effective in terms of health and weight loss to restrict protein and consume healthy fats, the Atkins approach was doomed to fail.

Keto and Intermittent Fasting

On the other hand, the keto diet also considers that proteins stimulate insulin.

In this sense, keto and intermittent fasting also have the common goal of lowering insulin levels, depleting carbohydrate stores, and burning fat for energy.

And the term ketosis refers to the body’s natural ability to burn fat for energy.

Since the body spreads this fat energy through so-called ketones, the state of fat burning is called ketosis.

Because insulin blocks the enzyme that breaks down body fat, a low insulin level is essential once again (Meijssen et al. 200110).

Therefore fasting is the easiest and fastest way to get into ketosis.

Because the low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diet aims at the same effects as fasting, you can combine intermittent fasting and keto very well.

Proven Results of Intermittent Fasting and Low-Carb

Intermittent fasting and low-carb diets aim at common goals. But what does the science say?

Which approach gets you better results, and do benefits multiply when combined?

1. Blood Sugar Regulation

While eliminating carbohydrates ensures a lack of fuel to raise blood sugar and insulin levels, fasting can go one step beyond.

Accordingly, a study comparing fasting and low-carb in type-2-diabetics shows that zero-carb nutrition has tremendous impacts.

Nevertheless, fasting can be more consequential.

While the LCHF approach lowered blood sugar by 35% compared to the standard American diet (SAD), fasting reduced blood sugar by about 50%.

Since fasting is also a zero-carb approach, free of other macronutrients, such as protein and fat, this may not be surprising.

The glucose response is significantly smaller if we compare the low-carb diet with the standard western diet. However, fasting is still better.

Nevertheless, eliminating carbohydrates without calorie restriction could still account for 71% of the positive effect fasting had on blood sugar.

Researchers gave both diets (LCHF and SAD) to the patients in 3 meals per day.

Since the LCHF diet also consisted of 1750 calories, it was not a calorie restriction that caused blood sugar levels to drop (Nuttall et al. 201511).

According to this, one can sustainably reduce blood sugar levels with the proper diet, which has nothing to do with calorie requirements.

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Nevertheless, fasting is still somewhat more effective. If a zero-carb approach does not achieve the desired effect, one cannot become even more carbohydrate-free or ketogenic.

When fasting, you can still go one step beyond and fast one more hour or even a day.

Since the world record for fasting is 382 days, there is plenty of room (Stewart et al. 197312).

Furthermore, blood sugar is more stable when fasting than on a standard western diet since the liver produces glucose from fat and protein (gluconeogenesis). Also, there cannot be a blood sugar crash without an initial blood sugar spike.

2. Diabetes Prevention

Type 2 diabetes and its pre-existing disease, insulin resistance characterized by too much sugar and too much insulin (hyperinsulinemia) in the body.

Therefore, reducing the intake of refined carbohydrates and sugar in the diet is essential.

Accordingly, low-carb and intermittent fasting fulfill this essential point by minimizing carbohydrates.

Therefore, our study’s diabetes patients could reduce their insulin levels by 48% with low-carb and 69% with fasting.

Since a low-carb diet still contains proteins that increase insulin levels, a weaker outcome is plausible.

On average, the insulin response to carbohydrate elimination was less than one-third of a conventional diet (Nuttall et al. 201513).

For this reason, combining low-carb with intermittent fasting also makes sense. Sticking to a standard diet during eating will drive up blood sugar and insulin levels and minimize fasting benefits.

With this in mind, too much insulin is not the only primary driver of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

While diets hardly can, intermittent fasting can burn visceral fat in the liver and reverse insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes naturally (Halberg et al. 200514).

As it fights off these diseases’ root causes, intermittent fasting is more effective than a low-carb diet.

3. Weight Loss

Since excess insulin leads to weight gain, both low-carb and intermittent fasting are practical approaches to weight loss.

It’s not about calories. Refined carbohydrates are the most significant insulin stimulus, so carbohydrate reduction reduces insulin.

Therefore, it has long been no secret that low-carb diets can reduce weight, especially abdominal fat (Volek et al. 200415).

Since protein also increases insulin levels, reducing protein and increasing healthy fats in the diet makes sense. The bottom line is a ketogenic diet:

  • 75-80% fat
  • 20-25% protein
  • 5-10% carbohydrates

Eating 100% pure fat, which hardly stimulates insulin, is challenging.

One of the few possibilities is the so-called Bulletproof Coffee, which enjoys worldwide popularity due to its energy boost from 100% fat.

However, fasting is the most effective way to lower insulin levels and lose weight. And you can always fast longer.

Accordingly, fasting is the ultimate ketogenic diet, so to speak, since you live 100% on fat – your body fat.

Therefore, intermittent fasting can burn harmful fat better than low-carb diets (Catenacci et al. 201616).

Since you can always go one step beyond fasting, you will be ahead when losing weight. Nevertheless, the combination of intermittent fasting and low-carb is the most effective way to lose weight:

  • Less insulin
  • More fat burning
  • Fewer health risks
Exercise, intermittent fasting and low carb can be combined

4. Lean Mass

Especially endurance athletes who want to maximize their aerobic performance often struggle with extreme carbohydrate restriction.

However, they can train on a low-carb diet while supplementing their energy intake with carbohydrates in competitions.

Many athletes call this combination the best of both worlds – low-carb and high-carb.

However, since low-carb nutrition predominates during training, the body is trained to burn stored body fat more efficiently.

For this reason, athletes can tap into body fat for as long as possible, even during a competition, and still have carbohydrates in their glycogen stores when others are running low.

On the other hand, many strength athletes do not want to do without carbohydrates altogether. Since they frequently empty their glycogen stores, they want to use dietary carbohydrates for muscle recovery (Murray et al. 201817).

With this in mind, combining low-carb and intermittent fasting can turn out great when applied correctly:

  • Training day: More carbohydrates that can directly refill the glycogen stores of the muscles
  • Rest day: carbohydrate-free LCHF or ketogenic diet
  • Intermittent fasting: 16/8 with exercise at the end of the 16 hours before eating

However, you can modify any low-carb diet to athletic needs utilizing carb-cycling or a cyclical ketogenic diet.

Both low-carb and intermittent fasting can thus bring legitimate benefits for sports. Nevertheless, fasting stands out again, so bodybuilders also learn to exploit it.

Since intermittent fasting stimulates the growth hormone, it can help build lean mass (Ho et al. 198818).

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Boost Results With Low-Carb and Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting and low carb are essential for health and weight loss.

While low carb shuts down the cause of weight gain and modern diseases, intermittent fasting is the maintenance service that can repair the damage done.

The latter is more effective with blood sugar, insulin, and fat loss when comparing low-carb vs. intermittent fasting. However, it won’t do the work without diet support.

Because the more we eat industrially processed carbohydrate junk, the more we have to fast. If we continuously consume fast food, protein bars, and bakery goods, which let insulin soar, 16 hours of intermittent fasting is not enough.

Accordingly, a carbohydrate-based diet prevents intermittent fasting benefits, such as improved fat-burning or memory function.

Moreover, frequent carb-loading inhibits the benefits of fasting and causes side effects such as keto flu and cravings.

Those who do not change their diet habits won’t experience noticeable weight loss or mental health improvements with intermittent fasting.

Since you are already on your way to ketosis and autophagy, the combination of intermittent fasting and keto is most effective in my experience.

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Intermittent Fasting and Low Carb FAQ

Is Intermittent Fasting better than low carb?

Although intermittent fasting can be more potent than low-carb, it doesn’t work well with a high-carb diet. Hence, combining intermittent fasting with low-carb is the most powerful option.

Does intermittent fasting work with low carb diet?

Intermittent fasting works exceptionally well with low-carb diets since both aims to burn body fat for energy.

Does Calories matter when intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting aims at depleting your carbohydrate stores to burn body fat for energy. Therefore, calories matter less than carbohydrates in your diet.

How many carbs should I eat while intermittent fasting?

That’s up to you – the less you eat, the more effectively you can burn body fat and lose weight.

Studies

#1-7

1Herman ME, O’Keefe JH, Bell DSH, Schwartz SS. Insulin Therapy Increases Cardiovascular Risk in Type 2 Diabetes. Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2017 Nov – Dec;60(3):422-434. doi: 10.1016/j.pcad.2017.09.001. Epub 2017 Sep 25. Review. PubMed PMID: 28958751.

2Orgel E, Mittelman SD. The links between insulin resistance, diabetes, and cancer. Curr Diab Rep. 2013 Apr;13(2):213-22. doi: 10.1007/s11892-012-0356-6. Review. PubMed PMID: 23271574; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3595327.

3Ferreira LSS, Fernandes CS, Vieira MNN, De Felice FG. Insulin Resistance in Alzheimer’s Disease. Front Neurosci. 2018;12:830. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2018.00830. eCollection 2018. Review. PubMed PMID: 30542257; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6277874.

4Athauda D, Foltynie T. Insulin resistance and Parkinson’s disease: A new target for disease modification?. Prog Neurobiol. 2016 Oct – Nov;145-146:98-120. doi: 10.1016/j.pneurobio.2016.10.001. Epub 2016 Oct 3. Review. PubMed PMID: 27713036.

5Fothergill E, Guo J, Howard L, Kerns JC, Knuth ND, Brychta R, Chen KY, Skarulis MC, Walter M, Walter PJ, Hall KD. Persistent metabolic adaptation 6 years after “The Biggest Loser” competition. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2016 Aug;24(8):1612-9. doi: 10.1002/oby.21538. Epub 2016 May 2. PubMed PMID: 27136388; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4989512.

6Fildes A, Charlton J, Rudisill C, Littlejohns P, Prevost AT, Gulliford MC. Probability of an Obese Person Attaining Normal Body Weight: Cohort Study Using Electronic Health Records. Am J Public Health. 2015 Sep;105(9):e54-9. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2015.302773. Epub 2015 Jul 16. PubMed PMID: 26180980; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4539812.

7Influence of intensive diabetes treatment on body weight and composition of adults with type 1 diabetes in the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial. Diabetes Care. 2001 Oct;24(10):1711-21. doi: 10.2337/diacare.24.10.1711. PubMed PMID: 11574431; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2663516.

#8-13

8Holman RR, Thorne KI, Farmer AJ, Davies MJ, Keenan JF, Paul S, Levy JC. Addition of biphasic, prandial, or basal insulin to oral therapy in type 2 diabetes. N Engl J Med. 2007 Oct 25;357(17):1716-30. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa075392. Epub 2007 Sep 21. PubMed PMID: 17890232.

9Nuttall FQ, Gannon MC. Plasma glucose and insulin response to macronutrients in nondiabetic and NIDDM subjects. Diabetes Care. 1991 Sep;14(9):824-38. doi: 10.2337/diacare.14.9.824. Review. PubMed PMID: 1959475.

10Meijssen S, Cabezas MC, Ballieux CG, Derksen RJ, Bilecen S, Erkelens DW. Insulin mediated inhibition of hormone sensitive lipase activity in vivo in relation to endogenous catecholamines in healthy subjects. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2001 Sep;86(9):4193-7. doi: 10.1210/jcem.86.9.7794. PubMed PMID: 11549649.

11Nuttall FQ, Almokayyad RM, Gannon MC. Comparison of a carbohydrate-free diet vs. fasting on plasma glucose, insulin and glucagon in type 2 diabetes. Metabolism. 2015 Feb;64(2):253-62. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2014.10.004. Epub 2014 Oct 8. PubMed PMID: 25458830.

12Stewart WK, Fleming LW. Features of a successful therapeutic fast of 382 days’ duration. Postgrad Med J. 1973 Mar;49(569):203-9. doi: 10.1136/pgmj.49.569.203. PubMed PMID: 4803438; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2495396.

13Nuttall FQ, Almokayyad RM, Gannon MC. Comparison of a carbohydrate-free diet vs. fasting on plasma glucose, insulin and glucagon in type 2 diabetes. Metabolism. 2015 Feb;64(2):253-62. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2014.10.004. Epub 2014 Oct 8. PubMed PMID: 25458830.

#14-18

14Halberg N, Henriksen M, Söderhamn N, Stallknecht B, Ploug T, Schjerling P, Dela F. Effect of intermittent fasting and refeeding on insulin action in healthy men. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2005 Dec;99(6):2128-36. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00683.2005. Epub 2005 Jul 28. PubMed PMID: 16051710.

15Volek J, Sharman M, Gómez A, Judelson D, Rubin M, Watson G, Sokmen B, Silvestre R, French D, Kraemer W. Comparison of energy-restricted very low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets on weight loss and body composition in overweight men and women. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2004 Nov 8;1(1):13. doi: 10.1186/1743-7075-1-13. PubMed PMID: 15533250; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC538279.

16Catenacci VA, Pan Z, Ostendorf D, Brannon S, Gozansky WS, Mattson MP, Martin B, MacLean PS, Melanson EL, Troy Donahoo W. A randomized pilot study comparing zero-calorie alternate-day fasting to daily caloric restriction in adults with obesity. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2016 Sep;24(9):1874-83. doi: 10.1002/oby.21581. PubMed PMID: 27569118; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5042570.

17Murray B, Rosenbloom C. Fundamentals of glycogen metabolism for coaches and athletes. Nutr Rev. 2018 Apr 1;76(4):243-259. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuy001. Review. PubMed PMID: 29444266; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6019055.

18Ho KY, Veldhuis JD, Johnson ML, Furlanetto R, Evans WS, Alberti KG, Thorner MO. Fasting enhances growth hormone secretion and amplifies the complex rhythms of growth hormone secretion in man. J Clin Invest. 1988 Apr;81(4):968-75. doi: 10.1172/JCI113450. PubMed PMID: 3127426; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC329619.

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